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Fluffy Whole Wheat Challah

Fluffy Whole Wheat Challah


There is a tradition in some Jewish communities to make shlissel challah the week after Passover. Shlissel means “key,” and the custom involves either baking the challah in the shape of a key, or wrapping ones real house (or business) key in foil and pressing it into the underside of the challah before baking. The key is removed before the challah is eaten, and the tradition is considered a segulah (spiritually propitious) for livelihood.

Have you made challah before? Or do you have bread-baking-phobia (not uncommon, even among seasoned cooks)? This is my sister-in-law's delicious whole wheat challah recipe. If you prefer white challah, use this recipe.

A big part of making challah is doing the mitzvah of separating challah. After the dough has risen, say the blessing, separate a small piece of dough, and set it aside to burn after the loaves have finished baking. For more about this mitzvah, and a step-by-step guide, watch this short do-it-yourself clip.

You can see in the pictures, I made two different types of challahs with the same dough. I did a traditional 3-braid challah, which I topped with sautéed onion, and I did a 6-braid challah which I egg washed for a simple, shiny finish. You can also use crushed garlic or sesame or poppy seeds. Other popular toppings include raisins, cinnamon sugar and pesto. It's up to you.

You can also see that I baked the challahs in two different kinds of pans. A cookie sheet gives the challah more space to spread out, whereas a loaf pan keeps it more contained. Again, it all comes down to personal preference.


  • 5 tsp. dry yeast
  • ½ cup sugar + 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 ½ cups warm water
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups oil
  • ½ cup honey
  • 5 tsp. salt
  • 2½ lbs. whole wheat flour
  • 2½ lbs. white bread flour
  • optional: 2 sautéed onions, and/or 1 egg, beaten


  1. Pour ½ cup warm water, 2 tbsp. sugar and the yeast into a large bowl. Set aside for 10-15 minutes until thick and bubbled. (If the mixture does not bubble, it means your yeast is probably dead and your challah will not rise, so you'll need to start over.)
  2. After the mixture has bubbled, add the eggs, oil, honey, salt and the rest of the sugar and warm water. Mix until just combined.
  3. Add the whole wheat flour first and mix well. Add the bread flour a few cups at a time and keep mixing until you have a soft ball of dough.
  4. The more you knead the dough, the better. If you're using a mixer, the machine can do the kneading for you. Just leave it turning on a low speed for 5+ minutes. If you're kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a table to counter and knead for a good 10 minutes.
  5. Put the dough in a bowl, cover tightly with saran wrap and leave to rise. You can put it in a warm place to rise for 2-2½ hours, or in the fridge overnight for a slow rise.
  6. When the dough has finished rising, do the mitzvah of separating challah. Then tip it out and divide into 5-6 pieces. Each of the pieces will become 1 challah. If the dough feels a little sticky, dust your hands with flour so you can work with it easily.
  7. Divide each piece of dough into either 3 or 6 strands (depending on whether you want to do a traditional 3-braid challah or a more complex 6-braid.) If you want to make an onion challah, rub each strand with the onion mixture before braiding. Then smear more onion mixture over the top when done. To make a plain challah, brush the top with beaten egg.
  8. Place the challahs on a pan. Use 11x17 cookie sheets (2 challahs per pan), or put them in loaf pans. Let the loaves rise for 15-20 minutes after braiding, then bake on 350°F for 45 minutes.

Freezes well.

Yields: 5-6 medium sized challahs

Miriam Szokovski is the author of the historical novel Exiled Down Under, and a member of the editorial team. She shares her love of cooking, baking and food photography on’s food blog, Cook It Kosher.
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Chani September 4, 2017

Hi Miriam, I love your blog- your writing is a pleasure, the recipes look mouthwatering,and your photography is super. I see that you are the author of 'Exiled down under'. My daughters looooved that book- are you planing to write more? I hope so-good Jewish books are needed desperately:) Reply

M New York January 26, 2017

how many cups of flour? how many cups is in 2.5 pounds of flour? This is unclear and google isn't helping. Thannks! Reply

Rivkah Tenafly January 25, 2017

I don't have a scale. How many cups = 2 1/2 lbs. of whole wheat flour and 2 1/2 cups of white flour, please? Also, can you send me a link on how to braid the dough to make 6-strand braided challa? Can you email me your response? Thanks so much! Reply

Anonymous December 29, 2016

I tried to measure out 21/2 cups of each flour how many cups is that I'm told flour doesn't measure like a liquid cup and it came out to too heavy a dough and very dry Reply

Miriam Szokovski September 5, 2016

freezing Hi Chanah - you can freeze the dough before baking. After you take it out of the freezer, you'll need to let it fully defrost and then give it time to rise as well. Reply

Chanah Nova Scotia, Canada September 2, 2016

If I freeze the dough, can I bake it later? Or should I bake it first then freeze? Reply

Miriam Szokovski August 10, 2016

water Yes, that is correct. 1/2 cup with the yeast, then the other 4 cups added later.

Thanks, Chava! Reply

Chava Kwiatkowska Latvia August 9, 2016

To Ros in Israel Hi Ros,
first, you have to mix 1/2 cup water with 2 tbsp sugar and the yeast. Then, as you are making the dough, you have to add the rest of the water (4 cups).
Best regards. Reply

Ros Israel August 9, 2016

Hi please could you help. The recipe says 5 cups of warm water yet the instructions say 2. Which one is it?? Reply

Miriam Szokovski April 20, 2015

Thank YOU! Chava - Thank you for coming back and letting me know. So glad you enjoyed the challah! Reply

Miriam Szokovski April 20, 2015

onions Hi Slova Rivka,

You can definitely cook the onions less beforehand. Some people even put them on raw and let them cook from the oven heat. you could also try moving your rack down lower in the oven if the tops are getting burned.

I hope that helps! Reply

Miriam Szokovski April 20, 2015

to elisabet I haven't tried using less honey. Let me know if you successfully reduce the amount of sweetener. The challah is not a very sweet one (1 cup of sugar/honey to 5 lbs of flour), so I think it's a matter of taste. Reply

Chavah Kwiatkowska Latvia April 19, 2015

Dear Miriam, thank you again This recipe is awesome! I made 3 whole wheat challos with sesame seed topping, and they were really tasty! Reply

Anonymous April 17, 2015

Whole Wheat White Challah is best for the honor of shabbos. I will try this recipe with white challah. Reply

Shaindy Canada April 17, 2015

For people looking to do a 6 strand challah, there are links available on youtube explaining how. Reply

slova rivka betar israel April 17, 2015

Hi Miriam!
I made the challa with the fried onions on top and it came out great!
However i fried the onions until light brown before pasting on top of the challa. After i baked the challas the onions were burnt.
Do you have any advice? (If i fry the onions less, will they be too hard?)
Slova Rivka Reply

Esther ny April 16, 2015

nice! beautiful photos, beautiful 6 braid! Reply

Elisabet Norway April 16, 2015

Looks delicious! Is it possible to swap the honey with something else? Does it make any difference if I reduce the amount of honey? I prefer not to use too much sugary products. Reply

Miriam Szokovski April 16, 2015

to kelly Hi kelly,

You can make challah right at home using this (or any other) recipe. If you want to see if there's a chabad center near you doing a challah bake, you can use our center locator here: Reply

Miriam Szokovski April 16, 2015

6 braid Hi Slova,

I found it hard to explain in text and pictures how to do the 6 braid, but there are lots of great tutorial videos on youtube which make it easier.

I hope that helps! Reply

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