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5 from 2 votes

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)

One of the more traditional dishes seen at Día de los Muertos celebrations is Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead). This traditional round loaf of bread has strips of dough rolled out and attached on top to represent bones and skulls. This bread is eaten and left on gravesites or on altars as part of the festivities.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Resting1 hr 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 35 mins
Course: All Recipes
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 3 small loaves
Calories: 1228kcal


  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 5 to 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour divided
  • 2 packages active-dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole anise seed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange extract
  • Zest of one orange
  • 4 eggs
  • Orange glaze see below (optional)

Orange Glaze:

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice


  • In a saucepan over medium heat, warm butter, milk, and water; until butter has melted. Do not let boil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ cup of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed, and sugar. Slowly beat in the warm milk, orange extract, and orange zest until well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing through. Slowly add in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding additional flour until the dough is soft but not sticky.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured board and knead for at least 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. If the dough is dry add some water and if it’s too wet add some flour. Form the dough into a large ball and cut into four even pieces.
  • Lightly grease a cookie sheet and place three dough balls on it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  • Reserve the fourth dough ball to make bones to place over the loaves. Reserve this dough in the refrigerator to slow down the rising process.
  • Follow this video for instructions on how to decorate the bread.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Bake bread for approximately 25 to 30 minutes. When the bread is done it should sound “hollow” when thumped.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, orange zest, and orange juice; bring just to a boil so the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
  • Remove loaf from the oven and brush with the Orange Glaze.
  • Another option is to melt two tablespoons of butter in a small pot. As soon as the bread comes out of the oven brush with melted butter and sprinkle sugar over them.
  • Let the bread cool down and enjoy with a cup of Champurrado or cafecito.


Try not to eat them all at once! Don’t forget to leave a loaf on your altar with a glass of water which is essential, because after the journey the souls are thirsty and tired.


Serving: 1loaf | Calories: 1228kcal | Carbohydrates: 249g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 223mg | Sodium: 884mg | Potassium: 464mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 72g | Vitamin A: 455IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 12mg