Sweet Portuguese Bread Recipe

This sweet Portuguese bread recipe is great for those times you want a soft, light bread for sandwiches. It’s a sweet, enriched bread with a special punch of 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 my orange zest French toast or French toast waffles!

This recipe is adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart using ingredients we commonly have in the house. The first time I made this Portuguese bread, I made the mistake of thinking that a recipe with 3 and a half cups of flour would make a single sandwich loaf.

a loaf of sweet Portuguese bread with several slices and a bread knife on a cutting board

That resulted in the below.

An oversized loaf of sweet Portuguese bread next to a baking ruler

And, yes, that is my baking ruler. A friend gave it to me years ago because I’m an infectious disease specialist who focuses on HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Unfortunately, she doesn’t remember where she bought it, because many people have asked.

Now I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Tips and tricks for this recipe

The panels below show the process steps for making this sweet bread.

Panel 1 is the starter and Panel 2 after adding the other ingredients on top. Panel 3 is what the dough looks like when the starter starts to bubble through after an hour or two.

an image of the bread starter
an image of the other ingredients added on top of the Portuguese sweet bread starter
an image of the mixing bowl with the starter bubbling through

Panel 4 shows the dough after kneading and before the first rise, and the next shows the bread after that first rise.

the portuguese sweet bread before its first rise
the portuguese sweet bread after its first rise

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’s the difference between sweet bread and sweetbreads?

Sweetbreads are a totally different thing – 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.

What is enriched dough?

Enriched doughs have added butter, eggs, and/or milk. Other examples of enriched breads are brioche, challah, and Japanese milk bread. Note that this is different than enriched flour, which has added vitamins and minerals.

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.

Sweet Portuguese bread recipe

Servings 32 slices
Calories 81kcal
Author uglyducklingbakery


  • Two 9" by 5" loaf pans



  • ½ cup (62 grams or 2.2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water


  • 3 cup (375 grams or 13.2 ounces) bread flour plus more as needed
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered milk
  • zest of one small orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • 4 tablespoons (57 grams or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Mix the sponge ingredients in the bowl of your mixer.
    1/2 cup (62 grams or 2.2 ounces) bread flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoon instant yeast, 1 cup warm water
  • 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 to 2 hours, until the sponge is starting to bubble through.
    3 cup (375 grams or 13.2 ounces) bread flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 cup powdered milk, zest of one small orange, zest of one lemon
  • Mix at low speed, adding the butter and then the eggs and vanilla and then the salt.
    4 tablespoons (57 grams or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, 2 eggs, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon salt
  • When the dough comes together, knead in the mixer for 10 to 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 and shape into loaves in buttered 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pans or, per the original, into boules in two oiled 9 inch pie or cake pans. P
  • 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 to 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.


This recipe really makes two loaves. If you don’t believe me, see above for my mistake when I first made the original recipe.
If you don’t have two loaf pans, you can make this Portuguese sweet bread recipe as round boules in cake pans.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 81kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 81mg | Potassium: 39mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 68IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg

What’s next?

If you make this Portuguese sweet bread recipe, please leave a rating or comment here. Or share a pic with me on Instagram!

Check out other breads for sandwiches like this Russian rye bread or turn a Japanese milk bread recipe into a rainbow or a cow pattern!

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a slice of Portuguese sweet bread showing the crumb

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