Vegan Tsoureki is a 100% plant-based, dairy-free version of the traditional Greek Easter Bread. It’s sweet, fragrant, and great for breakfast or snacking. Your kitchen will smell wonderful when it comes out of the oven!

An overhead image of a braided vegan Tsoureki sweet bread, which has been sliced on top of white parchment paper.

Last weekend, I made my favorite carrot cake for Easter Sunday. Today is Orthodox Easter, which is the Easter I grew up with. I always celebrate this holiday with a sweet, freshly baked loaf of Tsoureki (τσουρέκι).

Tsoureki bread varies from home to home, so it’s impossible to call any version a “definitive” recipe! What follows is the vegan tsoureki that is most like the one I remember from childhood. It’s light and tender, sweet but not dessert-like, and incredibly fragrant.

What is Tsoureki?

Tsoureki is a sweet, enriched bread that’s often associated with Greek Easter. It doesn’t have to be an Easter bread, though. When I was growing up, we got it twice yearly: once on the first day of each New Year, and once on Greek Easter.

The New Year’s tsoureki had a coin inside, wrapped in wax paper. My mom and I would cut a slice for each member of our nuclear and extended family. If the coin landed in your slice, it was thought to bring a year of filled with especially good luck. At Easter, we got tsoureki with red-dyed hard boiled eggs baked right into the bread.

Tsoureki is an enriched dough, made with butter and milk. In that sense, it reminds me of challah. It’s a little airier than challah, but the fundamentals are similar. This vegan tsoureki is braided, as challah is. Tsoureki can be flavored in a few different ways. Some recipes call for orange or lemon zest, some for raisins or almonds, some for sesame seeds on top. Tsoureki almost always includes one or both of mahleb and mastic, specialty spices.

For my vegan tsoureki recipe, the mahleb and mastic are optional. If you’re aiming for a very authentic tsoureki, and you have access to a specialty grocer or online store that sells the mahleb and mastic, they’re worth a try! I like the mahleb but usually add only a pinch of mastic, as it’s a very strong flavor.

How to make vegan tsoureki bread

The vegan tsoureki is made as any enriched bread recipe would be made. You mix the ingredients, knead, and then give the dough a bulk rise. After that, you’ll punch the dough down and shape it into strands for braiding.

Braiding bread can be a little tricky at first! If you need some help, there are plenty of tutorials online. This one, for a simple three-strand plait, is good.

After the bread is shaped, you’ll need to allow it to proof. You can tell whether or not the vegan tsoureki has proofed enough by giving it the “poke test.” When you poke it gently with your finger, it should spring back, but slowly, leaving a slight indentation. If it springs back immediately and leaves no dent, it’s under-proofed. If it doesn’t spring back at all, and your finger dent is deep, it’s probably (unfortunately) underproofed.

A braided plait of a three strand loaf of bread, garnished with sesame seeds and resting on white parchment.

Greek Easter bread ingredients

Vegan butter

Vegan butter is essential for giving this vegan tsoureki bread its characteristic rich flavor. You can use melted coconut oil in its place, but I really recommend vegan butter if possible! You can use any vegan butter brand that you like. I usually bake with Earth Balance sticks.

Non-dairy milk

I’ve used oat, soy, almond, and cashew milk in this recipe. Most vegan milks are fine. I’d steer clear of full fat coconut milk, which may be too heavy for the dough, and hemp milk, which is usually a little bitter.

Aquafaba

Aquafaba is the ingredient that replaces eggs in vegan tsoureki. If you’ve never used it before, aquafaba is the canning liquid that comes in a can of chickpeas. It can do many of the things that egg whites do: you can beat it into stiff peaks, use it in meringues, and use it to replace eggs in vegan baking.

I always whisk my aquafaba lightly before adding it to batter or dough. Also, it’s important to use aquafaba that comes from a can of unsalted or lightly salted chickpeas. Otherwise, it’ll be too salty to work neutrally in the recipe.

Instant yeast

Instant yeast is my go-to for all bread baking. I use it in my classic white sandwich bread, my easy multigrain bread, and my maple oatmeal bread.

