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Italian Easter Bread

Italian Easter Bread is Italy’s answer to Hot Cross Buns. Full of symbolism and tasty as well!

Whether you use multi-colored eggs, red eggs or uncolored eggs, this bread will be the crowning of your Easter table.

Italian Easter bread served on a wooden board and a slice on a white plate.
Italian Easter bread ready to eat! Yum.

Why you will love this recipe!

It this is your first time making bread or using yeast, you won’t find this Italian Easter Bread too difficult but you may be surprised at how much the dough will expand! Yeasted doughs are really not that hard but just take time. One of the easiest yeasted doughs to make is Ligurian focaccia which is a flat Italian bread very much like pizza dough in texture and style.

An Italian Easter table wouldn’t be complete without an Italian Pie and a Pastiera. You’ll love these recipes as much as this sweet Easter Bread.

What does Italian Easter Bread symbolize?

This traditional Italian Easter bread is particularly significant in a few ways. Firstly, three strands of dough are plaited, symbolising the Holy Trinity. Then the ring symbolises the crown of thorns which Jesus was forced to wear. Finally, the eggs represent both the five wounds inflicted on Jesus Christ and also new life and rebirth.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredient notes

Ingredients required for the recipe prepared on a wooden cutting board.
  • Strong Bread Flour – This is easily purchased at most supermarkets. Strong bread flour is made for “hard” wheat varieties and contains more gluten. Gluten is important in baking with yeast because it creates the elasticity in the dough and gives structure and strength to the bread when baking.
  • Sugar – I like to use white superfine sugar but regular sugar is fine.
  • Candied Orange – Use candied orange slices or candied peel. If you
  • Instant Yeast – I happened to have instant yeast so that what I used but active dry yeast would be fine. My soft, cream filled Maritozzi are made with active dry yeast and the only thing I would say is to be sure that any yeast you use hasn’t expired.
  • Anise Seeds – Sometimes anise seeds are available at supermarkets. Otherwise you may need to find these at a speciality store. These give a slight liquorice flavor. It’s quite subtle but you can add more if you like a stronger flavor.
  • Milk – Whole milk is best but often I only have 2% and that works well too.
  • Eggs – I like free range eggs but use whatever you prefer.
  • Unsalted Butter – Unsalted is best because you can control how much salt is added to the bread.

Plus salt which is very important for all yeasted doughs and must not be omitted. Salt helps control the rise and is very important in making bread taste good.


You may not have these exact ingredients but you still want to make Italian Easter Bread. The ingredients in this sweet bread are traditional but you can vary some ingredients according to what you have in the kitchen and your tastes. Here’s a few options:-

  • Plain, all purpose flour or 00 flour can be substituted for the strong bread flour. Don’t use cake flour. It won’t make good bread.
  • Substitute finely grated rind of one orange for the candied peel.
  • Ground anise seeds can be used instead of grinding your own.
  • If you don’t like the liquorice taste of anise, substitute 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or any other ground spice that you like.
  • Active, dried yeast can be used instead of instant yeast. Simply dissolve in the tepid milk and allow to stand for 5 minutes to activate.
  • If you only have salted butter, use that. Reduce the salt by half.


Vary this bread with a few additions to make this recipe your own.

  • add chocolate chips or chopped chocolate to the dough.
  • dried fruit such as raisins, currants or apricots are delicious additions
  • vary the spices – try mixed spice, cardamom or cinnamon
  • make two smaller loaves.
  • or make four or six small sweet breads. Put one egg in the middle of each small bread.

How to make colored eggs.

Blue colored egg on a spoon suspended over a white bowl filled with blue liquid and a second egg.

Use raw eggs for this bread. The eggs will cook in the oven just like hard boiled eggs. Color two eggs red, blue and green and one of yellow in the following method.

  1. For each color – spoon two teaspoons of white vinegar and 20 or 30 drops of food coloring into a small bowl.
  2. Add one cup of hot water from the kitchen tap.
  3. Carefully place the desired number of eggs into the colored hot water without cracking or breaking the eggs.
  4. Spoon colored water over the eggs and move them around in the water until colored which should only take 5 minutes.
  5. Set on paper towels to dry.
  6. Allow eggs to dry for one hour.

This method is also perfect to color hard boiled eggs for Easter baskets or gifts.


This is meant to be a  sticky dough. Using a stand mixer makes it easier to mix.

Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.

Four steps showing how to make the recipe.
  1. With the dough hook attachment on the stand mixer, combine on low speed 4 cups flour, sugar, orange peel, instant dried yeast, ground anise seeds, salt, milk and eggs. Add butter a bit at a time. Add more flour if needed to form a not too sticky dough
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to dough rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into three equal portions. Roll out each into a long (about 24in/60cm) rope.
  4. Plait the dough.
  5. Carefully twist into a ring, join the ends and place onto a lined baking sheet. Allow to rise.
  6. Brush with egg wash.
  7. Push the eggs onto the dough and bake.

Drizzle cooled Easter sweet bread with icing and scatter with colored sprinkles to decorate.

Three step to shaping and finishing this recipe.

Instructions without a stand mixer

To make this dough without a stand mixer:-

  1. Mix the ingredients in step 2 in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon using ALL the flour stated in the recipe.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured board.
  3. Using a dough scraper or a flat stiff spatula, scrape up the dough and turn it onto itself.
  4. Every now and then pick up the dough and slap it down.
  5. Continue this kneading style for 8-10 minutes.
  6. Return the dough to a clean bowl and proceed with step 4.

