Pan de Muerto

This recipe comes from one of the most talented, kind, humane and generous people I know.  Chef Margarita Carrillo de Salinas works and lives in Mexico city.  She is the principle teacher of the Mexican section of one of the country’s most presigious culinary institutes, the Centro Culinario Ambrosia where she not only teaches the students not only how to cook but also how to be good citizens and human beings.

Pan del Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread)

Baked once a year, this bread has "bones" and a "skull" on the top made of dough. It's delicious particularly with Hot Chocolate!
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Cuisine: Mexico
Keyword: Holiday baking, Sweet bread
Servings: 20
Author: Chef Margarita Carrillo


  • 1 kilograms Plain white flour
  • 10 grams Dry yeast 5 grams instant yeast or 20 grams fresh yeast
  • 200 grams Butter
  • 4 Eggs
  • 500 grams Milk Milk that has been warmed to just beneath boiling point and cooled down again
  • 1 tbsp Grated orange peel
  • 2 tbsp Orange blossom water
  • 100 grams Sugar
  • 1 unit Egg For glazing the uncooked balls of dough.
  • Plenty of caster sugar for dusting the bread when it is baked.


Step 1. Make the pre dough for pan de muerto

  • Proof the yeast in the milk and sugar – mixing it with a whisk and leaving it until it is frothy. This takes about 15 minutes. Then, stir in 250 g of the flour and let it rest, covered with a tea towel, for one hour.

Step 2. Make the main dough for pan de muerto

  • Add the remaining flour and the rest of the ingredients and knead for a good 10 minutes. Cover and let rest for 1 hour.

Step 3. Divide and shape

  • Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces: four for the loaves and 1 for the "bones"
  • Shape each of the four "loaf" pieces into tight balls and place them on a baking tray you have lined with non stick baking parchment.
  • Divide the “bones” piece into four smaller pieces and then divide each of the four pieces into 3-4 even smaller pieces.
  • Roll four of the pieces into small balls for the "skulls" and set them aside. Roll all of the other pieces into long, thin, sausages – for the "bones". Space out your fingers as you roll so that you have thicker bits (like joints) and thinner bits (like bones). Each sausage should be able to reach over the top and down both sides of each loaf, or start from the top and go down one side of the dough. It does not really matter as long as you have the "bones" criss-crossing the loaf, and the "skill" perched on top. Have a look at the picture.
    Easy recipe for pan de muerto day of the dead bread
  • To stick on the "bones" and "skulls", brush each loaf with the egg mixture and then stick on the "bones" and "skulls".
  • Bake in a preheated oven (200 degrees C/400 degrees F) for 20 minutes. Tap the bottoms: they will sound hollow when they are done.
    Easy recipe for pan de muerto day of the dead bread
  • When they are still warm, brush them with plenty of melted butter and then sprinkle generously with sugar.
    Easy recipe for day of the dead bread
  • Eat! Yum! You can share this bread with both the living and the dead.