This Russian Braided Bread is a beautiful yeast bread filled with savory pesto. Braiding creates a show-stopping loaf that looks impressive but is quite simple to put together!
Braided bread recipes come in all sorts of flavors and colors. They’re traditionally Eastern European, but you can find recipes with flavors from all over the world. While some loaves are straight and long, like Challah, others, like this recipe, are rolled into a neat circle.
I filled this braided loaf with classic basil pesto. When braided into the flakey layers of dough, pesto gives a beautiful color and delicious cheesy and herby flavor to our Russian Braided Bread.
Since I originally posted this braided pesto bread recipe, I received lots of positive feedback from all of you! I’ve updated the post and recipe to answer your most common questions.
Why Braid Bread?
Braiding brings this homemade pesto bread to the next level. Braiding creates delicate, crispy layers that turn golden brown in the oven. And under that crunchy crust are pillowy folds of flavorful dough.
While the end result is a dramatic loaf that’s sure to impress, it only looks complicated. The dough is easy to braid, and the delicious result is worth the effort.
How to Braid Russian Braided Bread?
Here’s a great video of Chef Ciril Hitz making a sweet version of Russian Braided Bread. She shows you how to easily braid your dough with step-by-step instructions.
Here’s how we do it:
First, form the quick yeast dough. We use a NutriMill stand mixer for mixing up bread doughs like this one. For this recipe, it’s best to start with the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook after adding the flour.
The dough is done when it’s smooth and satiny, but not sticky. You may need to add more or less flour, depending on how wet your dough is.
Next, roll the dough into a very thin rectangle. Then spread the dough with a thin layer of pesto or another favorite filling.
Now, roll the dough into a long, tight spiral. I find it’s easiest to get all of the dough off the counter without tearing it with a handy bench scraper. If you do a lot of home baking, this inexpensive tool is definitely worth the investment!
Finally, to braid, slice the spiral in half and arrange the two halves like an X. The ends get neatly braided, or twisted, together and wrapped into a circle to create an elegant rose shaped, pesto filled bread.
This wreath can go straight into a 9-inch springform pan for proofing. Once it’s doubled in size, the bread bakes for just 30 to 40 minutes. When it’s done, brush the crusty pesto braid with olive oil for shine and flavor.
Voila: a delicious, pesto braided bread that won’t last long! (At least, it doesn’t in my house!)
What Should I Fill my Russian Braided Bread with?
Pesto is always a crowd-pleaser at my house, especially for my grandson. He gobbled this bread up as fast as we could serve it to him and kept asking for more.
I filled my Russian Braided Bread with half an 8 oz jar of pesto. You can use more or less, depending on how strong you like the a pesto flavor.
It’s best to use a pesto that’s on the thicker side. Sauces with a lot of oil can make the dough difficult to roll and to seal closed.
Some of you had the wise idea of adding grated cheese on top of the pesto to absorb some of the liquid and give an extra cheesy flavor to your loaf.
And if you really want to amp up the cheesiness, why not sprinkle some grated parm on top of the loaf a few minutes before the bread finishes baking?
If pesto isn’t for you, there are countless other ways to fill your Russian Braided Bread. Here are some sweet and savory options to try:
- Cinnamon filling, which you can find in our Mardi Gras King Cake.
- Lemon filling, as we made for our Lemon Pull-Apart Bread.
- A savory garlic-herb braid from Taste of Home.
- A simple brushing of olive oil or melted butter and sprinkle of cheese and sea salt would also make a delicious filling!
Storing Braided Bread
This Russian Braided Bread is best eaten the day it’s baked while the crust is crispy and delicious. If your family is anything like mine, this shouldn’t be a problem!
Russian Braided Bread with Pesto Filling
- 3 – 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons 1 package instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ¼ – ½ cup pesto
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine 2 ½ cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
- Heat water and canola oil until warm (120°–130°F). Add to flour mixture. Add vinegar. Blend at low speed until well combined.
- Switch to the dough hook and mix in the remaining flour a little at a time, to make a soft dough that’s not sticky to the touch, adding more or less flour as needed. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover; let rise in warm place until almost double.
- Preheat oven to 400º F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan, and line bottom with parchment; grease paper. Place on top of a baking sheet. Set aside.
- Punch down the dough. On a floured surface, roll the dough into very thin rectangle, as thin as you can (mine was 20” x 24”). Spread a thin layer of pesto on top of the dough (leave the bottom of the long edge clear ½"). Start at the top of the long edge and slowly, tightly and gently roll the dough into a log. Pinch it closed.
- Use a bench scraper to cut the dough in half lengthwise. Cross the two halves (layers facing up) to create an X shape; braid top and bottom of dough by laying the left piece over the right keeping the cut side up, until pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch ends together.
- Start at the thinner edge and slowly and very gently, roll the braid into a giant snail shell or a very large cinnamon bun. Be careful to keep all the layers facing up. Pinch the end delicately.
- Carefully pick up the braid and place it in the prepared springform. Cover; let rise in a warm place until almost double.
