Having too many options is never a bad problem to have, especially when making your routine visit to the local panadería. But every now and then, a special time of year rolls around and your favorite seasonal pan dulce is available on shelves. We’re not talking about the tidal wave of pumpkin-spiced food items that hit us every October 1st, but instead, something—in our very humble opinion—much better. October means it’s pan de muerto season, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Although this sweet bread is usually eaten on Día de Los Muertos in early November, bakeries will start dishing out fresh batches throughout the month of October for those who can’t wait for the actual day. The bread rolls are typically decorated with a set of crossbones and sprinkled sugar on top, and can come flavored with star anise and orange zest.
Los Angeles is home to the country’s largest Mexican community, meaning you’re never too far away from pan dulce at any given moment. But with such abundance also comes plenty of opportunities to explore the dozens of pan dulce variations that exist. Both Angelenos and visitors alike can taste pastries from all over Mexico at panaderīas across town, including the seasonal specialties that often require pre-orders if you’re looking to grab the day’s fresh batch. Let’s take a look at some of the best spots to pick up pan de muerto this season.
El Valle Oaxaqueño
This Pico-Union business has it all, whether you’re looking to sit down for a meal, buy a new olla, or pick up delicious pan dulce by the dozen. The pan de muerto here is big, fluffy, and perfect with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate—which they also sell nice and hot. El Valle Oaxaqueño starts selling its pan de muerto by mid-October.
La Monarca is that reliable friend you always have in your corner, and that’s mainly because this popular chain has several locations dotted around town. Unlike other spots, these bakeries start selling pan de muerto the very first week of October and offer them with both sugar and sesame seed toppings.
This panadería is a bit of an institution and has been serving its East L.A. community since the 1940s. The best part about popping by El Gallo for a visit is their pre-packaged to-go boxes that are perfect for gifts or stress-eating in the car. Their delicious pan de muerto is available starting the first week of October, so come grab it while it’s hot.
Gourmet LA Bakery
DTLA’s Gourmet LA Bakery is known for its elaborate birthday cakes, but their pan dulce offerings are also worth navigating the less-than-ideal parking situation. While they don’t bake pan de muerto every day in October (call in advance), they do make the most colorful batches in town upon special request. If you place an order for colorful pan de muerto, you’ll receive freshly baked rolls with pink, blue, yellow, orange, or green sugar toppings.
Now with five locations across L.A., La Favorita has come a long way from its original Boyle Heights location by consistently baking some of the best pan dulce in town. With both sesame seed and sugar variations for sale starting the first week of October, La Favorita is a great option for buying fresh batches of pan de muerto for friends and family.
You haven’t truly lived if you’ve never tried La Mascota’s tamales, even if that means waiting in line outside in the early mornings leading up to Christmas. But once you’re there, you’re already face-to-face with their extremely appetizing pan dulce options. Starting in mid-October, you can buy their excellent pan de muerto that is pillowy soft with just the right amount of chew once you bite in. Also, did we mention the tamales?
Venice Bakery & Restaurant
This cozy Mexican restaurant and panadería combo is perfect for sleepy mornings that call for a café de olla, chilaquiles, and as much pan dulce you can realistically eat. Pan de muerto at this shop, which is offered in late October, is a unique experience. Here, you can place an order for rolls decorated in colorful sprinkles or ones that come in the shape of skulls which get decorated with frosting designs. You can also order pan de muerto in the size of a large bolillo that comes beautifully browned, sweet, and decorated with intricate floral patterns.