What to make for a Traditional Day of the Dead Menu

day of the dead menu

day of the dead menu

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday designed to honor loved ones who died. It’s a national holiday in Mexico. Businesses are closed, and friends and family gather to eat, celebrate, and perform a few traditions. These traditions include building altars and praying for deceased loved ones. Food is a large part of the Day of the Dead. In addition to leaving food on the altar and at the grave stones of loved ones, it’s also a part of the family gathering.

A Traditional Day of the Dead Menu

All through Mexico and around the world, families gather to honor and remember their loved ones. They do so with traditional food. A common holiday menu might include:

Sugar Skulls – these skulls are a traditional folk art. They’re made, decorated, and left on the altar. Making them can be part of a family’s holiday tradition.

Pan de Muerto – This traditional holiday bread is a sweet bread. It’s also often decorated with colored sugar.

Ingredients include:

  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 5 teaspoons orange zest, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and combine. Remove from the heat and add the warm water.
  2. Combine one cup of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat in the milk/butter mixture. Add eggs and 2 teaspoons of the orange zest and combine. Add ½ cup of flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
  4. Place your dough into a lightly greased bowl and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Punch the dough down and shape it into a round loaf. Place on a baking sheet and let rise again until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread for 45 minutes or until golden. While bread is baking, make the glaze by combining 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and remaining 3 teaspoons of orange zest in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for two minutes. Stir continuously. Remove bread from the oven let cool slightly then brush with glaze. Finish by sprinkling the glazed bread with sugar.

Beyond Sugar Skulls and Sweet Bread

Chocolate is also a favorite holiday menu item. You’ll find it in Mexican Hot Chocolate, traditional mole sauces, and desserts. Pumpkin is another favorite and you’ll often find candied pumpkin on the menu.

The Day of the Dead is a festive holiday. It’s also a time of reverence. A few traditional menu items along with your family favorites can be a wonderful way to celebrate.


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