Pumpkin Challah

Pumpkin Challah - Combine two holiday traditions for one delicious, beautiful braided treat! Perfect centerpiece for an autumn holiday table. #Thanksgiving #Sukkot #Shabbat #challah

Pumpkin Challah – Combine two holiday traditions for one delicious, beautiful braided treat! Perfect centerpiece for an autumn holiday table. #Thanksgiving #Sukkot #Shabbat #challah

With autumn upon us and squash decorating lining the aisles of the produce section, my mind keeps drifting to pumpkins… or, more specifically, to Pumpkin Challah Bread. A few months ago, Rob Eshman of the Jewish Journal’s Foodaism blog sent me his Sukkot recipe for pumpkin challah. Last week, I decided to try my own creative spin on his inspired idea. I wanted to add more sweetness and spice to the dough to give the bread a pumpkin pie essence while still retaining that wonderful eggy challah texture. I started with my standard challah recipe, added pumpkin puree, and played with the ingredients till I came up with the right balance of sugar, spice, and everything nice.


This recipe is the result of my little baking experiment. It’s sweet, but not cloying, and would make a unique and beautiful addition to the Sukkot or Thanksgiving table. It’s really tasty dipped in hot tea or cocoa, and makes a wonderfully cozy fireside snack. Top it with melty butter and honey for extra deliciousness. And here’s the best part—it makes mind-blowingly delicious Challah French Toast.

Wow. I’m making myself hungry.

For challah braiding instructions, click here. Enjoy!

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Mixing Bowls

Pastry Brush

Baking Sheet

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Pumpkin Challah - Autumn Holiday Recipe for Thanksgiving, Thanksgivukkah

Pumpkin Challah

Challah Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water, divided
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 egg (white and yolk)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
  • 7-9 cups all-purpose baking flour

Egg Wash Ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp water

You will also need

  • Large mixing bowl, whisk, kitchen towel, 2 cookie sheets, parchment paper, aluminum foil, pastry brush, timer
Total Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: 2 large challahs
Kosher Key: Pareve
  • Pour ½ cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees) into a large mixing bowl. Add 2 packets of Active Dry Yeast and 1 tbsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. If it doesn’t, your yeast may have expired, which means your bread won’t rise—go buy some fresh yeast!
  • Once your yeast has activated, add remaining ½ cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the rest of the sugar, egg, egg yolks, honey, canola oil, salt and spices. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend the ingredients together. Whisk in the brown sugar and pumpkin puree to form a thick liquid.
  • Begin adding the flour to the bowl by half-cupfuls, stirring with a large spoon each time flour is added. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead.
  • Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies—only add flour until the dough feels pliable and “right.”
  • Place a saucepan full of water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, remove the dough from your mixing bowl and wash out the bowl. Grease the bowl with canola oil. Push the dough back into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Place the bowl of dough on the middle rack of your oven. Take the saucepan full of boiling water and place it below the rack where your dough sits. Close the oven, but do not turn it on. The pan of hot water will create a warm, moist environment for your dough to rise. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
  • Take the dough bowl out and punch it down several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer.
  • Take the dough out of the oven. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky.
  • Now your dough is ready to braid. If you plan to separate and bless the challah, do it prior to braiding. Separate the dough into two equal portions; each portion of dough will be enough for a large loaf of challah. Click here to learn How to Braid Challah.
  • After you’ve braided your challah loaves, place them on two separate cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (this will catch any spills from your egg wash and keep your challah from sticking to the cookie sheet).
  • Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg yolks and water till smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the mixture onto the visible surface of your challah.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let the braids rise 30 to 45 minutes longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back.
  • The challah will need to bake for about 40 minutes total, but to get the best result the baking should be done in stages. First, set your timer to 20 minutes and put your challah in the oven.
  • After 20 minutes, take the challah out of the oven. Turn the tray around, so the opposite side is facing front, and put the tray back into the oven. Turning the tray helps your challah brown evenly—the back of the oven is usually hotter than the front.
  • The challah will need to bake for about 20 minutes longer. For this last part of the baking process, keep an eye on your challah—it may be browning faster than it’s baking. Once the challah is browned to your liking, take the tray out and tent it with foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.
  • Take the challah out of the oven. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf—if it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let challah cool on the baking sheet or a wire cooling rack before serving.
  • Pumpkin Challah - Autumn Holiday Recipe for Thanksgiving, Thanksgivukkah


Comments (198)Post a Comment

  1. Hi there!! I can’t wait to make this! I’m happy to see that people are using the bread machine for all but the braiding… Are you using 7-9 cups of flour as well??

  2. 9 cups and still sticky before first rise. Pretty humid tday in dc but its totally like the bottomless pit challah. Set to to rise and will add more if necessary later…

  3. Do you have any whole wheat challah bread recipes…I use white whole wheat, sometimes half and half. In your experience is there any way to make it raise better.

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This was amazing! Perfect and fantastic direction. My only suggestion is to proof the braided bread longer before putting gin the oven, that way the braid does not split open as much while baking. Thanks!

  5. Tori-
    I have the challah in the fridge rising overnight so I have time to ask a question 😉 I’m making rolls, not loaves-do they bake for the same amount of time? Thanks for your help…

    1. Hi Julia– rolls tend to bake faster than the braids. Keep an eye on them and tap them on the bottom for a hollow sound to test for doneness. You can also stick an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the roll– when it reads 190, it is baked all the way through.

  6. Hi Tori,

    This looks like a really nice recipe. I would like to make it for Thanksgiving, but since I have never made Challah and my baking skills are questionable I thought I would try it beforehand. If I make both loaves this week, can I freeze the other one for Thanksgiving? Will it taste ok and if so how would I defrost? Or can I freeze the dough?

