It took months and months and a gazillion attempts but I finally succeeded in making a delicious gluten-free and vegan challah. And just in time for Rosh Hashanah which is less than 2 weeks away. Mazel Tov!
I was very excited when I came up with a recipe for vegan challah. It was light, tender and delicious. It was like getting back a beloved piece of my childhood. But it wasn’t gluten-free and I wanted to make a challah that would be good for people who are both vegan and gluten-free. I tried to just adapt my regular vegan challah recipe using gluten-free flour mixes and xanthan gum but they weren’t good. They were dry, crumbly and felt so heavy. I was almost ready to give up!
But I kept trying because my followers, my beloved V-Gang, kept asking for a recipe – whether it was for their child who was gluten-free and feeling left out at school or for a special occasion coming up like Jewish New Year. Well, my persistence paid off. This challah is perfect! I’m so glad I have the tenacity of a terrier 🙂
I will spare you the details of all my attempts but let me share some of the highlights of the lessons I learned from this:
1 – Gluten-free baking requires A LOT of extra moisture or else it gets hard and dry.
2 – There is a rule that when replacing a lot of eggs in a recipe, you shouldn’t use more than 2 methods of doing that. Yeah, I broke that rule. I replaced the 4 eggs that would be used with 3 methods that equaled replacing 6 eggs: commercial egg replacer, a flax gel (you can use chia instead) and mayonnaise. Yes, mayo – 3 Tbs. of vegan mayo replaces 1 egg.
3 – Don’t expect a gluten-free bread to taste EXACTLY like the gluten version. But this comes very close.
4 – Don’t give up! I was ready to accept my last attempt as “good enough.” I’m so glad I didn’t.
Since gluten-free bread dough is really more of a batter, you can’t braid it. If you want your challah to look like traditional challah, you need a challah mold. I got my mold on Amazon. They have various sizes to make large loaves, small loaves and rolls. Search on Amazon for the best prices. Of course, if you don’t care about what it looks like, you can bake your challah in whatever loaf pans you have.
I made this recipe to be acceptable for hamotzi, the blessing over challah, and hafrashat challah, the separating and ritual burning of a small piece of bread or “taking challah.” According to Jewish law, in order to say hamotzi or to take challah, the bread must be made from one of the five grains named in the Bible: barley, wheat, rye, oats, spelt. Challah made from other grains may be kosher but you can’t use it for these rituals. Four out of five of these grains contain gluten so that leaves us with oats. While there is no teshuva yet written, Rabbis suggest the oat flour be at a minimum of 51% of the total flour used in the bread.
Just make sure you are getting gluten-free oats – that is, oats that are grown, harvested and processed separately from wheat. And make sure the gluten-free person can tolerate oats because not all people can.
On the other hand, if you are not making this challah for religious purposes, feel free to reduce or omit the oat flour and just use the all-purpose blend. The bread would probably come out even lighter than it did with the oat flour.
Yes, I used the word “light” to describe a gluten-free bread. My vegan and gluten-free challah is soft, moist, light and tender. And it was still soft and tender the next day when it made delicious French toast (recipe to come soon). It even held together on the 3rd day when sliced thinly and put in the toaster.
I couldn’t think of a better way to begin the Jewish New Year than by saying prayers over a beautiful vegan AND gluten-free challah. I hope this recipe helps make your New Year a bit sweeter and happier. Enjoy!
Gluten-Free, Vegan Challah
GF, SF if soy-free mayo and butter is used
Makes 1 large plus 2 rolls or 3 small loaves
2 tsp. egg replacer + 6 Tbs. warm water
2 Tbs. ground flax (or chia) + 6 Tbs. warm water
2/3 cup warm water + 2 tsp. sugar + 1 ½ Tbs. or 2 packets active dry yeast
2 ¼ cups gluten-free oat flour
2 cups gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. guar gum (or xanthan gum)
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. turmeric
1 cup warm water
4 Tbs. melted vegan butter or ¼ cup oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
Non-dairy milk or oil for brushing
Sesame and/or poppy seeds
In a mug or small bowl, combine the egg replacer with warm water. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. In a 2nd mug or small bowl, combine the flax and warm water. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes a thick gel. In a 3rd bowl, combine the warm water with the sugar. Add the yeast, mix and let sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes very frothy.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, guar gum, salt and turmeric. Mix well so everything is well combined. Push the dry ingredients to the sides of the bowl to form a well.
