The World’s Best Breads (and How to Make Them)
Breadmaking is one of the oldest traditions in the world. In fact, many historians believe that bread has been around for over 30,000 years. And while there are breads in almost every single culture, some deserve more attention than others. After all: "Good bread requires great technique and understanding of the dough, but most importantly patience," says Chef Johnson Yu, bread coordinator and chief instructor at the International Culinary Center.
In a world where traditional ways of cooking are making a comeback, why not give a shoutout to good, old bread? Take a tour of the best breads around the world, while also learning where to get them in the U.S. and how to make them.
Pão de Queijo: Brazil
With a name like pão de queijo, which literally translates to “cheese bread” in Portuguese, it’s easy to see why this bread is one of the world’s best.
Pão de queijo is a snack from Brazil made with tapioca flour and cheese. It’s a breakfast staple in that you’ll want to eat every morning once you try it for the first time.
Where to Find It: Regina’s Farm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Did you know that the largest concentration of Brazilians outside of Brazil is in the United States? There are approximately 1.1 million Brazilians living in the U.S., with the biggest population in Florida. So, if you want solid Brazilian food, Miami seems like the best place to start.
The pão de queijo at Regina’s Farm is hot, doughy, cheesy and among the most authentic you can find.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Simply Recipes.
Bagels: New York
You can make a case for bagels from other countries (Canada, for example), but when stacked up to the real deal, nothing comes even close to the ones in New York City (and I'm not just saying this because I'm a New Yorker).
The mystery behind why New York bagels are the best is rumored to be because of the water in the city, which has low concentrations of calcium and magnesium said to make the dough soft and fluffy. According to Chef Yu, the boiling process is what gives the bagel its distinct chewy, leathery crust.
Where to Find It: Absolute Bagels in New York City, New York
The debate for which restaurant has the best bagels in New York is heated — in fact, it can cause rifts between families. There are devoted camps to the many bagel shops, but one that can't be denied is Absolute Bagels in Morningside Heights.
The boiled, handmade bagels are iconic and often draw a line on weekends — but they’re completely worth the wait.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Sophisticated Gourmet.
Throw a baguette in a bicycle basket, and you're good for the day. The quintessential "eat and run" food from France, the baguette is so common that you’re likely to see people snacking on it as they walk.
It's certainly an icon of the country, so much so that it has earned UNESCO status.
Where to Find It: La Boulangerie in New Orleans, Louisiana
One of the largest areas in the United States with French influence is, undeniably, Louisiana. There is no shortage of great French-inspired eateries across the Crescent City.
But to grab a crunchy, flakey, doughy baguette, give La Boulangerie a shot. While you're at it, stock up on a few croissants and a quiche as well — you won’t regret it.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Baking a Moment.
Also known as roti, chapati bread is one of the main breads that come from India. This light, airy, flaky bread is a thin pancake of whole-grain, unleavened bread that is cooked on a griddle.
It's the perfect vehicle for eating hearty curries or chutney and can even be used to make sandwich wraps — though, of course, that's a more modern-day use.
Where to Find It: Moti Mahal Delux in New York City, New York
Immigrants from India make up about 230,000 of the residents of New York City, so you know that you'll be finding fantastic Indian food within the five boroughs.
For some of the best chapati (or roti), visit Moti Mahal Delux, a high-end chain restaurant that has more than 100 locations across India, Nepal and London.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from AllRecipes.
Indigenous to Jamaica, bammy bread comes from cassava. Cassava is a starchy root vegetable similar to yuca. To make bammy bread, the root has to first be grated and processed because cassava produces naturally occurring cyanide and cannot be eaten raw.
After it's been processed, the pulp is pressed into metal rings and baked on a griddle over an open flame. When it's ready to eat, it's usually served alongside fresh fish.
Where to Find It: Negril Village in New York City, New York
Tuck into a full Jamaican breakfast at Negril Village in New York.
With it comes all the trimmings: ackee and sailfish, fried dumpling, plantains and a side of bammy.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from The Girl Cooks Healthy.
From tacos to enchiladas to chilaquiles, there cannot be Mexican food without tortillas. More important than any other starch in Mexican culture, tortillas are the fabric of Mexican cooking.
Traditionally made with corn (though you can also prepare them with flour), these griddled flatbreads have been made for more than 2,000 years by indigenous Mexican tribes like the Aztecs and Mayans. They are simple, flavorful and vitally important to traditional Mexican cuisine.
Where to Find It: La Azteca Tortilleria in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles County has the highest population of Mexican immigrants in the United States, so if you're looking for the best tortillas, this would certainly be the place to start.
