Pan de Muertos

Pan de Muertos, or Bread of the Dead, is a traditional holiday recipe from Mexico. Make and bake this bread to celebrate the Day of the Dead, which is observed on November 1 and 2. Be sure to ask for a parent's help before you start this project.

Photo: Pan de Muertos



  • 2 large mixing bowls
  • Electric mixer
  • Baking sheet

For the bread:

  • 1 1/2 cups and 3 1/2 cups (187.5 grams and 437.5 grams) of flour, separated
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) anise seed
  • 2 packets (14 grams) of dry yeast
  • 1/2 (118 milliliters) cup milk
  • 1/2 (118 milliliters) cup water
  • 1/2 (113.4 grams) cup unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • Extra flour for work surface
  • Extra butter for greasing one of the bowls

For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons (26 grams) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) sugar


Mix all the dry ingredients together except the flour in one of the mixing bowls.

Heat the milk, water, and butter together in a small saucepan.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and beat well.

Add the eggs and the 1 1/2 cups (187.5 grams) of flour. Beat well.

Add 3 1/2 cups (437.5 grams) of flour, a bit at a time, and beat well.

Use the extra flour to dust a work surface, like a large cutting board or a kitchen counter. Transfer the dough to the floured surface and knead for nine minutes.

Grease one of the mixing bowls and add the dough. Let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

Punch down the dough. Take six small balls from the dough, roll out into snake shapes, and flatten the ends to make "bones." Reshape the rest of the dough into a round loaf and top with the bone shapes. Let sit for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C), place loaf on baking sheet, and bake bread for about 40 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven, brush with the melted butter, and sprinkle the 2 tablespoons (118 milliliters) of sugar on top.

Text by NGS staff
Photograph by Sara Zeglin