Day of the Dead is one of the most unique holidays celebrated every year throughout Mexico. People all over the country come together to celebrate the lives of friends and family members that have passed away.

They dedicate November first and second to the dead, and invite their loved ones back to Earth. They prepare intricate altars with photos, sugar skulls, marigolds, candles, and their loved ones' favorite foods to encourage their spirits to come back to celebrate. 

Angela Kerndl

Anyone who has ever been to Mexico for Día de los Muertos can attest that Pan de los Muertos (aka Bread of the Dead) is quite possibly the most delicious bread you will ever eat. Pan de los Muertos is traditionally baked in the weeks leading up the Day of the Dead.  

My sister studied abroad in Mexico City and celebrated Day of the Dead there a few years ago. She says, “It’s literally all I ate for like two months straight.” See, it really is amazing.   

Angela Kerndl

You can find Pan de los Muertos at your local Mexican bakery, or Panaderia, but it's way more fun to make it yourself. The image above is Bread of the Dead that I bought from a bakery and is what I tried to imitate mine after.  

The following recipe will allow you to make your own Pan de los Muertos that is similar to what you'd find if you were in Mexico for the celebration.    

Pan de los Muertos

  • Prep Time:1 hr 45 mins
  • Cook Time:18 mins
  • Total Time:2 hrs 3 mins
  • Servings:12
  • Easy

    Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/2 packets active-dry yeast
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
Photo by Angela Kerndl
Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 1

    In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, the cinnamon, salt, orange zest, and yeast. Heat the milk, water, and butter over stove-top until the butter is melted. Let cool for a few minutes and then pour into the dry mix. Stir everything together thoroughly.

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 2

    Then add the eggs and mix.

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 3

    Add the rest of the flour in, one cup at a time.

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 4

    Knead the dough on a floured surface for approximately 5 minutes or until the dough is no longer sticky.

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 5

    Let the dough rise in a bowl for about an hour and a half. Cover with a warm towel.

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 6

    Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Once the dough is done rising, roll the dough out so it is flat. Cut the dough into approximately 12 even pieces, save a little bit for the top decorations. Roll each piece into a ball. Then use remaining dough to roll out thin pieces for an X on top. Add a small ball on top. Place in the oven for 18-20 minutes.

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 7

    Over stove-top heat up the other 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup of orange juice. Stir for a couple of minutes. This will be used to glaze the bread at the end.

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl
  • Step 8

    Spread the glaze over the bread with a brush, or spoon once it's out of the oven. Sprinkle sugar or cinnamon on top if desired. Enjoy!

    Photo by Angela Kerndl
    Photo by Angela Kerndl

Okay, I’ll admit it—mine doesn’t quite look as good as the picture I was comparing it to, but I promise it tastes just as good. It’s a lengthy process making the bread yourself, but it’s so worth it, and who knows, maybe you'll sense the spirits of your loved ones who have passed joining you while you enjoy your homemade bread of the dead.  

Angela Kerndl