Portuguese Sweet Bread

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So many cultures have their own variation on sweet bread, and this recipe is my interpretation of 🇵🇹 Portuguese Sweet Bread (called Massa Sovada). It is fluffy, lightly sweet and incredible with ☕ coffee, with plain yogurt on the side (like we do in Bulgaria) or even made as French toast the following day. It is so delicious and incredibly easy to make. Please note that this is not a braided sweet bread. If you prefer that style, please check out my other sweet bread recipe.

Why You’ll Love Portuguese Sweet Bread

Traditional recipes like this Portuguese Sweet Bread are classics and passed down from generation to generation for good reason. They’re often so simple, use humble ingredients and tried and true techniques that, with some practice, anyone can master. I love the tender crumb of this sweet bread and the subtle 🍋 lemony sweetness.

How to Prepare Portuguese Sweet Bread

💧 Add the yeast, water and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and wait 5 minutes until the yeast activates.

🧈 Meanwhile, warm the butter and milk in a pot on low heat on the stove.

🥚 Once your yeast mixture is activated, add in avocado oil, the zest of a lemon, sugar, vanilla extract and 3 eggs.

🥛 Slowly whisk in the warm butter and milk mixture.

🌀 Add flour gradually until you reach 6 cups more or less but please look at the consistency. Once the dough pulls apart from the bowl, it’s ready.

🤲 Oil up your hands, shape the dough into a ball and then place it back in the bowl.

🥣 Now, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise at room temperature away from drafts for 2 hours.

♨️ Once risen, divide into 2 and shape each half into a ball. Place each piece of dough into a baking dish lined with parchment paper.

⏲️ Cover the sweet bread and let it rise again for another hour.

🖌️ Brush each loaf with an egg wash and add a sprinkle of sugar on top if you’d like.

🔥 Bake uncovered in a preheated 350F (175C) oven for 45 minutes or until golden.

🌡️ If you are unsure if your loaves are done, you can insert an instant-read thermometer in the center of the loaf. The bread is ready when it is 190F (88C) in the interior.

😋 Let it cool completely and enjoy!

Nonna’s Tip 🍞

You can also make one big loaf of bread as well or even small buns (or braids) too. The bake time will depend on the size of the sweet bread, so use the meat thermometer to check if it’s ready.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

Variations and Substitutions for Portuguese Sweet Bread

  1. You can absolutely use instant yeast for this Portuguese Sweet Bread and you do not need to proof it. Instant yeast does not need to be activated, simply add all of the ingredients to the mixer and begin. 
  2. You can also use fresh yeast in this recipe. I would recommend 1 tablespoon of fresh yeast. Let the dough ♨️ rise in a warm spot away from drafts. I like putting my bread, covered, in the oven with the door closed. Make sure the oven is off.
  3. You are more than welcome to knead everything by 🤲 hand if you don’t have a stand mixer, as that is the traditional way to make sweet bread.
  4. Gluten-free flour should work but I have not tried it in this recipe. If you use one, be sure to use 1-1 gluten-free baking flour.

Similar Recipes

Best Served With

  • Serve this Portuguese Sweet Bread as an after-dinner treat with coffee or tea.
  • You can serve this for breakfast with butter and jam, clotted cream, cream cheese and fresh 🍓 fruit.
  • Because this Portuguese Sweet Bread isn’t super sweet, you can absolutely also serve this with a savory lunch, with a simple 🥚 scrambled egg, my Zucchini Egg Bake or cold cuts.

Common Questions

why did my Portuguese sweet bread not rise?

Please make sure that your yeast is not expired. This recipe will not work if your yeast is not fresh. If the yeast does not foam up or activate do not proceed to the next step. You need to start that step all over.

how do i know the sweet bread is fully baked?

To make sure the loaves are cooked, insert an instant-read thermometer in the center of the loaf. The bread is ready when it is 190F (88C) in the interior.

how hot should the butter/milk mixture be?

Make sure the milk and butter are warm, not hot and not cold. Everything should be lukewarm.

my dough is really sticky, should i add more flour?

