Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

Make Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread) at home with this easy, traditional recipe! This lightly sweetened, fluffy bread is flavoured with orange and traditional spices resulting in an absolutely delicious loaf!

If you have yet to try Tsoureki (Traditional Greek Easter Bread), I am so glad you are here because you need to try this bread! It is easily one of my favourite bread recipes out there.

Similar to other enriched breads like brioche or challah bread, this traditional Easter bread is sweet and soft. Where it stands out from other sweetened breads is in its flavur. Tsoureki is traditionally made with ground mahleb and mastic which gives it its delicious and unique flavour!

This fluffy, sweet yeast bread is traditionally made around Easter time but it is not uncommon to enjoy it at other times of the year. I mean, when something tastes this good, why wouldn’t you want to make it year-round? In some parts of Greece, it is also made as a vasilopita for New Year’s Day, in place of a Vasilopita Cake.

It is delicious on its own but if you want to take things up a notch, you can slather it with jams, nutella (a personal favourite) or even transform it into French toast for the ultimate breakfast!

Baked Greek Easter Bread on a wooden cutting board set on a grey marble countertop.

Greek Easter Traditions

In traditional Greek Orthodox families, you are certain to find a loaf of tsoureki bread served on Easter Sunday. In preparation for Easter Day, loaves of tsoureki are prepared along with Koulourakia – Greek Easter Cookies and red-dyed eggs (dyed red to represent the blood of Christ).

They are an important part of the traditional Easter meal and are also shared with others as gifts during the Easter season. It is also not uncommon to see a red dyed egg baked into the center of the tsoureki bread loaves.

Tsoureki is always braided, typically with three strands to represent the Holy Trinity. That said, many forgo the traditional three-strand braid and instead use fancier designs using six cords. I prefer the traditional three strand braid and have included photo instructions below. I have also shared a video (below) which shows how you can braid using six strands in case you are up for the challenge!

Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread topped with almond slivers and set on a wooden cutting board.
My traditional three-strand braided tsoureki bread.

The tsoureki recipe I am sharing is a traditional one which my mother has shared with me. I have memories of making this homemade tsoureki together since I was a little girl and absolutely love how it will make the the whole house smell so delicious with its sweet aroma. While I haven’t met a tsoureki bread I didn’t love, I personally think this one is the best tsoureki recipe.

Ingredients for Tsoureki- Greek Easter Bread

  • Active Dry Yeast

  • Lukewarm water: used to help activate the yeast.

  • Sugar: regular granulated sugar

  • Softened butter and vegetable oil

  • Eggs: Used both in the bread dough as well as to make an egg wash to brush over the loaves.

  • Sugar: Tsoureki bread uses more sugar than typical recipes which only use a little to “feed” the yeast and activate it. In the case of this Greek Easter Bread, however, the final bread itself is a sweet bread.

  • Aromatic spices: Ground mahleb (mahlepi in Greek) and ground mastic (mastiha in Greek). Mahleb (Mahlepi) is a spice made from the seeds/pits of a particular species of cherries. Mastic (Mastiha) is the hardened resin from evergreen mastiha trees found on the island of Chios. Both of these spices can be purchased from Greek bakeries or located in the ethnic aisles of some grocery stores around Easter time.
  • Milk: lukewarm milk is used in this enriched dough.

  • Oranges: The orange zest is used as well as the fresh orange juice.

  • Salt

  • Flour: regular all purpose flour.

  • Almond slivers: To decorate loaves. If you wish to keep it nut-free, you can sprinkle the loaves with sesame seeds or leave them plain.

Note: Ingredient quantities and full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post.

Topview of a baked Tsoureki Bread topped with almond slivers and baked until golden brown.

How to make Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

  1. Activate the yeast: In a small bowl, add the yeast, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, and 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir together. Set it aside and let it rest for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast and let it bloom.

  2. Prepare the eggs: Separate the egg yolks and egg whites.

  3. Start with the butter, oil, egg yolk and sugar: In the bowl of your stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and oil together (be sure to start on low speed to avoid splattering oil everywhere). Add the egg yolks and sugar and mix until light and fluffy.

  4. Add the wet ingredients and spices: In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the egg whites to the butter mixture along with the yeast mixture, mahlepi, mastiha, warm milk, orange juice, orange zest and salt and mix until combined.

  5. Add the flour and knead: Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook on your stand mixer. Slowly add a little flour at a time and mix the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the side of the bowl. A sticky dough forms so don’t worry if the tsoureki dough feels sticky to the touch at this point.

  6. Let it rise: Cover the large bowl with plastic wrap and clean kitchen towels and place it in dry, warm environment. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
Proofed tsoureki dough in a large metal mixing bowl.

