Italian Easter Bread is soft sweet braided bread with an Easter egg baked in the middle. This sweet Easter bread recipe includes easy step-by-step photos and a video.
Easter is approaching! We have been making Italian Easter Bread for years and it is still one of our favorite Easter traditions with our kids! We also enjoy making bunny pizzas and Easter sugar cookies!
What Does Italian Easter Bread Symbolize?
There is a variance of stories behind the significance of Easter bread. While researching its history, the story I most relate to contains Christian symbolism behind it. Just as bread is a daily sustenance of life, so is the body of Christ who sacrificed himself so that we may have new life. Jesus Christ is the bread of life.
My recipe for Easter bread twists two ropes together to make the nests, but some traditional Easter bread is braided with three ropes. Supposedly, the three ropes symbolize the elements of the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit) and the braided wreath represents the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross during his crucifixion. The eggs represent the new life we have in Christ.
Knowing these points of symbolism, you could use this Easter bread recipe as a Bible story activity with your kids. Just tweak the recipe below to create three ropes for each nest, which is easy to do.
Easter Bread Ingredients
(full printable recipe at end of this post)
We like to focus on recipes with simple and accessible ingredients from the grocery store or already in your pantry. Below are the ingredients to make this Easter bread recipe.
What you need to make Easter bread:
- Instant yeast: Also known as "rapid rise" yeast or "bread machine" yeast.
- Milk: I've used full-fat and low-fat with fine results. You need to warm it up, no hotter than 115°F though.
- Salt: Just a pinch.
- Unsalted butter: Set this out a couple of hours before to get it to room temperature.
- Eggs: Two eggs to mix into the dough, six to color and bake in the center of each nest, and one more to make an egg wash.
- Sugar: Because this is a sweet dough.
- All-purpose flour: I've never tried any other kind in this recipe.
What Others Say About This Recipe
OMG! It is amazing. Reminds me of the years as a kid making this with my nonnie... -Melissa
The dough was very easy to work with. But I just love the flavor, texture and appearance. -Ann
I made the Italian Easter bread this morning and this recipe is a definitely a “keeper” ! -Debra
This was such an easy/forgiving bread dough that I’m tempted to make it more often... -Gail
I just made these! I must say they are excellent and beautiful...thanks for a great recipe! -Heidi
We made these for Easter and they were a big hit. -Lynn
They were outstanding and I got nothing but compliments about the bread. -Marietta
I made this recipe this year and it was AMAZING! -Lisa
I have made Italian Easter Bread for many years and I love this recipe. It’s easy and delicious. -Shirley
How to Make Italian Easter Bread
My recipe for Easter bread yields six small braided bread loaves with an egg in the middle of each nest. Scroll to the recipe card for the step-by-step instructions and a video tutorial. The general steps are as follows:
- First, in a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, milk, salt, butter, eggs, sugar and some flour.
- Next, on low speed, add the rest of the flour until a dough forms.
- After a dough is formed, knead until smooth. Add more flour as necessary, until tacky.
- Then, transfer to oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour.
- When the dough is risen to double its size, divide into 12 equal pieces and roll into 14-inch ropes.
- Next, twist ropes to form a "braid" then join ends to form a wreath. Place on lined baking sheet.
- Then, cover with towel and let rise 1 more hour.
- After the second rise, brush wreaths with egg wash. Decorate with sprinkles.
- Lastly, place a raw dyed egg in center of each nest and bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes.
Is Challah the Same as Easter Bread?
You may be thinking Challah bread looks the same as Easter bread. They are very similar and almost the same! In fact, Easter bread was developed from Jewish Challah bread and modified over time.
Make Ahead Tips
Can I make the dough ahead of time?
You can make the dough the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight. The next day, remove from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before shaping into the nests. Or, you can shape the nests the day before and remove from the fridge and let rest to complete their last rise.
Can I freeze Easter bread?