You can find great Mexican restaurants anywhere in the county, but for perfect tortillas try La Azteca Tortilleria, an old school tortilleria in East L.A.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Confetti & Bliss for flour tortillas and this recipe from Isabel Eats for corn tortillas.
This traditional Norwegian flatbread is soft and doughy, typically made with potatoes and cooked on a large griddle. It's almost like a Norwegian crepe or a Finnish pancake. And just like a crepe you can go sweet or savory.
Common toppings include cinnamon and sugar or beef and mustard. The lefse is then rolled up with all the ingredients in the same way as a hand-held burrito.
Where to Find It: Ingebretsen’s in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Looking for all things Scandinavian? Look no further than Minnesota, and Minneapolis in particular.
Here, Ingebretsen's is known for its menu of Scandinavian treats, among them the freshly baked breads.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Lefse Time.
Another staple to Indian cooking, naan bread is doughy and delicious, especially when served piping hot with drips of clarified butter (or ghee). The wheat-based bread is specially baked in a tandoori oven and goes perfectly alongside most Indian dishes.
The word “naan” just means bread in the original Persian language, and while it is most popular in India, it is also served in other Central and Southern Asian countries.
Where to Find It: Indian Accent in New York City, New York
It's not difficult to find delicious naan across the U.S., but some of the most interesting can be found at Indian Accent in New York.
Here, the fluffy, doughy, buttery breads are served alongside experimental Indian food, like Assamese pork dumplings, tandoori trout, ghee roast lamb and more.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Gimme Some Oven.
This Venezuelan "hot pocket" snack is made from soft corn cake that resembles thick tortillas. The best part? They are stuffed with a seemingly endless combination of tasty things, like meat, cheese and vegetables.
You can also enjoy them plain as a side to a meal or slathered in butter for a hearty breakfast on the go.
Where to Find It: Saman Arepas Bistro in Miami, Florida
Since 1977, Saman Arepas Bistro in Doral, Florida (home to one of the highest populations of Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S.), has been doling out succulent, savory, stuffed arepas.
Favorites continue to be the churrasco, filled with steak, guacamole and cheese, or the shrimp special, which is served with shrimp, chicken salad and cheese.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Minimalist Baker.
More than just a light-and-fluffy treat, challah bread is extremely significant in Jewish culture. It is typically eaten on special occasions like Shabbat and major Jewish holidays (except for Passover, when leavened bread is forbidden). Challah is typically braided and shines under the sheen of a lacquer-ish glaze.
Challah gets its color from the large number of eggs that are added to the dough, Chef Yu says. That said, challah can be any bread used in a Jewish ritual, be it flatbread, a hearty crusted bread or even ones peppered with raisins and seeds.
Where to Find It: Breads Bakery in New York City, New York
For more than a century, New York has been known for its excellent Jewish bakeries. Today, New York City has between 1.7 million and 2 million Jewish residents.
Among the bakeries that exist today, Breads Bakery in Manhattan is the best to find fresh challah. (But truthfully, they're known for their babka, so be sure to pick up a loaf of that, as well.)
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Tori Avey.
What better to sop up the hearty sauces and stews of Ethiopian cooking than a sponge-like, absorbent bread? The bubbly, soft face of the pancake-shaped dough is the perfect base with which to soak up all the rich flavors of the kitchens of Ethiopia.
The bread is made from an ancient grain called teff and has an inherently sour taste, almost like sourdough, and is one of the most fundamental parts of Ethiopian cuisine.
Where to Find It: Meaza in Falls Church, Virginia
Washington, D.C., has nearly 100,000 residents of Ethiopian descent, making it one of the top spots in the nation to sample savory Ethiopian cuisine, including the famous injera bread.
Meaza, which is technically in Falls Church, Virginia, is all about all things Ethiopia, from the sit-down restaurant to the next-door market. The shop is known for baking the iconic bread throughout the day.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Daring Gourmet.
This common snack food from northern China is known for its flaky dough, its multiple layers and its light sesame flavoring. Depending on which part of China you're in, shaobing can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, whether stuffed with roasted pork and vegetables or a sweeter filling like red bean or dates.
Topped with sesame seeds, this street snack can be enjoyed on the go or with soy milk and tea for breakfast.
Where to Find It: Vanessa’s Dumpling House in New York City, New York
Vanessa's Dumpling House is a cultural institution in New York. But while the shop is typically known for, you guessed it, the dumplings, it's also famous for its shaobing sandwiches.
