This easy challah bread recipe and tutorial is all you need to make that perfectly fluffy, braided loaf enriched with eggs and topped with sesame seeds.  And the leftovers make the best French toast. Be sure to read through for tips and watch the video below for how to make challah bread.

Challah bread on a cutting board with a knife

What is Challah Bread?

Challah bread (pronounced ḥallāh) has its roots in the Jewish religion, typically appearing on the Shabbat table and served at major Jewish holidays (except during Passover when leavened bread is not served). Challah is yeast dough that has been enriched with egg. It is rich, tender, and slightly sweet.

You do no have to be Jewish to appreciate a beautifully braided challah with a pillow-soft interior, and you can certainly make challah any day of the week.

Here is a loaf of bread that is as exciting to look at as it is to eat! And this easy challah bread recipe, adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solmonov, is all you need to make it.

Challah bread sliced onto a board

What's the difference between challah and brioche?

Spiritual association aside, the biggest difference between challah and other enriched breads like brioche is that challah is made with oil and brioche is made with butter. 

Both breads lean on fat and eggs to create the soft, tender crumb just different types of fat. Oil is used instead of butter to keep it Kosher, which allows the loaf to be served at meals with meat. 

When making challah the amount of eggs and the type of oil can vary from person to person. This recipe uses loads of eggs (7 yolks to be exact) and I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil when I make challah for an extra rich and intense flavor. 

By adding egg to this braided yeast bread, you obviously add nutritional value but you also impart flavor, while developing that soft pillowy texture the bread is known for. 

A brush of egg whites before baking gives the braided challah a magnificent golden glow making it a showpiece for a holiday table or dinner with friends.

Top down picture of Challah bread on a table

What is in challah dough?

This yeast dough takes a few simple ingredients that you may already have on hand:

  • Active dry yeast
  • Warm water
  • All-purpose flour
  • Egg yolks + some egg whites
  • Sugar (only ¼ cup)
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Which flour is best for challah?

No special flour required to make the perfect loaf. Some challah recipes call for bread flour, but I use all-purpose flour and it works perfectly every time.

Don't rush it

This challah bread recipe is simple, and you don't even have to use a stand mixer. But if you've never made challah before, be patient. It does take a little bit of time.

It's important to give the dough a warm place so it can rise properly. And you will need to leave the dough until it has truly doubled in size (about 1 ½ to 2 hours), anything less will not produce that perfectly fluffy center. After you braide the bread, you need to allow another 30 to 45 minutes to rise again. The mulitple risings creates amazing texture and great and you don't even need a stand mixer!

I promise you, this is one recipe that requires a little bit of effort but yields so much satisfaction!

How to make challah bread dough

Challah dough is quite straightforward to make. There are 2 hours of inactive time while the dough rests to rise, so budget for that time when you want to try this recipe! Here's how to make the dough:

  • In a small bowl, combine the yeast with the warm water. Add a large pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes or so, until the yeast is activated forming a foamy layer.

    Yeast activating in bowl
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon.

    Mix for challah bread dough
  • Add the yeast mixture, and mix with the wooden spoon until the dough is too hard to mix.

    Dough mixed in bowl
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead by hand for 10 minutes. If the dough is too sticky as you knead, add a very little bit of flour and continue kneading until the dough is soft and smooth. Shape the dough into a ball.

    Kneaded dough for challah bread recipe
  • Now place the dough in a large, lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with a kitchen cloth and keep it in a warm spot for 1 ½ to 2 hours until the dough rises. The dough is ready when it has doubled.

    Dough for challah bread raised in bowl

How to braid challah bread

Once the dough is ready, the next step is creating a beautiful braided loaf of challah bread. Here's how you do it:

  • Punch the dough down and turn it back onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces, then roll each piece into a rope that's about 16-18 inches long.

    Rolling braids for challah bread
  • Braid the three ropes together like you would hair; squeeze both ends together to complete the braid.  Place the braided loaf on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

    Braided dough on baking sheet
  • Cover and return to a warm spot for another 30-45 minutes allowing it to rise again.

    [Option: Here you can split the loaf into two smaller loaves, if you like. If you do, be sure to squeeze the ends on each of the loafs. I continued with one giant challah.]

    Raised braided dough on baking sheet
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the loaf generously with about 2-3 tablespoons of the egg whites you reserved earlier. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

    Braided and seasoned dough for challah bread
  • Bake in the 350 degrees F heated-oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the challah bread cool before slicing.

    Baked challah bread in baking sheet

Serve it with

I love challah hot out of the oven with a drizzle of honey or a few spoonfuls of berry compote. It's even better with a little labneh or dipped in olive oil and dukkah!

Ways to use challah dough

While this recipe is for one loaf of challah bread, you can use the same dough to make two smaller loaves instead, a round loaf, or even challah buns! (You can make about 10 challah rolls with this dough recipe.)