My instant yeast of choice is from SAF, and I buy it in 1-lb pouches. If you only have regular yeast at home, that’s OK! You can still use it in this recipe. But you will need to activate it first. You can use the instructions in the recipe card notes to do that.

Cane sugar

Cane sugar provides light sweetness to this gently sweet, fragrant vegan tsoureki.

All-purpose flour

I use my go-to baking flour, King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose, in the vegan tsoureki. You can use another unbleached, all-purpose flour, but I don’t recommend a whole grain flour for the recipe.

At some point I’d love to make a successful vegan + gluten-free version, but I haven’t had a chance to test that yet. Stay tuned!

Kosher salt

I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, which is my go-to cooking salt, in the bread. It’s OK to use a fine sea salt instead, but if you do that, you can reduce the amount of salt that you use by half.

Mahleb

Mahleb (or mahlepi) is made from the ground seeds of a particular cherry species. It’s a tough flavor to describe—faintly sweet and aromatic—but once you smell it, you’ll connect it right away to the characteristic smell of tsoureki bread. It can be purchased online or through specialty Greek markets.

You can substitute the mahleb with 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Mastic

Mastic is also known as “tears of Chios,” and it’s actually a resin produced by the mastic tree. I use a small pinch in my tsoureki, as it’s a traditional ingredient, but I don’t use more than that. Mastic definitely has a bitter flavor! If you don’t have mastic at home (and most of us don’t), it’s fine to omit.

How long will it take to make vegan tsoureki?

You should count on the process of making vegan tsoureki to take about three and a half hours, give or take. You’ll need about 15 minutes to make the dough, 1-2 hours for the bulk rise, 45-75 minutes to proof, and about 40 minutes of baking time.

Storage & freezing

You can store tsoureki at room temperature for up to three days. I always wrap mine in saran wrap or keep it in an airtight container; I think it retains a nice, moist texture this way.

If you like, you can freeze the cooked vegan tsoureki for up to 4 weeks.

A close up, overhead image of a deep brown, baked and braided loaf of bread. It has been topped with sesame seeds.
An overhead image of a braided vegan Tsoureki sweet bread, which has been sliced on top of white parchment paper.
5 from 5 votes

Vegan Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter (60 g; substitute melted coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup oat, soy, almond, or cashew milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons aquafaba, lightly beaten (60 g)
  • 4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (480 g)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (15 g; see notes for using active yeast instead)
  • 6 tablespoons cane sugar (75 g)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (4 g)
  • 1 teaspoon ground mahleb (substitute 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mastic (optional)

For decoration

  • 1 tablespoon oat, soy, almond or cashew milk
  • 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Melt your butter in a small saucepan. Add the non-dairy milk and water, then return the saucepan to low heat. Heat the liquid to 100-115F (or until it's hot to the touch when you dip your pinkie finger in, but not painful).
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, mahlep, and mastic.
  • Add the aquafaba to your liquid mixture, stir, and then add this liquid to your dry ingredients. Use a spatula to mix until a sticky dough ball forms.
  • Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10-14 minutes, or until your dough is smooth and pliable. If it's very sticky as you knead, you can add a little extra flour to your surface, but try not to add a lot. This is a sticky dough in general, so use a bench scraper to help you as you knead. Alternately, you can mix your dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add your liquid ingredients, and knead on medium high in the stand mixer for about 6-7 minutes. Once again, the dough is ready when it's smooth and supple.
  • Transfer the dough to an oiled bucket or bowl and turn once to coat. Cover and allow the dough to rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size (this will depend on the temperature in your home).
  • Preheat your oven to 350F. Transfer the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and cut it into three even pieces (they'll be about 285-300 g each). Roll these into strands 19-20 inches long. Arrange the strands lengthwise on a rectangle of parchment. The short edge of the parchment (and ends of the strands) should be facing you. Braid the strands into a 3 strand plait, tucking in the ends after you're finished. Transfer the parchment to a baking sheet. Allow the tsoureki to proof for 45-75 minutes, or until puffy. When you poke it gently with your finger, it should spring back, but slowly.
  • When the dough has finished proofing, combine the non-dairy milk and agave or maple syrup in a small bowl. Brush the dough with this vegan version of an egg wash. Transfer the dough to your oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the dough from the oven and brush it with another layer of the egg wash, then sprinkle it with sesame seeds. Return it to the oven in a rotated position (so that it bakes evenly), and then bake it for another 20-30 minutes, till deep golden brown throughout (a probe thermometer should read at least 190F in the center of the bread). Allow it to cool on a cooling rack before slicing and serving.

