Savory star bread: filling ideas for a versatile, impressive holiday recipe

The arrival of the holidays marks the start of festive baking. Like most of you, I turn to favorite classics and I search for new seasonal inspiration. By far the most creative and crowd-pleasing holiday recipe on my list is star bread. Not only is it stunning in a seasonally appropriate way (who needs ornaments when you have an edible star on the table?!), but it’s incredibly fun to bake. Surprisingly simple considering its intricate appearance, star bread is a wonderful project for any baker (and fun with kids in particular).

The majority of holiday baking seems to be sweet: butter cookies and peppermint chocolate brownies and all manner of traditional sweet yeasted breads. There are cookie trays galore and candy everywhere and gingerbread houses. Fittingly, our latest pick for our Bakealong series is a sweet version of our holiday Bakealong bread: Cinnamon Star Bread.

Cinnamon Star Bread Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Today, we’re going to talk about turning that gorgeous recipe savory. Star bread is such a versatile template: Just take the soft, pliable dough and swap in your favorite fillings. Savory star bread is a great choice for a festive appetizer; it’s basically a pull-apart bread, so it’s perfect as a finger food for holiday cocktail parties.

Choose a simple filling (like cheese or butter and herbs), and it becomes a prettier, fancier version of a classic dinner roll. Serve it alongside holiday meals, or even just weeknight suppers!

Dozens of savory filling ideas, from pizza to pesto, for a gorgeous holiday star bread recipe. Click To Tweet

Savory Star Bread via @kingarthurflour

You could even seriously embrace the star bread concept, and host a party of all star breads, from appetizer-inspired versions to entrée-inspired versions, and finishing up with sweet versions.

How to make it

Here’s how to riff on the original sweet recipe to make a savory star bread. You can start with our master dough recipe, and scale the sugar back to one tablespoon instead of two, and omit the vanilla extract. For detailed instructions on how to shape the dough, read our Cinnamon Star Bread blog post.

You can also follow our recipe for a savory salami and herb star bread, which uses a slightly different dough. Both are great and incredibly easy to work with, so you can’t go wrong.

Baking gluten-free? Follow our gluten-free star bread recipe and reduce the sugar to one tablespoon.

Now it gets fun! Instead of using cinnamon sugar for the filling, you can use any savory filling you like. There’s no limit to the flavors you can create, since the dough is a blank canvas.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want your bread to be too messy, so don’t choose a filling that’s too fluid, as it’ll ooze everywhere as you twist the dough; or too chunky, which will make the dough too difficult to twist.

Think about what flavors you like! Butter? Pesto? Cheese? Herbs?

Take inspiration from other dishes, like pizza or spanakopita or grilled cheese or Cobb salad or fattoush. Pull those flavors into your star bread recipe.

My favorite savory star breads

Two of my favorite savory star breads are pesto and pizza.

Savory Star Bread via @kingarthurflour

For pesto star bread, spread a thin layer of pesto between each circle of dough (leaving an inch on the outside edge of the dough bare). It’s ideal to use thicker pesto, rather than thinner. If you want even more flavor, sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese or chopped toasted pine nuts over the pesto.

Savory Star Bread via @kingarthurflour

For pizza star bread, brush each layer of dough lightly with butter (leaving an inch on the outside edge of the dough bare). Spread a thin layer of tomato paste over the butter, then top with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, chili flakes, and shredded cheese (I like a blend of mozzarella and Asiago). Adjust the amount of seasoning to your liking. If you want to really capture that pizza flavor, use our pizza seasoning blend!

More savory star bread ideas

The sky’s the limit with savory star bread. Here are some creative ideas to get you thinking. Tell us which combinations you’re trying out at home, and tag your photos on Instagram or Facebook with #bakealong to show us your show-stopping star breads!

