Pan de Muerto

This Mexican sweet bread is traditionally served on Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Mexican holiday that honors loved ones who have passed away.

Serves: 8Hands-on: 50 minutesTotal: 4 hours 20 minutesDifficulty: Medium

Serves: 8


  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1⁄2 cup warm water
  • 5 large eggs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 1⁄4 cup butter
  • 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour


  • Dissolve the yeast in 1⁄4 cup of the warm water. Separate 2 of the eggs’ yolks from their whites. Beat together 2 eggs plus the 2 egg yolks. Steep the anise seed in the remaining 1⁄4 cup warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat.
  • Combine the dissolved yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large mixing bowl; stir gently. Let sit for about 10 minutes or until it appears foamy.
  • Stir in the salt, 1⁄3 cup sugar, nutmeg, melted butter, anise seed mixture, and the beaten eggs and yolks. Mix well while slowly adding the flour. The dough should be slightly sticky. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Lightly grease a large mixing bowl. Place the dough inside and cover with a towel. Place in a warm place and let rise until it is double in size, about 2 hours.
  • Punch the dough down and place it on a floured surface. Remove a handful of dough and set aside. Shape the remaining dough into a round loaf about 1 inch thick and place it on a greased baking sheet.
  • Make a deep indentation in the center of the loaf with your fist. Form the small piece of dough set aside into 2 “bone” shapes about 4 inches long and 1 “skull” shape. Place these in the center indentation.
  • Cover the dough with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. The dough should hold a fingerprint when pressed.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Beat the remaining egg and use it as a wash on the bread while the bread is still warm. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.