If you’re looking for traditional Day of the Dead food to serve during the Día de Los Muertos celebrations, you are in the right place! The Day of the Dead or Día de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday in which loved ones that have passed away are remembered, honored, and celebrated. An essential part of this holiday is the significance and importance of food. So this year, make your Día de Muertos celebration unforgettable with delicious Day of the dead foods that look good and taste even better! From Pan de Muerto and sugar skulls to traditional Mexican dishes, there is something delicious on this list waiting for you to try!
Día de Los Muertos Food and Traditions
El Dia de Los Muertos (Spanish for Day of the Dead) is on November 1st and 2nd. It’s a time when families get together and build altars to honor family members who have died. They place photos of loved ones and an array of ofrendas (offerings) like candles and sugar skulls. Plus, traditional Day of the Dead food or the deceased favorite meals also takes center stage.
Traditional Day of the Dead Food across Latin America
The food for Day of the Dead celebrations varies across Latin America. Even from one part of one country to another, it is often based on family traditions and preferences. So the Dia de Los Muertos food is as assorted as the altar decorations. For example, traditional Day of the Dead foods in Mexico include pan de Muerto and sugar skulls, tamales, moles, and more.
People use traditional Day of the Dead food as ofrendas for the altars. For example, in my home country Guatemala we make fiambre, a complex cold-cuts-and-pickled-vegetable salad. In addition, we have some incredible Day of the Dead traditions that go from decorating gravestones to a unique Gian kite festival!
15 Traditional Day of the Dead Food and Recipes
Here is a list of traditional Day of the Dead food not only from Mexico but from other Latin American countries as well. The Latino culture is rich in traditions, and even more so regarding food. So, include any traditional recipe from any country in your Día de Los Muertos festivities. Enjoy!
Pan de Muerto or pan de Muertos is a sweet bread traditionally baked in Mexico for the Dia de Muertos holiday. Families usually make one loaf to eat on November 2nd and another loaf to place on the altar as an ofrenda.
You usually decorate Pan de Muerto with skulls or crossbones, and the round bread represents the circle of life. And if you want to try something a little different, here is a potato version of pan de Muertos from Presley’s Pantry that is delicious and easy to make.
Cempazuchitl, or Mexican marigold, is a flower traditionally used as part of the celebrations of November 1st and 2nd for All Souls Day and Day of the Dead. Many believe that Marigolds guide the spirits to the Dia de Muertos altar with their bright colors and strong smell.
Cempazuchitl flowers are edible, and you can safely use them for cooking. Delicious and beautiful, these marigold tortillas are ideal for a traditional Day of the Dead food menu.
One traditional Day of the Dead food prepared in Guatemala for Día de Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day) celebrations is molletes. This sweet bread stuffed with custard is deep-fried and served in a delicious syrup with panela (raw sugar) and rum.
Molletes are a popular dessert for the Día de Todos Los Santos festivities and Christmas. Moreover, it is the perfect comfort food dessert for cold weather! Here is a step-by-step recipe to make this easy and delicious dessert that will have your kids licking their fingers!
What’s a Day of the Dead celebration without a toast to loved ones who have passed away? SweetLife Bake honors and remembers her Abuelito with this Día de Los Muertos-inspired marigold-infused tequila recipe.
This infusion takes seven days, but the tequila takes on a beautiful golden color after the second day. Finally, add a cinnamon stick to this Day of the Dead drink, giving it a depth of warmth and sweetness. Dia de Los Muertos is a cheerful, joyful celebration where we take time to remember our dead, honor them, and celebrate their lives. Cheers!
Making this traditional Guatemalan dish is one of the most important customs during Día de Todos Los Santos (or All Saints Day) celebrations on November 1st. Families come together a few days before Día de Los Muertos festivities to make this giant salad. It is full of flavor and textures, with a wide variety of cheeses, cold cuts, and pickled vegetables.
Historians believe that Fiambre originated as family members brought cold cuts and pickled vegetables to the cemetery on Día de Los Muertos. And as they honored family members who had passed away and shared a meal, all the ingredients got tossed together. Later, it evolved into the elegant cold salad it is today, a traditional Day of the Dead food made especially for this day.
Atoles are corn-based hot drinks originally dating back to the Aztec civilization. I made this atol de elote with sweet corn, flavored with vanilla and cinnamon. I love serving them with a crunchy cookie like the Guatemalan Champurradas that are perfect for dunking!
Atol is a popular drink during Dia de Muertos celebrations as well as during the holidays. And if you want it to give a twist, this vanilla atole from the Other Side of the Tortilla is one of my favorite traditional Mexican warm beverages.
