‘Bread of the dead’ sweetens LA bakeries during Día de los Muertos

By Kelsey Ngante

Pan de muerto is a can’t-miss Día de los Muertos tradition, says journalist Janette Villafana. Photo by Shutterstock.

Día de los Muertos, the Mexican “Day of the Dead,” is a commemorative holiday celebrated November 1 and 2. But for many celebrants, it begins weeks earlier when bakeries start preparing a seasonal sweet treat.

Pan de muerto – the Mexican “bread of the dead” – has been sweetening LA bakeries all fall. And according to journalist Janette Villafana, pan de muerto is a can’t-miss Día de los Muertos tradition.

“One of the traditions that is always included on an ofrenda no matter what … is pan de muerto,” explains Villafana. People place offerings on altars to guide spirits home for Día de los Muertos, and the bone-shaped pan de muerto is an essential part of nourishing spirits and waking celebrants alike.

Pan de muerto’s unique designs symbolize the journey of life. Red sugar is said to be blood from ancient Aztec human sacrifices. The round shape is the circle of life. And baked-in bone designs represent the bones and tears of lost loved ones. 

Villafana claims Los Angeles has the best bakeries to buy pan de muerto — made with love and intention. 

Los Angelitos Bakery in Huntington Park [has] been around since 1992, and their recipe [is] perfectly moist. … Another staple is La Chapala in East Los Angeles. I mean, it’s just amazing. … You can taste the quality and the love that goes into the bread,” says Villafana.