Onion and Poppy Seed Filled Challahs

By Margi Lenga Kahn



1 recipe challah dough, risen at room temperature for 1½ hours, or overnight in the refrigerator (see recipe below)

4 tbsp. olive oil


2 tbsp. unsalted butter

6 medium-sized shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

Pinch of salt

5 tbsp. poppy seeds

3 tbsp. finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1 egg whisked with 1 tsp. water, for egg wash



Remove challah dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while making filling.

To make filling, warm olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add chopped shallots and onions and sauté for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent but not browned. Add a pinch of salt and poppy seeds; stir and remove pan from heat.  Let cool for 5 minutes, and then stir in Parmesan cheese. Let mixture cool until just warm to the touch- not hot!

Cut challah dough into 2 pieces; cover one piece with plastic wrap and reserve.

On a lightly floured counter, roll remaining piece of dough out into a 14×12-inch rectangle, long side facing you.  Using a dull knife, pizza wheel, or bench knife, cut dough horizontally into 3, 4-inch strips. Using a teaspoon, place a strip of onion mixture (1/6 mixture per strip) horizontally down the center of the strip, leaving a ½-inch border on each end. Fold the top portion of the strip over the onion filling to meet the other side of the strip, and pinch dough together to conceal onion filling. Turn strip seam side down. Repeat with remaining two strips.

Arrange strips, seam sides down, perpendicular to counter, next to each other. Pinch the tops of the 3 strips together and tuck them underneath. Braid as you would a 3 strand challah, keeping the seam-sides down. Pinch ends together at the bottom and tuck them underneath.

Gently lift challah onto one long side of the prepared pan. Repeat rolling, filling, and braiding using reserved portion of dough and, arrange this second challah on pan at least 1-inch apart from first challah.

Lightly cover challahs with plastic wrap and let them rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk egg with 1 tsp. water for egg wash.

Uncover challahs and brush them thoroughly, but lightly, with egg wash. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until challahs are golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.

Immediately transfer challahs from pan onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 large challahs.

Challah Dough


2 cups warm milk or water, about 110 degrees

1/3 cup granulated sugar

7 tbsp. unsalted butter or vegetable oil

2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast (or 1 package)

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

1 tsp. salt

Approximately 5-6 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour

1 tbsp. vegetable oil, for oiling bowl, and 1 tbsp. for oiling baking pans

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water for egg wash

Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)


Challah Dough

Place milk or water, sugar, and butter or oil into a large microwave-safe bowl or in a small pan.  Heat mixture until butter is almost melted. Stir and let cool 5 minutes.  (Mixture should be warm, not hot- approximately 110 degrees.)

Sprinkle yeast over mixture and stir to combine.  Allow mixture to sit 5-10 minutes, or until foamy.  Add beaten eggs, egg yolk, and salt. Mix. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and stir.  Continue adding flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough becomes too stiff to stir.  Sprinkle counter with flour and turn dough out onto counter.  Begin kneading dough, adding small handfuls of flour to keep dough from sticking.  Knead until dough is smooth and no longer sticky, approx. 10-12 minutes. 

Lightly oil bowl then add dough, turning to coat all sides of dough with oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area to rise until doubled, approximately 1 1/2 hours.  (Alternatively, dough can rise overnight in the refrigerator.)