Pan de muerto – in English, that's bread of the dead or, spookier yet, dead bread – is a traditional Mexican soft and sweet bun baked to commemorate Día de los Muertos on November 1 (All Souls Day) and November 2 (Day of the Dead). Both celebrations can be traced to pre-colonial times and were established to honor lost friends and family. Typically, the celebrations include an altar de muertos, or altar for the dead, that function as a guide for the muertos, or spirits, to come back and hang with the living for a day. Pan de muerto is typically shared on these altars as an offering. The delicious round loaf is usually decorated with strips of dough that resemble skeleton’s bones and sprinkled with sugar or sesame seeds. The taste is similar to a piece of plain sweet bread, but with a subtle orange flavor and a dash of cinnamon.
You can usually find the bread at Food City or Ranch Market during the last few weeks of October and the first week of November. But, if you prefer your pan with a little bit of soul, brush up on your Spanish and try one of these five authentic Mexican panaderías for all your dead bread needs. You and your dearly departed are both sure to love 'em.
1. Panaderías y Tortillería Guerrero
Originally from Guerrero, Mexico, Bulmaro Hernández, opened his panadería in 2003. The key to his success is fresh bread and customer service. His motto: “Mi pan, mi café, y mi panadería,” or, “My bread, my coffee, and my bakery.” He makes pan de muerto in October and during the first week of November. In addition to the traditional buns, Hernández's team also makes different pan de muerto figurines such as: dolls, bunnies, and other animals.
2829 N. 32nd St. #3, Phoenix
Hours: Mo-Thur 7 a.m.–10:30 p.m. and Fri-Sun 6 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
2. La Purisima Bakery
Since 1983, La Purisima has been filling our bellies with quality pan de dulce (sweet bread), tortillas and tamales in Glendale. For Día de los Muertos, they offer traditional family-sized pan de muerto covered with pink sugar. Their slogan: “Si usted ya probo los demas ahora pruebe lo mejor,” or “If you tried the other ones, now try the best one.” La Purisima has also a second location in Phoenix. Cash only.
4533 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale
Tu-Sat 6 a.m.–9 p.m. Su 6 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Mo.
3. La Diana’s Bakery
Located just off McDowell Road, La Diana’s Bakery is a great place to get cakes, tortas and Mexican pastries. They offer individual and family-sized traditional pan de muerto, as well as animal-shaped buns. We recommend bringing cash; there is a credit card fee per transaction.
5010 W. McDowell Rd., Phoenix
Mo-Sat 7 a.m.–8 p.m. Closed Su.
4. Cristal’s Bakery & Mexican Food
Specializing in homemade Mexican food and baked goods, with more than 10 years of experience in Glendale, Cristal’s Bakery offers sugar-studded and sesame-seeded traditional pan de muerto.
6402 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale
Mo-Su 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
5. Antigua Bakery
Don’t be discouraged by the long line at Antigua Bakery. This traditional panadería might be in a compact storefront, but it has delicious fresh pastries. Grab an aluminum tray and pair of tongs to pick up your favorite pan de muerto varieties (and maybe some Mexican cookies for the road).
3603 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Mo-Sat 8 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Su 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.
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