El Dia de los Muertos
An educational project of the
Houston Institute for Culture

Pan de Muertos Recipe

Pan de Muertos on an Altar

Pan de Muertos is a traditional bread for the dead placed on the altar to offer nourishment for the departed soul.

5 - 6 cups of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
2 packets of dry yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of anise seed
      1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter
4 eggs


In a large mixing bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. Mix thoroughly.

In a small pan, heat the milk, water and butter nearly to a boil.

Stir the warm liquid into the dry mixture until thoroughly blended.

Mix in the eggs and add remaining flour gradually as needed until the dough is soft and not tacky

Knead the dough on a floured board about ten minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl in a warm environment. Cover it to prevent drying. Near sea level, the dough should rise for about 1-1/2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and press it into a circular shape, adding additional molded or sculpted shapes of bones, or a skull, to the top. Let the sculpted bread rise for an additional hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

After baking, sprinkle lightly with confectioner's sugar topped with colored sugar (which may be sprinkled on to make a design). You may also want to add a glaze (shown below), which will help hold sugar in place.

Glaze for Pan de Muertos

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange peel for zest


Mix sugar, orange juice and grated orange peel in a sauce pan. Boil two minutes.

Brush glaze lightly on bread.

Sprinkle colored sugar on fresh glaze.

  See another example of Pan de Muertos placed on the altar.