Notes

If you’re using regular yeast, rather than instant yeast: warm the non-dairy milk and water to 110-115F, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the sugar (the rest of the sugar can be mixed into the dry ingredients). Sprinkle your yeast on top. When the yeast is foamy (5-10 minutes), melt your butter and stir it into the liquid mixture, along with the aquafaba. Proceed with the recipe.
If you don’t have canned chickpeas for aquafaba, you can use 1/4 cup applesauce or mashed ripe banana.
An overhead photo of torn, tender vegan Tsoureki bread, which is decorated with sesame seeds and resting on white parchment.

Baking this bread always brings me back to childhood. It evokes memories of cracking hard boiled, red-dyed eggs with my Yaya. I can almost hear her jubilant cries of “Christos Anesti!” and “Alithos Anesti!”

I hope it will bring up a similarly happy, hopeful, and celebratory memory for you.

Happy Greek Easter to all who celebrate. Χριστός Ανέστη! And I’ll see you later this week.

xo

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Recipe Rating




    17 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    Came out perfect. During Greek Easter we had a taste test and this one held its own. No one could tell it was vegan. Bravo!

  2. 5 stars
    I have never made tsoureki before in my life. This was the recipe I used to make my first. I was so worried but WOW, this turned out amazing. My mum loved it and my dad even said it was the best tsoureki he’s ever had.

    As a bonus: We’re all excited to have found the perfect vegan egg wash, one that actually works! Mum was over the moon!

    THANK YOU for this recipe! It’s amazing!

  3. 5 stars
    Hi! Do you think I could use bread flour? Or is all purpose flour better? So excited to make this!

  4. thank you for this. it reminds me of the Easter bread I used to have as a child.I enjoyed reading about your family traditions. Like you I too have many childhood memories surrounding holidays, although my family is Italian. I too try to keep our traditions going. I have just finished braiding the dough and am waiting for it to proof. I cant wait to see how it comes out.
    Thanks again for sharing

  5. Hi! This recipe looks great and I’d love to make it for my yaya&pappou who are not totally on board with the vegan thing! How long does this stay fresh?

    • Hooray! Hope they love it 🙂

      You can wrap it in plastic wrap or put it into a paper bag and store at room temperature for up to 2-3 days. If you plan to stretch the leftovers longer than that, you can freeze it in slices.

  6. Wow, the inside of that bread looks gorgeous and very reminiscent of challah, like you said. I really enjoyed reading about your family traditions around Greek Easter and tsoureki. It’s all new to me, and you really took me there with your descriptions. I’m glad you found a way to celebrate the holiday in a way that was meaningful, even during these strange times.

    • This is such a nice comment, Cadry. I don’t write about my cultural upbringing often, so it’s been meaningful and nice to share, especially at this difficult moment. I hope you are keeping safe and well!

  7. alithos anesti! i commented in instagram that i treid koulourakia for the first time. it’s so funny, my mom sent me this blog post this morning lol. i told her i’ve been following her for years! i’m not that tied to the religious aspect of easter but the greek cultural/food traditions are string. and i was surprised how much it effected me that i wouldn’t be with my family. my non-greek husband has been around for 25 years so he knows them all too. my husband an daughter are vegetarian, so we played the egg game but it was weird with just 3 of us. then we had some spanakopita and a vegan take on avgolemono.no tsoureki this year but you can bet i’ll make this a few times before next easter so i can be sure to get it right!

  8. My mom uses a similar recipe for her bread. It is almost the same except it’s not vegan. I have always loved it but could never make it myself. So it will be fun giving this a try. Thank you for sharing 🙂