  • Simple herbed butter: Brush melted butter over your dough and top with a simple blend of your favorite herbs, dried or fresh. I love using thyme and rosemary with some flaky sea salt for a wonderful take on a traditional dinner roll.
  • Calzone: Spread soft ricotta cheese over your dough and top it with chopped spinach, shredded provolone, and diced prosciutto.
  • Lasagna: Mix together tomato paste and ricotta and spread this over the dough. Top with grated cheese and a thin layer of cooked ground beef or turkey.
  • Garlic bread: Brush butter over the dough and top with minced garlic and chopped fresh parsley. Add some Parmesan cheese if you want a more decadent bread!
  • French onion soup: Brush butter over the dough and top with shredded Gruyère cheese and a thin layer of caramelized onions. (Tip: Add toasted bread crumbs for extra texture!)
  • Cacio e pepe: Take a cue from the beloved classic Italian pasta! Brush beaten egg over your dough and top with plenty of finely grated pecorino cheese and a shower of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Nachos: The most fun party appetizer, in bread form! Spread a small dollop of sour cream on your dough and top it with shredded cheddar cheese, taco seasoning, and crushed tortilla chips. You can also try using guacamole or black beans, but make sure your filling doesn’t get too thick.
  • Japanese vegetable pancake: Inspired by the delicious, crispy, savory Japanese pancakes called okonomiyaki, this savory star bread is full of Asian flavors. Make a tangy sauce by blending ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, minced fresh ginger, and rice wine vinegar. (Start with small amounts of each and adjust according to your taste). Spread this over your dough, then top with shredded cabbage or kale, toasted sesame seeds, and sliced scallions. You can also mix Kewpie mayonnaise (a rich Japanese-style mayonnaise) into the base for the sauce.
  • Loaded baked potato: Transform the ultimate comfort food into star bread! Spread a thin layer of sour cream over your dough and top with sliced scallions, chopped cooked bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Baked brie: Spread your dough with a very, very thin layer of jam (I like fig or apricot) and dot the surface of the jam with small bits of Brie cheese.

Now you’re ready to make some savory magic with beautiful star breads — and give holiday desserts a run for their money!

Ready to bake? See our Cinnamon Star Bread recipe for the master dough and shaping techniques. Or try our recipe for already-savory Salami and Herb Star Bread.

comments

  1. Ellen

    Thanks so much for the savory ideas. I made the cinnamon version last year for gifts and it was an impressive, tasty gift. It would be great to try a savory version for gifts during a time where the amounts of sweets can be overwhelming.
    This recipe is not as complicated as it appears it would be to make. I encourage all bakers to give it a try!

    Reply
  2. Jen Tucker

    For the savory version, should I add the vanilla? I saw the note about reducing the sugar, which makes sense but not sure about the vanilla.

    Cannot wait to make this special loaf!

    Jen Tucker

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for pointing that out, Jen. You’re right; the vanilla should be omitted when making the savory version of this star. We’ll be sure to add a line about this in the blog post for clarity. Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Bonnie, you can omit the dry milk powder and instead use a plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (soy, almond, etc.) in place of the liquid in the recipe. It helps to warm the milk slightly before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  3. Sue Rindner

    I made your Cinnamon Star Bread for Thanksgiving breakfast and was loved at home and at my sister’s who I gifted with one. I found the recipe quick and easy. For my annual Hannukah buffet I generally make a huge challah that is the star of the show but like to have lox and mini bagels along with the brisket. My new home town hasn’t mastered bagels of any sort so instead of the challah, or alongside a smaller one I think I’ll do some savory six pointed Jewish stars of David….one lox and cream cheese and maybe add bits of onion and tomato as well as capers, maybe another version with a potato knish filling and maybe a desert in Hannukah colors of blue and white…maybe blueberries and white glaze. I loved being able to make them the night before and just reheat for a fresh taste. Can the be made and frozen in advance?

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood, post author

      Definitely! You could either fully bake the bread, let it cool, and wrap it tightly and freeze it, then just reheat it in a low oven when you’re ready to eat. Or, you could shape, fill, and twist the bread and then instead of letting it rise a second time, freeze the unbaked bread. Then take it out of the freezer, let it come to room temperature, and then bake. Honestly I think it would be easier and simpler to just fully bake the breads and freeze them then reheat. Enjoy! -Posie

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      If you’re asking about making the star breads in advance and freezing them, you can take this step if you fully bake the bread, let it cool, and then wrap well and freeze. Some fillings may keep better than others (those with moisture may become soggy upon thawing). The cinnamon-sugar filling freezes beautifully and can be reheated before serving. You may not when to freeze the lox and cream cheese star; try to bake this one as close to serving as possible for best results. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel

      Cathy, seems to me a 12″ or 14″ round pizza pan would work. Another option would be a lidded plastic large round deli container, the kind you’d receive if you bought a platter of cold cuts/cheeses or small sandwiches. Good luck — PJH@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is, Hilary. The star bread is going to carry us through the holiday season. In November we focused on the cinnamon-sugar version, and for this month we’re all about the savory versions. Pesto and pizza stars, here we come! Kye@KAF

  4. Amy

    What great savory options! Tapenades might be a nice option, as well. I made a green olive tapenade tarte soleil (same idea but the result is more pastry than bread) and it was just the thing to serve at a cocktail party with martinis!