Try the soy-braised pork shoulder or the chive egg omelet with pickled carrots.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Food52.
Dense, flat and packed with herbs, focaccia is one of Italy's most beloved creations. Similar to pizza dough, focaccia can be eaten as a side to a meal, as a sandwich bread or even as a meal itself.
It's a savory bread, most commonly served with salt and olive oil, and topped with herbs like rosemary and other ingredients like olives or onions. Sometimes, it can even be used as a pizza dough for a thick, fluffy variation.
Where to Find It: Davanti Enoteca Chicago, Illinois
Chicago has long been a haven for Italian immigrants and today has some of the best Italian food, both traditional and experimental, in the world.
Focaccia is no exception, especially when you turn to Davanti Enoteca Chicago in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Its focaccia di recco is delicious and made with soft cheese and honeycomb.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Inspired Taste.
Cornbread: United States
You can't have American Southern cooking without a side of cornbread, which has quite a deep history in the United States. Native Americans would fry the cakes on hot rocks or in an iron skillet, which settlers called a "hoe cake," because they could be baked on a garden hoe. Eventually yeast, butter, eggs, sugar and other ingredients were added to transform the hoe cake into a sweeter cornmeal cake.
Sugar has become one of the more important ingredients in this historic American dish, and the cornbread we know today is light, fluffy and, most importantly, sweet.
Where to Find It: Workmen's Cafe in Charleston, South Carolina
Cornbread is a Southern tradition, so there are many restaurants across the South that offer this delicious staple, but Charleston is definitely a hub.
Workmen's Cafe makes it to heavenly standards. Pair it with fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Feast and Farm.
We all know that food is important to every culture, but Armenia's bread, lavash, is so important that it has been designated a UNESCO Intangible Heritage. That's because making lavash is a group effort.
The bread ranks in square footage, and it takes groups of people who gather to roll and stretch the dough across a cushion. The blanket-sized sheets are baked in clay ovens. It's not an event, meal or even a proper day in Armenia without the presence of lavash.
Where to Find It: Sipan Bakery in Glendale, California
Known for its wide range of Armenian dishes, Sipan Bakery in Glendale, California, does not skimp on the lavash. In fact, it has a whole menu of sandwiches that are wrapped in the fluffy, doughy, traditional bread.
Try the falafel wrap, which comes with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mint and tahini.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Epicurious.
Soda Bread: Ireland
Soda bread is typically associated with Irish culture, but the truth is you can find soda bread throughout history all over the place — even the early Americas.
Soda bread as we know it in Ireland is made from soft wheat, like cake or pastry flour, as well as buttermilk, and, of course, baking soda. The buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to create bubbles of carbon dioxide, which gives soda bread its distinct flavor and texture.
Where to Find It: Greenhills Bakery in Boston, Massachussets
If it's hearty Irish fare you're after, look no further than Boston. And if it's soda bread, Greenhills Bakery in Dorchester has some of the best.
Here, the classic is a must, but the bakery also serves up interesting variations, like treacle soda bread or brown soda bread.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction.
Dark Rye Bread: Finland
Dark rye bread is a staple of Finnish kitchens and has been for centuries. It's part of their cultural identity. Rye grain is adaptable to many different types of soil and can ripen quickly, which is important for short Finnish summers.
While rye can be found all over the world, Finnish rye is made of 100 percent flour, which gives it a distinct flavor.
Where to Find It: Trenary Home Bakery in Detroit, Michigan
With such a robust Scandinavian population, the state of Michigan is where to begin when on the hunt for traditional Finnish rye.
Suomi Home Bakery and Restaurant, for example, is one of the best spots in the area for all things Finnish, including its popular rye bread.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Finnish Food Girl.
Kare Pan: Japan
Curry may not be the first item that comes to mind when you think of eating on the go, but leave it to the Japanese to invent a way to do it.
Kare pan is a yeasted wheat dough wrapped around a rich-and-hearty curry interior. Kare pan literally translates to curry bread, and it is rolled in panko before a deep fry, creating the perfect pouch for takeaway curry.
Where to Find It: Muracci's in San Francisco, California
With such a high concentration of Japanese residents, San Francisco is a great spot to find the traditional Kare pan or curry bread.
Visit Muracci's for all things Japanese, and order a side of curry bread filled with piping-hot curried beef, chicken or veggies.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Just One Cookbook.
Pupusa: El Salvador
Thick, savory and filled with a delicious interior, pupusas are the official snack food of El Salvador. In fact, they have been eating pupusas in this part of the world for nearly 2,000 years.
