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 vegan 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! Recipe by Rachel Orenstein Packer. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
- 2 ½ teaspoons rapid rise yeast
- 1 cup warm water (105º to 115º F.)
- 4 ¼ cups flour (I use 3 cups unbleached flour and 1¼ whole-wheat pastry flour
- ⅓ 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 350º F. Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes depending on your oven. Loaves should be golden and sound hollow when tapped.
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.
- 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.
- Here are more recipes for the Jewish New Year.
- Find more ways to make Special Occasions and Entertaining easier and healthier.
Carolyn Jones says
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!
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!
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.
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.
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...
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.
Katia Steinfeld says
Thank you very much for your recipe! Shabbat shalom
You're most welcome, Katia! Credit where due, to its author Rachel Ornstein Packer.
Can the dough be made in a bread machine?
Miriam, that's a good question. I'll see if I can get the author of the post to weigh in.
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.
can i use olive oil or coconut oil for the same result?
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.
Hi, I made this bread a few months ago with the kids and we loved it, my son has an egg allergy so it's perfect. However I am just wondering if this could be made with a sugar substitute (my MIL has just been diagnosed diabetic). I thought I might use the lovely sweet dough to make a sort of cinnamon roll with choc chips and if I can make them sugar free that would be fab! Thanks for the recipe!
Gillian Kay says
My husband makes amazing challot, but the recipe has eggs and we have a regular Friday night guest who is vegan. I tried this recipe and was so pleased with the result. I made it in a mixer with a dough hook and used dried instant yeast, so I put all the dry ingredients (apart from the baking powder) in the mixer, made a well and added the wet ingredients then the baking powder.
So glad this worked well for you, Gillian. Credit where due, to the recipe's contributor, Rachel Packer. And how nice of you to accommodate your vegan guest!
These are wonderful! I must ask how many eggs is your egg replacer replacing in this recipe? I've just recently gone vegan, and I've struggled to find a decent egg replacer. This one, however, works wonders! I'd like to know about how many eggs this replaces so I can make calculations for other recipes if at all possible.
Great stuff!! Friday evenings are fully vegan finally 😀
At my son's preschool, they make challah bread every Friday. Because he's allergic to eggs, this recipe is perfect! I wanted to know if the dough in this recipe can be frozen and used later. Thanks!
I just made this in a bread machine but just on the dough cycle, so I could braid it and it turned out amazing and everyone loves it! Ever since my mom and I went egg free I was afraid I'd have to give up my challah so I'm so thankful to have found this recipe!! I did coat it with water and honey too.
Our readers seem to love Rachel's egg-free challah and glad you and your mom do, too. Thanks for your comment!
Can you please ( pretty please? ) ask Rachel if she could create a vegan gluten free Challah recipe that tastes as wonderful as this one does?
I'd really like to put a great tasting Gluten Free Vegan challah on my holiday table this Rosh Hashanah for all my celiac and gluten free family members and friends. But I have been completely unsuccessful in finding a baking a great vegan gluten free recipe. Pretty much all gluten free challah recipes have eggs..And if the recipes don't contain eggs, the vegan challah recipes I've tried taste *nothing* at all like a real challah should. They all just end up tasting like vegan bread, that happens to be shaped like a Challah.
If she could make certain to include oat flour to keep it a technically "by the book" Challah ( Oats are Gluten Free and are one of the grains on the required list a baker must include in order to make a kosher challah..) And if it could be rice-free or have rice substitutes for my food allergies I'd be super duper greatful.
Hi Ally — so glad you love Rachel's challah, and I will shoot her an e-mail right now to see if she can tackle this challenge!
Hi Ally — I reached out to Rachel, and she said she had one unsuccessful attempt at doing this gluten-free, but is interested in trying again. It's doubtful that she'll be able to perfect it by the holidays, though. If you have any luck making this gluten free, please share!
rachel post says
i have an allergic 3 year old who's been dying for challah but everytime we go to synagogue or a friend's house, he can't have it. I made this recipe for him tonight and he LOVED it. It was my absolute joy to make it for him and to see the smile on his face. I got tears from it all. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. It came out perfect. 🙂
Hi there 🙂 Can I sub active dry yeast for the rapid rise yeast? Any changes I would need to make in order to do so? THANKS!
Hi Joanne — I'm not sure if the rapid-rise yeast would compromise the outcome at all; I can't see why it would, but let me see if I can get the creator of this recipe to weigh in.