You may need to add a touch more or less of flour depending on the size of your eggs. Always add the flour in gradually until the dough pulls away from the sides. It shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry. It should be nice and tacky and smooth.

can i prepare the dough the night before i plan to bake?

If you want to prepare the dough the night before, cover it well and put it in the refrigerator for the first rise. In the morning take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, braid it and let it rise for 1 hour, then bake. 

can i freeze this portuguese sweet bread?

You can also freeze the bread once baked and cooled. Be sure to wrap it really well in plastic wrap and place it in a Ziplock bag. 

can i make this without a stand mixer?

You are more than welcome to knead everything by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer, as that is the traditional way to make Portuguese Sweet Bread.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

Portuguese Sweet Bread

This is my take on a traditional Portuguese Sweet Bread. It's simple, uses humble ingredients and tried and true techniques. I love the tender crumb of this sweet bread and the subtle lemony sweetness.
No ratings yet
Course: Bread, Dessert
Cuisine: European
Servings: 2 loaves
Author: The Modern Nonna
Prep Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients 

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup avocado oil
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

Instructions 

  • Add the first three ingredients to your stand mixer bowl and let it activate (takes around 5 min). In the meantime warm the butter and milk on the stove.
  • Make sure to restart this step if the yeast doesn't activate or foam up.
  • Once your yeast mixture is activated, you can begin adding one ingredient at a time to your mixer. Whisk in your warm butter and milk.
  • Add flour gradually until you reach approximately 6 cups, checking the consistency. The dough is ready when it pulls apart from the bowl.
  • Oil up your hands a little and shape into a ball.
  • Cover it and let it rise at room temperature, away from drafts, for 2 hours. Once it has risen, divide it into 2 equal parts and shape each part into a ball. Place each sweet bread ball into baking dishes lined with parchment paper. My baking dishes were 10 inches round, but you can use any size you have on hand.
  • Side note: you can also make one large loaf of bread or small buns (or braids) as well. The baking time will vary based on the size of the sweet bread.
  • Cover the sweet bread and let it rise again for another hour.
  • Brush each loaf with egg wash, and optionally sprinkle with sugar on top. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for 45 minutes or until golden.
  • If you are uncertain whether your loaves are done, you can use an instant-read thermometer to check the center of the loaf. The bread is ready when it reaches 190F (88C) internally.
  • If you're making one large loaf, you have to bake it for at least an hour. Let it cool completely before slicing as the bread can become dense and "wet".

Nutrition

Calories: 2766kcal, Carbohydrates: 371g, Protein: 56g, Fat: 117g, Saturated Fat: 41g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g, Monounsaturated Fat: 55g, Trans Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 464mg, Sodium: 550mg, Potassium: 757mg, Fiber: 11g, Sugar: 84g, Vitamin A: 2099IU, Vitamin C: 0.01mg, Calcium: 273mg, Iron: 19mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Bread, Dessert
Cuisine: European
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Hi! I'm Sneji. Nice to meet you!

I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on social media where I create easy home cooked meals with a modern twist. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world – my grandma’s kitchen. I lived in Greece on the Island of Crete with my parents for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5. I started to really cook and experiment with food 11 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life…

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4 Comments

  1. Beautiful color and texture, was disappointed with the flavor, wasn’t bland exactly but weak. I think with 8 cups + of ingredients, the zest of 1 lemon is quite unrealistic. I would say 2 or even 3, especially if they are small or a sprinkle of juice as well.

    1. Hi there,
      Please look at my other sweet bread recipe which may align with you more 🙂

      1. How can I add cooked whole eggs, shell on to this bread. That’s how my mother inlaw made it and I would love to make it for my husband.
        Kind regards
        Patty Medeiros

        1. Hi Pat, I have not made this recipe with a hard-boiled egg baked into the dough. However, a bit of research tells me that you should first hard-boil the eggs; then tuck or braid the boiled eggs into the dough, and then bake the bread. I’m also reading that the addition of whole eggs are meant to be symbolic; I do believe the eggs will be quite overcooked by the end of baking. If you try this variation, please let us know in the comments how it turns out.