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A Mexican Day of the Dead Party

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Skip the usual Halloween tricks and treats, and take a cue from Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration.

For an authentic Day of the Dead touch, decorate the table with papel picado banners, marigolds, and sugar skulls.

On November 2, Mexican families bring food to the ancestors’ graves, where they eat, drink, and celebrate life. This menu, which serves six to eight, includes authentic turkey legs in mole sauce, a bright, crisp salad of jicama, avocado, and oranges, and a tequila-infused queso fundido. It ends with the traditional Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), decorated with a cross of “bones” and a sugary topping, plus cups of sweet-and-spicy Mexican hot chocolate.

See Mexican food expert Fany Gerson demonstrate how to make Pan de Muerto.

To serve eight, you’ll need to double the rice and hot chocolate recipes. The shopping list already reflects the scaled-up amounts.

Menu Timeline

Up to 1 day ahead:

  • Poach the turkey legs and soak the chiles and raisins for the mole.
  • Make the Pan de Muerto.

1-1/2 hours ahead:

  • Make the mole sauce.
  • Cook the rice and keep warm.

45 minutes ahead:

  • Cook the tomatoes, onions, and chiles and add the tequila for the Queso Fundido.
  • Make the Jicama-Avocado Salad (but don’t slice the avocado yet).

As guests arrive:

  • Add the cheese to the Queso Fundido and serve as soon as it’s melted.

Just before dinner:

  • Add the turkey to the mole sauce.
  • Slice the avocado and finish the Jicama-Avocado Salad

Just before dessert:

  • Make the Mexican Hot Chocolate and serve with Pan de Muerto.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 large and 3 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 1 small jícama (about 1-1/4 lb.)
  • 8 small red radishes
  • 5 scallions
  • 2 large ripe but firm avocados
  • 1 large jalapeño or 2 large serranos
  • 1 large bunch cilantro
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 4 oranges
  • 3 medium limes

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 4 large turkey drumsticks (about 3 lb. total)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 8 oz. Mexican melting cheese (such as Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, mild cheddar or brick
  • 4-3/4 oz. (9-1/2 Tbs.) unsalted butter

Other Groceries

  • 8 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • tortilla chips for serving the queso fundido
  • 6 oz. Mexican chocolate, such as Taza, Ibarra, or Abuelita brands
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbs. tequila, preferably a silver tequila
  • 5 whole ancho chiles
  • 3 whole mulato chiles
  • 3 whole guajillo chiles
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 4 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs. orange blossom water
  • 3 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 3 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 tsp. fennel or aniseed
  • One 4-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean

Pantry Staples

  • 15-3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 oz. (1-3/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground fennel or aniseed
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Large pinch cayenne
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Kosher salt
  • black peppercorns

The Menu


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