Italian Easter Bread is a soft sweet bread with an Easter egg baked in the middle and topped with sprinkles. This simple braided bread recipe includes easy step-by-step photos and a video. Your guests will be impressed and enjoy having their own edible Easter nests!
Easter is approaching! Ever since Ben and I started our own family, we've enjoyed having our own holiday traditions. Italian Easter Bread became a family favorite in 2012 and is still one of our favorite Easter traditions with our kids!
What is the Meaning of Italian Easter Bread?
There is a variance of stories behind the meaning of Italian Easter bread. 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. You will need to tweak the recipe below to create three ropes for each nest, which is easy to do.
Easter Bread Recipe
My recipe for Italian Easter Bread yields six small braided bread loaves with an egg in the middle of each nest. Gather these ingredients:
- 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 readers are saying 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 Braided Bread
- In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, milk, salt, butter, eggs, sugar and some flour.
- On low speed, add the rest of the flour until a dough forms.
- Knead until dough is smooth. Add more flour as needed, until tacky.
- Transfer to oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour.
- Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into 14-inch ropes.
- Twist ropes to form a "braid" then join ends to form a wreath. Place on lined baking sheet.
- Cover with towel and let rise 1 more hour.
- Brush with egg wash. Decorate with sprinkles.
- Place egg in center of each nest.
- Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes.
Can you eat the egg 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.
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. 😉
Added flavor. Traditional Easter bread includes anise flavoring and/or citrus. I do not like the taste of anise, so I leave it out. You'll notice many recipes leave it out.
One big 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 recipes for Easter
- 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
Print the recipe to save for later. Made this recipe? Leave a rating to let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!
Italian Easter Bread
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup butter , at room temperature
- 2 eggs , lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups flour
- egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water)
- 6 dyed , uncooked, Easter eggs (will cook in the oven)
- Mix together the yeast, milk, salt, butter, eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl. 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. 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.
- 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.
- Twist two ropes to form a "braid", 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 degrees F. Brush the tops of the dough "nests" with the egg wash. Decorate with the sprinkles.
- Place one egg in the center of each nest, pressing down lightly to secure. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Source: Adapted from The Italian Dish
- The eggs can be eaten by cracking and dipping the bread in them, however, I would recommend discarding them if not consumed within a few hours.
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This recipe was originally published April 3, 2012 and updated March 12, 2020 with a video and new recipe tips.