Surely you have ever heard of pan de muerte (or bread of the dead) , a recipe that every year, when All Saints' Day approaches, gains more popularity around the world. It is a recipe for an enriched bread, tender and tasty, with a very characteristic shape (because some pieces of dough in the shape of bones cross it on top).

Pan de Muerto is a traditional Mexican sweet bread that is baked during the Day of the Dead, an important holiday in Mexican culture. This bread is known for its distinctive shape, symbolizing a skull and bones, and is often decorated with icing sugar to represent the earth and tears shed by the deceased. Although decorations can vary, the most common shape of the Pan de Muerto consists of a ball on top representing the skull and four "bones" extending from the top to the sides.

As for the flavor, Pan de Muerto is soft and slightly sweet . It is usually flavored with ingredients such as anise seeds and orange peel , which give it a distinctive flavor. It is a bread that is enjoyed both for breakfast and as a snack, often accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate or atole.

The Bread of the Dead is an essential part of the offerings dedicated to the deceased during the Day of the Dead in Mexico. It is a symbol of celebration and memory of loved ones who have died, and its preparation and consumption are a tradition rooted in Mexican culture.

Bread of the dead recipe

Origin of Bread of the Dead

Every year in Mexico, during the Day of the Dead, the country is filled with bright colors and festive celebrations. People dress in vibrant costumes, adorn their hair with flowers, and paint their faces to look like smiling skeletons. They gather to dance and parade in town squares and bake a bread that has become one of the most important and delicious traditions of the Day of the Dead.

Pan de Muerto, known in Spanish as "bread of the dead," is a sugar-sweetened bread baked to honor the deceased. In homes across the country, bread of the dead is placed among bright orange marigolds and small sugar skulls on ofrendas, homemade altars built to commemorate loved ones who have passed away.

The recipe for bread of the dead (manual method and with a mixer)

The recipe we bring for Pan de Muerto is soft and rich, made with an enriched yeast dough kneaded by hand (we also tell you how to do it with a food processor) with delicate flavors of anise seed and orange . If you have any leftover (which doesn't happen often, because it's delicious), you can toast a slice and spread it with salted butter - it will be more than enough to revive yesterday's bread.


  • ½ cup (120 g) of warm water (about 40°C)
  • ⅓ cup (65 g) granulated sugar + 3 tablespoons (36 grams) + 1 teaspoon (4 grams)
  • 1 sachet (6 g) of dry yeast (or 20 g of fresh yeast)
  • 1 tbsp (10 g) orange zest
  • 3¼ cups (400 g) bread flour
  • 2½ tsp (7 g) salt
  • 2 tsp (4 g) anise seeds
  • 2 large eggs (100 g), at room temperature
  • 2 tsp (8 g) vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp (4 gr) orange blossom water
  • 85 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 15 g unsalted butter, melted

Preparation of bread of the dead

Preparation with Manual method:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix ½ cup (120 grams) warm water, 1 teaspoon (4 grams) sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

  2. In a large bowl, place ⅓ cup (67 grams) of sugar; Add the orange zest and rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant and well mixed. Add 1½ cups (188 grams) of flour, the salt and the anise seeds. Make a hole in the center.

  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the yeast mixture, beating until well combined after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange blossom water. Pour this into the well of the flour mixture. Stir until well mixed. Add the remaining 1¾ cups (219 grams) of flour and stir until a loose dough forms. Knead with your hands in the bowl until the dough comes together.

  4. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Add 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of room temperature butter and work it into the dough using the heel of your hand, pressing the dough outward and away from you; Using a scraper, gather the dough into a ball. Repeat with the remaining 5 tablespoons (70 grams) of room temperature butter, 1 tablespoon (14 grams) at a time, until the dough is soft and elastic and begins to stick, 5 to 7 minutes.

  5. On a clean surface, knead the dough by lifting it, tapping it on the surface, and folding the dough in half; rotate the dough 90 degrees. Repeat the punching, folding, and turning process until the dough passes the membrane test, 10 to 12 minutes.

Preparation with a mixer or KitchenAid robot:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix ½ cup (120 grams) warm water, 1 teaspoon (4 grams) sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, place ⅓ cup (67 grams) of sugar; Add the orange zest and rub it into the sugar until fragrant and well mixed. Add 1½ cups (188 grams) flour, salt, and anise seeds; Using the paddle attachment, beat on low speed until combined.

  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the yeast mixture, beating until well combined after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange blossom water. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and beat on low speed until well combined. Add the remaining 1¾ cups (219 grams) flour and beat until a sloppy dough forms and no dry flour remains.

  4. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Beat on low speed until the dough becomes smooth, elastic and slightly sticky, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the room temperature butter, 1 tablespoon (14 grams) at a time, beating until combined after each addition (5 to 6 minutes total). Continue mixing until you have a smooth, elastic dough, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and shape it into a smooth circle.

Rest and formed:

  1. Lightly coat a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover and let rest in a warm, draft-free place (24°C) until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.

  2. Cover a baking tray with baking paper.

  3. Gently tap the dough to deflate it slightly. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut off about a quarter of the dough (about 200 grams). Set it aside and cover the dough to prevent it from drying out.

  4. Press the rest of the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick disk. Lift the bottom edge of the dough and gently stretch the bottom third toward the center. Stretch the right side out and fold it toward the center; repeat with the left side. Finish by folding the top third over the previous folds. Roll the dough away from you and, using both hands, form it into a tight, smooth ball. Place it, seam side down, on the prepared tray.