To divide dough in half or into smaller pieces, you will need a bench scraper or a sharp, non-serrated knife. Here’s how to divide dough in half and into smaller pieces:

How to divide dough in half for 2 challah loaves:

  • Divide the dough after its first rise. 
  • To halve the dough, eyeball it and cut straight down the halfway point. Don’t saw at the dough or pull it — that will damage the strands of gluten you developed while kneading the dough.
  • If you want identical loaves, weigh each piece of dough. If one is bigger than the other, cut a piece out of the bigger half and place it onto the smaller half. No need to knead it. 
  • Follow the recipe as written, and divide each half into 3 long tubes, braid them, etc. 

To make challah buns or rolls:

  • Divide the dough after its first rise.
  • Shape the dough into a log and, using a bench scraper, cut it into 10 equal pieces and shape them into balls. Allow them to rest for about 6 to 10 minutes.
  • Divide each ball into 3 and create 3 cylinders, each about 6 inches long. 
  • Braid the cylinders for each roll together just as you would for the bread. 
  • Twist the ends under itself to form a circular shape and pinch the seam.

To make a round challah

  • Follow the recipe as written, but when it comes time to make the individual strands for braiding, make 4 stands instead of 3. 
  • Create a hashtag or pound sign symbol from the strands, creating an over and under weave similar to making lattice crust for pie. 
  • Once you have the hashtag or pound sign symbol with its overlapping pieces, start crossing.
  • Take a strand that is underneath and cross it over the top of the strand closest to it. Work in a clockwise pattern round the whole loaf. 
  • Once you can’t cross the strands anymore, twist and tuck the edges underneath the loaf. 
  • Follow the rest of the recipe as written. 

Ways to adapt this recipe

There are a few ways to change up this classic challah bread recipe:

  • Skip the sesame seeds. I like the nutty flavor the sesame seeds give the bread, but you can leave them out. 
  • Sprinkle with poppy seeds instead.
  • When making the dough add a ½ cup of raisins. 
  • Make your challah bread more savory by adding sliced garlic and rosemary into the braid after the egg wash.
  • Sprinkle the dough generously with za’atar or dukkah after the egg wash.

More bread recipes to try:

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4.88 from 80 votes

Easy Challah Bread Recipe

The Mediterranean Dish
Challah bread on a cutting board with a knife
BEST Challah Bread recipe out there. Anyone can make this satisfying braided loaf enriched with eggs and topped with sesame seeds! You can also use challah dough to make smaller loaves, buns, and even a beautiful round challah! Allow about 2 hours of inactive time for best results. Recipe makes 1 loaf (about 20 slices).
Prep – 30 mins
Cook – 25 mins
Inactive Rising Time 2 hrs
Cuisine:
Israeli
Serves – 20 Slices
Course:
Breads

Ingredients
  

  • 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 large egg yolks, you will use some of the egg whites later
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons Early Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, combine the yeast with the warm water. Add a large pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes or so, until the yeast is activated forming a foamy layer.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the yeast mixture, and mix with the wooden spoon until the dough is too hard to mix. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead by hand for 10 minutes. If the dough is too sticky as you knead, add a very little bit of flour and continue kneading until the dough is soft and smooth.
  • Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with a kitchen cloth and keep it in a warm spot for 1 ½ until the dough rises (the dough is ready when it has doubled in size).
  • Punch the dough down and turn it back onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces, then roll each piece into a rope that's about 16 to18 inches long. Braid the three ropes together like you would hair. Squeeze both ends together to complete the braid.
  • Place the braided loaf on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and return to a warm spot for another 30 to 45 minutes allowing it to rise again. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Brush the loaf generously with about 2-3 tablespoon of the egg whites you reserved earlier. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
  • Bake in the 350 degrees F heated-oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the challah bread cool before slicing.

Video

Notes

  • Recipe adaptation: This recipe was adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov. 
  • To use a stand mixer: Instead of kneading by hand (step # 4), you can use a stand mixer a dough hook attachment; knead the dough on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes.
  • You can use this same recipe to make two small loaves. After the second rising (step #7), you can split the loaf into two smaller loaves, if you like. If you do, be sure to squeeze the ends on each of the loaves.
  • Serve it with: Challah bread can be sweet or savory. Serve it hot out of the oven with a drizzle of honey or a few spoonfuls of berry compote. You can also try it with a little labneh or dipped in olive oil and dukkah!
  • Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and more. 

Nutrition

Calories: 124kcalCarbohydrates: 22.2gProtein: 3.9gFat: 6.5gSaturated Fat: 1.3gCholesterol: 40.1mgSodium: 120.8mgFiber: 0.9gVitamin A: 90.8IUCalcium: 19.7mgIron: 1.5mg
Tried this recipe?

*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2016 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit.

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

    1. Hi, Alisha. Unfortunately we don't recommend making the dough a week in advance. You could actually make and fully bake the bread, and then freeze it if you'd like to make it ahead.

  1. 5 stars
    Amazing, finally a winning recipe that is simple and tastes great. The whole loaf was gone in seconds with my family of 6. Crowd pleaser!