The BEST challah bread recipe (and video) you’ll find, I’ll show you step-by-step how to make my Grandmother’s famous six-strand challah bread, perfect for the Jewish Sabbath or weekend French toast.
This challah bread recipe hails from my Ema Ljuba, my Bubbe on my dad’s side, who is the matriarch of the Jewish side of my family. She lives in Israel now so we don’t get to see her as often as we’d like but every time I bake her challah bread I am transported into her former kitchen in Berkeley, CA where I learned how to make this irresistible recipe.
Recently Ema Ljuba was in town for no more than 48 hours and my boys have been asking for her almost every single day since. She has that sort of lasting impact on children, and adults! Effervescent, charismatic, joyful and always smiling from ear to ear, Ema Ljuba is the most magical grandmother in the world.
History of Challah Bread
Challah bread originates in Eastern Europe and is part of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It is typically braided in 4 or 6 strands eaten on ceremonial occasions such as the Jewish Shabbat (sundown Friday) and major Jewish holidays like Rosh Hoshanah.
How to describe Challah
The texture and consistency of challah bread is similar to brioche due to the high number of eggs in the recipe. Light, fluffy and eggy, leftovers make the ultimate French toast!
If you’ve never baked homemade bread before, I urge you to give this fool-proof recipe a shot. Believe me, if I’m baking bread (with yeast!), I can assure you anyone can do it.
How to make a six-strand braided challah bread
To get started, dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl or liquid glass measuring cup with 1 tablespoon sugar and set aside.
Note: You’ll want to use a large enough bowl as this mixture will start to grow as the yeast activates.
Second, in a separate large bowl or stand-mixer base, whisk together flour, sugar and salt.
Third, add beaten eggs and the water with dissolved yeast and sugar to the large bowl of flour.
Fourth, slowly pour in oil or melted butter and mix well with a wooden spoon or over low to medium speed. If dough doesn’t start coming together, add a bit more flour, a couple tablespoons at a time, until it pulls away from the bowl. You want the dough to be sticky though.
Fifth, once the entire mass sticks together turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 5 minutes, adding in that last cup of flour as needed to form a smooth, pliable glossy mass. This is a great time to get out any aggression!
Sixth, drizzle a large bowl with vegetable oil (canola oil works too) then place dough into bowl flipping it over to make sure it is covered with the oil. This will prevent it from sticking. Cover with a towel and let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk.
Once the dough has doubled in size, this is the fun part: punch down with a fist then knead one or two more times before dividing the dough in half to begin forming two braided loaves.
From there, you will divide each half into either 3 strands (or 4 or 6 depending on how intricate you want your loaf to be braided.)
Now that the strands have been rolled out, it’s time to begin braiding. Similar to weaving a pie crust, you’ll want to weave each strand over and under the next one.
If you’re a visual learner like I am, check out this step-by-step video guide I created to braiding challah bread. Once you’ve finished braiding the challah, place each loaf on a greased large baking sheet (or one lined with a silicone baking mat), cover with a dry towel and let rise a second time until loaves are double in size. Strapped for time? It’s ok to skip this second rise. I skip it quite frequently.
Finally, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees then brush each loaf with a beaten egg.
If you’d like to add a topping, this is the time to sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or sparkling sugar.
Place both pans in the oven and bake the challah bread for about 30 minutes or until bread is golden brown on the surface.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- All Purpose Flour: The high gluten content and light, fluffy consistency of all purpose flour is essential to the perfect challah bread recipe. I don’t recommend substituting any other type of flour for this recipe.
- Dry Active Yeast: The secret to challah dough that rises into a tall, beautiful loaf is using fresh active dry yeast. I recommend storing in the refrigerator in between uses to extend the life of the yeast.
- Sugar: White sugar adds the ideal subtle sweetness to this brioche-like bread. I wouldn’t substitute with any other sweetener.
- Eggs: The brioche-like texture and density of this bread are due to the high number of eggs in the recipe. This is what separates challah bread from traditional sandwich bread.