You can freeze the dough shaped as nests before baking, or freeze the bread after baked but without the egg. To freeze the raw dough, complete all the steps up including shaping the twisted nests. Place on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag. When ready to bake, remove from plastic wrap and place on baking sheet to let thaw. Once thawed, allow nests to complete their last rise then continue with baking instructions.
Your Questions Answered
Can I double this recipe?
Absolutely! This recipe can be doubled to make 12 Easter bread nests.
Can you eat the eggs in Easter bread?
Yes, you can eat the egg in Easter bread. The egg cooks while in the oven to a soft boil. You can dip the bread into the center of the egg if you like. Or, if you'd rather have a hard boiled egg, then leave the egg out and place hard boiled eggs into the center of the already baked bread before serving. If you do not consume the bread within a couple of hours, then discard the eggs.
Do you dye the eggs?
Yes! Not only do we have fun making and shaping the dough, it's fun for you and your kids to color the eggs together. The photo below was Judah's first time dying Easter eggs (8 years ago) for our first time making Italian Easter bread. He thoroughly enjoyed it and hardly made a mess. (What a surprise!)
The bread bakes up insanely soft and is on the sweeter side. It reminds me of the Hawaiian bread you can buy in the grocery stores. Don't you love how beautiful it is!? I'm thrilled to tell you that the method is super simple! You'll be impressing your Easter guests with little laboring...trust me. 😉
Hard boiled egg - This recipe results in a more soft-boiled or somewhat runny egg. If you prefer a hard boiled egg, I suggest just adding a hard boiled egg to the top after the bread is already baked.
Flavor - Traditional Easter bread includes anise flavoring and/or citrus, but I do not like the taste of anise, so I leave it out. You'll notice many recipes leave it out.
Braid - Instead of making 6 separate wreaths, you can opt to make one large braided loaf and stick the eggs around the edge. Adjust the baking time as necessary -- just keep a watch on it.
Use as place cards - Use edible ink to write names on the eggs and use as place cards at your Easter dinner table.
More Easter Recipes
- Oven-baked Ham with Easy Homemade Glaze
- Cheesy Potato Casserole
- Carrot Cake Monkey Bread
- Bunny Pizza Dunkers
- Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns
- Easter Nest Sugar Cookies
- Creamy Mac 'n Cheese
Click here for even more Easter recipe ideas!
Made this recipe? Leave a star rating and tag me on Instagram @seededtable so I can see. I love hearing from you!
This recipe was originally published April 3, 2012 and updated March 2022 with no changes to the recipe.
Italian Easter Bread + VIDEO
- 1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
- 1 ¼ cups warm milk
- Pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup butter , at room temperature
- 2 eggs , lightly beaten
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 ½ to 4 ½ cups flour
- egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water)
- 6 dyed , uncooked, Easter eggs (will cook in the oven)
- First, mix together the yeast, milk, salt, butter, eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Then, add 2 cups of flour and beat until smooth, with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, continue to slowly add the rest of the flour just until a dough forms.
- After a dough is formed, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed so that it is tacky, not sticky. (Alternatively, the dough can be kneaded on a floured work surface, by hand.) Transfer to an oiled bowl, turning once to coat both sides. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Next, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 equal pieces (about 3.5 oz each). Roll each piece into a 14-inch rope.
- Then, twist two ropes to form a "braid", and then join the ends to loop into a circle while pinching the tips together. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough ropes. Cover with a clean towel and let rise again until nearly doubled, about 1 more hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the dough "nests" with the egg wash, and then top evenly with sprinkles.
- Finally, place one egg in the center of each nest, pressing down lightly to secure, and then bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- The eggs will be cooked to a soft boil and can be eaten by cracking and dipping the bread in them, however, I would recommend discarding them if not consumed within a few hours.
- This dough can be made ahead of time and frozen. See above in the blog post on steps for freezing dough.
- Nutrition information is an estimate only.