Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread)

Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread)

If you haven’t tried tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) before, then you are certainly missing out! Soft, fluffy, with a beautiful brown semi-soft crust and an amazing stringy texture.. This is the most flavourful tsoureki recipe you will ever try!

While this Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is traditionally served in Easter and the three braids symbolise the Holy Trinity, it is also very popular throughout the year as a delicious mid day snack, breakfast or tea or coffee companion.

What gives Tsoureki its unique flavour?

Greek Easter bread owes its full and rich flavour to the two aromatic spices used in this traditional tsoureki recipe, mastic and mahlab, which give it a really characteristic flavour and smell. Once put in the oven, the intense aromas of the sweet spices permeates my house and brings back all those wonderful childhood memories!

Freshly ground mastic (masticha), which is an aromatic spice from Chios island, and aromatic mahlab or mahleb (mahlepi), a spice made from ground seeds of cherry, are essential to prepare this tsoureki recipe. They give the traditional Greek Easter bread its sharp and distinctive taste so try your best to source some. You can purchase mastic and mahlepi at Greek grocers or online. I have included some links in the ingredients section below.

Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread)

Tsoureki recipe – How to make the perfect Greek Easter bread dough

It is a common secret, that making your own Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is quite challenging even for the experienced cooks. But experience has shown me, that it’s all about having the right recipe. This is a no-fail tsoureki recipe (with all the prep photos) for you to succeed on your first time! So lets get started!
Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread) dough shaped

How to get the right tsoureki dough consistency

What I love the most about a traditional Greek tsoureki is that its always so soft and at the same time “stringy” when you tear into it by hand. 

For this tsoureki recipe, make sure to use extra strong white bread flour, which has plenty of gluten (protein). When buying your flour, check that it has a minimum of 13% protein content. This will help your tsoureki hold its shape well once baked and will result in an amazingly stringy texture.

Tsoureki recipe dough consistency

The most common mistake for the ones that haven’t tried making tsoureki before is adding more flour than needed. Once the dough is mixed the dough will be a little sticky. If you add more flour if will result in your Greek Easter bread loosing its fluffiness. So be careful when adding more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for and do so only if the dough is very sticky after kneading it for 15 minutes. 

How to prove your tsoureki dough to perfection

Tsoureki dough is all about the rising, which means that the right temperature is key. Before making your tsoureki dough, make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature. This will guarantee that your dough will rise in a reasonable time frame. 

In addition, make sure your yeast is nicely active. The first step in making tsoureki is activating your yeast and testing it to see whether it will make your tsoureki rise. In the bowl of lukewarm water add a pinch of sugar and your yeast, dissolve it using a fork and cover with cling film. If the yeast is active you should see it bubbling up in about 6-10 minutes. If you don’t see bubbles, don’t use it as your tsoureki will turn out flat!

Finally give the dough time to rise. You will need to do 2 rises.

The first rise is done after the dough is kneaded and is also known as bulk fermentation. This will take about 2-3 hours depending on how warm your home is. If you want to speed up the process put the covered mixer bowl with your dough in the oven and turn the oven light on. This will raise the oven temperature a little bit and accelerate the proofing.

Tsoureki dough bulk fermentation

The second rise is done after the dough is shaped to Tsoureki loafs and is also known as the final rise. This will take about 1 hour or until the tsourekia have almost doubled in size. This will puff up the dough on the inside, making it light and fluffy.
Tsoureki rising

How to shape your tsoureki dough

The secret to your tsoureki having that amazing stringy texture that we all desire while also being fluffy is the shaping. Weigh your dough and cut it up in 6 pieces of the same weight. Form each piece in a little ball and roll with your hands. Then hold each edge and shake it up and down stretching it to form a dough “rope”. This will stretch the gluten in the dough and align it horizontally giving you that delicious texture!

Finally shape it into tight braids. This will prevent the dough from expanding side ways and will give your tsoureki plenty of volume when baking!
Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread) braids

How long does tsoureki last?

Your tsoureki should last about 5 to 6 days in its top softness. Just make sure you cover it tightly in cling film. After that the tsoureki will start becoming stiff and stale. A little trick to revitalise old tsoureki is to cut a slice and pop it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. This will warm the dough up and bring its softness back! 

