Butternut Squash and Sage Challah

By Shannon Sarna

If butternut squash challah sounds a bit bizarre, it’s actually quite similar to a pumpkin or sweet potato challah, which may be more common. The texture of this dough is smooth, slightly sweet and pairs perfectly with savory sage. It is equally delicious slathered in butter for breakfast or dipped in a hearty bowl of soup or stew for lunch or dinner.


¼ cup vegetable oil

5-6 fresh sage leaves

1½ tablespoons dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1¼ cups lukewarm water

5½-6 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (I prefer to use King Arthur)

¾ cup sugar

½ tablespoon salt

½ cup butternut squash puree (fresh or frozen)

2 eggs

2 egg yolks plus 1 teaspoon water

Additional fresh sage leaves for garnish

Thick sea salt


Place vegetable oil and fresh sage leaves in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Heat through until sage becomes fragrant, around 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit 25-30 minutes. Strain sage leaves but do not discard. Finely chop leaves.

In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1½ cups flour, salt, butternut squash and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil and chopped sage leaves. Mix thoroughly.

Add another 1 cup of flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.

Add an additional 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic. You can do this in a bowl with a wooden spoon, in a stand mixer with the dough attachment or, once the dough becomes pliable enough, on a floured work surface with the heels of your hands. Dough will be done when it bounces back to the touch, is smooth without clumps and is almost shiny.

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least around 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 45-60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.

In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 teaspoon water.

Brush egg wash liberally over challah.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh sage and thick sea salt.

If making one large challah, bake around 27-28 minutes; if making 2 smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes. 

Yield: 2 large loaves