This Halloween recipe is sure to turn heads. Juicy cheeseburger skulls are served on homemade skull-shaped hamburger buns. Each hamburger is topped with melted cheese and can be served with your favorite burger toppings.
Creating creepy Halloween meals like Pizza Skulls, Burrito Skulls, Enchilada Skulls, and Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Skulls using a skull pan has been so fun, and these dinners have been so popular that I just had to make another skull-shaped dinner to share with you.
I've been baking a lot of homemade bread this year and decided to make skull-shape hamburger buns using the pan. I used them to make these festive Halloween hamburgers.
It took a bit of experimenting to find a recipe that produced a great-tasting hamburger bun that baked beautifully in the skull pan and had a nice soft fluffy texture. The thick skull-shaped buns would need to be easy to bite into when sandwiched around a hot and juicy cheeseburger and toppings.
I found that the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe from King Arthur worked perfectly to make these skull-shaped hamburger buns. The buns look and taste great.
They can be light golden brown or deep golden brown depending on how you bake them. I liked the lighter color better but show you the darker skulls in the step-by-step tutorial below.
I'll also show you an easy way to shape and cook your skull-shaped cheeseburgers.
So, let's make some cheeseburger skulls.
Start by making the hamburger buns. They don't require much prep time but they do require a few hours of rising time. You can make the buns up to a few days before you plan to make your cheeseburgers.
- flour - Use all-purpose flour. Weighing flour is always best if you have a kitchen scale. If you don't have a scale, spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup, then sweep off the excess at the top edge of the cup.
- instant yeast - You will need one tablespoon of yeast or 9 grams. That is more than one packet. Be sure to measure out the yeast.
- NOTE: If you choose to use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, you can stir it into the lukewarm water along with 1 teaspoon of the sugar and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before making the dough.
- granulated sugar - This will add a slightly sweet flavor to your buns and will help them to brown. You can reduce the amount of sugar slightly but do not eliminate it or the buns will be very bland-tasting.
- unsalted butter - Be sure to set the butter out on the counter for at least one hour before making your buns. It should be very soft. You will mix butter into the bread dough, grease the pan with butter, and brush melted butter over the baked buns.
- egg - It's best to use a room-temperature egg. Set it out on your counter with the butter or place the egg (in its shell)in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes to warm it up to room temperature.
- table salt
- water - You want to use lukewarm water (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit) to make these buns.
We'll keep the burgers really simple using ground beef and seasonings.
- 80/20 ground beef - You want to use ground beef that has 20% fat for the best flavor.
- salt and pepper - Season your hamburger patties with salt and pepper to your taste.
- cheese - I chose to top by burgers with white cheese so they looked like skulls. You can use white American cheese, white cheddar, gouda, Havarti, provolone, or mozzarella.
- 2 Nordic Ware Skull Pans - This hamburger bun recipe makes 8 -10 buns. I made 8 thick buns. You could make 10 thinner buns if you like. If you only have one pan, then you can make 6 skull-shaped hamburger buns and 2-4 round buns baked on a baking sheet or you can refrigerate the dough, bake one set of 6 buns, then wash and cool the pan before baking the remaining buns.
- cast iron skillet, non-stick skillet, electric griddle, grill pan, or grill - Cook your burgers how you like. I used a cast iron skillet so those are the instructions I will provide.
- optional skull-shaped cookie cutter - You can cut the white cheese using a skull cutter or you can simply place a square slice of cheese over your burgers. I used a Tovolo Skull Cutter but any skull cutter that is at least 4 inches long will work. You can also hand-cut the cheese into skull shapes.
- serrated knife - Use this to cut your buns in half.
You can find items needed to make these Halloween hamburgers on Amazon. I earn a small commission when you make a purchase using any Amazon affiliate links at no extra cost to you.
Pour the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, butter, and egg into a mixing bowl. Pour in the warm water.
Mix until combined. You can use a dough hook in a stand mixer or a wooden spoon or spatula.
Knead until smooth. If using a stand mixer, mix on low speed using a dough hook for 5-7 minutes. You can also knead by hand on a flour-dusted countertop for about 7 minutes.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl. Wipe it clean if needed. Then, set the dough back into the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rise. I usually place it in my oven with the oven light turned on (no heat on).
The dough will be soft and feel slightly sticky. It will stick to the bottom of the bowl as it kneads using the dough hook but when you pick it up it shouldn't be so sticky that it leaves dough on your hands. If your dough is too sticky, knead in a small amount of flour.
The dough has been kneaded enough when you press your finger into it and the dough springs back.
You need the dough to double in size. This will take 1-2 hours.
Grease 8 or 10 skull cavities in your skull pans with butter.
Divide the dough and press it into the skull cavities. Use about 95 grams of dough to make 8 skulls and about 75 grams of dough to make 10 skulls.
Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake the skull-shaped hamburger buns for 14-18 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking cycle and swap the sides of the oven.
If you want light-colored skulls, pull them out at 14 minutes. If you prefer darker brown hamburger buns, wait until the 16-18 minute mark.
To add flavor and shine to your burger buns, brush melted butter over the top.
Let the butter dry then slice the buns into two halves using a serrated knife.
Shape ¼ pounds of ground beef into skull shapes that are just slightly larger than the skull pan. Season with salt and pepper.
You can use a cookie cutter to shape the burgers but an oval shape works fine.
Add a pat of butter or lard (I used bacon fat) to a cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the burgers and cook for about 3 minutes on each side depending on how you like your burgers.
If desired, cut slices of white cheese using a skull-shaped cookie cutter.
Turn off the heat, set the cheese slices over the burgers, and place a lid on top. Let the cheese melt for about a minute.
Add your favorite burger toppings. I used ketchup, lettuce, and tomatoes.
Sandwich the cheeseburger in between the two halves of your skull-shaped hamburger bun.
Serve and enjoy!
You can make the hamburger buns up to 3 days ahead of your Halloween dinner or party. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
You can also freeze the buns in a zip-top bag for up to 2 months.
Make ahead tips:
The burgers are best cooked just before serving but you can make them ahead of your party and reheat them. Just cook them to rare (120 degrees Fahrenheit), then refrigerate them until needed. Reheat before serving. I reheated two burgers in a 350-degree air fryer for 5 minutes and they were perfect. You can use an oven too.
Reheated burgers won't be quite as juicy. They will also cook through a bit more that's why I only cooked them to 120 degrees (rare). They were more like a medium burger once reheated.
You could use fattier ground beef (70/30 or 73/27) if you plan to make them ahead so they'll be a bit juicier when reheated.
Bake homemade hamburger buns in a skull pan then sandwich them around hot and juicy cheeseburgers and toppings for Halloween or the Day of the Dead.
- 5 tablespoons (56 grams) salted butter, softened
- 3 ½ cups (420 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon (9 grams) instant yeast
- ¾ cup (170 grams) lukewarm water, 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit
- 32 ounces 80/20 ground beef
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter, lard (bacon fat), or vegetable oil
- 8 slices white cheese, American, Cheddar, Provolone, Havarti, etc.
- burger toppings: tomato, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, onions, pickles
Use one tablespoon of butter to liberally grease 8 skull cavities in your Nordic Ware skull pans.
Reserve 2 more tablespoons of butter to use later to butter the tops of your hamburger buns.
Cut the remaining two tablespoons of butter into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl along with the flour, egg, sugar, salt, and yeast.
Pour the lukewarm water over the ingredients and mix until well blended. You can do this using a spoon or a dough hook in a stand mixer.
Knead the dough using a stand mixer or by hand on a flour-dusted countertop for 5-7 minutes until the dough springs back when poked.
Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in size for 1-2 hours.
Deflate the dough and divide it into 8 even pieces (about 95 grams each). Press the dough into the 8 greased skull cavities.
Cover the skull pans with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
Toward the end of this rising time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190° C).
Bake the buns for 14 minutes for lighter buns and about 18 minutes for darker buns, rotating the pans midway through the baking process.
Remove the pans from the oven and dump the skulls out onto a cooling rack.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Brush melted butter over the skull-shaped hamburger buns. Add a second layer of butter if desired. This will give the skull buns a nice shine.
Let the buns cool completely before slicing them in half.
Divide the ground beef into 8 portions. Gently shape the burgers into skull shapes. You can use a cookie cutter or just hand-shape them.
Keep the burgers in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Season the burgers with salt and pepper just before cooking.
Heat 1 teaspoon of butter, lard, or oil in a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until smoking.
Place three burgers in the pan and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until cooked as desired (ex: 135 degrees F. for medium-rare).
Place a slice of cheese over each burger. You can cut the cheese into a skull shape if desired.
Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a lid allowing the cheese to melt.
Repeat this process to cook more burgers.
Alternatively, you can cook your burgers in an electric skillet, on a grill pan, or on an outdoor grill.
Place a burger on a bun and add toppings.
Serve and enjoy.
If you'd like your skull-shaped buns to be thinner, make ten buns using about 75 grams of dough in each. You may want an extra ½ pound of ground beef to make two extra burgers. Or you can make thinner hamburgers.
You can make your skull-shaped hamburger buns up to 3 days in advance. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also freeze the baked buns for up to 2 months.
Making ahead tips:
If needed, you can cook your burgers ahead of time and reheat them before serving. I suggest cooking them to rare (120 degrees) so that they are still juicy reheated. It would also be good to use fattier ground beef (70/30 or 73/27) so the reheated burgers are juicier.