Pan de Agua And Pan Sobao – What’s The Difference? (Ultimate Guide)

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Bread is a food that people have been producing for thousands of years, and each country has its own special way of making bread.

Pan de Agua And Pan Sobao - What's The Difference? (Ultimate Guide)

While in many parts of the world bread is consumed as a savory treat, there are also some bread recipes that add some sugar and other ingredients to turn the bread into a sweet favorite.

We take a closer look Pan Sobao bread and Pan de Agua bread, and find out what makes each one so unique.

What Is Pan Sobao?

Pan Sobao is made with a sweet, lean dough which has a pre-fermented mix added to it.

Although the bread is sweet compared to other breads, it isn’t as sugary as many pastries.

The word pan sobao is Spanish but doesn’t have an exact translation.

In Puerto Rican Spanish, the word sobao means kneading which means that the word sobao stands simply for kneaded bread.

Pan Sobao is baked in an oven that is filled with steam. This helps to keep the bread’s crust a little bit crunchy.

You can typically eat pan sobao toasted with a little butter, or alternatively, you can also add it into bread pudding.

You can find a delicious recipe of Pan Sobao here.

What Is Pan De Agua?

Also known as water bread, pan de agua is a famous bread in the Caribbean, around the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba

Each country has its own ways of making this bread with a light crust.

In Puerto Rico and Cuba, pan de agua is similar to a French loaf, whereas in the Dominican Republic, this bread is usually shaped in small rolls.

Many Puerto Ricans enjoy pan de agua as a snack or for their breakfast, with a deliciously strong cafe con leche.

Pan de agua has a relatively hard crust with a very airy and fluffy center. It is a bread that can be made relatively quick and easy.

Pan de agua resembles Italian and French bread as it uses the same basic ingredients. The difference however is the baking process.

This bread is baked in a cold oven with a pan of boiling water above.

The oven will very slowly heat up which causes the bread to rise, creating a beautifully crisp and thin crust.

While Puerto Ricans enjoy their pan de agua as a breakfast treat, you can use this type of bread in many different ways, for example, as a Cuban sandwich.

Pan de agua can also be frozen to keep it for longer.

The Differences Between Pan Sobao And Pan de Agua

Pan de Agua And Pan Sobao - What's The Difference? (Ultimate Guide)

Although some people use pan de agua and pan sobao interchangeably because they are both breads most commonly eaten in South America, they are very different kinds of bread.

Let’s take a look at the differences between these two breads.

Baking Process

One of the biggest differences between the two breads is how they are made. 

Pan sobao is made in a steam oven, whereas pan de agua is made in a cold oven that is slowly heated with a pan of boiling water.

The baking method also makes a big difference to how these breads taste.


Thanks to its gentle baking method, pan de agua has a deliciously thin crust.

Although both pan sobao and pan de agua do have crusts, they differ in the crust thickness.


As it name suggests, pan de agua contains a lot more water than pan sobao which makes it fluffier on the inside.

In comparison, pan sobao contains lard and a certain amount of sugar which makes it a lot more chewy than pan de agua.


There is also a difference in taste between the two breads. Pan sobao has a little bit of sugar added which makes it just a little sweeter than pan de agua.


Pan de agua looks very similar to a French baguette, whereas pan sobao is typically a little fatter, making it look more rustic and hand kneaded.

What To Eat With Pan De Agua?

There are many different ways to enjoy a deliciously crusty pan de agua. One popular way to eat this bread is the classic Cuban option, as a sandwich.

But undoubtedly the best way of eating pan de agua is fresh out of the oven.

Freshly baked bread is always so much more delicious, especially when it is fluffy pan de agua.

It’s also very nice adding a little bit of butter on your fresh pan de agua making it melt in your mouth.

You can also pair pan de agua perfectly with picadillo, a typical Latin American meat and vegetable stew.

What To Eat With Pan Sobao?

As a typical breakfast and sandwich bread, pan sobao is incredibly versatile. You can enjoy it with jam or butter.

You can even toast it and top it with your favorite cheese. Pan sobao makes an ideal grilled cheese sandwich or French toast.

Top Tips For Bread Baking

For the best way to make bread, here are our top tips, so your pan de agua and pan sobao come out just the right way.

Get Started Early

Bread making does take some time, mainly because the bread has a few hours to rise.

So, if you are planning to make a few loaves of bread at the same time, then it’s a good idea to get started as early as possible.

Make sure that you start as early as possible with your yeast proofing. This will allow you to enjoy delicious bread for almost the whole day.

You Will Need Patience

You may have heard before that bread making is like an art which should not be rushed. This means when you are making bread, you will need plenty of patience.

There are quite a few steps to follow for individual bread recipes, and the rising of the yeast plus the kneading of the bread can take a long time.

So, why not put your music on and make the most of your baking day!

Always Have Clean Mixing Bowls Available

It’s a good idea to have all your equipment and ingredients ready to go when you start making the bread.

You may also want a few spare mixing bowls on the side, just in case.

Store Your Bread Correctly

The right bread storage is essential to ensure that your bread stays fresh for longer. 

Bread is best enjoyed when it comes fresh out of the oven, but if you are making a larger batch, then it’s best to freeze some loaves and take them out the freezer as and when you need them.

Adjust The Recipe

No recipe is ever set in stone, so feel free to adjust a recipe.

For example, if you want to make your pan de agua vegan, then why not add a little but of olive oil instead of egg whites.

There are also plenty of different bread recipes for individual diets available online.

Final Thoughts

Pan de agua and pan sobao are two of the most popular types of bread in Latin America.

While these breads come from the same part of the world, there are some clear differences between the two, from the different baking method to the thickness of the crust.