  5. Divide the reserved dough into two halves (approximately 100 grams each). Working with one portion at a time, form into a 16.5-centimeter-long roll. In the center of the roll (3 inches from each end), pinch the dough and roll it with your fingers to form 2 smaller rolls joined by a thin center. Measuring from the center, in each direction, mark 4.4 centimeters. Pinch and roll at each mark to create 4 connected sections. Shape each section into a ball. Repeat with the remaining reserved dough.

  6. Place a strip of molded dough over the top of the boule. Place the second strip of molded dough on the boule perpendicular to the first strip, crossing them in the center. Cover and let the dough rest in a warm, draft-free place (24°C) until it has almost doubled in size, 1 hour 20 minutes to 1½ hours.

Dead bread recipe


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

  2. Brush the dough with beaten egg.
  3. Bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 88°C, 35 to 40 minutes, covering with foil after 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning. Remove from the tray and let cool on a rack for 30 minutes.

  4. Spread melted butter over the bread and sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons (36 grams) of sugar. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Bread of the dead step by step

Notes on preparation:

  • To perform the window test and check for proper gluten development in the dough, lightly flour your hands and take (without tearing) a small piece of dough. Slowly stretch the dough from the center. If the dough is ready, you can stretch it until it is thin and translucent like a window. If the dough breaks, it is not ready yet. Knead for 1 minute and test again.
  • To perform the finger print test, gently press a well-floured finger about ½ inch into the surface of the dough. If your dough has fermented properly, you should be able to see the dough spring back slightly but still show an imprint.
  • If you bake the loaf ahead of time, do not butter it or sprinkle it with sugar until you are ready to serve it, as the sugar will dissolve in the loaf if stored overnight.
  • If you want, after applying the egg before baking you can apply some additional ingredient on top, such as flaked almonds, pine nuts, chia seeds... It is not the tradition, but every day we see more and more varied breads of the dead.

Notes on ingredients:

  • SALT: As a general rule, the ratio of salt to flour weight in breads is 1.8% to 2%. But it is very important to weigh the salt because different salt crystals have different measurements. Dough without enough salt can easily overferment. Salt also contributes to the color of the bread and improves the overall flavor.
  • GRANULATED SUGAR: Sugar serves as food for yeast, which converts it to carbon dioxide and alcohol in the fermentation process. This helps make the dough tender, creating a soft, pliable bread, and adds a touch of sweetness without being overly sweet. Sugar also contributes to the golden color of the bread, retains moisture during baking, and acts as a bright finishing touch to spread over the bread after it is removed from the oven.
  • EGGS: The addition of eggs in this dough not only adds richness, but also aids in fermentation, as the egg whites create steam that causes the dough to puff up once it enters the heat of the oven.
  • UNSALT BUTTER: Butter adds decadence to the enriched dough, creating a moist, tender bread. We use unsalted butter to control the amount of salt added to the bread, as different brands of salted butter have different levels of salt.
  • BREAD FLOUR: It may be tempting to substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour, but you won't get as pronounced a rise in your bread and the mixing time will be longer. Bread flour has a higher protein and gluten content, which allows the bread dough to form a stable structure and rise higher. In this recipe, high protein flour is essential to create a strong gluten network, with enough protein content to develop the gluten and handle the enrichment added to this dough. A high-protein flour, such as bread flour, provides enough structure to create a strong gluten network in an enriched dough.
  • ANISE SEEDS, ORANGE ZEST, ORANGE WATER AND VANILLA EXTRACT: The combination of licorice-like anise seeds, vibrant orange zest, floral orange blossom water and the subtle sweetness of vanilla extract adds depth and the perfect flavor of the bread.


Claudia said:

Muchas gracias, Kamila!!No sabes lo feliz que me haces con tu comentario, gracias!!

Kamila Orellana said:

Me gusta mucho este blog ya que a mí no me llama la atención la cocina porque se me ha hecho difícil pero este blog tiene muchas recetas tiene pasos para poder ir de a poco cocinando y sobre todo está detallado y bien explicado para poder realizar fácilmente la receta de cocina!!😍

Claudia said:

Hola Cristina,
¡Cómo lamento ese despiste en la receta! El texto ya ha sido modificado, porque ciertamente se usa levadura panadera para esta receta. ¡Lamento infinito el error si has hecho ya la receta! Espero que te animes a hacerla de nuevo, porque es una receta que sale riquísima!! Un saludo, espero aceptes nuestras disculpas.
Con cariño, Claudia

Claudia said:

Hola Hugo, Vero,
Tenéis toda la razón, había un error en la nomenclatura de la levadura, se trata de levadura de panadero, sea seca (6 g en se caso) o fresca (20 gr). Lamento el error, YA ESTÁ CORREGIDO EN EL TEXTO de la receta. ¡Gracias por comentarlo!

Cristina said:

Creo que la levadura a la que se refiere es la seca de panadería, no la química como yo he usado siguiendo la receta.
Por otro lado me parece que la cantidad de harina es escasa, la masa queda imposible de trabajar a mano

Hugo said:

Me imagino que en vez de levadura química es levadura fresca, no?
10 gramos de levadura seca es demasiado para esa cantidad de harina
A ver si me animo a hacerlo, a ver que tal

Vero said:

Me voy a animar a hacerlo mañana. La levadura química a la te refieres, imagino que será levadura deshidratada, no? Gracias

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