    Thanks for any advice.

    1. Hi Danielle, you can bake, then freeze, or you can freeze the dough. To freeze after baking, place the bread while it’s still warm from the oven (not hot) in a plastic zipper bag. Squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag before sealing, and freeze. Defrost by placing frozen challah on a baking sheet and reheating in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until fully thawed and warmed through.

      If you want to freeze the dough and bake later, allow the dough to rise and shape into loaves. Place the braided dough in the freezer until it gets hard. Wrap it in plastic wrap in three layers, then freeze until needed (no longer than 1 month, or you risk freezer burn). When thawing, remove plastic wrap, allow to thaw/rise for 2-3 hours, then bake as directed.

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you for this great recipe! I made this last weekend, baked one loaf to try it, and froze the dough of the other loaf for Thanksgivakkah. I was thrilled at how easy (though time consuming) and tasty it was, especially since it was my first time baking bread from scratch. And yes, it made amazing French toast!

  8. “2 packages active dry yeast” – can you tell me how much in grams?

    I want to make them for Shabbat-Thanksgivukah :)
    We love you here in J-M, ISRAEL!!!

    1. Hi Lilly. My apologies, but since I don’t use a bread machine when baking challah (nor do I own one), I’m not sure how this recipe can be adapted. Without one, the recipe isn’t difficult, it just takes a bit of time.

  9. I’m moderately experienced at bread making but moved to 7200 ft a few years ago and have been reluctant to make breads since. My daughter and I are excited to try your pumpkin Challa for our special Thanksgivakkah dinner this year. Any recommendations for altering recipe for our 7200+ elevation?

  10. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I want to make this recipe into rolls for Thanksgiving. I have made it once and it was perfection, except I need a little work in the braiding/forming department; but the little rolls were great. I want to also make Pretzel Challah rolls. Question: I want to make the dough ahead and freeze it for baking later to save time. Do I let it rise once then freeze? Do I let it go thru twice, form rolls and then freeze? Help.

    1. Hi Kersteen, to freeze the rolls in advance you should allow the dough to complete the first and second rise, then shape them and wrap them in several layers of plastic and foil before putting them in the freezer. The night before you are ready to bake them, allow them to defrost and complete their final rise in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature before baking as directed.

  11. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hey tori, I made this for Sukkot and everyone loved it! Now they want me to bring it to thanksgiving. Since its a late Sukkot it seems perfect to me :) but I cannot find the honey butter recipe. I forgot how much of van. and sugar went into the butter. Can you send it to me? It was very simple but I cannot remember exact ingredients. Thanks!

  12. Hi Tori,

    Quick question about making the dough and letting it rise in the fridge overnight. I’ve done a little research and wanted to run my plan by you. I was going to make the dough, refrigerate immediately (no rise) after kneading. Next day, braid immediately, let it rise in (or on top of) warm oven for 2 hours, then bake on a silpat (no flour or oil). Is there anything you would suggest to improve this process? I read that braiding the chilled dough was easier… I’m not sure if it needs to be punched down and kneaded after it comes out of the fridge though, if you have any thoughts that would be very helpful.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Lindsay– unfortunately, as I have not tried this method, I’m not sure how well the results would turn out. Based on my own experience, the challah should complete two full rises before baking. To modify this slightly in a way that I know will work, let it complete one rise, punch it down, and refrigerate on the second rise. It will continue to rise in the fridge but more slowly, which will mean it should be ready to braid the next day. Once the dough is braided, let it rise till you stick your finger into the braid a bit and the indentation doesn’t bounce back (this can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on how cold your dough is). Let me know what you end up doing!

  13. Hi Tori – Making this for Thanksgivukah tomorrow and just wondering which of the braiding options you used in the picture of the final product. I can’t tell if it is the 4 strand or the 6 strand option. Could you let me know if you get a chance? Thanks!

  14. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori, Thank you for the reference to King Arthur site. We made the Challa reducing yeast by 25% as recommended, rising was still so quick that we baked one loaf immediately after braiding and it is the better looking loaf. To increase the flavor, also as recommended by King Arthur, we made a sponge, allowing the liquids and only 1 cup of flour to ferment for 2 hours before adding the remainder of the flour. Just in case any other high altitude folks want to give this a try. Thanks again for the recipe and advice!

  15. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori,
    I just made this for the second time and although it looks beautiful after I do the four part braid, it seems to widen and almost pull apart during baking. Am I not braiding it tight enough? It tastes delicious but doesn’t look pretty.

    1. Hi Barbara, try letting it rise for a longer period of time before putting it into the oven next time. If the braid is pulling apart it likely didn’t rise long enough before you baked it.

  16. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars

    I made this recipe this year for Gobblevah and it was a major hit! We almost didn’t have enough room for anything else because people attacked it the moment it came out of the oven during the hors d’oeurves! Thanks so much!

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made this last year for Thanksgiving, and was requested to make it again this year for Thanksgivikah. It was simply outstanding — both times. Next year I’m going to try this pumpkin dough for sufganiot, too. Thank you Tori!

  18. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made a batch of this dough and added raisins. Also made a batch of regular challah dough and added apples. Then, I braided the strands together. Can’t wait to taste!

  19. This looks awesome. Can I replace the flour with almond flour and still get a fluffy Challah. This looks amazing. I want to get rid of the cards and add protein.

    Thoughts or suggestions. Love your blog

    1. Hi Dina– I’m so sorry, but most definitely no, you cannot substitute almond flour in this recipe. I don’t really have any low carb suggestions here; challah relies strongly on gluten from wheat flour for elasticity in order to shape and braid it, and for that fluffy texture.

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