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Although they’re both delicious yeast-based breads, challah and babka have very different textures and babka often contains the addition of raisins, nuts, or chocolate which add another level of sweetness. Challah is a traditional bread made from eggs, water, yeast, flour, sugar, and salt and is often braided and can be baked in varying shapes for different holidays. Challah is often served on the Jewish Sabbath and at many other holidays celebrations and the texture of the loaf is similar to an egg-based brioche. It also freezes well and is a great pick if you’re making several loaves at once and want to stock your freezer.

Babka is a yeast-based dough of Eastern European origin that is baked in a loaf pan and has swirls of chocolate or cinnamon. A cake-bread hybrid, babka has grown in popularity (it’s now available at Trader Joe’s for instance) and there are many variations. But the most popular is the twisted bread with ribbons of filling. Babka is sweet, buttery, and goes well with coffee for breakfast or dessert.

Try out these recipes for babka and challah for yourself and find out the differences between these two breads—with the aroma of fresh-baked bread filling your kitchen, you won’t be sorry.

  1. Challah


This is a classic, easy challah recipe that offers step-by-step instructional photos on how to braid challah bread. Cover with egg wash and poppy seeds or sesame seeds for an added crunch. Get our Classic Challah Recipe.

  1. Raisin-Walnut Babka

This sweet babka is packed with golden and dark raisins (soak them in warm water to make sure they’re rehydrated), toasted walnuts, and cinnamon, and topped with a cinnamon glaze. Get the Raisin-Walnut Babka recipe.

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  1. Whole Wheat Challah

Measure and Whisk

This whole wheat challah recipe adds two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten, which adds elasticity to the dough. Get the Whole Wheat Challah recipe.

  1. Challah French Toast


When you’ve mastered the art of homemade challah, you’ll need this French toast recipe to use up your day-old slices. Serve with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar. Get our Challah French Toast recipe.

  1. Chocolate Babka

David Lebovitz

This chocolate babka recipe has cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, toasted nuts, and the surprise addition of crumbled brownie bits to add an extra decadent touch of chocolate. Get the Chocolate Babka recipe.

  1. Pumpkin Spice Babka

Tasting Table

If you’re a big fan of pumpkin spiced lattes, try this pumpkin spice babka recipe with cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, brown sugar, and pumpkin puree. Get the Pumpkin Spice Babka recipe.

  1. Chocolate and Espresso Babka Muffins

The Lemon Apron

These mini babkas—baked in a muffin tin—are flavored with bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, brown sugar, dark rum, honey, ground espresso, cocoa nibs, and finely ground chocolate wafer cookies for a perfect chocolate-coffee blend. Get the Chocolate Espresso Babka Muffins recipe.

  1. Dill Pickle Challah

My Jewish Learning

If you’re looking to get creative and build on the traditional challah recipe, this rendition with pickle juice in the dough is an amazing pick for an inspired sandwich. Red pepper flakes, dill, sea salt, and minced dried garlic are added into the traditional egg wash for an extra dose of flavor. Get the Dill Pickle Challah recipe.

  1. Pistachio Babka

My Three Seasons

The filling is made with unsalted pistachios and pistachio cream, which has the same texture as Nutella, keeping the bread moist while baking. Get the Pistachio Babka recipe

Related Video: Challah Bread 

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Header image courtesy of Shutterstock and Baker by Nature.

Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC’s best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.
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