Rosh Hashanah Challah, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

We eat traditional foods on Rosh Hashanah – challah dipped in honey (symbolizing the hope for a sweet new year) and desserts made with honey and fruit, like apples and pomegranates. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year begins at the end of this month.

Update: For those needing a challah with more than 50% oat flour see the recipe in the post Rosh Hashanah Oat Challah.

When I was a kid, Rosh Hashanah food shopping was like a treasure hunt. My favorite adventure was going to Snowflake Bakery to collect a holiday challah and honey cake. The line went out the door and down the sidewalk. The entire east side of the city came to get their holiday challah – baked in a circle rather than the traditional braided loaf.  The circle, an important symbol for the holiday represents the cycle of life. Read more about that here.

It is tough being a Celiac or gluten intolerant on such a significant holiday.  There are few resources for gluten-free baked goods that are made for Rosh Hashanah.  Luckily it is easy to make these goodies at home.

These next few weeks the GF Canteen will bring you recipes for GF Challah, Honey Cake, Apple Honey Upside Down Cake, Kichel and Pomegranate Apple Fig Tart.  Each recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free and easy to prepare.

Of course, you don’t need to save the recipes for a Jewish Holiday.  Challah is a wonderful egg bread, like brioche and can be used for making fabulous GF french toast or bread pudding.  The honey cake is a change from other quick breads, and it makes fantastic GF Madeleine cookies.  Apple Honey Upside Down Cake and Apple Fig Tart are great autumn desserts.  Because we bake by weight, you can make them just as easily with AP flour.  There’s something for everyone.

Our challah recipe is adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook here. If you are not familiar with Joan’s work, you should be. Her books are an important part of our cooking library. On Facebook there is a group led by Joan called Jewish Cooking – a very useful resource. The method for preparing the challah is similar to the one we used for making the GF Canteen English Muffins here.

There are some things you will encounter when making the challah.  Like most GF bread the dough is more like a batter, a very sticky, tacky and slightly annoying batter because it will not just slide off the sides of bowl without help, nor will it pour into the baking pan. Smooth it out using a spatula coated in cooking spray when pushing it into the baking pan.

Coating it with the egg wash during the final rise helps create the familiar challah crust which is neither crusty, nor thick.  Challah has a thin, mostly shiny egg crust.   You can abbreviate the recipe and bake it after only one rise by starting  it out in the bread pan, but it won’t have that fully developed yeast flavor that you want in the final product.  It is worth the time to do the two-rise method for this bread – GF bread needs all the help it can get.

Happy baking and L’shana tova!

Challah, Gluten Free
Although the GF Canteen generally bakes without the addition of x-gums, this recipe requires it. We tested it several times and the only way the bread came out close to tasting and looking like Challah was with a little bit of x-gum. Helpful hint: let the bread rise in the oven with the light on (no heat) along with a pan of very warm water. The higher humidity helps the dough/batter rise and not dry out. Begin baking with the pan of hot water in the oven and remove it about ten minutes before the bread is done. The humidity helps keep the crust from forming too prematurely and keeps the inside of the bread a little more moist.
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) warm water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 454 grams GF flour (this is the best mix for this recipe: 151 grams superfine brown rice flour, 101 grams superfine white rice flour, 202 grams tapioca flour) (about 3.5 cups total) (1.25 cups brown, .75 cup white rice, 1.5 cups tapioca)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • scant 1.5 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 4 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks, room temperature plus 1 whole egg for brushing before baking
  • 60 grams (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • white sesame seeds or poppy seeds for the topping
  1. Mix yeast with the warm water and sugar and proof about 5-10 minutes until really foamy. Add honey to the (foamy) yeast mixture and stir thoroughly. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, weigh the flours together. Add the salt and xanthan gum and mix on low for about 15 seconds.
  3. Mix 4 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks with the oil and vanilla, if using, in a small container. Add both the yeast mixture and egg mixture to the large bowl with the flour. Mix on low until the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Mix on medium high for 2 minutes. Scrape down sides - mix another minute. The batter will be very sticky at this point. Scrape the dough/batter into the center and place a greased (use spray or oil) parchment pape directly on the dough to cover during the first rise. Let the dough/batter rise for about two hours in a warm spot or until doubled. Punch down and mix again on medium speed for another two minutes.
  4. Place dough/batter in a well sprayed or oiled 9 inch round cake pan or tube cake pan (for this holiday, a round pan is important). Mix 1 egg with a splash of water and brush on the dough liberally. Let dough/batter rise uncovered until doubled.
  5. Preheat oven to 375. Brush dough/batter (gently - you don't want to deflate it) liberally with egg wash and cover with your choice of seeds. Bake 30 minutes until bread sounds hollow and top is golden brown. The internal temperature should be about 200F degrees.
  6. Remove bread from the pan - place on a rack and cool completely.
Make sure you cool it on a rack completely before wrapping and storing the bread or it will end up soggy. You can refresh the bread by heating it in a 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes before serving.

If you want to bake the bread as loaves (other than at Rosh Hashanah) use two 8.5x4 inch loaf pans and be sure to spray or oil them generously. Let rise until they are almost to the top and bake according to the directions - adjusting baking time to account for a smaller pan.



  1. Yay, I am so excited to have these recipes that are gluten free and dairy free! Looks like there will be lots of baking and talking in my house over the next few weeks. 🙂 Thank you, thank you!

  2. Looks tasty, the bread is to die for 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  3. This bread looks absolutely beautiful!

