Gluten-free Easter Portuguese Masa

Gluten-Free Portuguese Masa Sovada

This morning I did a happy dance.  Of course I was in the kitchen.I successfully made 4 delicious loaves of gluten and milk free masa, “the bread of my people”!

With a joyful smile my boyfriend joked that I have now become a woman, which in any other circumstance would have sent me into a feminist tirade.  But it is a strange right of passage I am happy to embrace.  My mother, tias, and grandmother all have their recipes for masa, and now I have mine.

Masa is a Portuguese sweet bread made in my family every year around Easter.  For the holiday we wrap the risen dough around painted, hard-boiled eggs and eat them Easter morning.  Scented with lemon, anisette and (in my grandmother’s recipe!) whiskey, it’s eggy and sweet. Recipes all vary in their density; the kind you purchase in stores is usually very light and fluffy.  But my mother’s was always a bit denser, so that’s the kind I grew up appreciating and wanting to replicate.  And because gluten-free breads are generally denser anyway, this was also a matter of necessity.

I’m in possession of three recipes:  my Avo’s (grandmother), my Tia Albertina’s (great-aunt) and my Tia Vidalia’s (aunt).  I’ve made the recipe with my mother, but never attempted to make this bread both gluten and milk free.  And it came out deliciously!

Next week I’ll be trying a slightly different process and doubling the yeast to see if I can achieve a slightly lighter version of the bread, but I am extremely happy with this recipe and recommend it as a gluten-free replacement to this traditional holiday favorite.

Moist, sweet and eggy gluten-free Portuguese masa

Lots of Notes: I researched a decent blend of flours to estimate a bread flour – because of the proportions I was using, I made 8 cups of flour but only needed five.   I used almond milk but also regular butter, which doesn’t seem to affect my stomach in smaller doses due to the lack of milk protein that’s found in other forms.  If you need it completely dairy free substitute with butter flavored Earth Balance, not shortening.

This recipe is not completely gluten-free because of the whiskey.  Omit if you’re going completely GF.

Also, most recipes call for a lot of kneading because kneading helps to develop the gluten.  So with this just knead until smooth so that your loaves come out a bit prettier than my test loaves did!

Oh, one last thing!  I like to follow my grandmother’s lead and leave these overnight in a warm place.  So I turned my oven on just to 150° and as soon as it was warm turned it off.  I then wrapped my breads in tea towels, then the entire cutting board in a bath towel and put it in the oven overnight.  They rose perfectly and we ready for baking by breakfast!

One last thing, actually!  I didn’t put the eggs in this, but will next week when I make it for Easter.  Literally just prepare your hard-boiled eggs, make sure they’re dry and hide one in each loaf of bread right before baking!

Gluten-Free Masa Sovada


  • 1.5 cup sorghum flour
  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 2 cups arrowroot starch
  • 1/2 cup millet flour
  • 8 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp whiskey (omit if extremely gluten-free, this has gluten in it)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • zest of 1 lemon


  • Blend flours, starch and xanthan gum in a large bowl, whisking or sifting thoroughly to incorporate.
  • In a small saucepan melt butter and slowly whisk in milk.  Turn off the heat but make sure this is slightly warm before adding to batter.
  • Dissolve yeast with about 1/4 cup warm water and set aside
  • In a standing mixer with the bread hook attachment, beat eggs and sugar until creamy.
  • Add salt, lemon zest, whiskey, extracts, 5 cups of flour blend and the milk/butter mixture.
  • Mix on low / medium to incorporate, then add yeast. Mix on low until all is incorporated, then bring speed up to medium and mix about 10 minutes or until air bubbles form around the sides.
  • Remove to an oiled bowl.  Cover in clean dishcloths and then a large bath towel or blanket, and remove to a warm place.  Let sit for two hours or so.  Note: Gluten-free breads don’t ‘double in size’ like most breads.  But it should be fluffier after this time.
  • Flour a wooden cutting board or line and flour a non-wooden board.  Shape the dough into four small loaves (or two larger ones if you prefer).  Wrap in towels and let sit overnight.
  • In the morning, remove to thick baking sheets and preheat oven to 300°.
  • Bake for 38 minutes or until only slightly springy on top.
  • Store remains in plastic wrap and eat within three days.


  1. Pingback: Gluten-free Portuguese Masa | Food Frenzy

  2. Pingback: Gluten-free Easter Portuguese Masa | CookingPlanet

  3. Beth says:

    I’m always looking for great gluten free bread recipes to make for my sister-in-law, I can’t wait to try this!

  4. Olinda Paul says:

    Dear DB,
    Thanks for stopping by at Celiac Scout. Good luck with your bread quest as I have the same yearnings for really good bread. I will have to give this recipe a try. Thank goodness we have relatives that still remember to bake! Recipes are different from house to house in the Azores Islands where my family is from. I will have to give this a try! sounds delicious! I also love pie. I am hunting for a FLAKY crust but have had a difficult time with this pastry without it turning out hard and dry. Then there is rolling it out and getting it into the pie plate. So I now just roll it as thin as I can and if it breaks (it usually does) I just press in the rest of it. I have gone crustless in some pies, which works for me (less calories to work off..right?) I never miss the crust on pumpkin, but fruit pies need a crust. Does that mean I can have a slightly bigger piece?
    Can’t wait to eat the bread….yummo.

    • Tanna, thank you! You’re very kind.Lydia, I find it wonderful how food can take us back to nice moments in the past.Valentina, thank you! It’s wonderful to keep warm, you’re right, very comforting, too!Jeff, you should definitely try some!Terry, I’m glad you liked Valentina’s idea – it was quite commotion among some blogs! Those cinnamon rolls sound delicious – some dishes stay in our heart forever, don’t they?Hi, T.W.I agree with you 100% – I had a wonderful time making this dish! So many good memories came back to me. Just wonderful.Susan, thank you, this is lovely. Our family is our basis for so many things, right?Kirsten, thank you for the lovely words.I think I should add some berries next time I make this pudding, what a lovely idea you gave me!Dear Ellie, you’re so right – I felt like a child again. A fantastic moment, I have to say.Thank you all for the lovely comments and for the kind words!

  5. You masa recipe would be so perfect for Easter! They look so dense and chewy. I may be wrong, can’t really tell the texture until I try it. But the pictures look great. I imagine eating them now. :)

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  7. Pingback: Gluten-Free Portuguese Easter Bread (Masa Sovada) | The Dusty Baker

  8. Laura Rodrigues says:

    Hello fellow Portuguese girl :) My son is on a gluten free diet…and can only have limited amounts of dairy/eggs. Quick question…can these be eaten like this..or must it be toasted?? Also do you have any recipes that would be similar to paposecos?? (Portuguese buns?) Those of course are his fave…He has a hard time as he loves his bread….Also you know the bolos de arroz from Portugal. Any ideas on a recipe? Also blueberry muffins…with the dough similar to bolos de arroz. Thanks in advance!! Beijinhos from Richmond BC Canada :)

  9. Pingback: My Gluten-Free Easter: Pastel Tea Eggs, Portugese Masa and Angel Food Cake | The Dusty Baker

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