Pan de Muerto Adds Flavor to Day of the Dead

Want to add pan de muerto to flavor your Day of the Dead celebration? Or are you wondering what pan de muerto even is? From events to décor to marigold flowers and special foods, Day of the Dead is filled with culture, tradition, and flavor. And bread of the dead is at the heart of it.

Día de los Muertos, sometimes shortened to Día de Muertos in the U.S., is better known by many of us by its literal translation, Day of the Dead. There are so many beautiful aspects of this holiday, but for many, Day of the Dead means one thing: pan de muerto, a special bread available during the autumn weeks surrounding the Day of the Dead. Families will build their personal altars, or ofrendas, and visit local cemeteries to honor and celebrate their deceased loved ones.

a day of the dead altar with candles, marigolds, sugar skulls and day of the dead decor
A traditional Day of the Dead altar with pan de muerto.

It’s a time filled with love, cherished memories, familia, and the things that bring us together, like food and drinks. Some regions of Mexico honor the occasion with special tamales and molés or drinks like the cornmeal-based atolé, but perhaps the most well-known culinary tradition of Day of the Dead is pan de muerto, which literally means bread of the dead.

two loaves of bread of the dead with candles and flowersThat may sound odd, but if you’ve had it, you know how lovely it is. Sweet and buttery to the taste, freshly baked pan de muerto smells of anise or orange from orange blossom water that is mixed into the dough before baking. The buttery crust is dusted with sugar across the dough “bones” on top. Breaking into the brioche-like bread releases the scent of orange blossom water, which lends a delicate flavor to the soft slices. The smell is heavenly, and the taste, addictive and delicious!

So where can you find pan de muerto for your Day of the Dead celebration? You could try your hand at making your own, thanks to this recipe from the San Antonio Express-News. Or leave it to the professionals and pick up a loaf for your ofrenda and one for your family to enjoy. While your H-E-B bakery may have it in stock, a visit to a local Mexican bakery will definitely help you land the sweet treat. A few options include:

  • La Panadería is the bakery-cafe brothers David and José Cáceres opened in 2014 to share their Mexican heritage and love for baking with the people of their adopted hometown of San Antonio. Panadería introduced a traditional version of the bread that is so popular that they sell it year-round. But note: it’s so popular this time of year that pre-ordering may be the best way to make sure you don’t miss out. 

    loaves of pan de muerto displayed with candles and orange marigolds and a bakery box
    Photo credit Karissa Rangel.
  • Alebrije Bakery, located in the Government Hill neighborhood, has a wide array of Mexican pastries, including pan de muerto. You should be able to get the loaves through mid-November and you can pre-order on their website.
  • Panifico Bakery is another spot that offers pre-orders, so take that as a sign that they, too, are a popular spot. They offer the bread in shapes, including figures that resemble a pan de muerto version of gingerbread men and women, and with different colored sugars.
  • Bee’s Restaurant & Bakery also offers the bread in the shape of skeletons and calaveras (skulls), with colored icing and sugars. You’ll also find the traditional round loaves, but it’s hard to resist a calavera wearing a bow!
  • El Folklor Bakery in the Windcrest area has an array of Mexican pastries, including pan de muerto. There’s no pre-ordering, so stop by and check out their case.
  • Bedoy’s Bakery, an institution since 1961 and available through Uber Eats, offers the bread as well as a wide array of pan dulce, cookies, and more. There are two locations, so grab some “bread of the dead” and other treats for your Day of the Dead celebrations.
  • Caballero Bakery on the West Side is another good spot for pan de muerto and just about any other Mexican pastry you can imagine. Pan de muerto is a limited-time offering, so stop by soon.
An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food