- Bake at 400º for 5-10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350º and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes. When the bread is out of the oven lightly brush olive oil on top and sides. Let cool on a rack.
If you’re looking for a meal to pair with your freshly baked pesto bread, Pressure Cooker Creamy Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup from Pressure Cooking Today is the perfect complement.
Maybe this is a rhetorical question, but why is it called Russian braided bread? Is it inherently Russian? What exactly makes it different from other braided bread? I’m dying to know!
Hi Nova – unfortunately, I don’t know the history. I did a little research though and thought the history of braids in Russia was very interesting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_braid
I make this bread every Saturday. I fill it with many different fillings, from pesto, sun dried tomatoes, to chocolate, and jellies. Everyone loves it and the recipe is easy. Thank you,
That’s awesome Ambre! I love the idea of making it weekly and changing up the fillings. Thanks for sharing!
I think I have made this bread 7-8 times already! So easy to make, versatile and the result is impressing. I have tried the pesto filling (my nieces devoured one in record time) multiple times and a mixture of crushed dukkah spices, sesame seeds and olive oil. Last week, I decided to go for a sweet version. I filled the bread with sweetened chestnut cream (from a can) and sliced almonds. Even my dad, who was a Swiss pastry chef, asked for the recipe! This morning I tried another sweet filling (apple butter, maple sugar and cinnamon) and it turned out great! My partner poured maple syrup on a slice and after one bite said he loved me very much 😉 haha. For the sweet versions, I scaled the salt to 1 tsp and cooked only 5 min at 400’F and then lowered to 350’F. The sugar from the filling tends to caramelize quickly so 5 min at 400’F is enough. Thank you very much for the recipe! It has become a favorite here 🙂
Wow – such wonderful ideas! Thanks so much for sharing Marie-Eve. So fun to hear that you love the recipe and you and your family are enjoying it so much.
Mary Ann Sullivan
My friend makes this bread I am going to try it. Can you substitute for any gluten free flour?? I’m wondering if it will rise the same.
Hi Mary Ann – I’m sorry, I don’t have any experience making this bread with gluten-free flour. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes.
Thankyou so much for this beautiful bread recipe. I made it for newyears and everyone loved it. I will definitely make this again
Thanks Miichelle! Sounds like a delicious way to ring in the new year.
I tried this and the end product tasted delicious, though I had to bake it MUCH longer than the 20-30 minutes in the recipe, I think I had mine in over an hour and it still is underdone – I am not sure what the different was. I also ended up taking off the sides of my springform pan and moving the bread to the lower rack in my oven towards the end of the baking time to get the bottom of it cooked. All in all, I loved the flavors of the dough and will be making again!
Hi Kate – glad you enjoyed the bread. That is a super long cook time – was your oven preheated before you put the bread in? Does your oven often take longer to cook things? What material is your springform pan made from? I’m glad you stock with it and cooked it until it was done.
Hey Barbara, I tried your recipe and it came out perfectly❤️
I also added a generous ant of shredded mozzarella on the pesto spread before rolling and twisting
, which gave the bread an extra softness.At the end, I pinched the ends together , making it a wreath.
That sounds like a delightful addition. Thanks for sharing!
What a delicious bread, and we look forward to sharing this recipe on our blog as well!! Thanks Barbara!
I’ve made this a few times and am in love with it! Trying a chocolate walnut desert filling variation as I type. I’m so excited to see how it turns out. The technique really makes it beautiful. Thank you so much for the fantastic recipe!
Thanks Vanessa! I love the idea of a chocolate walnut variation. Share a picture with me on Instagram 🙂
Hello, can I change the canola oil for olive oil?
Hi Stephanie – yes, you can use canola oil if you prefer.
Tiffany at Weird Little French Cookie
This was glorious bread. Thanks so much for the recipe! I linked back to you – http://www.weirdlittlefrenchcookie.com/russian-braided-pesto-bread/
Thanks Tiffany – yours looks gorgeous!
Your loaf came out beautiful! I have this on its second rise now. My pesto must contain a lot more olive oil than yours did because man was that a mess trying to roll, cut and shape it. as I was gently rolling it up the pesto was squishing out ahead of the dough. If it ends up being any good I may try it again but add a layer of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to help soak up some of the oil, and even go with a much thinner layer of pesto. Even though I thought I had a really thin layer as it was.
This came out beautifully…and was so delicious. Thank you so much for sharing!
Barbara, I made this recipe and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s so easy in spite of how complicated I thought it would be. Fabulous bread!
Thanks Kelly! So glad you enjoyed it. You’re right, lots of steps but none of them are hard.
Hello Barbara ,
This was a project I did not think I could achieve. I had read some other websites but they did not give precise direction as you have, including the step by step pictures. I was able to bake my russian rose with pesto last night. It came out beautiful and tasted great. Thank you so much for sharing.
What a sweet comment! I’m so glad your bread tasted great and turned out beautifully, and that I could help. Thank you!
Could you add cheese? Would it still bake as such? This is beautiful!
Thanks Stephanie! I think you could add some Parmesan cheese to the filling, or a good melting cheese on top the last ten minutes of baking.