  4. My father’s birthday is coming soon, and I’ll definitely make this bread for him. I’m going to cross my fingers, because I’m generally not good at GF baking. It’s worth a shot though, since all of the ingredients I can have. Thank you for posting this.

  5. Beautiful looking challah you made!
    Have a wonderful new year !

  6. Oh goodness, this is brilliant. I am so happy to have a gluten-free recipe for Challah. I am often invited to Shabbat dinner and usually bring a piece of gluten-free bread from home. My Jewish friends are beyond accommodating but the bread is tough. By the way I am a beekeeper and my favorite fall activity includes harvesting honey for my friends celebrating Rosh Hashanah

  7. GlutenFreeCanteen says:

    Rachel – anytime, sweetie! Your grandma would be proud of you.

    Megan – thank you so much.

    Stephanie – Hope your dad has a great birthday.

    Winnie – thank you and happy new year to you.

    Cari – (swoon). I love beekeepers! I love to buy honey from small producers and it always makes a difference in whatever we are baking! Your friend are lucky ducks. Hope you love the bread, dipped in honey, of course.

  8. Any possibilities of using gf oat flour instead? Or it won’t work?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Michelle. Yes, you could use some GF oat flour. Keep the ratio of flour to starch the same. We didn’t use oat flour for 2 reasons. First, some Celiacs don’t tolerate gf oat flour and it isn’t available worldwide (or considered GF everywhere). And second, the crumb of an egg bread would be lighter with the blend of flours and starch we listed. If you use oat flour, expect for the bread to be a bit more dense and have a thicker crust – but it should still taste great. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi, I am finally going to get this made for this coming Friday! Can’t wait to give it a whirl. Is tapiocia flour the same as starch?

  10. Tried this bread today, and it is GREAT!! Very thankful to have found this recipe!

  11. Hey there I just did a google search and found this recipe here! Someone asked me for a gluten free Challah recipe and I posted the link in one of my comments. Just thought I’d say hi and let you know!

  12. Fabulous recipe! I made it and my husband said it actually tasted like bread, unlike my earlier gf challah attempts. I used egg replacer, and it still worked. I was wondering if anyone has converted the flour measurement to cups?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Helen and good to know about the egg replacer.

  13. Yaffa Smolensky says:

    Can you provide the equivalent cup measures for the various flours used in the GF bread receipe. It would be very helpful.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Yaffa. I’ve updated the post with that information, but please keep in mind that the recipe was developed using weights and it might not work as well with volume measures. Be sure to read the page “about flours” to know more about the flours/weights/volumes we use in our recipes (it will give you base information for volume measures). Our flours are all from Authentic Foods. Hope that helps.

  14. for those who care , even though you can call it challah, unless you use oat flour , you don’t make a motzei on it – the blessing of HaMotzei lechem min ha’aretz are on breads made from wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oats – oats are really the only GF one if you’re careful to make the correct blessing – if the bread is made from rice flour , the blessing is different…

  15. I am excited to try this recipe this weekend! Can you give a ballpark of how long it takes the dough to double (in step 4)?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Amy – it really depends on the dough and the environment – can take anywhere from one hour to two most typically. Just an FYI – this recipe is updated in our new book. And we have 5 challah recipes in the book, everything from a quick version to braided.

  16. Hi! More questions from Sweden :-). Now I have the brown and white rice flower but I haven’t found tapioca flour in any shop so I’ll have to order on Internet. Since I’m baking for tomorrow, can you recommend any substitute? I have a variety of flour (11 not 17 lol) for example corn starch, corn flour and potato starch. Also, about the yeast, are you using dry yeast? I’m defenatly going to order your book!
    Thank you for all your help!

  17. Hi– very excited to bake this tomorrow. Is the baking time any different using the 9 inch round pan vs. tube pan?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Michelle – should be the same but best bet is make sure you take it out when the internal temp reaches 200 degrees.

  18. Hi! Just found this recipe. Has anyone tried making this in a bread machine?

  19. How is this Challah bread if it does not come from one of the grains? This one is good for everyday, but not for Hamotzi. I can imagine it makes for a nice Gluten-Free bread, but not a Challah. Maybe Oat Flour would be best since it is listed as one of the five grains for the sake of Shabbat… but I will try baking this as a standard loaf of bread.

  20. Can you add raisins to the batter without effecting the batter? Thank you Joyce

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Yes, absolutely. Fold them in before moving the dough to the pan, before it rises. I bet that will be a nice addition.

  21. Came out great tonight!!!

  22. I was so excited to see this recipe…I was not gluten free last Rosh Hashana, but then I realized……this recipe is NOT “ha’motzei” ie you can’t make the blessing for bread on it, which is very significant for an Orthodox Jew. Actually, the only GF bread that does qualify for that bracha (blessing) needs to have at least 1/2 it’s “flour” to be oat. So perhaps I’ll try it that way…thanks for the inspiration!

  23. I was wondering – in your intro you suggest rising the challah in the oven with a bowl of water and the light on but you did not mention that in your recipe instructions. Should the challah go in the oven for both rises or just one, and if only one rise then which do you recommend? Thanks!

  24. Ira E Raskin says:

    What do you suggest as a substitute for tapioca in the preparation of the challah?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Ira, you’ll have to experiment with other starches because the recipe was developed and tested using tapioca starch. But that said, I would think the better substitute between corn and potato would be potato starch (not potato flour) one for one. But keep in mind, any changes makes it a slightly different recipe. Hope that helps.

  25. Merinda says:

    Hi, would this recipe work without the Xanthan Gum?


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