If you are making a large batch, you can freeze them wrapped in cling film for up to 2 months. Defrost them by letting them sit at room temperature overnight, covered in some fresh cling film. They will taste just as amazing and fresh! 

Finally if you want your tsoureki to last even longer you can use my favourite trick and garnish this Greek Easter bread with syrup. This will give it extra moistness and help it keep fresh for up to 2 weeks.

Looking for more Greek Easter Recipes?

Why not take a look at my delicious hand picked recipes below

  1. Tsoureki Muffins! 
  2. Dyed Greek Easter eggs 
  3. Koulourakia Greek Easter Cookies
  4. Lazarakia bread (Greek Easter Lazarus breads)
  5. All my Greek Easter Recipes

Oh and you can always read this recipe in Greek if you fancy Συνταγή για αφράτο πασχαλινό τσουρέκι με ίνες! Enjoy!

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Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread)

Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread)

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  • Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
  • Prep Time: 240 min
  • Cook Time: 35 min
  • Total Time: 4 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 2 breads (30 slices) 1x
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Greek

Description

A traditional Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki) recipe! Discover all the secrets behind making the fluffiest, tastiest traditional Tsoureki with this step by step, no fail recipe!


Ingredients

Scale

For the dough

  • 21g dry yeast (0.7 oz.)
  • 100g lukewarm water (3.5 oz.)
  • 3g ground mastic (0.11 oz.) (buy online in Australia, UK, US/CA)
  • 10g ground mahleb (0.35 oz.) (buy online UK, US/CA)
  • 135g butter, from cow’s milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
  • 260g sugar (9.2 oz.)
  • 135g milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
  • 4 medium eggs, at room temperature (200g/ 7 oz. eggs)
  • 870g strong white (bread) flour (30 oz.)
  • zest of 1 orange

To garnish

  • 1 egg and 1 tbsp water
  • almond slivers

For the syrup

  • 150g sugar (3.5 oz.)
  • 150g water (3.5 oz.)


Instructions

  1. To prepare this tsoureki recipe (Greek Easter Bread), add in a bowl the lukewarm water, a pinch of sugar and yeast and stir. Wrap well with plastic wrap and set aside for about 6-7 minutes, until the yeast rises and starts bubbling. Be careful not do add hot water, as it will kill the yeast, nor cold, as it will take forever for the Greek Easter bread to rise. The water should be at the same temperature as your finger, so check it out sticking one finger in; you should feel no difference in temperature.
  2. Use a pestle or a blender to ground the masticha and mahlepi, along with a pinch of sugar and set aside. These aromatic spices will give Greek Easter bread its distinctive taste and amazing smell. But be careful not to add any more mastic than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as it will leave a slightly bitter taste to your Greek Easter bread.
  3. In a saucepan add the butter, sugar and milk. Place over very low heat and stir the mixture, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. The key is to melt the butter at very low heat, so that the temperature doesn’t ‘kill’ the yeast. Remove the pan from the stove and check the temperature. The mixture should be lukewarm – the same temperature as your finger. If it is warmer, leave to cool down for a few minutes and check again.
  4. Pour the butter mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
  5. In the mixer’s bowl add the flour, the ground mastic and mahlepi, orange zest and the butter-egg-yeast mixture from step 4. Using the dough hook mix at first at low speed, until the ingredients start to combine and then mix at medium-high speed for about 15 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick on the sides of the bowl. At this point the dough should be really soft, like seen in the picture and a little sticky. (Be careful not to add any more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as the dough should be really soft and not firm).
  6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm environment, until at least it doubles in size (for about 2-3 hours). If the environment is cold, preheat the oven at 30C, turn it off and place the bowl inside.
  7. Gently deflate the tsoureki dough with your hands and cut in 6 equal portions (three for each Greek Easter bread). Take one piece of the dough (do not flour the working surface!) and roll it a little with your hands. Hold with your hands from the edges and shake to stretch the dough into a rope. This technique will help the Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) form the characteristic stringy texture, as seen in the picture.
  8. Form the Greek Easter bread into a braid and transfer on a large baking tray layered with parchment paper. Repeat the same procedure with the second tsoureki. Let the Greek Easter bread rise for about 1 more hour at room temperature or in the oven, until it almost doubles in size, like in the pictures.
  9. In a small bowl add the egg and 1 tbsp water and whisk with a fork. Brush the top of each Greek Easter bread with the egg, being careful not to deflate it, garnish with almond slivers and bake in preheated oven at 155C / 320F fan for about 30-40 minutes, until nicely browned and fluffy. If its getting too brown too quickly cover with some parchment paper and continue baking.
  10. Although the traditional tsoureki recipe doesn’t call for syrup, garnishing Greek Easter bread with just a little syrup, always gives a little something! So it’s up to you to decide! Prepare the syrup for the Greek Easter bread just right before you turn the tsoureki out of the oven. In a small pot add the sugar and water and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove the pot from the stove and ladle the hot syrup over the hot tsoureki.
  11. Let the Greek Easter bread cool down and wrap well with plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t become hard and dry. Store for up to a 5-6 days at room temperature or up to a couple of months in the freezer.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 173kcal
  • Sugar: 12g
  • Sodium: 13.2mg
  • Fat: 2.3g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.9g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 1.1g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 33.3g
  • Fiber: 0.9g
  • Protein: 4.9g
  • Cholesterol: 29.1mg