Dia de Los Muertos celebrations in Mexico involve cooking favorite foods of loved ones that have passed away. Tamales are often part of the Day of the Dead menu. However, any tamal recipe will do. From the savory tamales rojos to the sweet taste of tamalitos de elote, you will find these recipes simply divine.
Making homemade tamales takes some time, but that makes them extra special. And if you want a different take, this tamal de raja from Mexico in my Kitchen with roasted Poblano peppers makes a great addition to your festivities. So, whether for Christmas dinner or the Día de Los Muertos celebration, these authentic tamale recipes are toothsomely delicious!
Mexican hot chocolate is dark and thick, made to be sipped slowly. It’s the ideal warm drink for a cold November night. This spicy version of the traditional Mexican chocolate caliente draws inspiration from the original hot cacao drink made by the Mayans and Aztecs.
Mayan people believed that the combination of cacao and chile had unique and magical properties. And as a result, it was a ceremonial drink. This modern recipe is much sweeter than the original pre-Colombian version, which was quite bitter.
Calabaza Tacha is a traditional Mexican dessert often served for these spirit-filled celebrations. First, cook fresh pumpkin slices in a rich caramel sauce made from brown sugar and piloncillo until tender. Then it takes on a rich brown glaze infused with Canela, anise, and cloves. Finally, serve warm from the oven, drizzled with extra caramel sauce for a tantalizing taste of Fall!
Sugar skulls or calaveras are a very important part of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations. These gorgeous sugar skulls by Presle’s Pantry can be given as a gift to friends or relatives or placed on the Día de Muertos altar as an ofrenda.
Sugar skulls represent the soul of a departed loved one. It is customary to write the name of the deceased loved one on the sugar skull.
Conchas (or pan dulce as I used to call this sweet bread growing up) is one of my favorite Mexican foods. This bread covered in sugar is a traditional food often shared with family during Dia de Muertos. Of course, always with a steaming cup of Cafecito or a creamy champurrado!
This recipe for conchas from Muy Bueno Cookbook looks so easy to make. The conchas came out so beautiful that I’m thinking of trying to make these myself. Will you join me?
I just love all of Nibbles and Feasts’ recipes. Tamales are, without a doubt, one of the most delicious and versatile Mexican foods. You can make a tamal with pretty much everything! And this recipe for nopal (cactus) and jalapeño tamales is a fantastic combination of flavors!
La Morena pickled jalapeño peppers are the star of this tamal recipe. Because their pickled jalapeños are so plump, it is easy to incorporate them into the masa with minimal to no seasoning. Thanks to this trick, the long tamal-making days are now short, easy, and practically effortless.
Café de olla, or Mexican coffee, is a recipe for making coffee in a pot, just like my Abuelita and Adrian’s granny used to do. It is the perfect warm drink to sip during Dia de Muertos. It is also a drink that sparks conversation and eases the pain of the soul when you lose a beloved one. And this Mexican coffee recipe is the appropriate comfort drink to have and remember all that has passed.
Mexican coffee is a drink commonly served in Mexican cuisine after a meal. It is the perfect combo with pastries or dessert, during breakfast or on those long winter nights. Any time is good for a great cup of coffee, right?
Similar to enchiladas, Enfrijoladas start with tortillas filled with chicken or other meat. However, dip them in a thick black or red bean sauce instead of a red or green sauce. Enfrijoladas are another Mexican dish often made during Dia de Muertos celebrations.
You can top them off with delicious Mexican garnishes like avocado, sour cream, onions, chiles, or Queso Seco (crumbly cheese). Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Enfrijoladas are a Mexican dish you really must try!
If you’ve never seen Pati’s Mexican Table cooking show on PBS, you are missing out! Pati shares her love of cooking and the flavors of her native Mexico in her recipes. Mole Poblano is one of those recipes that many families reserve for special occasions. And this mole recipe is ideal for celebrating loved ones during the Día de Muertos.
If you didn’t know, Mole is a thick sauce or paste made by grinding ingredients together in a molcajete or communal mill. And with a long list of ingredients, here is the easiest route to make Mole Poblano without compromising its authenticity and flavor. It is the perfect traditional Day of the Dead food to add to your festivities.
More Great Day of the Dead Food And Ideas:
Making fun Day of the Dead food together is the perfect activity for kids during Día de Los Muertos celebrations! From Calavera sandwiches to candy trays and skull pizzas, here is a compilation of my favorite kid-friendly Day of the Dead Recipes.
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