This is truly the best Vegan Challah recipe. Not only is this eggless challah insanely fluffy, but due to two *secret ingredients* it's also incredibly moist, flavorful, and has the perfect crust so it looks and tastes like the authentic Jewish Challah you grew up eating!
When I think of any Jewish Holiday (okay, except Passover) I think of warm, soft, and chewy homemade Challah. It's one of those foods always at the center of every Jewish celebration whether it be Challah French Toast to break fast on Yom Kippur or a beautiful round Challah to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.
Ever since going egg-free, it is one of the traditional Jewish foods I miss most (tied with matzo ball soup, which I thankfully no longer miss thanks to my Vegan Matzo Ball Soup).
Traditionally, Challah is made with eggs, oil, and sugar for a deliciously soft and fluffy yellow bread. My goal with this recipe was to create a challah that tastes AND looks exactly like the authentic Challah I grew up eating- minus the eggs!
While the full list of ingredients is in the recipe card, here is a quick snap-shot of the 8 ingredients needed for this eggless challah recipe including the two *secret ingredients* I know you came here looking for!
- Active dried yeast : or instant yeast subbed 1:1
- Warm water
- Olive oil
- Pumpkin puree : YES, this is secret ingredient #1- and I promise this bread does not taste like pumpkin!
- All purpose flour
Glaze (Vegan egg-wash):
- Maple Syrup: Secret ingredient #2- for the perfect crust!
- Almond milk: or any plant-based milk like oat, rice, soy, etc.
Why do we use pumpkin puree?
Okay, so you probably saw pumpkin puree there and thought, wait what? Well, just a little pumpkin truly is the SECRET ingredient to fluffy challah that has that perfect eggy look without any pumpkin flavor!
For one, pumpkin purée is high in moisture so it makes this bread so chewy. Second, since we are only using 2 Tbsp pumpkin, it gives this bread a yellow tint without any artificial coloring needed.
Third, pumpkin actually makes this bread fluffier. I learned this from making my Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls when I noticed they were about 10 times fluffier than normal cinnamon rolls.
I actually don't completely understand the science behind it other than I know it makes a BIG difference! The results are amazing and trust me, the bread tastes NOTHING like pumpkin either.
How to make vegan challah
First, activate the yeast
For this recipe, we are using 2 ½ tsp dried yeast (which is slightly more than 1 yeast packet).
If you are using instant yeast, you can skip this step. However, if you are using active dried yeast you will need to dissolve it in liquid before incorporating it into the other ingredients. Either yeast works for this recipe, so use what you have.
P.S- it's really important to use WARM water and not HOT water, or you may kill the yeast in this water challah recipe.
Second, add in the wet ingredients
After the yeast & water have been mixed together add in the sugar, pumpkin puree, and olive oil and mix together to combine.
Add in flour & salt and knead
Now, add in the flour and salt. When it comes to salt, I really recommend sticking to 1 tsp as it helps bring flavor to the dough and actually makes the bread sweeter.
I like to add my flour and salt into the bowl and mix them into a shaggy dough.
Then, I add in my bread hook and knead the dough until it forms a tacky dough. Believe me, all that flour will get sucked right up, and if anything the dough will be semi sticky!
What should challah dough feel like?
Challah dough should be tacky yet firm and not too sticky. This dough has a pretty high moisture content from the pumpkin and olive oil, so expect it to be a stickier dough than what you may be used to.
The trick to making challah fluffy is also to use just enough flour. Too much flour and you'll end up with dense challah, so please don't use more than is recommended in the recipe (4-4 ¼ cups max).
How to tell if your bread is fully kneaded:
One way to tell is the dough should be easy to pull apart without tearing easily.
Personally, I knead my dough for about 6-8minutes so it can take time! I like to knead for about 4-5 minutes, take a 1-2 minute rest, and then knead a bit more.
This little "rest period" in the middle of kneading helps the gluten form and makes it easier to knead the dough.
Add to well-oiled bowl to double in size
Once the challah has been kneaded, form it into a ball and transfer it to a well-oiled bowl. Then, let it rest until it has doubled in size.
The time this takes will greatly depend on the temperature at which you let the dough rest. I let the dough rest at room temperature for about 2 hours to double in size.
How to tell if the dough is done rising:
Press your finger into the dough. If it springs back automatically, the dough needs a bit more time. If it springs back slowly, it's likely ready! It will also visibly double in size (see pictures below!).
How to shape challah bread
Now that the dough has finished the first rise, it's time to shape the dough! I will be honest with you all, this part is still a work in progress for me.
However, this challah recipe tastes good no matter what your skill level is! I find it makes enough dough for a 4-strand or 6-strand challah.
I followed the 4-stand method I found here on King Arthur's blog. While I did not include my own process shots for this step, I found that this guide on how to braid Challah from ToriaVey was also very helpful!
General tips for braiding challah:
- Don't add too much flour to the surface, VERY lightly flour the dough or it will change the end result of the challah and could make it too dense.
- If the dough seems a little sticky, having lightly floured hands helps to shape the dough.