- Butter or Oil: We love using butter in our challah bread but oil works just as fine. If you’re avoiding dairy, I would use oil otherwise go for butter.
- Toppings: Before baking, sprinkle the challah with your preferred topping for additional crunch and texture. Great options include sesame seeds, sparkling sugar, poppy seeds or everything seasoning.
Baking tips and time savers
One HUGE baking tip: admittedly, I don’t love the giant mess that baking bread can create in the kitchen. Turns out, neither does my Aunt Sabrina! The solution? All of the dough kneading can be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook! We all use and love the classic KitchenAid stand mixer so if you don’t have one, you should certainly think about adding it to your holiday wish list.
Frequently asked questions:
Does this recipe really use 3 tablespoons of dry active yeast?
Yes, 3 tablespoons is a lot of yeast but this recipe makes two large loaves! We like to save the second loaf for French toast later in the weekend.
Why is sugar used in Challah bread?
Sugar aids in the proofing of the yeast so it is an essential ingredient in this recipe. I don’t recommend using any alternative sweetener.
How to braid Challah bread:
Watch my Step-By-Step Video Guide to a Six-Strand Challah Bread to learn how I do it!
How long do you let the dough rise?
The dough typically takes two hours to rise. I recommend letting it sit in a well-oiled bowl in room temperature with a towel placed on top.
Do you let the dough rise for two hours after braiding?
I have done it both ways and it turns out good either way.
No forks required.
Shabbat Challah Bread (With Video)
- 1 ½ cups to 2 cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons dry activated yeast
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 cups plus 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 large eggs (beaten)
- ½ cup oil or melted butter
- poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping
- 1 beaten egg
- In a small bowl, dissolve yeast with 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water; set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together 6 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt.
- Add beaten eggs and the water with dissolved yeast and sugar to the large bowl of flour.
- Stir in oil or melted butter and mix well with a wooden spoon. Once the entire mass sticks together turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding in that last cup of flour as needed to form a smooth, pliable glossy mass. Alternatively, this can be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Note: If dough isn't coming together, add more flour, a couple tablespoons at a time, until it pulls away from the bowl. You want the dough to be sticky though.
- Oil a large bowl then place dough into bowl flipping it over to make sure it is covered with the oil. Cover with a towel and let dough rise until doubled in bulk.
- Punch down, knead one or two times and then divide dough in half.
- Divide each half into either 3 strands (or 4 or 6 depending on how intricate your loaf braid will be.)
- Place each braided loaf on a greased large baking sheet (cook spray works well), cover with a dry towel and let rise a second time until loaves are double in size.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush each loaf with a beaten egg, sprinkle poppy seeds or sesame seeds if you wish.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until bread is golden brown on the surface.
Want more delicious and family-friendly recipes?? Head over to my Pinterest board!
101 thoughts on “Shabbat Challah Bread (with Video)”
This recipe works every time and I use it for Challah lessons with people who haven’t even baked before and it never fails!
Thanks so much x
That makes me so happy!!
hi,3 Tbs yeast seems a lot for the amt of flour.i am sure it is right but i just want to be sure.Thanks
It makes two LARGE loaves! Enjoy!
Wonderful recipe! Reminds me of my Great Grandmothers bread.
Oh that makes me so happy!!!! I hope you try it!
Mine took a lot of flour before it came together!! Its proofing as I type I hope it turns out okay
I hope you love it!!!
Thanks, Liz! Our family is Christian but we wanted to experience a Shabbat to teach our kids about Jewish culture. My 6 year old did basically all of the work, and it turned out really great for our first! Better than any store bought bread we’ve bought.
My question: the loaves split in the middle as they baked. What am I doing wrong?
oh my gosh that makes me so happy!!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! As for the loaves splitting in the middle, are you braiding them tightly enough?
I have been making Challah for over 30 years and wanted to change up my recipe to not use oil. I love this recipe, it works every time! Thank you for sharing
I’m so glad you enjoy it Heather!
Be careful with the measurements where it converts to metric. The amount of flour that the metric measurements call for is 7.65 kilograms. That’s almost 17 pounds worth of flour!
