Day of the Dead in Mexico is a celebration of life and the living. Traditionally, Day of the Dead recipes are made for family members that have passed away. The day is very colorful with lots of sugar skulls, pan de muerto (bread), calavera (sugar cookies) and more. Today, I am sharing a collection of delicious and authentic day of the dead recipes that have been used in my family for years!
Day of the Dead, also known as Dia de los Muertos, is a Mexican celebration where we celebrate and remember our loved ones who have passed on. During this 2 day celebration, we prepare an altar (or an "ofrenda" in spanish) with pictures of our relatives and friends who have died. We also have a special ritual called "alumbrado", where we light candles and place flowers on the table, along with the food that our loved ones enjoyed during their lives.
Some of the most popular dishes you will find on those altars are:
These are just a few of the many dishes that will be present during this special celebration!
Whether you are looking for ideas for your own Dia de los Muertos alter or you are just curious about some recipe ideas, this post is for you. Here, I'll share my favorite day of the dead recipes and answer some of your questions.
Note: If your favorite recipes didn't make the list, please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to share them!
Frequently Asked Questions About Day Of The Dead
Before we get to the list of recipes, here are some questions people often ask about this Mexican holiday.
What is a Day of the Dead alter?
The alter (or ofrenda) is something people in Mexico construct to honor the lives of people they love who have passed. For example, my sister and I set an altar for my father a couple of years ago for the Day of the Dead.
Besides the traditional food, we added roasted peanuts because he loved to eat peanuts, and fruit- a lot of fruit.
Read more about Day of the Dead and Mexican traditions in this complete guide I put together for you!
What is the day of preparation for Dia de los Muertos?
October 31st is the day of preparation. This is the day when people build the alters, bake the food, and get ready for "All Souls' Day", which is November 2nd.
What do skulls represent during this celebration of life?
The skulls represent a departed soul. People usually write the name of their passed loved ones on a sugar skull and place them on the altar to commemorate them.
Traditional Day Of The Dead Recipes
Here are some of my favorite recipes for Dia de Los Muertos. Browse through them and make the ones that remind you of your loved ones!
Café de Olla
A personal favorite- this Mexican spiced coffee is also called café de olla. It is made with an aromatic combination of ground coffee, cinnamon, and raw dark sugar (or how others know them as "Piloncillo".
This basic atole recipe is a nourishing and comforting hot drink. It is made with milk, water, sugar, and corn masa. It's a healthy drink that lots of moms make for kids when they are feeling a little under the weather.
It really reminds me of my mama!
If you are wanting a different flavor of atole, I recommend looking at some of these other atole recipes!
Out of all the traditional Day of the Dead recipes, this is one of the ones that I hear about the most! Champurrado is thick and rich Mexican hot chocolate. It has the unmistakable spice of Mexican cinnamon and sometimes has flavors of gloves or oranges as well.
It is unlike any other chocolate drink you have ever tried!
Pork Tamales (Wrapped In Banana Leaves)
Typically made during the holidays, pork tamales are a traditional main course served at large family dinners. It is made all over the northeastern part of Mexico.
These tamales are stuffed with shredded pork, spicy peppers, and a bunch of amazing Mexican spices. They are very delicious!
This recipe for basic tamales uses masa harina as the base. Stuff these tamales with juicy pulled pork or chicken and serve them with your favorite type of salsa!
This is a simple recipe that is really easy to customize.
Zacahuil is one long tamale. You'll find them for sale in markets in Mexico and they can be anywhere from 4-6' long. When you are going to feed a large family, this is a popular recipe.
Mole poblano is a very festive dish that takes some time to prepare, but it is worth every minute. There are lots of different varieties you can make.
It is basically chicken in a thick and vibrant sauce that smells incredible as it cooks.
The homemade red enchilada sauce in this recipe is made with two different types of peppers and really ties the whole dish together.
Traditionally, red pozole was made with pig head and neck bones. You can also make it with ribs and pork shoulder instead! The soup, red sauce, and garnish all come together for an incredible taste and texture.
It's the perfect offering!
Actually, I take it back... buñuelos may be one of my all time favorite Day of the Dead recipes!
These delicious buñuelos are a traditional staple when it comes to Mexican dessert. It's a homemade fritter that is lightly fried and comes out as golden as the sun. It is delightfully crispy and is dusted with sweet sugar and sometimes cinnamon (if you're lucky!).
Another fantastic Mexican dessert is candied pumpkin. It is swimming in a thick and sweet Piloncillo syrup and spiced with Mexican cinnamon sticks. The pumpkin is cooked fresh - no canned puree here!
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Candied sweet potatoes are another traditional Mexican dessert that is also pretty good for you too. Now, these are different than American yams. Make these sweet potatoes with cinnamon, brown sugar, coconut milk, and shredded coconut.
Pan de Muerto
Finally, you must include the traditional bread of the holiday - "Pan de Muerto," or Day of the Dead Bread. It is a yeast bread that is baked completely from scratch. As it bakes, you will smell the aroma of orange zest mixed with mouthwatering butter.
It's a family-favorite all over Mexico! You will find them often on many ofrendas.
I hope you make these day of the dead recipes to celebrate and honor your loved ones! If any of these recipes were of any help to you, come back to let me know your experience. Please leave us a comment done below and tell us all about it!