In another bowl (yes, there are a lot of bowls to wash but not on Shabbos),mix the warm water, butter or oil and vinegar. It will look a little clumpy from the vinegar. Add these wet ingredients to the well of the dry ingredients but don’t mix yet.
To the well add the egg replacer mixture, the flax gel and the mayonnaise. Using a whisk, mix these wet ingredients in the well a bit. Lastly, add the yeast mixture to the well. Using a spatula, mix the ingredients in the well, incorporating the flour more and more until all the flour has been mixed with the wet ingredients. It will not form a dough but a very thick and sticky batter. You can mix it with your hand but wet your hand first.
When the batter is thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Put the bowl in a warm area and allow it to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. While you’re waiting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and oil the challah mold or baking pan.
After the hour, wet your hand and mix the batter again for a minute. It will deflate. Fill the mold or pan with the batter between 1/2 and 2/3 full. This is important because the batter will rise again now and again in the oven. If you fill it higher than 2/3, it will overflow. If you have extra batter, put it in another pan to make another small loaf or in an oiled muffin tin to make little challah muffins. Cover the mold with plastic wrap and the damp towel and allow it to rise another 30 minutes or until it almost reaches the top of the mold. If you let it rise to the very top of the mold, it may overflow when it rises again in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the towel and plastic wrap and place the mold on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until the top (which is really the bottom of the loaf) is browned. Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Using potholders (the mold will be very hot), carefully turn the mold over so the challah releases and is on the parchment paper.
Brush the top of the loaf with milk or oil and sprinkle the poppy and/or sesame seeds on top. Return the challah to the oven and bake for another 30 -35 minutes or until the challah is golden brown and has a hollow sound when you thump on it. The time may vary depending on your oven and the size loaves you are making.
Let the challah cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving it to a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing or saying prayers over. Shabbat Shalom.
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.
Thank you very much for sharing this recipe. Very well written and at 1st I was nervous but it’s the 1st loaf I’ve ever baked and I’ve been vegan for 20+ years so this was very special for me. I am very thankful and relieved it went so well and your recipe was very easy to follow. I appreciate it very much.
Thanks Dayna! xxoxo
Hi Rhea, your recipe looks and sounds wonderful, but I’m wondering…is guar gum necessary or is another ingredient like chia or flax seeds useful to replace it? Do I have to follow the same principle with yeast and water as far as the waiting and rising process? Will it take more than an hour? I want to make this but I don’t have room for much error…my family is going gluten free and I need to bake a tasty healthy snack. Thank you for your help.
Hi Dayna, the guar gum or xanthan gum helps hold the bread together. I have never used chia as a gluten replacement but other people have with good success. You do still have to let the dough rise but not as long. The way I wrote the recipe is exactly the way I made it. xoxo
Thanks so much for creating this recipe and allowing me to share it in my gluten-free challah bread recipe roundup, Rhea! I know that my dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan readers will be especially grateful!
Happy New Year!
Thank you Shirley! Anytime! xoxo
My son is allergic to soy. What could be substituted for the mayo
Hi Leah, you don’t have to use mayo. You can just use whatever egg replacer you like. xoxo
If I use a gf all purpose blend that already has xantham gum as an ingredient, do I exclude the amount listed in your recipe?
Yes, if your blend has it, don’t add any more.
is there a substitution to oat flour?
Hi Ann, you can use any gluten-free flour you want. The oat flour is because in order to use a GF challah for motzi blessings, it has to be 51% oat. Oat is one of the 5 accepted grains (the others are all gluten). I have also made it with Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur Gluten-Free All Purpose Blend.
I appreciate the effort you put into this. I have a few questions.
1) I am GF and veggie, but I do eat organic eggs. How many eggs to use and what do I take out?
2) I live in Israel and blend my own flours and can’t eat oats. Can you please suggest a flour mix with proportions?
3) I don’t understand this line – 2/3 cup warm water + 2 tsp. sugar + 1 ½ Tbs. or 2 packets active dry yeast. 1 ½ Tbs of what – yeast? How many grams are there in a packet of active dry yeast?
Let me answer your questions in reverse:
3) The yeast gets mixed into warm water with sugar in it. So you put 2 tsp. of sugar into the warm water, then add the yeast. A packet of yeast has 2 1/4 tsp. in it. I don’t know how to convert it to grams but Google says 2 tsp. is equal to 9 grams so a packet of yeast must have a bit more than that. The bread requires 2 packets of yeast. My yeast is in a bag so 2 packets equals 1 1/2 Tbs. which Google says is 28 grams.
