My Recipe Box

Pan de Muerto


Each loaf serves six to eight.

Yields 2 loaves.

In the Mexican tradition, this sweet, buttery bread is a fixture at Day of the Dead celebrations. Serve the sugar-topped loaves with Mexican Hot Chocolate or coffee for dipping.

Watch an audio slide show where Fany makes Pan de Muerto and explains her process step by step. 

For the bread
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2-3/4 oz. (5-1/2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Two 4x1-inch strips of orange zest (use a vegetable peeler; avoid the white pith)
  • 1 Tbs. orange blossom water
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 oz. (1-3/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 15-3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil as needed
For the topping
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
Make the dough

Put the milk, butter, and orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir until the butter melts, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until warm. Discard the orange zest, add the orange blossom water, and whisk in the eggs.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (no hotter than 110°F) and let stand until the mixture bubbles slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. (If the yeast doesn’t bubble, discard it and start again with new yeast.)

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt on a work surface. Make a well in the center. Gradually pour the yeast mixture and the milk mixture into the well while mixing with your hand . Knead until you have a nice, uniform dough, about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth but still slightly sticky. If it seems too sticky, add more flour as needed.

Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and leave in a warm place (about 70°F) until doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Shape the bread

Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a lemon and reserve. Divide the remaining dough in half and shape the pieces on a lightly floured surface into 2 rounds. Lightly oil a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment; put the dough rounds on it and flatten the tops with your hands.

With some of the reserved dough, form 2 balls the size of large marbles; set aside and cover with plastic. Divide the remaining dough into 6 pieces and roll them with your hands from the center out, making ropes that are slightly longer than the width of the loaves. As you’re rolling, press with your index and middle fingers spread about 1 inch apart to make knobs that represent bones. Arrange 3 of the ropes on top of each dough round, overlapping the ropes in the center. Cover loosely with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Dab a little cold water on the top center of each round where the ropes meet and put the reserved dough balls on top, pressing slightly so they adhere. Bake until the loaves have an even golden color, 30 to 40 minutes. Cover the loaves loosely with foil and continue to bake until their bottoms are browned and the internal temperature is 190°F, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.

Top the bread

Brush the loaves all over with some of the melted butter. Holding one from the bottom (if it’s too warm, use an oven mitt or a piece of cardboard), sprinkle half of the sugar all over the top, tilting the loaf slightly to help coat it evenly. Repeat with the other loaf and remaining sugar. Cool to room temperature before serving. The bread is best eaten within a day of baking.

Make Ahead Tips

The baked loaves can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 2 months

Serving Suggestions

Round your Day of the Dead party menu out with Tequila-Infused Queso FundidoMexican Turkey Drumstick Mole, and Jícama, Avocado, Radish & Orange Salad with Cilantro.


Use any leftover bread to make Bread Pudding.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 410, Fat (kcal): 17, Fat Calories (g): 150, Saturated Fat (g): 10, Protein (g): 9, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4.5, Carbohydrates (mg): 56, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1, Sodium (g): 180, Cholesterol (g): 115, Fiber (g): 2,

Photo: Colin Clark

I love this bread. It has very good flavor and crumb. I make it every year.

I havent taste it yet, but it looks awesome, thank you I will share it on my blog

I have been looking for a good pan de muerto recipe for a long time. I made this last year and it was the best I've ever tasted.

The bread tastes really wonderful, I made it now for the second time, and everybody loved it. I prepared the dough a day ahead, and left it to rise overnight in the fridge. I also substituted some of the white flour with whole wheat. And the other reviewers are right: the baking time is shorter: mine was about 36 minutes. A complete description you can find in my blog:

This is a fantastic recipe. We can't wait to try it with our coffee in the morning, but it stands alone very, very well. Read my full review at:

I agree--this was one of the best things I've ever baked, but the baking time is too long (give it 20 at first, then cover for 10, then tap it to see if it sounds hollow--any longer and the bottom would've burned). My kids devoured this in two days and my youngest (who always gets beaten to the food!) is begging me to make more.

This recipe worked splendidly and resulted in one of the tastiest things to come out of my oven in AGES! The only warning - my bread was DONE after the first 40 minutes - didn't need any more baking! My account of baking this is at:

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