Keywords: Tsoureki, Greek Easter Bread recipe, Traditional, How to make Tsoureki

Stuff it with chocolate!

If you like an extra something in your tsoureki, try adding some chocolate spread in the braids! When you have stretched the braids out, flatten them out with a rolling pin, add a thin strip of Nutella and fold and pinch back into shape. Then proceed with braiding.

Tsoureki recipe image gallery:


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49 Comments

  1. Victoria Rindosh

    I do not put mastic in my tsourekia, just the mahlep. Mother’s recipe from the island of Lesbos, did not use.

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      Personally I love the aroma of mastic so I prefer the tsourekia with it 🙂 But of course you can skip it if you want to.

  2. Natasha

    Hi Eli,

    I was just wondering which oven shelf level I should be baking the tsoureki on?

    I tried making the tsoureki and it rose but also spread sideways a lot and was a lot more flat looking than your photos. Should I be putting it into a tin instead or is there something else that am I doing wrong?

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      They shouldn’t spread out – you need to try and braid them tightly as this will keep the dough in tension and prevent it from growing sideways 🙂

  3. Hi Eli, I always make my brioche this way and it always turns out fluffy and airy. My friend’s mother gave me a recipe similar to yours once and I have been making it for many years even though I am not Greek, I love this treat a Easter.She told me I made a mean tsoureki which was quite a compliment from a Greek lady who had made it all her life.
    Thanks for sharing as I know it will be successful. The trick is in the slow fermentation and time to rise. I often wrap the bowl in a blanket or put it in the bed between the sheepskin and the doona. Such a wonderful bread with coffee.As you say it is best all ingredients are warm when ready to use. The fresh yeast is always better to use and gives a better result than dry. Cheers and thanks again

  4. Stephanie

    Hi! I accidentally purchased the Mastic in its gum form. Am I still able to use it or should I take it out of the recipe?

  5. Des Avel

    Thank you thank you THANK YOU!! This is THE best tsoureki recipie i have ever made, and i have made a few in the quest to find the hest most stringy-est! Your instructions were fantastic. So grateful. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Andrea in Ottawa

    Absolutely perfect! I have tried numerous times with varied success, but this recipe is dead on. I used the bread machine to do the heavy work, and followed your instructions for stretching the dough. Thank you for bringing some joy into this Easter!

  7. I tried this recipe for the second time (the first was about 3 years ago, the last time I made Tsoureki, and that was a hit too). The recipe is very good. The aroma it creates while baking is to die for. The taste is right up there with Yiaya’s – its that good!

    Will be my go-to recipe every year.

  8. Loved this but when I made it, it was a bit dense. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong? I don’t have a mixer so kneaded it by hand for roughly 35 minutes until it wasn’t sticky. Also used instant dry yeast, but still activated it.

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