A Sweet Portuguese Bread Recipe

A Sweet Portuguese Bread Recipe

There are some times I want a soft, light bread for our sandwiches, and this sweet Portuguese bread recipe satisfies that want. It’s a sweet, enriched bread with great flavor from the citrus zest and vanilla extract.

It might not stand out in a steak sandwich, but it does great with turkey and cheese, cream cheese and jelly, and, of course, peanut butter and jelly. And there’s no better use for this bread when stale than French toast or French toast waffles!

This recipe is adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart so I could use ingredients we commonly have in the house. The first time I made this Portuguese bread, I made the mistake of thinking that a ~3 1/2 cup of flour recipe would make a single sandwich loaf. Resulting in this:

a mega loaf of Portuguese sweet bread standing over 6" high as measured compared to a penis shaped ruler

(In case you were wondering, the ruler was a gift, and it serves perfectly as my baking ruler.).

Now I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Steps to the breadmaking

1: the starter
2: the other ingredients on top
3: what it looks like when the starter starts to bubble through

a mixing bowl with the sweet Portuguese bread starter
a mixing bowl showing the rest of the bread ingredients on top
the mixing bowl showing what it looks like when the starter is bubbling through the rest of the bread ingredients

4: post-kneading, pre-rise #1
5: post-rise #1

a mixing bowl with the ball of unrisen dough
the mixing bowl with the dough having risen to double its original size

FAQs about this sweet Portuguese bread recipe

Is this the same as Hawaiian sweet bread?

They are definitely related. Sweet bread was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the 1800s.

What are sweetbreads, exactly?

A totally different thing. It’s the thymus and sometimes the pancreas. It’s usually from a young animal because, I’m guessing, the thymus (an organ of the immune system) undergoes involution and decreases in size in animals just like it does in humans.

Isn’t Portuguese sweet bread made with a hard boiled egg?

It can be. And if you can look online you can see links to a springtime pagan festival called eostre that became the basis for Easter. But that’s too much for me to get into here.

Can I freeze this bread?

Yes, if you end up with more bread than you are likely to eat before it goes stale, I slice the loaf and then store it in freezer bags with all of the air removed.

Portuguese bread

Author uglyducklingbakery



  • ½ cup bread flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water


  • 3 cup bread flour more as needed
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered milk
  • zest of one small orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Mix the sponge ingredients in the bowl of your mixer.
  • Top with the dry ingredients for the dough (flour, sugar, milk powder, zests), cover with plastic wrap, and let the bowl sit at warm room temperature for 1-2 hours, until the sponge is starting to bubble through.
  • Mix at low speed, adding the butter and then the eggs and vanilla and then the salt.
  • When the dough comes together, knead in the mixer for 10-12 minutes. The final dough should be supple and soft and not wet or sticky.
  • Oil the bowl and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size (about 2 hours)
  • Punch down and divide into two equal pieces (see my prior mistake!) and shape into loaves in buttered 9×5 loaf pans or, per the original, into boules in two oiled 9 in pie or cake pans.
  • Proof at warm room temperature until doubled in size. For loaves, they will reach about an inch or so above the loaf pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 50-60 min until the internal temperature reaches 190°F. Check for burning after 30 minutes and cover loosely with foil if the tops are getting too brown too quickly.

Next steps:

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a close up shot of a slice of Portuguese sweet bread

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