Tips for Success and FAQ’s

Baked bread in ring shape, decorated with dyed eggs and drizzle of icing, viewed from above.
Can Italian Easter bread be frozen?

While homemade bread is best eaten the day they are made or shortly after, leftovers can be frozen. This makes a BIG loaf so unless you have lots of hungry mouths to feed you may have leftovers.
Before freezing, remove any remaining hard boiled eggs and use for egg sandwiches or egg salad. Wrap the bread well in two layers of plastic wrap before place in a sealed airtight container or clip-seal bag.
I like to slice any remaining bread before freezing. This is convenient when you just want one or two slices. I love to toast a couple of slices straight out of the freezer for breakfast.

Can I make this recipe in advance?

This sweet Easter Bread is best eaten on the day of baking. However, that would be hard to do if you have lots of other food to prepared. In that case, bake in the afternoon the day before. When cool, put in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, allow the bread to come to room temperature while still in the airtight container so that the icing doesn’t sweat.
Before serving, slices can be warmed in a microwave oven for a few seconds, eg 2 slices for 30 seconds on high. Alternatively, leave uniced and refrigerate as above. The next day, wrap in foil and warm in a 300F°/150C°oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.

Related recipes

A close up of the completed recipe served on a wooden board

Easter Egg Nests
Marshmallow Bunnies
Malted Chocolate Easter Cake
Sugar-Free Salted Caramel Cheesecake Easter eggs from Mad Creations Hub

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This updated recipe was first published on 1 April, 2013 using all red eggs.

close up of baked sweet bread decorated with red, blue, yellow and green eggs and drizzle of icing and a few slice cut to show inside of bread. At the rear is two slice of the bread on a white plate. Viewed from front

Italian Easter Bread Recipe

This Italian Easter Bread is Italy's answer to Hot Cross Buns. Full of symbolism and tasty as well! Whether you use multi-colored eggs, red eggs or uncolored eggs, this bread will be the crowning of your Easter table
5 from 70 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rising time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings:20 servings
Author: Marcellina


  • 4 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup superfine white sugar
  • cup finely chopped candied orange peel
  • 2 ½ teaspoons instant dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds (or more according to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • cups whole milk
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

Egg wash

  • 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons water

Dyed eggs

  • 5 eggs
  • food coloring
  • 8 teaspoon white vinegar

To decorate

  • colored sprinkles


  • Grind anise seeds with mortar and pestle as finely as you can. Warm milk until just tepid.
  • Place 4 cups flour, sugar, orange peel, instant dried yeast, anise seeds and salt into bowl of stand mixer. Attach the dough hook. Add in the milk and eggs into the mixer. Turn the mixer on slowly. When the dough comes together add the butter, one tablespoon at a time until well incorporated. If the dough is very sticky add more of the additional flour. Knead until smooth and elastic. Remove the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
  • Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into three equal portions. Roll out each into a long (about 24in/60cm) rope.
  • Plait and carefully twist into a ring, join the ends and place on a tray lined with non-stick parchment paper.
  • In the meantime preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
  • Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until double again which should only take about 30 minutes.
  • When risen, brush with egg wash.
  • Arrange the eggs on the dough and push in slightly.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes until well browned and cooked through. Cool on a rack.

Make icing

  • Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl.
  • Whisk together the powdered sugar with lemon juice and enough water to make a runny icing.
  • Drizzle icing over the bread but not on the eggs. Scatter with colored sprinkles

How to color eggs

  • Color two eggs of red, blue and green and one of yellow in the following method.
  • For each color – spoon two teaspoons of white vinegar and 20 or 30 drops of food coloring into a small bowl.
  • Add one cup of hot water from the kitchen tap.
  • Carefully place desired number of eggs into the colored hot water.
  • Spoon colored water over the eggs and move them around in the water until colored which should only take 5 minutes.
  • Set on paper towels to dry.
  • Allow to dry for one hour before use.


You can eat the eggs as they will be cooked along with the dough. Naturally don’t leave them sitting out with in the dough for hours and then expect them to still be good. You can remove the eggs and refrigerate then place them back in for serving. 
This bread was based on this Easter Bread by the Italian Dish but also various other sources.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 134mg | Potassium: 89mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 262IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I made your ricotta cavatelli and I must say they are the BEST I ever ate (and I am 81 years old!) Please keep your delicious recipes coming. My husband has already placed an order for his birthday for your cannoli cake. It is in September, but I may try it sooner. I wish I could find a good recipe for lard bread. Thank you for all your efforts.

    1. Thank you Phyllis! That is such a wonderful compliment. The cannoli cake is a perfect birthday cake and I’m sure you’re husband will love it. I’ve never made lard bread but I do some research on it. Thank you for your support!

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you sooo much for this recipe! The taste is wonderful! I used a bread machine, and it was very easy. Of course, it didn’t look as nice as your picture, but I will keep practicing – Happy Easter!

    1. Angela, I’m so happy to hear of your success! It’s a BIG loaf so it takes carefully manoeuvring and probably really requires extra hands to help out. Happy Easter to you and your loved ones xx

  3. Oh, this is gorgeous! I have long wanted to make Easter bread, but never had the nerve to try it. Thanks for this wonderful tutorial.

  4. You did a wonderful job with your bread. It is festive and looks perfectly prepared. I hope you had a fabulous holiday. Blessings…Mary

  5. Lovely post about the true significance of Easter, Marcellina. I think I will give this a try next Easter. I tried hot cross buns for the first time this year (haven't posted about it yet!) and will never buy shop-bought again!