These corn cakes, similar to the arepa but larger and flatter, are usually stuffed with cheese, pork, beans or a combination, topped with a spicy slaw and salsa, and eaten by hand.
Where to Find It: Los Cocos in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles does a lot of cuisines particularly well, and El Salvadorean tends to top the list. If you're looking for a hearty, hot and filling pupusa, look toward Los Cocos Panaderia y Pupuseria.
There are at least 14 different kinds available (with vegan options included).
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Tasty.
Khachapuri literally translates to "cheese bread," and what is more enticing than that? This typically Georgian bread bubbles with piping hot imeruli and sulguni cheeses, and is one of the most important parts of Georgian cuisine.
Khachapuri is actually a UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Georgia if that gives any indication of just how important this bread is to the country.
Where to Find It: Oda House in New York City, New York
Georgian food is all the rage in New York these days, but the restaurant that started it all was Manhattan's Oda House. Since 2007, native Maia Acquaviva has been serving authentic Georgian food to the hungry people of New York.
Not only is her khachapuri to die for, but she also has an entire menu of variations. The classic, the adjaruli, is served with cheese and a poached egg.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Food Network.
Khobz Kesra: Morocco
Morocco is known for its communal neighborhood ovens called ferrans, around which locals gather to bring rounds of wheat dough. The rounds are then baked within the ferrans to create khobz kesra, one of the iconic dishes of Morocco.
A crisp exterior hides a fluffy texture inside, which is divine when topped with local tagine sauce.
Where to Find It: Berber in San Francisco, California
San Francisco's Berber restaurant is a melange of North African flavors, paired with live cirque-style entertainment.
Among the restaurant's many highlights is its mezze selection, which includes delicious kesra semolina bread with nigella and mint.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Taste of Maroc.
This rich and tasty German bread is typically made with pure rye, which is the reason for its density and color. It has been a delicacy of the Westphalia region for centuries. In fact, one bakery in the town of Soest has made its version since 1570.
"Traditionally made with 100 percent rye, pumpernickel is baked overnight at a low temperature to give its dark brown color," says Chef Yu.
Where to Find It: BreadWorks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
With one of the largest German populations in the United States, Pennsylvania knows a thing or two about German food. Among the largest concentrations of German descendants in the state is in Pittsburgh.
Here you will find BreadWorks bakery, which is devoted to bread, and its pumpernickel is the stuff of legend.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Food & Wine.
Pai Bao: Hong Kong
Pai Bao, or Asian Sweet Bread, is a staple in bakeries across the continent. The pillowy, soft bread is lightly sweetened and flaky. It gets its soft texture from a method called "tangzhong," or water roux.
The bread has three rising periods, which take an average of two hours, which is different from traditional breads, which can take hours to rise.
Where to Find It: Fay Da Bakery in New York City, New York
Tuck into a wide variety of Asian sweetbreads when you visit Fay Da Bakery in New York.
With a host of locations across Manhattan and Queens, this is one of the best spots to try the iconic Hong Kong sweet bread, with a variety of fillings and toppings.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Instructables Cooking.
Pan Cubano: Cuba
What's the secret behind Cuba's native bread? Lard. And, hey, we say the calories are worth it for that fluffy-and-light interior and crunchy crust.
Whether you're snacking on the bread itself or using it as the base for a hearty Cuban sandwich, this is certainly one of the world's best breads.
Where to Find It: Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina in Miami, Florida
If there's one place in the country that is known for its Cuban food, it has to be Miami, which means the best pan Cubano in the country is there as well.
Like New Yorkers with their bagels, Miami residents are fiercely devoted to their local spots. There are many to choose from, but Old's Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina has a crusty bread that is to die for. Turn it into a Cuban sandwich, and you'll be singing “Guajira Guantanamera.”
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from Food.com.
Rewena Paraoa: New Zealand
A convergence of cultures in one single bread, rewena paraoa is the result of European potatoes and wheat under the guidance of Maori cooking. When the Europeans landed in New Zealand, they brought their staples with them, which the Maori turned into what is now a national dish.
First, the potatoes are boiled and fermented, almost like sourdough, and then baked. Today, it is served with butter and jam, or a side of raw fish.
Where to Find It: The Musket Room in New York City, New York
New Zealand cuisine can be hard to come by in the United States, but some of the absolute best is at The Musket Room in New York. The chic restaurant has a variety of tasting menus, including a vegan option.
If you opt for the Long or Short Story tasting menus, you will be able to sample the iconic bread.
How to Make It at Home: Try this recipe from AllRecipes.