Tsoureki bread is a delicious soft semi-sweet bread similar to brioche and challah. The Greek holiday bread usually made for Easter and Christmas is a delicacy enjoyed year-round.

If you love this Tsoureki Bread-The Greek Brioche, you will also love this Tsoureki French Toast, Rustic Bread with Olive Oil or Greek Pita Bread!

Two loaves of Tsoureki, greek brioche bread on a cloth towel on a cutting board.

Why this recipe sings

This recipe is my grandmother’s Evgenia. My aunt and godmother Kaitie and grandma Evgenia would wake up at the crack of dawn to prepare tsoureki bread. They would tirelessly knead by hand the dough, prove, braid, prove again and produce 5-6 amazing tsoureki loaves. It was an event that all the grandchildren looked forward to.

Tsoureki gets its unique flavor from mastic and mahlepi.

Two loaves of Tsoureki, greek brioche bread on a cloth towel on a cutting board.

What is mastic?

Mastiha (as we call it in Greece), or mastic, is a resin derived from the Pistacia lentiscus, the mastiha tree. It is a predecessor of modern-day chewing gum. It has a sweet, herbal, satisfying flavor slightly similar to rosewater. Mastiha comes from the island of Chios, the mastiha tree was discovered there in 1822. It is harvested from July to October in a procedure that takes the sap out of the tree.

Mastiha is used in various ways, from bread to dessert to liqueurs. 

It reminds everyone of their childhood. A very popular sweet treat is a ypovrichio (Greek for submarine). Matsiha mixed with glucose and sugar forms a sticky thick cream (sort of like a marshmallow texture). A spoonful of this white cream dipped in a cold glass of water makes a super sweet treat licked for hours by children like a lollipop.

You can find whole or ground Mastiha tears in Greek food shops and online at Amazon and www.titanfoods.com.

What is mahlepi

Mahlepi (Mahleb) is a spice made from the black cherry stone(Prunus mahaleb). It is used ground in small quantities to sharpen sweet foods and cakes. The flavor is similar to bitter almonds, cherry, and marzipan.

You can find whole or ground Mahlepi in Greek and Middle Eastern food shops and online at Amazon and www.titanfoods.com.

Here is what you need

  • Strong bread flour. The ideal flour is the one with high protein content, close to 13%, with lots of gluten.
  • Medium-sized eggs.
  • Yeast. You can use fresh yeast or active dry yeast.
  • Butter. Traditionally the recipe has equal parts of cow’s milk butter and goat butter. Any good quality non-salted butter will do well.
  • Whole milk, sugar and a little salt(not shown).
  • Mastiha and mahlepi. You can get the tears and whole kernels and ground them using a pestle and mortar or opt for the ground versions available in shops. Shopping info is included in the post and also in the recipe notes.

One more ingredient that makes this recipe unique is anise seeds.

  • Grandma liked to steep anise seeds in hot water for 15 minutes, remove the seeds and wet her hands in the cooled-down anise tea while kneading the tsoureki. That is a tradition that I am honoring in this recipe. The anise tea gives a lovely faint aroma to this bread. You can find anise seeds at your local supermarket or online.

How to make tsoureki bread

Boil two cups of water. Add the anise seeds and let them steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove the seeds and let anise tea cool down.

Warm up the milk.

Add the yeast to the lukewarm milk and leave it for 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve, and leave it for another 5-6 minutes to expand and foam.

Add 200 gr warm water to the yeast mixture and stir to combine.

A mixer beating dough.

In a bowl, mix the flour with the mahlep, mastic, sugar, and salt.

Put ⅓ of the flour mix in the mixer.

Beat for half a minute to combine.

Add the butter, eggs, and yeast mixture. Beat for 3-5 minutes while adding the flour little by little.

The dough will be sticky.

Hands bathing in anise seed tea next to a dough on a butcher block.
Hands kneeing dough on a butcher block.

Remove dough from the mixer on a working surface.

If you need to, use very little flour on the work surface and knead, wetting your hands occasionally with the anise tea until the dough becomes soft and elastic and does not stick to your hands.

A hand punching dough in a bowl.

Move the dough to a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a towel, and place it in a warm place to do the first proof. (I use my microwave oven over the stove; the light under it keeps the oven at a perfect temperature for proofing).

The dough is ready when doubled.

Punch it lightly and transfer it to your working space. Knead the dough for 2-3 more minutes.

Divide dough into three equal pieces. Cover the two with a towel and set them aside.

Three long pieces of dough on a butcher block.
Three long pieces of dough braided on a butcher block.

With your dough create three long pieces. Braid them into a loaf. Set on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Two braided loaves of tsoureki Greek holiday bread.

Repeat the same process with the other two pieces to create three loaves total.

Transfer to a warm place, cover with plastic and a towel, and let them prove for a second time. When the loaves have doubled in size, they are ready.

A red brush brushing egg wash on Tsoureki.

Beat an egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle almond slices on top.

Bake in 390°F / 200° C for 15-20 minutes tops.

Don’t overbake!

Detailed measurements and instructions can be found on the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Two loaves of Tsoureki, greek brioche bread on a cloth towel on a cutting board.

Tsoureki variations

  • Tsoureki bread made for Greek Easter can be decorated with red eggs.
  • For Christmas, tsoureki is sometimes decorated with whole walnuts, sesame seeds, and slivered almonds. The dough may include a combination of raisins, dried fruit, orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, mastic resin, and mahlepi.
  • For New Year’s Eve, it is baked in a round shape and has a coin hidden inside. We call it Vasilopita. On New Year’s Day, Vasilopita is cut in pieces, and the person who gets the secret coin is considered lucky for the whole year.
Two loaves of Tsoureki, greek brioche bread on a cloth towel on a cutting board.