Braiding Tsoureki Bread

  1. Divide the dough depending on how many loaves you wish to make: Once the dough has risen, gently deflate it and then divide the dough into 2 equal portions to make 2 large tsoureki loaves or 4 portions if you are making smaller loaves.

  2. Braid the loaves: Working with one portion at at a time, divide it into 3 equal dough balls. Roll each of those balls into a long cylindrical log shapes using your hands. Braid the 3 logs together to form the braided loaf, pinching the ends together lightly and tucking them underneath the loaf. Repeat with the other portion(s).

  3. Allow for a second rise: Transfer the loaves onto a baking sheet and let them rise again for 1 hour.

  4. Brush with egg wash and bake: Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water to form the egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and sprinkle with almond slivers. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the loaves have browned nicely. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Photo collage showing four steps for making tsoureki bread starting with three portions of bread dough rolled into logs, then joined in on one end to begin braiding. The third and fourth photos showed the braided tsoureki loaf before and after baking.

How to enjoy Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)

This Tsoureki is absolutely delicious on its own. Because it is sweetened, it really doesn’t need much. But as I mentioned earlier, you can totally use this delicious bread as the base of other new exciting treats:

  • slathering it with jams, nut butter or Nutella
  • transforming it into Tsoureki French Toast (this makes a great Easter brunch!)
  • turn it into bread pudding

I also like a sweet and salty combo of tsoureki with cheese (especially kefalotiri). Does that make me weird? Maybe, but I love it!

A sliced Tsoureki Bread Loaf on a wooden cutting board.

Can you freeze tsoureki?

You sure can! Much like other breads, tsoureki freezes well. In fact, I often double the recipe so I have extra loaves to freeze and enjoy again months down the road. In order to ensure it freezes well, make sure you let the loaves cool completely. Then place them in a freezer safe bag and ensure it is sealed well.

When you are craving another tsoureki fix again, just let the bread thaw on the counter and enjoy!

A sliced tsoureki bread on a wooden cutting board set on a table next to a cup of tea.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

-Cathy

Traditional Greek Easter recipes we always make for Easter Sunday:

Koulourakia – Greek Easter Cookies
Greek Lemon Potatoes (Patates Lemonates Recipe) (almost always served alongside traditional lamb for Easter Dinner)
Tzatziki Sauce
Authentic Pastitsio Recipe
Taramosalata Recipe (often enjoyed during lent)

Looking for more bread recipes? You may also like:

No Knead Bread
Cinnamon Babka
Cinnamon Brioche Wreaths

Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread topped with almond slivers and set on a wooden cutting board.

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

Herbs and Flour
Make Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread) at home with this easy, traditional recipe! This lightly sweetened, fluffy bread is flavoured with orange and traditional spices resulting in an absolutely delicious loaf!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Rise Time 3 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine Greek
Servings 4 small or 2 large loaves
Calories 1683 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground mahleb
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mastic
  • 1 1/2 cups milk lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup orange juice freshly squeezed, room temperature
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 8 1/2 cups flour all purpose

Egg wash and toppings

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • almond slivers

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, add the yeast, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, and 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir together. Set it aside and let it rest for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast and let it bloom.
  • Separate the egg yolks and egg whites.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and oil together (be sure to start on low speed to avoid splattering oil everywhere). Add the egg yolks and sugar and mix until light and fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the egg whites to the butter mixture along with the yeast mixture, mahlepi, mastiha, warm milk, orange juice, orange zest and salt and mix until combined.
  • Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook on your stand mixer. Slowly add the flour and mix the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the side of the bowl. The dough will be slightly sticky at this point.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and clean kitchen towels and place it in dry, warm spot. Let it rise until it doubles in size (about 2 hours). 
  • Once the dough has risen, gently deflate it and then divide the dough into 2 portions to make 2 large tsoureki loaves or 4 portions if you are making smaller loaves.
  • Working with one portion at at a time, divide it into 3 equal dough balls. Roll each of those balls into a long cylindrical log shapes using your hands. Braid the 3 logs together to form the braided loaf, pinching the ends together lightly and tucking them underneath the loaf. Repeat with the other portion(s).
  • Transfer the loaves onto a baking sheet and let them rise again for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water to form the egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and sprinkle with almond slivers.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the loaves have browned nicely. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Nutrition

Calories: 1683kcalCarbohydrates: 289gProtein: 40gFat: 40gSaturated Fat: 27gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 246mgSodium: 371mgPotassium: 618mgFiber: 8gSugar: 86gVitamin A: 614IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 229mgIron: 14mg
Keyword easter, easter bread, greek food
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