It may seem odd to cook for a dead person (though Gail Simmons has done it before), but during Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), it’s tradition. From October 31 through November 2 every year, the holiday’s observers gather together to remember the dead and honor them with offerings of sugar skulls, marigolds and an assortment of foods. Here, some of the most common foods made, eaten and offered up to the dead during the holiday.
1. Day of the Dead Cookies
In Mexico, chocolate and sugar skulls are placed on altars dedicated to the dead during the holiday. These buttery skull-shaped cookies aren’t as elaborate as a sugar skull, but they’re much tastier.
2. Chicken Tamales with Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa
These light and fluffy tamales are perfect for a party. Make and freeze extras for weekday lunches and easy dinners, or give them to guests as party favors.
3. Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Mole Negro
Mole negro is a complexly flavored, dark-as-night, chile-and-chocolate sauce. It’s a classic Dia de los Muertos food. Here, it’s served with crisp-skinned chicken breasts.
4. Candied Pumpkin
In the same way that pumpkins are traditional Halloween staples in the U.S., they are also commonplace during Dia de los Muertos festivities—especially candied.
5. Oaxacan Hot Chocolate
In Mexico, hot chocolate is much less sweet and often spiked with spices. Here, it’s made with pre-spiced Oaxacan chocolate and cinnamon.