Egg-Free (Vegan) Challah

challahWhen my son was diagnosed with severe food allergies, (eggs, nuts and citrus), I realized that I, along with so many others, was now faced with a mission…to keep my son safe, and educate others in the process.  Food allergies are terrifying and daunting, and for the first few months, I was a deer in the headlights. Slowly, I started to get a handle on things as I researched, experimented, failed and succeeded.

It took a while for a virtual non-baker like me to get the hang of baking without eggs, but I did. One of my first projects was to learn how to bake challah because I wanted my son to continue to enjoy his favorite Friday night ritual, safely. I found that it was easier, safer, and tastier to make it myself, rather, than to relentlessly ask questions at the bakery which only yielded nonchalant responses that could result in a potentially life threatening episode.

Often, my guests ask me for this recipe and as part of my mission, I now pass it on to you. Another benefit of this challah (aside from the fact that it is ridiculously simple) is that it is cholesterol-free for those family members or guests who are on restricted diets. Enjoy!

  • 2 ½ teaspoons rapid rise yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)
  • 4 ¼ cups flour (I use 3 cups unbleached flour and 1¼ whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup natural granulated sugar (such as Florida Crystals)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons organic canola oil or other neutral vegetable oil

Egg Replacement (These three ingredients work as a binding agent.  The “fizzing” that occurs when whisked together provides the “lift” to the finished product. Make sure you add this right before the flour—see Notes for Great Challah below):

  • 3 tablespoons organic canola oil or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Pour yeast into warm water along with a pinch of sugar in a large bowl and mix until combined.

Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes or so until bubbly and creamy (I usually measure out the flour while waiting for the yeast). Add the sugar, salt, and additional 2 tablespoons of canola oil and mix.

Beat the egg replacement ingredients with a whisk (it will fizz) and pour into the yeast mixture.

Add the flour, a cup at a time, until it is difficult to stir the mixture. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic (approximately 7 to 10 minutes).  It should be springy.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a slightly damp cloth or plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 90 minutes. It should double in size.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and cut dough into two equal halves. Divide each piece into three pieces and roll out into 10 to 12 inch ropes. Pinch the ends together and proceed to braid the dough.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet and let rise for additional 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.

How to make challahHow to make challah

Notes for Great Challah:

  • Add the egg replacer right before adding the flour. The reaction between the ingredients is what will give your challah lift (in lieu of eggs).  If you put it in first, you will not have as much of a reaction when you add the flour.
  • If you are looking for a healthier option, try using a cup or two (I use 1¼ cup) of Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  It has all the nutrition of its whole-wheat flour counterpart, (4 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein per ¼ cup) though because it is ground from the wheat berry, it yields a far more delicate consistency.
  • Make sure you preheat your oven.
  • Baking powder needs to be relatively fresh. Old baking powder will yield a hard, flat challah.
  • If you put the dough in the oven to rise, make sure the oven isn’t hot. Turn it to 200 degrees for 20 seconds and then turn it off, otherwise it will bake the dough prematurely and it won’t rise well.
  • Round challahsYou can shape these challahs into rounds or rolls [Note—round challahs are particularly traditional for Jewish New Year]
  • You can also add raisins, chocolate chips. Use your creativity. My kids love it when I brush a little oil to the top of the challah and then sprinkle with a dusting of Florida Crystal sugar before baking.

Rachel Ornstein Packer is freelance writer. She has been featured in Washington Family Magazine and Atlanta Parent along with websites such as The Jewish Hostess and Green Diva Mom regarding food allergies/recipes and nutrition. She has also written personal essays for NPR, Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Post, and Jewish Week.

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13 comments on “Egg-Free (Vegan) Challah

  1. Carolyn Jones

    I made this today and the two loaves came out perfectly. Easy recipe – even the braiding part- as the dough wasn’t too sticky. I did brush the top of the loaves with a 50/50 mix of honey and water to give it a golden top similar to what you see on egg challah. My son and I both have egg allergies and we’re so glad to find this recipe. Thank you for posting!

  2. Nava

    Carolyn, I’m glad this recipe worked so well for you! I will let Rachel (who contributed it) know and perhaps she will weigh in as well!

  3. Uriah

    This is the first soft challah I’ve ever made. It’s also the first challah I’ve made that I won’t make me horrifically ill. Thank you SO much.

    I do have questions. How much flour is actually used? Following the directions if adding until hard to stir, I didn’t use all that was called for. Is that the norm? And i how much should it rise the second time? Mine didn’t seem to rise at all. I’m new to bread, so am unsure if it wad the yeast or the environment.

  4. Nava

    Uriah, I’m glad you enjoyed this! I will get the author of this recipe to respond to your specific questions some time during this holiday break, so stay tuned.

  5. judith

    Just made the vegan challah today and it was delicious. The dough with soft and elastic (didn’t need to use all the flour though) and it came out with a nice delicious crust (I painted on some Agave nectar and sprinkled one with cinammon and the other with flax and sesame seeds.) We finished one loaf straight out of the oven before dinner and polished off the other one with guests at dinner. My son the finicky eater proclaimed this the best challah I had ever made…

  6. Nava

    Judith, I’m happy that this recipe worked so well for you. VegKitchen readers seem to really enjoy it and I once again thank Rachel Ornstein Packer for this contribution.

  7. RAchel

    Miriam.. Great question! I have never used a bread machine because I don’t have a lot of space, and because the recipe was truly easy, I didn’t mind the 6 or 7 minutes of kneading. That being said, however, try it with the machine! I would love to hear the results! I wish I could be more helpful.

    Rachel Packer

  8. Nava

    Suzi, I just amended the recipe to use organic canola oil (which is non-GMO) or other neutral vegetable oil. I’m sure olive oil would be fine (a light variety might be less assertive than extra-virgin), but I’d be leery of recommending coconut oil. It behaves differently than other oils and might add an uncharacteristic scent and flavor to the challah.

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