How to eat tsoureki

Enjoying a piece of tsoureki or smothered with butter and honey is always a treat. I love Nutella on a tsoureki slice!

Tsoureki is great dipped in coffee in the morning for breakfast. When I make French toast with tsoureki, it comes out so good and slightly lighter than regular French toast.

Two pieces of Tsoureki, Greek brioche one with honey and the other with Nutella on a plate with a knife, at the back a Tsoureki loaf.

You may also like

Check out my Greek pantry staples 

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Two loaves of Tsoureki, greek brioche bread on a cloth towel on a cutting board.

Tsoureki Bread-The Greek Brioche

by Jenny | The Greek Foodie
Tsoureki the Greek holiday bread is usually made on Easter or Christmas, it is a delicacy that can be enjoyed year-round.
4.94 from 15 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Proving time 3 hours
Course Dessert, Holidays
Cuisine Greek
Servings 25 slices
Calories 320 kcal

Equipment

  • Rimmed baking sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • Mixer (hand mixer or tabletop) with a dough hook

Ingredients
  

  • 1200 gr bread flour
  • 80 gr fresh yeast or 3 envelopes of active dry yeast
  • 70 gr cow's milk butter soft, room temperature
  • 70 gr goat butter soft, room temperature
  • 320 gr sugar
  • 200 gr whole milk warm at 40°C or 104°F
  • 6 eggs
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons mahlep Check recipe notes for resources.
  • 1 teaspoons mastic Check recipe notes for resources.

To make the for kneading

  • ½ cup anise seeds Check recipe notes for resources.

for the egg wash

  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

topping

  • ½ cup blanched almonds thinly sliced

Instructions
 

Make the anise seed tea

  • Boil 2 cups of water. Add the anise seeds and let them steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove the seeds and let anise tea cool down.

Prepare the yeast

  • Warm up the milk up to 40°C / 104° F.
    Add the yeast in the lukewarm milk and leave it for 10 minutes, stir it to dissolve, and leave it for another 5-6 minutes to expand and foam.
    Add 200 gr warm water to the yeast mixture and stir to combine.

Prepare the dough

  • Mix the flour with the mahlep, mastic, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Put ⅓ of the flour mix in the mixer. Beat for half a minute to combine. Add the soft butter, eggs, and yeast mixture. Beat for 3-5 minutes while adding the flour little by little. The dough will be sticky.
  • Remove dough from the mixer on a working surface.
    Using very little flour if you need to, knead, wetting your hands from time to time with the anise tea, until dough becomes soft and elastic and does not stick to your hands.

First rise

  • Move dough to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel, and place in a warm place to do the first rise*.
  • The dough is ready when it is double the size. Punch it lightly to deflate and transfer it to your working space.
    Knead the dough for 2-3 more minutes.
    Divide dough into three equal pieces. Cover the two with a towel and set them aside.
  • With your dough create three long pieces.
    Braid them into a loaf. Move loaf on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
  • Repeat the same process with the other two pieces to create three loaves total.

Second rise

  • Transfer to a warm place, cover with plastic and a towel and let them prove for a second time. When the loaves are doubled in size they are ready.

Bake

  • Beat an egg with a tablespoon of water.
    Brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle almond slices on top.
    Bake in a 390°F / 200° C for 15-20 minutes tops. Don't overbake!

Notes

I use my microwave oven over the stove to let my dough rest, the light under it keeps it at a perfect temperature for proofing.
Product Resources
Mastiha tears can be purchased whole or ground in Greek food shops and online at Amazon and www.titanfoods.com.
Mahlepi can be found whole or ground in Greek and Middle Eastern food shops and online at Amazon and www.titanfoods.com.
Anise seeds are available at local supermarkets and grocery stores as well as online.
 
 
Nutritional Info – Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided is only an estimate and can vary based on the products used.

Nutrition

Calories: 320kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 9gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 126mgPotassium: 181mgFiber: 2gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 235IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 62mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @thegreekfoodie__ or tag #thegreekfoodie__
Tsoureki Bread-The Greek Brioche

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Recipe Rating




27 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe! Will surely have this again! It’s really easy to make and it tasted so delicious! Highly recommended!

  2. 5 stars
    We love brioche so much and haven’t had it in quite some time, so this would be perfect to make up for all those days we haven’t eaten it! Thank you for sharing this recipe, I cant wait to make this!

      1. 4 stars
        As a baker/pastry chef these doughs are my absolute favorite. Silly smooth, not sticky, fluffy and just the right amount of sweet. Last week I did a Mazanec with sourdough starter (Czech Easter Bread) which has a very similar dough.Love it.

  3. 5 stars
    This is probably one of the best and most authentic bread recipes I have come across. The use of mahlepi and mastic is absolutely delicious. The texture of the bread is just out of this world!

  4. Hi!
    Lovely recipe, but you never mention when to add the mastic or mahlepi. Should it go in with the other dry ingredients, into the flour mixture?

    Also, is should the butter be cold, room temp or melted?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi James

      Thank you for letting me know. I edited the copy of the recipe recently and missed those two key points. The mastic and mahlepi go in with the flour. The butter is room temperature, soft but not melted.

      Thanks again, hope the tsoureki comes out amazing! x Jenny

  5. 5 stars
    MANY, MANY THANKS TO YOU!
    I have been living in Greece and successfully experimenting with Greek cuisine for a while now, but tsoureki was the one thing my Greek partner adores that I didn’t manage to get right…Enter YOUR RECIPE, he was almost in tears over how good this tsoureki was! Thanks tons for the tips and recipe!