We’ve hollowed-out pumpkins and trick-or-treat-ed with the best of 'em, but this year we’re switching Halloween for Mexico’s kooky and colourful celebration Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Here are 13 classic dishes to get you in the... spirit.
31 Oct 2019 - 1:50 PM  UPDATED 30 Oct 2020 - 11:45 AM

Let's talk about death, the Mexican way

“El Dia de los Muertos is a time to look back and a time to look forward. It’s when we remember the deceased and guide their souls back to be with us,” says Ana M Alonso, who migrated to Australia seven years ago and is celebrating Day of the Dead in Sydney with friends.

So let's break down how you can join in on the celebrations.

1. It’s awesomely ancient

The Aztec tradition of Día de Muertos originated some 3,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s that it moved to November 1 and 2 – matching up with the Catholic Church’s All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Enjoy the Mexican fiesta with another cultural combo: Mayan chocolate tart. Spiked with chilli and cinnamon, and served on shortcrust pastry, this decadent recipe is the best kind of blend. Via the food dept.

Mayan chocolate tart

2. Kick start your day (of the dead)

A classic Mexican dish in the style of a rural breakfast, huevos rancheros. Simple and extremely moreish and a good hot sauce is a must, as are runny yolks. Enjoy this with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.

3. Sear the deal

Any dish with the name ‘a la Mexicana’ will include tomato, onion and green chilli, which represent the colours of the Mexican flag. Recently, some Mexican cooks have taken to adding a splash of soy sauce to this beef dish to deepen the flavour, but if the beef is well coloured the flavour will be great either way.


4. There's a difference between scary and seedy

The former is suited to fancy dress. The latter belongs on a plate. For a seedy-scary combo, don your skeleton suit to make our pumpkin seed sauce. Serve with poached pork, corn tortillas and your finest ghoulish grin.

5. Love, peace and hominy

Unlike its step-sibling Halloween, Día de Muertos is a celebration of life and death, rather than a gratuitous display of all things macabre. During the holiday, families return to the graves of relatives to pull weeds, tell stories and decorate the site with candles, flowers and their loved one’s favourite foods. Find your own piece of harmony in Feast’s white hominy and braised pork soup. A specialty in Jalisco, the dish features pork trotters, ancho chillies and dried corn kernels (hominy).

6. Show me the móle!

It wouldn’t be a Mexican holiday without a pot of móle. Made from chillies, spices, raisins, peanuts and chocolate, the sauce can be ladled over grilled meats, steamed vegetables or stuffed into tamales.

7. Trick IN the treat

These sweet-sour-spicy balls are a must for your Day of the Dead festivities. Requiring just three ingredients – tamarind, caster sugar and chilli powder – the spherical treats are sure to surprise guests expecting chocolate. Via Feast magazine.

8. Don’t lose your head. Eat bread.

The quintessential dish at Día de Muertos is a sweet, brioche-style bun known as ‘bread of the dead’ or pan de muerto. Flavoured with anise and orange blossom water, and moulded into death-related shapes (we’ve topped ours with "bones" of dough), the bread is eaten among families and placed on shrines and altars as an offering to the deceased.

9. Let there be blood (in beverage form)

Mixing beer, Worcestershire sauce, lime and clamato juice (that’s clam and tomato, thank-you-very-much), Mexico’s michelada is a bloody-looking liquid you won’t want to spill. Varying between regions, the recipe is similar to a Virgin Mary and washes popcorn down a treat.

10. Tamales for the troops

Round up the kids before they start gobbling the sweets and put hungry hands to work! Chicken tamales are a staple in Mexican cuisine, particularly during Day of the Dead festivities. Made from corn dough and wrapped in husks or banana leaves, the ancient food is more than 10,000 years old.

11. Give ‘em the ice treatment

For the unacquainted, Mexican chocolate is medium dark, slightly bitter and gritty in texture. It’s traditionally in hot chocolates, but here we’ve mixed it with cinnamon, turned it into ice-cream and sandwiched it between two biscuits.

Mexican chocolate and cinnamon ice-cream sandwich

12. All hail the Aztecs

Mexico’s answer to the lasagne, pastel Azteca or Aztec pie is layered with corn tortillas, poblano chillies, corn, salsa, sour cream and Oaxaca cheese – a white cheese that can stretch like mozzarella. Like nachos (only 100 x better), this is the ultimate party dish.

13. Don’t be scared of spirits

Drink them instead. Try Anton Forte’s classic margarita recipe (pictured) or get your fruit on with a watermelon and basil variation

For more Day of the Dead recipes, check out our collection here


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