Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)

This rich yeast bread, pan de muerto, is served to honor the dead on Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration. The round loaves are decorated with dough in the shapes of skulls and crossbones, and sprinkled with sugar.

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)
Photo: Mike Dieter
Prep Time:
30 mins
Chill Time:
3 hrs
Rise Time:
1 hr 30 mins
Bake Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
5 hrs 35 mins
1 loaf (16 servings)


  • 1 package active dry yeast

  • cup water (105 degree F to 115 degree F)

  • ½ cup butter or margarine

  • ¼ cup sugar

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 3 - 3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

  • 1 teaspoon aniseed, crushed

  • 1 egg white

  • 2 teaspoon water

  • Pink-colored sugar


  1. In a large mixing bowl stir yeast into the 1/3 cup warm water. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to soften.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat butter or margarine, sugar, and salt just until warm (105 degree F to 115 degree F). Add mixture to yeast along with 1 cup of the flour, eggs, egg yolk, orange peel, and aniseed. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Cover and chill dough for 3 hours or overnight.

  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Remove one-fourth of the dough; set aside. Shape remaining dough into a ball and place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten ball to 6 inches in diameter.

  4. Divide reserved dough into 3 portions. Roll 2 of the portions into two 7-inch ropes to form crossbones. Combine egg white and the 2 teaspoons water. Place crossbones in an X on top of the loaf attaching with some of the egg white mixture. Roll remaining portion into a 2-inch ball. Make a 2-inch wide indentation in the center of the loaf; place ball of dough in the depression, attaching with egg white mixture.

  5. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double (1-1/2 to 2 hours). Brush with egg white mixture and sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when you tap the top with your fingers. Remove from baking sheet. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 1 loaf (16 servings).


Prepare and bake bread as directed. Cool completely. Place bread in a freezer container or bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Before serving, thaw bread at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

160 Calories
7g Fat
21g Carbs
4g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 16
Calories 160
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 55mg 18%
Sodium 137mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Protein 4g

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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