Thanks for the heads up – we are fixing that!! :)
If I wanted to make it the night before and refrigerate it but bake it the next day, would it still be as good and how would I do that (when would I let it rise and when would I refrigerate it)?
I wouldn’t advise that as it’s important for the dough to stay at room temp. The morning would be ideal.
Made this and it was fantastic! The smell filled the house and set everyone in a good mood. We were originally going to bring the second loaf to our neighbours thinking we didn’t need two big loaves but it’s so good our first is nearly finished… we’re keeping the second for us! Thank you!
Oh I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it!!! Isn’t my Grandma’s recipe the best?? So glad you liked it!!
Made this for Rosh Hashanah, one loaf. The ingredients updated but the recipe didn’t update. what I experienced. The water amount is confusing as I didn’t know how much water ( 1 cup) to use to dissolve the yeast. Used the 3 cups flour to mixture and it was very watery. Added the remaining cup and dough formed. Dough was very tacky, needed additional flour to prevent it from sticking. (Used dough hook) When I was ready to shape the braids it was still tacky and had to use flour to assist in making the braids. it was a very soft dough. In the end, I was able to shape a round challah and baked exactly for 30 minutes. The challah came out perfectly. Soft, light and springy, tasted great!
Hi Irene, I’m so glad it turned out great! In the future I Would just make two loaves and freeze one. :) Either way so glad you enjoyed it!
Hi Liz, gonna try this on a wing and a prayer but how Would I half the recipe if it’s possible. Just found your site and it’s so precise and easy to follow..love it
Hi Beth! Just halve everything otherwise make two and freeze a loaf for later! :) Enjoy!
Beautiful new photos! I bet it’s super tasty and the smell it’s fabulous!
Thank you babe!!! It’s so good I hope you try it some time. Happy Friday!
Can you take this recipe and use it to make the ROUND loaves traditional to the High Holidays?
Yes absolutely!! Enjoy!
Hi Liz–I’m so glad you posted this recipe again! I had pinned it on your Pinterest board back when you posted it the first time and had forgotten all about it!!? I need to make this for our next church potluck, they’ll love it!! Thanks!!?
Yay I hope you love it Corry!! It’s SO Good!!
How long do you let the dough rise for?
It’s until it doubles so it depends on the temperature in your room but usually 2 hours works!
Do you let the dough rise for two hours after braiding too?
I have done it both ways and it turns out good either way. :)
Is 3 TABLESPOONS correct on the yeast?
That seems like a lot?
Just checking before I make this!!
It looks fabulous!
Yes it is – this makes two large loaves!
Question? The recipe for the bread says to let it rise once before braiding and once after braided. But, the braiding instructions say to make sure it has raised twice BEFORE braiding. Please clarify. Thank you.
My family only lets it rise once before braiding and once after braiding. I’m sure every family does it a bit differently though!
I love challah bread and am super ecstatic to finally be able to make it at home! I’ve made this recipe 4x already and it’s been a hit every single time! Thank you for sharing such an amazing tradition to your reader.
Oh I’m so glad you love this Joann!!
Even though I am half Jewish, I’ve never had Challah. (My father’s family didn’t want anyone to know they were Jewish, and my parents didn’t think their kids needed to know, so I didn’t find out until I was 22!). I don’t bake bread much any more, but this really sounds like it would be worth trying. I’ll be doing my kneading by hand – as I’ve always done it. I don’t mind cleaning up the mess and it’s much easier than finding space for an appliance I would rarely use…
Oh my gosh that is hilarious!!! I urge you to try it at least once in your life Susan!!! It’s really a great experience, especially doing it on Friday in honor of the Sabbath. It’s just a great reminder to slow down.
Hi! I’ve always wanted to make challah bread but I gathered the courage until today thanks to your beautiful bread and amazing recipe! And it was AWESOME! Thank you for sharing your family traditions and recipes. Your family looks wonderful ☺️
Oh I’m so thrilled you made it Marcela!!! Enjoy the tradition!!