- Push out as many air bubbles as possible when rolling as this will help the dough bounce back for the second rise.
- No rolling pin needed! Rolling the dough into evenly sized strands using your hands works best.
Let the braided challah rest
Now that the challah has been shaped, it's time to let it rest again. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise another 1-1.5 hours until it has expanded and doubled in size again and is super fluffy. I prefer to transfer my challah to the baking sheet for this step.
For reference, always use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper when baking challah to prevent the bottom from burning!
Preheat oven and add glaze
Once the vegan challah has gone through a second rise, it's time to bake it! Preheat the oven to 375F, remove the plastic wrap from the challah, and brush ½ of the vegan egg wash on top!
Why do we add maple syrup & almond milk as the glaze?
This step truly allows us to get that desirable brown crust without eggs! Aka this is my vegan eggwash substitute for challah bread.
Simply mix together 1 Tbsp maple syrup+ 1 Tbsp almond milk and brush it lightly onto the bread right before baking. The maple syrup not only gives the crust a golden tint but it adds a slight sweetness to it as well!
Bake the challah & glaze again
Now, bake the challah at 375F for 26-30 minutes until the crust is browned, but not burnt, and the challah is cooked through.
Once cooked, add the remainder of the glaze on top while the challah is still warm. This is what gives the challah that beautiful shiny coat and color!
How do you know if challah is done cooking?
The bottom should be golden brown and the top should not be soft or sinking.
A fun trick is to lightly tap the challah with your finger. It should sound completely hollow when it is done!
Last but not least...slice that baby and dig in!
FAQ & Substitutions:
Unfortunately, not with this recipe. We rely heavily on gluten forming to shape the dough. I only recommend making this bread with all-purpose or bread flour as a high protein wheat dough will work best for authentic vegan challah.
If you are looking to keep this challah refined sugar-free, subbing cane sugar for another granulated sugar like coconut sugar works. Just keep in mind it will change the overall color of the dough.
Yes- it can be subbed for canned sweet potato puree. The dough won't be as sweet, but it will still get the desired fluffy texture and yellow color. Other than that, there is not a good substitute.
Challah can be stored at room temperature wrapped in plastic or in a closed container for 3-4 days. Keep in mind, as challah is left to sit the crust will lose some of its crunch. The bread actually goes stale faster in the refrigerator, so I do not recommend storing it there.
I truly hope you enjoy this Vegan Challah Bread as much as I do! It is forever going to be a staple for our Rosh Hashanah celebrations, will pair perfectly with Vegan Latkes for Hanukkah, and we are actually serving it at Thanksgiving this year instead of the "traditional" rolls. Enjoy!
Looking for more vegan bread recipes? Check out these SGTO favorites
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Glaze (Vegan Egg wash)
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon almond milk can be subbed 1:1 with any plant-based milk
- Begin by adding the warmed water and yeast to a mixing bowl and stirring together. Let sit 1-2 minutes to activate. (If using instant yeast can skip this step and add the yeast directly to dry ingredients).
- Next, add in the sugar, olive oil, and pumpkin puree and mix together until well combined.
- Add in 4 cups flour+ the salt and mix together until a rough shaggy dough forms. Then, add the bread hook to a standing mixer and knead for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is elastic, tacky, and can be stretched easily without pulling. Add up to 4 ¼ cups flour as needed if dough is too sticky (flour amount can vary slightly based on moisture in the pumpkin puree).
- Once the dough is kneaded, add it to a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel, and let rest 1.5-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. This step will take less time if the dough is in a warm environment and could take up to 3 hours in a colder environment. You will know the dough has proofed when it can be indented with a finger and springs back slowly vs. quickly.
- Punch the dough and place it onto a well floured surface. Then, shape the challah as desired. To shape as pictured in a four stranded challah cut the dough into four evenly sized pieces and form into small balls. Then, follow the steps here from King Arthur's blog.
- Cover a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and place the braided challah on top. Cover the challah with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise another 1-1.5 hours until the challah has expanded and is fluffy.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. While the oven is preheating, make the vegan egg-wash by mixing the maple syrup and almond milk together. Then, take a brush and lightly brush about half of the glaze onto the top of the challah. Save the remaining ½ glaze for after baking.
- Add the challah to the oven and bake for 26-30 minutes until browned on the bottom and top and cooked through. To tell if challah is cooked through you can tap the top of the bread and it should sound hollow and the top and bottom should be browned.
- Remove the challah from the oven and immediately brush it with the remaining glaze to give it that shiny crust. Then, transfer the challah to a wire rack to finish cooling. Once cooled, cut into 10 even slices and enjoy!
- Challah is best enjoyed after cooling for about 20-30 minutes.
- If you are looking to keep this challah refined sugar-free, subbing cane sugar for another granulated sugar like coconut sugar works.
- Pumpkin puree can be subbed 1:1 for canned sweet potato puree
- Challah can be stored in a closed container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 4-5 days. It is better to store at room temperature vs. the fridge as storing in the fridge may dry it out.