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A picture of pan de muerto on a decorative plate next to a black and white picture and sugar skull.
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5 from 44 votes

Pan de Muerto

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead) is a yummy Mexican sweet bread traditionally made during Día de Muertos (or Day of the Dead). This soft, orange-flavored, and buttery dessert is something to enjoy! 
Prep Time3 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time3 hours 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 2 breads
Calories: 2629kcal


For the Yeast:

For the Dough:

  • ¾ c sugar
  • 4 c all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 whole eggs room temperature
  • 3 egg yolks room temperature
  • c butter softened
  • ½ c warm milk
  • zest from 2 oranges
  • ¼ c water (to add the bones and head to dough)

For Toppings:

  • ¼ c melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar


For the Yeast:

  • Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
  • Add sugar.
  • Mix well. Set aside.
  • About 5-10 minutes.
  • Water must be a maximum of 110 degrees F, or you will kill the yeast.

For the Dough:

  • Add sugar to a large mixing bowl.
  • Sift the flour and salt into the bowl.
  • Create a small well in the center of the flour mixture.
  • Add the activated yeast.
  • Mix on low to combine.
  • Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time.
  • Add the butter little by little until fully mixed.
  • Next, add the milk and orange zest.
  • The mixture will appear wet.
  • Knead (using the hook attachment for the KitchenAid) for 20-25 minutes.
  • Do NOT add more flour, or the result will be a tough bread.
  • If after 25 minutes the dough is not quite together, add a teaspoon of flour and mix for another 5 minutes.
  • If doing this by hand, knead for 30 minutes.
  • The dough is ready when the dough does not stick to your hand.
  • Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl.
  • Cover and proof for 1 hour.
  • Cut the dough into three pieces.
  • Set one piece aside until ready to use.
  • Using the other two pieces, create two small balls.
  • The seam should be on the bottom, and the top should be smooth.
  • Repeat with the second piece of dough.
  • Using the third piece of dough, create a flat rectangle.
  • Cut 5 equal pieces.
  • Separate 4 of the pieces and roll out each piece with your fingers to create the bones.
  • Repeat with the other 3 pieces.
  • With the last remaining piece of dough, cut into two.
  • Roll out into a circle to create the head.
  • Using a brush, brush water crisscross on the dough.
  • Add the bones across the center of the dough.
  • Add the other set of bones across to create an X.
  • Add more water to the center where the bones meet.
  • Place the circle (or head) to the center of the dough.
  • Cover and let rise for a second proof.
  • Proof for 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes (for 1 bread)
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes (for 2 breads)
  • Stick a toothpick to the center of the bread.
  • If it comes out clean, your bread is ready.
  • If not, return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
  • Cool slightly on a cooling rack.
  • Melt the butter.
  • Brush the melted butter all over the top of the bread.
  • Sprinkle with sugar over a bowl to catch the excess.
  • Spread sugar all around.
  • Repeat with the second bread.
  • Serve and enjoy!



Substitutions: If using Agua de Azahar (Orange Blossom Water) use ⅓ cup milk + 3 tablespoon of the orange blossom water. 
Instead of milk, you can also use evaporated milk
Pro Tip: Do not use hot water to active the yeast, or you will kill it. Also, look at the expiration date on the package. If it's past the expiration date, the yeast is no longer good. 


Calories: 2629kcal | Carbohydrates: 381g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 104g | Saturated Fat: 50g | Cholesterol: 707mg | Sodium: 1832mg | Potassium: 687mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 181g | Vitamin A: 3750IU | Calcium: 211mg | Iron: 14mg