Gluten Free Mexican Bread of the Dead

This gluten free Mexican bread is sweet and buttery similar to brioche and panettone (a buttery Italian sweet bread). Bread of the dead is a tradition in Mexico during the Halloween season. Learn more about their tradition and how to make gluten free Mexican bread of the dead. Check out the texture of this bread in the video, too!

History of Bread of the Dead

As tradition goes in Mexico, to honor dead souls, one would bake bread decorated with bone-shaped dough. They would build an altar and place the bread as an offering. The following day, they would eat the bread. This is just one tradition. There are many. They celebrate three days, similar to Christians. You can learn more about the Christian All Saint Eve/Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day traditions through Allhallowtide. Learn about The Day of the Dead.


I Do Not Like Anise and Black Licorice Flavors

Don’t worry. One, you don’t have to add anise seed. Two, the anise flavoring is super light and is complemented and balanced out by the bread’s sweetness and orange flavor. I am not fond of black licorice or anise, but this bread is delicious to me.


I Love Orange and Anise Flavors

Wonderful! Whichever flavors you enjoy, consider adding 1/4 teaspoon of each in an extract form. Orange and anise extracts provide a more flavorful bread.

Gluten Free Day of the Dead Bread

Gluten free Mexican bread is sweet and buttery just like brioche. Add some crossbones and you've got yourself a delicious Halloween treat!


  • 1 cup potato starch
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white rice flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon millet flour or more rice flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant nonfat milk or use nonfat milk instead of water (optional for dairy-free)
  • Scant* 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest finely grated bright orange skin only - no pith
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice or tangerine juice
  • 2 tablespoons water heated to 110 - 115°F
  • 2 large eggs 1/3 cup
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 teaspoons neutral-flavored oil grapeseed, light olive oil, canola...
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 2/3 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • White Sparkling/Decorating Sugar or orange glaze (See Note/Variation) (optional)


  1. Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Add the orange zest to the top of the dry ingredients. Using your fingertips, coat the zest in flour and mix with the dry ingredients to distribute evenly.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the balloon/whisk attachment, add the wet ingredients. Beat on medium-low speed just to combine.
  4. Add the dry mixture and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.
  5. Scoop the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rise 1 hour or until double in size, in a warm environment. (I preheated my oven to 170ºF and turned it off.) (Note that the photo shows the bread at the 2 cup mark.)

    Unrisen Raw Gluten Free Bread Dough
  6. While the dough is rising, oil an 8-inch spring-form pan; set aside. (My pan actually measured 7-1/2-inches.) (Note that once risen, the photo shows the bread now at the 4 cup mark.)

    Risen Gluten Free Bread Dough
  7. Remove about 1/3 cup of risen dough, divide into 2 pieces, and set aside. (You'll use these to make the crossbones for the top of the bread.) Freeze the dough 5 minutes or until easily moldable.

  8. Place the remaining risen dough in the prepared pan and mold into a nice round shape, slightly higher in the middle, but not much. Sprinkle the top with water and using a silicone spatula, smooth out the top.
  9. Mold the chilled dough into two bone-shaped pieces, narrow in the middle. Place on top of the round dough in the pan to form crossbones. 

    Raw Gluten Free Bread of the Dead Dough
  10. Set the pan in a warm oven that has been turned off for 40 minutes or until double in size.

  11. Fifteen minutes prior to the completion of the rising time, preheat oven to 375°F with a shelf positioned one shelf lower than the middle shelf.
  12. Combine 1 egg white with 1 teaspoon water and baste the top of the dough.
  13. Bake the bread for 10 minutes.

  14. After 10 minutes of baking, tent the top of your bread with foil to prevent over-browning. (To help prevent aluminum from seeping into your bread, feel free to add a sheet of parchment paper between the bread and the foil.

  15. Set a timer for another 10 minutes. After 10 minutes more of baking, test the bread for doneness. If it doesn't spring back or feel set/baked, bake up to an additional 10 minutes, testing every 5 minutes.

  16. Remove the bread from the oven and baste with additional egg white. Sprinkle the top with coarsely ground sugar and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the bread springs back when lightly touched.

  17. As soon as the bread is done baking, immediately remove it from the pan. and transfer it to a wire rack to cool.
  18. Slice and serve warm. Freeze leftover slices in a resealable storage bag in a single layer. Defrost in the microwave on a "reheat" or at room temperature, covered with a moist paper towel.
  19. Best if served warm, as it melts the butter iniside which makes the texture nice and soft.


*Scant = a little less than


Instead of topping the bread with sugar, you may serve it with an orange glaze. 

To Make the Orange Glaze: Combine 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup melted and slightly cooled unsalted butter or margarine, and 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice until creamy. Use as a sauce for your bread. If the glaze sets, stir in additional juice as needed.

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