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Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs

Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs
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Celebrate Easter with a traditional recipe for Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs. It makes for a beautiful (and delicious!) Easter table centerpiece.

Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs is a traditional Easter bread dish featuring sweetened bread dough shaped into a wreath with colored Easter eggs tucked into it before baking. While still edible, the placement of the dyed eggs in the bread is symbolic rather than culinary. Eggs are a common Easter symbol, not only for their popular use in egg hunts, but more directly for their historical association with fertility and re-birth. Easter celebrates Jesus rising from the dead, and thus, the egg and Easter have been firmly linked.

Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Italian Easter Bread with Dyed eggs is both a beautiful and delicious table centerpiece.

Eggs were also originally forbidden during Lent (the 40 days before Easter), so when the big day came perhaps it was time to enjoy them again with gusto.

My family is Italian Catholic on my maternal grandfather’s side, and while I spent many Easters wriggling on a pew in church before visiting my Great Grammy in Everett, MA with my sisters and cousins, where we lined up for the obligatory douse of Grammy’s holy water, I don’t remember ever having Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs.

Me, my cousins Jaime and Mark, and sister Courtney at Great Grammy's on Easter in the late 80's. Me, my cousins Jaime and Mark, and sister Courtney at Great Grammy’s on Easter in the late 80’s.

Surely I would have remembered a sweet, braided bread with dyed Easter eggs snuggled down inside, right?

After years of admiring Italian Easter Bread when it showed up in the food world each spring, I finally decided to make my own.

The dough is a basic sweet yeast dough, and once it was set to rise I got out my hard-boiled eggs. I hadn’t dyed Easter eggs since the early 90s, but unlike so many other things from childhood, the process is pretty much exactly the same today. Wanting my eggs to look like authentic birds’ eggs, I tried to get them the perfect shade of pale turquoise.

Then, I mixed a bit of brown gel food coloring with water and got out a fresh toothbrush. By dipping the head of the toothbrush into the dye and then running my thumb over it, I was able to “spray” speckles of brown onto the eggs. I practiced first onto a paper towel and suggest you do the same.

Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Food coloring and a toothbrush help create an authentic speckle to dyed eggs.

Once the dough was ready, chopped almonds and candied fruit (or raisins) were kneaded in. I had a surplus of golden raisins on hand, so that’s what I used. Then it was cut in half, and each half rolled out into a long, thin rope. The fruit and nuts made this a little tricky by forming air pockets inside the dough ropes, but with a little firm coaxing they were long enough. After wrapping the two ropes together and forming a wreath, the strands were separated enough to nestle a dyed egg firmly between them.

After twisting the strands together, gently separate and insert eggs.
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
After twisting the strands together, gently separate and insert eggs.

You can use our recipe for sweet yeasted bread at the end of this post, or substitute your own favorite sweet dough or challah recipe.

Beautiful baked Easter bread with dyed eggs!
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Beautiful baked Easter bread with dyed eggs!

Out of the oven the bread will fill your kitchen with the intoxicating smell of sweet homemade bread. Unfortunately, the egg dye bled in the oven, but since there was nothing I could do about it I just tried to draw the eye elsewhere by using a liberal hand with the glaze and sprinkles that are optional (but strongly encouraged) on Italian Easter Bread. Just keep the glaze off the eggs.

A sugary glaze and colored sprinkles make things even more festive.
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
A sugary glaze and colored sprinkles make things even more festive.

This bread makes a gorgeous Easter centerpiece, and is a holiday tradition for many families. Yes, it’s a little unusual to stick hard-boiled eggs into your bread before baking it, and then pry them out the next day to make egg salad for lunch (like I did), but it sure is fun.

And the final result was also delicious. Sweet and light with just enough almond and raisin filling to make it special. Why not make Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs this year and add a new tradition to your Easter table?

Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Sweet and dense Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs!

Have you ever made Italian Easter Bread?

Get the Recipe:
Click to view and print the recipe for Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs

Aimee Seavey


Aimee Seavey


As Yankee's Digital Editor, Aimee manages, produces, and promotes content for Yankee's digital and social media initiatives. A lifelong New Englander, she loves history and a good Massachusetts South Shore bar pizza.
Updated Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

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19 Responses to Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs

  1. Jackie Keech March 4, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    In the LaBella family, the Italian, or perhaps Sicilian Easter bread design was done two ways: like small purses, or baskets for the girls complete with twisted dough handle and a colored egg on the purse covered with a lattice pocket.
    Boys were given a rooster shape dough with the egg under an attached wing.

    I never did make a decent dough but they were beautiful to look at. Perhaps I should try again

  2. Rosemary Royko Rosella March 26, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    This bread brings back such wonderful memories, Each good friday in our Italian household my nuna would make the dough 25lbs. of flour at a time oh it was so much fun I would help her do it and let me tell you we did it all by hand. her hands were so big, all her recips read 2 handfulls of this and that. so one day my aunt had to measure her hands so we knew what to mix. what fun w had. her breads look like yours and were so delisious. Then on saturday my dad and I would deliver them to all the family members. What a wonderful up bringing we had. They are all gone now and I try to keep up the triduction and make breads and give it to friends, just not the same but it makes me fill good. so here goes another year of wonderful memories and hopefully good bread.

