Pan de Muerto / Mexican Bread of the Dead Recipe
Pan de Muerto / Mexican Bread of the Dead
Flavors of Mexico

Raising time: 1H30 + 45 minutes
Cooking time: 35 to 45 minutes 

Difficulty: Average
Chef's Note

Nearly everyone in central and southern Mexico enjoys pan de muerto—translated literally as "bread of the dead" as an important element of the annual Day of the Dead celebration celebrated the 2nd November. Most family and communal ofrendas (offerings for the beloved deceased) include at least one loaf left for the enjoyment of visiting souls.

The loaf is decorated with pieces of dough in shapes that represent bones and tears. 

And to round off the celebrations, try the traditional Cafe de olla.


For 2 breads

- 500 g flour
- 100 g sugar
- 250 ml / 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 Tsp. baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 Tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. orange zest
- 2 Tsp. orange flower
- 200 g cold butter, diced

Egg wash (optional)
- 1 beaten egg in milk
- sugar

- melted butter
- sugar
  1. Put the flour on a work surface. Make a well in the center. Pour the yeast, the sugar and the milk into the well while mixing with your hand .
  2. Add the other ingredients. Knead until you have a nice, uniform dough, about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth but still slightly sticky.
  3. Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and leave in a warm place (about 140°C / 70°F) until doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  4. Punch down to deflate the dough and release the air ; knead again for a few minutes.
  5. Cut a piece of dough the size of a lemon (A). Cut a smal piece of dough just enough to form 2 balls the size of large marbles; set aside and cover with plastic.
  6. Divide the remaining dough (A) into 6 pieces and roll them with your hands from the center out, making ropes that are slightly longer than the width of the loaves. As you’re rolling, press with your index and middle fingers spread about 1 inch apart to make knobs that represent bones.
  7. Divide the remaining dough to form 2 loaves. Lightly oil 2 heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet; put the dough rounds on it and flatten the tops with your hands.
  8. Arrange 3 of the ropes on top of each dough round, overlapping the ropes in the center. Cover loosely with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  9. Dab a little cold water on the top center of each round where the ropes meet and put the reserved dough balls on top, pressing slightly so they adhere.
  10. Bake the loaf in a 180 °C / 350 °F oven for about 35 to 45 minutes until golden.
  11. Brush the loaves all over with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle generously with sugar all over the top. Cool to room temperature before serving. 

Note: The bread is best eaten within a day of baking.

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 Photo: ID 80479805 / Suriel Ramirez / MSCOMM

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