Day of the Dead party food: What your Día de los Muertos menu needs

The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a Mexican festival celebrated around Halloween time. The festival usually starts around Oct. 31, All Hallows’ Eve, and then continues through Nov. 2 and 3, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively. There are great aspects of this holiday, including all the Day of the Dead party food.

The main idea behind the festival is to celebrate and encourage the departed souls to come close and hear prayers as they travel in the afterlife. The family of the deceased usually celebrates them by cleaning their graves and decorating them with marigolds (the flower of the dead), making muertos (the bread of the dead), sugar skulls and cardboard skeletons, and preparing favorite foods.

ALSO READ: Sugar skulls and beyond: Easy Day of the Dead decorations

While the sentiment behind Día de los Muertos is melancholy, the public celebrations and festivities honor the Hispanic cultural influence in our own country. Many cities have public street fairs, face painting, music and dancing.

If you’re looking to celebrate with your own loved ones, we have found some wonderful Day of the Dead party food items for you to bring to your table.

Day of the Dead cake

Sugar skulls are the most well-known symbol of the Día de los Muertos holiday. Called a calavera, they are a skull replica made of sugar and other foods. Take your Day of the Dead party to the next level with this Day of the Dead cake from Party Delights. Use your favorite go-to sponge cake and bake in a large rectangle pan. Once the cake is baked and cooled, cut it into the shape of a human skull. Use a knife to sketch out the shape, including holes for the eyes and nose. Then decorate the cake with white icing, with bright colored icing for the cheeks and forehead. Don’t forget to finish the eyes with bright fruit and candy. This cake will take your Day of the Dead celebration to the next level.


Healthy Day of the Dead sugar skull fruit pizza

If you want to go easy on the sweets this Day of the Dead, try this healthy Day of the Dead sugar skull fruit pizza from Growing Up Bilingual. Fruit pizza is traditionally made from a sugar cookie crust, frosted with cream cheese and then topped with assorted fruits. While the original is always a favorite, it is a bit heavy. But with this healthy makeover, the traditional cookie is made healthier because of reduced sugar in the cooking and the use of Greek yogurt for the cream cheese. This sugar skull fruit pizza is destined to be the favorite of your Day of the Dead party food.


Pan de muerto (Mexican Day of the Dead bread)

While sugar skulls get all the attention during the Day of the Dead celebrations, it is not the only tradition related to this festival. The holiday also has pan de muerto, or sweet bread of the dead, like this one from Curious Cuisiniere. The bread is made of an egg bread spiced with anise and then brushed with an orange glaze. The bread has a light spicy taste with an orange sweetness. For an extra-fun spin, make sure to top the bread with bones of dough before baking. With this recipe, your Día de los Muertos will have an authentic feel.


Day of the Dead hummus

Every party has to have plenty of appetizers. For your Día de los Muertos party, use this Day of the Dead hummus. The best ideas are always the simplest, and this one is no different. Use your favorite hummus, preferably a hummus along the white lines to perfectly capture the calavera feel. Shape the hummus on your platter into the shape of a human skull. For the paint on the face, use colorful vegetables and nuts. A radish for a nose, olives for hair; carrots, cucumbers, jalapenos and bell peppers all work to make spirited faces. Corn chips are optional; simply use broccoli or cauliflower to create a curly hair effect. Make a game out of it, giving guests some hummus and cut veggies and have a contest to see who can create the best sugar skull.


Day of the Dead cinnamon cookies

Sugar skulls definitely earn their name with these Day of the Dead cinnamon cookies from Little Inspiration. These cookies feature Maseca, a brand of corn flour. Corn flour is a traditional ingredient in Mexican and southern Central American cooking, so including it in the Day of the Dead meals is a terrific homage to Mexico. These cookies are sweet, salty and a little bit gritty with the corn flour. Either use a cookie cutter or free-hand the sugar skull shape. Then finish the cookie with white and black icing. They will be delicious and festive for Halloween or the Day of the Dead parties.


Day of the Dead skull cookies

From Wilton, the king of cookie cutters, comes this version of Day of the Dead skull cookies. The nice thing about using this recipe for your Día de los Muertos party is that you can order the cookie cutter as you look at the recipe. In any case, the cookie recipe is a great utility sugar cookie recipe that tastes good and rolls out perfectly. Also, the dough does not have to be refrigerated before rolling, a bonus for last-minute cookie baking. The secret to the flavor is colorless almond extract, giving the cookie an extra layer to the sweetness. Once baked and cooled, the cookie is decorated with white and black royal icing. These sugar skull cookies will disappear at a supernatural pace.


Day of the Dead cupcakes

Create a showstopping finish to your Day of the Dead dinner with cupcakes. Start with these Day of the Dead cupcakes from Afternoon Crumbs. Use a favorite white cake, ice with white buttercream, and then top with hand-painted sugar skulls, roses and maybe even a mini churro. The skulls are made from flower paste, or flower gum, as it’s known in the U.S., a type of topping known for its ability to be rolled out to a nearly translucent film. For easy modeling, mix the flower gum 50-50 with fondant. For this recipe, keep the flower paste to a workable thickness so it can be cut. If you don’t have a sugar skull cookie cutter in that size, use a clean X-Acto knife and freehand the design. The decorations on the sugar skull can be drawn on using a small paintbrush and black royal icing.


Day of the Dead purple cake

Alongside the delicious and dazzling cupcakes, serve a main cake like this Day of the Dead purple cake from Afternoon Crumbs. To recreate your own Día de los Muertos cake, make a 10-inch double layer cake and allow to cool completely. The artist in this post used a deep dark purple to create a clean look for this attractive cake. Use deep hues like burgundy, blue or emerald green to offset the white sugar skulls nicely. Make the sugar skulls from flower gum, like for the cupcakes but in a larger size. Amazon sells these sugar skull cookie cutters. Check craft stores and cake stores for more options. Decorate the cake with large, painted sugar skulls, piped roses and other cake toppers.


Colada morada

For your Día de los Muertos celebration, serve this colada morada from Laylita’s Recipes. Colada morada, or in English, purple strained, is a spiced berry and purple corn flour tea. The tea is a concoction of pineapple skins and juice, cinnamon, allspice, anise, lemon verbena, lemongrass, orange peel, mixed berries and purple corn flour. The various liquids are combined together with the purple corn flour to create a tasty non-alcoholic beverage, consumed either cold or hot. Colada morada tastes best the day after, once the flavors have melded. This drink is a traditional Día de los Muertos drink in Ecuador, served with sweet bread. Give this drink a try. Your Day of the Dead party menu will be a festive mix of tradition and new with these recipes.