Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki)

Tsoureki is a Greek egg bread traditionally made on on Holy Thursday and eaten on Easter Sunday.

Greek Easter bread

Grant Webster

Prep Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 30 mins
1 slice
1 loaf

Tsoureki is a traditional Greek Easter bread made with orange zest and mahlab spice (which is ground from wild cherry pits and tastes a bit like a floral mix of almonds and cherry). You can find it at your local spice shop, international market, or online. If you have trouble finding it, 1/2 a teaspoon of almond extract and a dash of ground fennel, anise, or cardamom will work as a substitute. The egg-rich dough is often braided and topped with red dyed eggs. The red eggs can by dyed with onion skins or food coloring.

There is also an Easter game that is played with the bread. Tsougrisma is known as The Greek Red Easter Egg Game. To play Tsougrisma, each player holds a red egg. You tap the end of your egg against the end of your opponent's egg. The goal is to break both ends of your opponent's egg without breaking your own egg. You are declared a winner and said to have good luck for the next year if your egg does not break.


  • 1 cup warm milk (105-115°F)

  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

  • 3 eggs, divided

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled

  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

  • 1 teaspoon ground mahlab (mahleb)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mastic (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour

  • 3 hard boiled eggs, dyed red


  1. In a large bowl stir together the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together 2 of the eggs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, orange zest, mahlab, mastic (if using), and salt.

  3. Stir egg mixture into yeast mixture until combined. Stir in 4 1/2 cups flour.

  4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that is smooth, elastic, and slightly tacky (3 to 5 minutes total).

  5. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease surface of the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (1 hour).

  6. Punch down dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

  7. Roll each portion of dough into a 16-inch long rope. Place the ropes about 1 inch apart on the prepared pan.

  8. Starting in the middle of ropes, loosely braid by bringing the left rope under the center rope.

  9. Next bring right rope under the new center rope. Repeat to the end.

  10. On the other end, braid by bringing alternate ropes over center rope. Press ends together to seal; tuck under.

  11. Carefully tuck the dyed eggs into the braid (avoid placing the eggs too close to the edge of the ring as they may continue to move as the dough rises). Cover; let rise in a warm place until nearly double (about 1 hour).

  12. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl whisk together remaining egg and 1 tsp. water. Gently brush dough with egg wash, being careful not to touch eggs.

  13. Bake about 45 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Let cool 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Test Kitchen Tip: To dye eggs using food coloring, gently place 3 eggs in single layer in large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Cover. Bring just to boil on high heat. Remove from heat. Let stand 12 minutes. Pour off hot water and quickly cool eggs by placing them in a bowl of ice water until completely cooled. Mix 1 1/2 cup boiling water, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon red food color in a medium bowl. Add hard-cooked eggs and let sit in dye for about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs from dye. Allow eggs to dry.

To dye eggs using onion skins, combine 2 1/2 cups water, the skin from 6 large yellow or red onions (about 1 cup very tightly packed), and 1 Tbsp. white vinegar in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes; stir occasionally to keep onion skins submerged. Remove pot from heat and cool to room temperature, remove skins from dye. Place 3-6 eggs in the dye and bring to a boil, remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes, or until desired color is reached. For best results cover and place eggs in dye in refrigerator overnight to achieve deepest red/orange color.

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