2) As I wrote in the blog post, you don’t have to use oats at all. I did to make it meet the requirements for Shabbos prayers. You can just use an all-purpose flour blend. I like Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur’s and Mrs. Glee’s.
3) I cannot give you any advice about using eggs. The “V” Word is an ethical vegan blog. Eggs are not vegan. It doesn’t matter if the eggs come from factory-farmed hens or rescued hens in a backyard. Their eggs are not ours to eat. I could no more give advice on how to cook with eggs than I could how to cook with puppies.
Thank you for comments. xoxo
I too was wondering about the eggs … I understand your stance even though I don’t agree with it and can be respectful but I don’t find your line about puppies respectful either … SIGH I would be interested in at least a link to egg vs egg replacer equivalent measurements!
Hi Holly, no disrespect ever intended but I find it disrespectful for someone to ask a vegan how to cook with eggs. I could never give advice on how to do something that leads to exploitation, suffering and death of any animal. For me, that is the equivalent of saying, “I know you don’t abuse YOUR children but could you please tell me the best way to hit mine.” We don’t have to agree but I can’t go against my ethics to give cooking advice that is so against mine. And I find it shocking that anyone would ask that whether they agree or not.
As for equivalents, there are many!!!
Most recipes say to use eggs as a binder or a leavening agent but they are not necessary for
making delicious dishes. Eggs can be easily replaced. Try any of these substitutions.
Replace 1 large egg with:
Flax gel: 1 Tbs. ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbs. warm water. Let stand until thickened.
Chia gel: 1 Tbs. chia seeds mixed with 3 Tbs. warm water. Let stand until thickened.
Tofu: 4 Tbs. pureed silken tofu mixed with 1 tsp. baking powder
Applesauce/Fruit: 4 Tbs. unsweetened apple sauce or fruit puree mixed with 1 tsp. baking powder
Egg replacer: Use an egg replacer, like Ener-G, according to the package directions
To replace 1 egg white: Mix 1 Tbs. plain agar powder into 1 Tbs. water. Beat, chill for 10
minutes, beat again.
Thank you for your feedback!
Thank you for your reply. For some reason I just got an email about it now.
I honestly didn’t know Vegans felt they way you describe. I am a vegitarian for many years for many reasons, but understand that people are different. Let’s move on…
As I said, I live in Israel and need to blend my own flours – I don’t have access to the brands you described. I use a different mixes of flours for different things, but have never made Challah.
So if you can recommend a recipe for a blend that you think will go well with your recipe, I would appreciate it.
This link may be helpful to you. I tend to like to make high-protein blends using chickpea flour, brown rice flour, sorghum flour and tapioca starch. http://marysbusykitchencom.blogspot.com/2012/06/homemade-gluten-free-flour-combinations.html
I am a little confused with your directions here: “In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, guar gum, salt and turmeric. Mix well so everything is well combined.”–the sugar in the ingredients has already been accounted for with the yeast, unless I am mis-reading something?
AACK! You’re right. I left out the sugar. It’s 1/4 cup of sugar. Sorry! Thank you so much for catching that. I’m fixing it now!
Können sie das Rezept auf deutsch schreiben?
Es ist ein Übersetzer Taste am unteren Rand der Homepage. Klicken Sie auf Ihrer Startseite Flagge und wird die Website in Ihrer Sprache.
Meagan, this is the gluten vegan challah recipe: http://thevword.net/2013/02/vegan-challah/
Looks amazing! I’m so impressed that you committed yourself to making this! On that note, would I be able to simply use spelt flour instead of using guar gum? I live outside of the US and things like that can be tricky to find and expensive. Besides I’m not gluten intolerant, nor is anyone I know.
Meagan, if you’re not gluten intolerant, why not make the vegan challah recipe that uses regular flour? Then you don’t need guar gum or xanthan gum.
Hi Meagan, I am interested in the “spelt flour instead of using guar gum” part of you comment. I’m not a fan of unhealthy guar gum of xanthan gum in any recipe. Can you please clarify if the whole flour component has to be substituted with spelt flour in order to omit the guar gum/xanthan gum or only the 1 tablespoon guar gum/xanthan gum?
Merinda, if you use spelt flour, you don’t need any gums because spelt flour has gluten. The gums are to replace gluten when you use gluten free flours.
Melinda, if you use spelt flour, no gums are necessary. Their purpose is to replace gluten when using gluten-free flours. Since spelt has gluten, no gums are needed.