Ukrainian Paska

Many thanks to Ben Sollee for the use of his beautiful music in this movie.

In Ukraine, bread is the symbol of life.

It represents peace and friendship. Forgiveness and enduring memory. Since ancient times bread has been highly honored as a gift from above.

For generations, Paska has been the bread made in kitchens throughout the regions of Ukraine on Good Friday. The timing of Easter, the Christian holiday, more or less coincides with the pre-Christian ancient festival of spring called Velykden. For this reason, the celebration of Easter incorporates many ancient rituals, including the making of Paska.

A Ukrainian ethnographer, Stepan Kylymnyk, in his book Calendar Year in Ukrainian Folklore (vol. 2, 1959), described an old custom of baking three loaves. The purpose of the first was for the sun and the sky. They believed that the sun would give health and long life to their family members. The second loaf for the deceased and a third for the living people.

Loaves are often decorated, their symbolism belonging to spring themes. Nature, resurrection, and rebirth. Crosses are the most prevalent adornment for Paska, its significance in Christianity is obvious. In pre-Christian times, when people based their beliefs on nature and its phenomena, the cross symbolized the four seasons or four cardinal directions.

The bread itself is rich in butter and eggs. Round and tall, and baked in a variety of round baking pans, often in coffee cans they have saved throughout the year. While this recipe is simple, a variety of aromatics can be used…my favorite being orange zest. Also consider adding ginger, saffron, vanilla, or rum. Its texture resembles, for me, a mix between cake and bread.

While the dough rises, it is important for Ukrainians that they quiet their homes.

Right now, the United Nations estimates that over 9 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homeland because of war.

When I watch the footage emerging from these border crossings, my gaze stays longer on the images of grandmothers. Many in wheelchairs, pushed mile after mile, bundled under blankets often covered in a blanket of snow. These women should instead be covered in a dusting of flour, surrounded by family, carrying on the tradition of Paska baking this Easter season.

I believe so strongly in the power of food and its ability to connect cultures and unite us as people. The way taste and smell can make us both wistful for the past and hopeful for the future. This Spring, I’ll be foregoing my own traditions for the baking of Paska. I will quietly knead, shape, rise, and bake what so many generations of Ukrainians have passed down through the generations. Will you join me in keeping this tradition alive on their behalf this year?

This video tutorial and printable recipe are free, but my hope is that you’ll be moved to action to click the button above and donate to World Central Kitchen, a non-profit committed to providing warm meals in 12 Ukrainian cities and across the border into Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

Recipe for Ukrainian Paska Bread


  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup golden raisins, or more if you prefer


  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water


In a large bowl, mix the first 8 ingredients together. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough starts to come together. Dump this dough onto a work surface and begin to knead all of the dough ingredients. This will take some time. The dough should be stiff, but not dry. Knead until it comes together into a soft, smooth ball. The dough should not be sticky and when you poke your finger slightly into the ball of dough, the dough should come back to you.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place, free of any drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in size, which will take roughly 90 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease your cake round pan(s) and set aside. For this recipe, I used 2 – 5” pans with higher sides for rising. Alternatively, you could use a springform pan, or even the traditional use of metal cans. The sizing doesn’t matter, as long as each pan is well oiled and that your dough fills about ½ of the space within the pan.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Set aside ¼ of of it if forming braids & shapes for the top. Shape the remaining dough into a smooth ball, and place in the center of the prepared pan(s). Again, each pan should have enough dough to come up ½ of the pan of your choosing.

Cover the Paska with a towel once again and let rise for about 45 minutes, until approximately doubled in size. Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the lower-middle of the oven.

While the Paska is on its final rise, use the reserved dough for decoration by rolling portions into strands – similar to making snakes in art class as a child.  Use these strands to create braids, swirls, crosses, etc… Truly this is where you can have fun and get creative! Once your dough has completed its second rising, adhere your dough designs to your loaf by brushing egg wash onto the top of the loaf and using that egg wash as a ‘glue’ for gently sticking your dough designs on.

Brush the entire top of the loaf with egg wash, making sure to get in the cracks and crevices.

Bake times will vary depending on the pans you use. Bake until the top is a very rich golden brown and an internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pop the bread out of its pan, place on a cooling rack, and cool completely before cutting and serving. 


Watch the full movie below!

Many thanks to Ben Sollee for the use of his beautiful music in this movie.