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood, post author

      Excellent idea! A tapenade would be both delicious and beautiful — I imagine some chopped toasted pine nuts added in with it would be great! -Posie

  5. lyn c

    Since we are extending our experience with the star bread this month, I will ask the question I had last month but didn’t get around to entering. When I weighed out my instant mashed potato flakes pouring straight from the box, 1.625 ounces was way more than 1/2 cup…..closer to a cup. I reweighed it with grams and that fluffed up the volume even more. I decided to stick to the weight but it seemed like a lot of potato. The results were delicious but I had no benchmark to tell whether the texture was what was expected. Any input would be useful since I’m think I’ll do a savory one for an event later this week. Thanks as always.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lyn, we’re glad you followed your baker’s instincts and measured by weight. Volume can vary between brands because of the flake size and other factors. To rule out these inconsistencies, we recommend measuring by weight for best results. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  6. laureen stephens

    Hi
    I made the cinnamon star bread for my good buddy and it was a hit!!!
    Thank you for the idea and great recipe..

    Reply
  7. Susan

    Last month someone mentioned in a post that they made a Christmas Tree shape, instead of a star. I’m thinking that would be especially beautiful with the pesto peeking out! Did you ever receive a photo? I feel like I need a picture as a guide on how to make that shape. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood, post author

      Hi Susan! I did a little research and found this photo which gives you a rough idea of how you’d need to shape the dough to make a tree shape. I haven’t tried it myself but am looking forward to — always nice to have a new baking challenge so thanks for the inspiration! Let us know how it turns out if you try it! -Posie

  8. Patti

    Hi,
    My supermarket only had very large boxes of dry nonfat milk so I picked up the smaller (nd less expensive) dry buttermilk. I know the butter is a fat but how drastic a difference would it be to use it? I can go back to the store. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Patti, we tend to save our buttermilk powder for recipes that are specifically calling for it. If we need to replace dry milk, it can be easier to swap the water in your recipe for fresh milk. You’ll still get the tender and moist result using an ingredient that’s typically already in the fridge. Annabelle@KAF

  9. Katie D.

    Delicious and so fun to make! This was my first bake along. I made the Cinnamon Star Bread and a savory Raspberry, Almond & Blue Cheese. They both turned out great! Almost too pretty to eat… almost 😉

    Reply
  10. Carol T.

    I have been wanting to make the star bread for a while. I went a touch savory with cranberry, cream cheese with a touch of fresh rosemary!

    Reply
  11. Christine

    I changed up the filling based on what I had on hand. 1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung out in a dish towel, 2 cans chopped artichoke hearts, mixed with 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese and 1 pkg Knorr vegetable dip mix. I brushed each layer with the egg wash. The filling was dry and crumbly. When I was twisting the pieces the filling stayed in place. I put the egg wash on after the twisting process. It smelled heavenly while it was baking and tasted even better. Many thanks to you King Arthur Flour for the recipe and especially the photos showing how to do the dough turns. I am going to try layers of dry salami, ham, and Swiss cheese tonight.

    Reply
  12. Brianna

    Can this bread be split to make two or three smaller star breads? If so, how long would they need to rise, bake, etc.?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Brianna, we’ve heard from a few bakers who have reported making two smaller star breads out of the single recipe. Dividing the dough into three stars (with four layers each) will make shaping quite difficult, so we recommend starting with two half-sized stars to start. The first rise will take about the same amount of time (about 60 minutes,) and then the final rise will take less time, about 30 minutes for the smaller stars. Bake at 400°F and check for doneness around 8-10 minutes; they won’t take very long to get brown and beautiful! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Janet, pesto usually has enough oil in it to make it moist and adhere to the dough, so you can skip this step. It is nice to brush the top of the star with egg wash though, to give your bread a golden brown (beautiful!) crust. Kye@KAF

  13. Debbie

    I am going to try the suggestion of Brie with apricot jam later on today.
    Do I still need the beaten egg spread on each layer before the jam?
    And do you suggest thin slices of Brie or small cubes?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Debbie. The beaten egg step can be skipped with this adaptation! We’re very jealous of whoever gets to enjoy this treat with you this evening. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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