Day of the Dead Recipes

Food is a central part of Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. Here are a few favorites recipes.



    Black Oaxacan Mole with Grilled Chicken Since Day of the Dead is considered to be one of the most important days of the year in Mexico, families naturally only want to serve the deceased the best dishes, which typically includes a mole, since it is a labor-intensive dish that often requires many ingredients.  Serves 8 Mole Ingredients: This takes about four hours to make, so plan ahead. ½ cup canola oil 14 chiles ancho, wiped clean, stemmed, seeded and lightly toasted 6 pasilla chiles, wiped clean, stemmed, seeded and lightly toasted 4 garlic cloves 1 ripe plantain, sliced 1 small thick slices onion 2/3 cup or 3 ounces whole almonds ½ cup raisins 1 cup can diced tomatoes, with juice 1/8 teaspoon cloves, ground ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¼ teaspoon anise seed, ground 1 ounces Mexican drinking chocolate 2 quarts chicken broth 2 small slices dry French bread or white bread Garnish: 7 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted separately Chicken Ingredients: 2 young chicken (4 lbs. each), cut into serving pieces, or 8 chicken breasts (6oz each) Salt Pepper Lime juice In a large clay or enamel pot add the first 8 ingredients, mix together, and slow cook for 15 minutes. Then add the next 6 ingredients (tomatoes through chicken broth) and cook slowly for about two hours. Add the slices of dry bread into the hot mixture and cook for another 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend the bread into the spices and sauce until well mixed.  Cook for one hour more. When the mole is ready, grill the seasoned chicken pieces.  Pour mole sauce over plated chicken and garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Recipe Credit:  Chef Erwin Ramos of Ole Restaurant Group in Boston. 
     Chef Erwin Ramos of Ole Restaurant Group in Boston 


    La Picosita La Picosita is a tequila drink with a twist. Here's a recipe from Rosa Mexicano Restaurants, which will celebrate Dia de los Muertos with a special menu and cocktails at its 13 locations nationwide.  Ingredients: 3 strips of fresh red bell pepper (1-1/2 inch X 1-1/2 inch, skins on) 3/4 ounce honey syrup  3/4 ounce lemon juice 1-1/2 ounce El Jimador Silver Tequila Pinch cayenne pepper/cumin spice mix 1 slice charred red bell pepper To make the honey syrup, combine 2 parts honey with 1 part warm water. Stir thoroughly until combined. Measure out 3/4 ounce. Store unused portion in refrigerator. To make the spice mix, combine equal parts ground cayenne pepper and ground cumin. To char the red bell pepper, grill a halved red bell pepper on a lightly-greased grill top until the skin begins to turn black in spots. Allow to cool, slice pepper lengthwise, removing seeds and cut into long strips, approximately 1 inch wide. Crush the fresh red bell pepper with honey syrup and lemon juice, preferably in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a cocktail shaker. Add tequila and ice, and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a pinch of spice mix and a slice of charred red bell pepper, and serve.
    Rosa Mexicano Restaurants


    Altars Altars are filled with food offerings on Day of the Dead, ranging from fruit to cookies, even soda and beer.
    Lisa Rogak


    Altars The food offerings on some altars can include store-bought cakes and pan de muerto.
    Lisa Rogak


    Pan de Muerto Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)  is a staple at Day of the Dead gatherings. This recipe makes 2 loaves Ingredients:  1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 cup water
    5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
    2 packages dry yeast
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon whole anise seed
    1 cup sugar
    4 eggs
    1/3 cup fresh orange juice
    2 tablespoons grated orange zest In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until the butter melts. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and ½ cup of the sugar. Add the butter and milk mixture and stir until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour.  Continue to add more flour until the dough is soft but not sticky. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls or skeletons. Let rise in a warm place for one hour. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. While the bread is baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, mix the remaining ½ cup of sugar, orange juice, and zest over high heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Boil for two minutes, still stirring, then remove from heat. Let cool. When bread is done, remove from pans to cool completely on racks. Brush the glaze over the top of the bread. Recipe credit: Lisa Rogak
    Chef Patricio Sandoval of Mercadito Restaurant in Chicago


    Butternut Squash soup (Sopa de Calabaza) This is a popular Day of the Dead dish since it's the color of marigolds, the scent of which is thought to help lead the spirits back to the cemetery when Day of the Dead is over. Ingredients: 8 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
    1 4 ounce stick -- 1/2 cup -- unsalted butter
    3 tablespoons honey
    ¼ cup water
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    ½ cup sliced onion
    1 pint heavy cream
    1 pint water
    Salt to taste Place butternut squash in an oven-resistant container with butter, honey, ¼ cup of water, and salt. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 45 min in a 350 degree oven or until squash is fully cooked. While the squash is baking, saute the onions in oil in a large heavy nonstick skillet, constantly stirring. Once the onions are tender, add the squash to the pot with its cooking liquid along with cream and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Place in a blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Add water if needed for consistency. Recipe credit: Chef Patricio Sandoval of Mercadito Restaurant in Chicago 
    Chef Patricio Sandoval of Mercadito Restaurant in Chicago


    Sugar skulls in all sizes are sold at bakeries, candy stores, and at festivals. The best online source for recipes, skull molds and inspiration is 
    Lisa Rogak


    Esquites Esquites is a creamy corn dish frequently sold at food carts and stalls in Mexico. Families will often grab esquites on the way to the cemetery. Serves 8 Ingredients: 1 medium onion, small dice
    8 cups corn kernels
    4 cups corn stock (recipe follows)
    4 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
    Epazote, a fresh Mexican herb
    Lime Mayonnaise
    Queso Fresco
    Chili Piquin Sweat diced onions in butter. Add corn kernels and cook until soft (About 15 minutes). Add corn stock and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, leaving some liquid. Season with salt to taste. Fold in epazote. Serve warm in large bowl. Top with a light layer of Lime Mayonnaise, crumbled Queso Fresco and a gentle shake of Chile Piquin.

    Corn Stock
    6 corn cobs, kernels removed
    1 medium onion, sliced thin
    3 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 tbs olive oil
    4 quarts water
    Salt to taste

    Gently sweat onions and garlic in olive oil until very soft. Add corn cobs and water and cook until stock is very fragrant and flavorful, about one hour. Strain to remove cobs and onion and season to taste with salt.

    Lime Mayonnaise
    1 cup prepared mayonnaise
    1/8 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
    Salt to taste
    Combine mayonnaise and lime juice in a small bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt. Recipe credit: Chef Jose Garces of Distrito in Philadelphia.
    Distrito in Philadelphia
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