Rachel Packer says
It's so wonderful to know that this recipe just keeps on giving! I loved reading your comments and I'm so happy that those with allergies are able to enjoy! As for the rapid rise yeast- I have used it as well and the results were just as good!
This recipe was fabulous! I made challah for Rosh Hashanah and everyone loved it so much, they had second and third helpings.
Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I've been making it for my family for sabbath, and it has came out wonderful every time. I love to make it because it really helps bring the real feel for celebrating Yahweh in a simple way. Making it again tonight to be ready for tomorrow's sabbath and the feast of tabernacles. We are going to be having a super blood moon, so it is going to be a pretty significant celebration. Thank you again for the lovely recipe 🙂
P.s. i also like using a 50/50 water and honey glaze on the challah before baking, turns out great!
Linda katz says
This challah recipie works amazingly in my bread maker. Same ingredients and measurements, I make the dough in the bread maker early in the day, braid it, let it proof in my oven a second time, and bake it about an hour and a half before Shabbas. The best motzi of the week!
Thanks, Linda! Rachel's egg-free challah has been a huge hit with VK readers. Glad it has been so successful for you in your bread maker.
Can you use banana flour in this? It can be substituted for reg flour but u need less. No banana flavor. Please let me know, as I'm looking for dairy egg and wheat free version.
Elana — since this is a yeasted recipe, I doubt it would have the same texture. It might turn out more like a quick bread. In any case, I'm not familiar with banana flour! Perhaps if you used a gluten-free flour blend like Bob's Red Mill, it might approximate a challah texture a bit more.
not sure if this is mentioned in the comments anywhere, but if you don't have honey on hand you can also brush the top of your challah with pancake syrup, it gives the beautiful shine that challah should have and a nice soft sweet taste.
Great idea, Lesha — and more vegan!
I follow the McDougall Starch Solution program. No oil or anything animal. Can the challah bread be made without oil and in its place, prune purée or applesauce?
Looks delicious! Would love to make it without the oil!
Stephanie, that's a really good question. I'm not sure if this would have that flaky challah texture w/o the oil; I often use applesauce as a fat substitute for my baking, so it may be worth a try. The prune puree would probably change the character of the bread too much. If you try it with just the applesauce, let us know how it turns out!
Can this challah be frozen?
Sharon, I'll see if I can get the author of this recipe to answer this question; though I can't see why not — if you let the bread cool completely, then wrap tightly in foil, then a plastic bag, most bread freezes well for a short time.
Rachel Packer says
Nava! I just noticed this most recent post about freezing the challah. You can most certainly freeze it! I do it all the time and it doesn't compromise the bread at all. I usually cool it thoroughly, wrap it in foil and put it in a gallon size bag for storage. The longest it stayed in the freezer was probably about two weeks as we eat a lot of challah around here. Shanah Tovah!
Hi Rachel — I had meant to ask you to weigh in on this, so I'm glad you popped in. Your recipe continues to be very popular with VegKitchen visitors! Happy New Year to you and yours, as well.
Great recipe. I made this in my bread machine on the dough cycle, braided etc.. and then baked in the oven and it worked great.
Ariel Horn says
This recipe is amazing. My vegan roommate has been begging me to make her a vegan challah, and we finally found this recipe on Monday. I just want to let you know, now our entire apartment had me make it again on Tuesday.. and again today (Wednesday)! It is SO good and we really really enjoy it, we gobble it up immediately. Just wanted to send the love <3 It's definitely going to become a staple in our kitchen.
Thanks so much, Ariel! Credit where due to Rachel Packer. VegKitchen readers really seem to love this recipe!
As a kosher vegan, I'm always interested in vegan versions of Shabbat and holiday food. I will certainly share this with other vegans in our community. But I have to admit we swear by Nava's squash puree challah. It helps that we have a convenient source for kosher squash puree (pumpkin puree works in a pinch, as we discovered when we used some by mistake.
Theresa Friedman says
This recipe for vegan challah is incredible. Best recipe we have used. Soft and lovely outer crust. Thank you for sharing.
Theresa Friedman says
This recipe is wonderful! My son has lots of food allergies and we make challah every week and this vegan recipe has made it possible for him to have challah. I have added a twist by rolling out each braid section and sprinkling with cinnamon sugar. I then roll the the braid section onto itself. Braid the three sections normally. After the second proof I spray the challah with Olive oil spray and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar then bake as normal. Everyone loves it.
Ellen Bernstein says
Can't wait to try this recipe. Have you ever used honey instead of sugar? Thanks.
It is possible to use all of the dough to make one big challah? If so, would any part of the recipe change?