Pan De Muerto: the easy recipe for making Mexican bread of the dead

Total time: 1H50 + resting time
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 8 people
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By Cookist

If you love sweet breads, you’ll be a big fan of this Pan de Muerto. In Mexico, this easy, sweet bread is traditionally prepared on Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), which is celebrated the first 2 days of November. These soft, semispherical loaf is enriched with eggs and butter, which makes it rich and flavorful, while the sugar makes it sweet too.

To make it, you first need a starter, which is then worked into the rest of the dough. The bread is creatively shaped and then baked until golden. If you haven’t made a Pan de Muertos before, then you should try this recipe today, it's way better than the store-bought one you can find in bakeries since the middle of October. Serve this homemade Day of the Dead bread together with chocolate, tamales and other traditional dishes.


What is Pan de Muerto?

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the dead in Engish) is a Mexican sweet bread enjoyed during the time of Día de los Muertos (Day of the dead). Between November 1st and 2nd, the Mexicans honor their deceased loved ones by leaving them offerings at their gravesites, or at altars made at home. The offerings usually include the deceased’s favorite food and drink which they enjoyed during the time they were alive and with this a Pan de Muerto is usually added. Because of the bread’s importance, most bakeries sell it for this season, but of course, we think it’s best when homemade.

Because the bread is made as an offering, the shape is important. The unique shape is said to represent the bones of the dead, while the small ball on top represents a teardrop – although some may say it represents the skull or the heart. While it’s most often served sprinkled with sugar, it can also be served sprinkled with sesame seeds, or a simple egg wash.


How to make Pan de Muertos

Making Day of the Dead bread is easier than you might think. First, make your starter by mixing 2 tablespoons of flour with yeast and warm milk. Set aside for 30 minutes to develop. Use the leftover flour and carefully make a well in the center. You will add the remaining ingredients here and gently mix to form a dough. The dough needs to be set aside for an hour until double in size. After this time, punch it down, and shape it. Bake until golden and sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Tips for making Mexican Bread of the Dead

Toppings: top with powdered sugar, sesame seeds, or a simple egg wash.

Shapes: you shape the pan de muerto in the forms of angels or animals.

Flavor variations to add to the dough: 1/2 teaspoon of anise extract or 2 of teaspoons anise seeds. You can also try to add 2 teaspoons of orange zest and the same amount of margarine.


How to store Pan de Muertos

Store the Pan de Muertos in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Once it starts to dry out you can toast it or use it for bread pudding.

Can you freeze Day of the Dead Bread?

Yes! You can freeze pan de muerto for 2 months. Before serving, reheat it from frozen in the oven. So, bake it again at 350°F for about 45-55 minutes.

390 g (3 1/8 cups)
90 g (1/3 cup)
warm milk
120 ml (1/2 cup)
5 g
Egg yolks
butter, softened
75 g (5 tbsp)
1/2 tsp
zest from one orange
Orange juice
30 ml (2 tbsp)


Mix 2 tbsp of flour with yeast and warm milk. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Using leftover flour make a well in the centre of it. Then add the starter, eggs, salt, sugar, zest and orange juice.

Knead until it comes together.

Add butter and continue kneading until it becomes smooth and slightly sticky (add a little more flour if needed).

Cover and set aside for 1 hour.

After resting, knead down the dough.

How to shape Pan de Muerto

Cut a little dough from the ball to make decorations as shown in the video. Re-shape the dough into a smooth ball, brush it with some water, add decorations on top and leave it to rise for 30 minutes.

Bake at 170C/340F for 35-45 minutes. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.


If you find it difficult to shape, you can also make small balls and just place them on the bread in a cross pattern to get a knobbly look.

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