  3. Jennifer April 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Those eggs are beautiful! Is it really just brown food coloring, though? The flecks appear to be more of a shimmery gold. I’d love to recreate them!

    • Aimee Seavey April 8, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Jennifer! It was just brown food coloring – maybe the way the sun was hitting it in the photos made it look a little shimmery? If you want, you could always play around with some of that edible gold dust that’s on the market these days. Thanks for your comment!

  4. ARTHUR R DETORE April 16, 2014 at 10:29 am #


    • Aimee Seavey April 16, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      Hello Mr. Detore. I’m so glad to hear that you have fond memories of making Italian Easter Bread! No doubt your fellow soldiers also appreciated it each year. :) My grandfather Albert Generazzo’s mother Mary Dolaser was from Saugus before moving to Chelsea once she married my great-grandfather, and later they ended up in Everett – I believe during the early or mid 1940’s? Maybe you’ve met a Dolaser, Generazzo, or Diorio (my grandfather’s cousins Rosemarie, Franny, and Charlie were/are the latter). It all gets a little tangled, but I’m so glad you shared a comment! Happy Easter to you!

  5. Bill Thomas April 16, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    What is the proper way to store this bread. Since it has hard boiled eggs, must it be refrigerated?

    • Aimee Seavey April 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Hi Bill. It’s best to make the bread close to when you’re going to serve it for the very reason you mentioned. If you have leftovers that need storing, I’d suggest gently removing the eggs and storing them in the fridge, while the bread can be wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in a large zip-top bag at room temperature for another day or 2.

  6. Gretchen Grey-Hatton April 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm #


    Imagine my surprise as I’m searching for Easter bread recipes to find one from a gal in my hometown! I graduated EHS in 1991. Know that your Everett connections reach beyond our small town and that your recipe will be baked in Portland, OR this year; thanks for your post!

  7. Fran Norris March 27, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    I am from Chelsea, but my grandparents lived in Everett. My father had a pharmacy on Ferry St in Everett for years. I went to Our Lady of Grace School and got married at Our Lady of Grace Church in 1970.
    So amazing to see your blog. I am putting a family recipe book together and remember my grandmother making these, but she made them into baskets with handles on them. Unfortunately my grandparents and both my parents are no longer with us, so I have been busy seeking recipes from cousins and the internet.
    Thanks. I am living in Illinois, just outside of Chicago.
    Happy Easter!

    • Donna Sasser D'Addario March 27, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

      Aimee, Wow I was searching for Italian Sweet Bread with Boiled Eggs and I came across your recipe! Boy did this bring a smile to my face. I always made them with my grandmother and we made Pizzelles too. My grandmother bought me one for First Communion…. My grandparents were from Pearl Street in Everett. I lived in Revere and graduated RHS in 1972. I can’t wait to try your recipe. Thank you for a walk down memory lane! Happy Ester.

  8. Ilia March 29, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    This recipe is Greek :/ Come on, Italians, don’t do that. First you took elements frm the French WHO set the basis for modern sweets and now you imitate the Greeks? Why?

    • Aimee Seavey March 30, 2015 at 10:31 am #

      Hi Ilia. You’re right that many cultures besides Italian include special breads in their religious ceremonies and holidays. You can usually tell a Greek Easter bread by the eggs, which are almost always dyed a deep and brilliant red. In its entry on Easter, The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink makes note of a growing interest in “traditional Easter meals from such Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox strongholds as Italy, Poland, Ukraine, and Greece,” and that “common to all of these menus are massive, yeasted enriched cakes and breads.” Thanks for your comment and Happy Easter!

    • Benay Varellas March 23, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

      Ilia, I am full blood Italian and my husband is full blooded Greek and my kids are half and half. I’m going to be 63 years old this year and since I was a baby, my Italian family has been making this bread. In addition, I’ve had Greeks in my life for 47 years and I know the Greeks like to think they invented everything, but they didn’t. And like Aimee says, and as you are fully aware, your Easter Bread is with the deep red eggs and our bread is with the colorful eggs. Give other cultures some credit too!!!!

  9. Sabina J. March 29, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    I have a family recipe for Italian Easter bread and we use 5 raw colored eggs nestled in our bread. The eggs represent the 5 wounds of Jesus and the raw eggs cook in the bread as it bakes. Just another tradition I’m trying to keep alive.

  10. Jessica Wagner April 2, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

    Can you put applesaugs instead of eggs in the easter bread

    • Aimee Seavey April 3, 2015 at 9:52 am #

      Hi Jessica. I wouldn’t recommend it. In recipes where eggs are mostly used as a binder (like in quickbread and brownies), applesauce can be a healthy substitute, but it gets a lot trickier with sandwich/yeast breads or recipes where the egg is used as a leavening agent or for flavor. I’ve heard of some people using flax seed in this case, but I’m not sure how. Give it a Google!

  11. carolyn caarson February 28, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

    I remember my grandmother making this bread every Easter. After she made the dough, and placed the eggs , she put the whole thing in a dark closet for a day so the dough would rise well. <:)

  12. Sue March 19, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    My mom makes Easter bread every Easter. She always makes one with white raisins and one without to satisfy all family members. She never used real eggs but uses jelly beans and icing to decorate. Easter breakfast is always Easter bread and hard boiled Easter eggs
    I am going to try to make this year!

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