Gluten Free Japanese Milk Bread | the softest bread ever

Gluten Free Japanese Milk Bread | the softest bread ever

This super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you’ve ever seen, or tasted!

This super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you've ever seen, or tasted!

This loaf of bread is soft and tender without being super airy, like an English muffin bread. The crust is thin and crisp, but still tender and chewy. It’s basically the softest bread you’ll ever eat—and it’s simple to make, too.

This super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you've ever seen, or tasted!

Batter-style gluten free bread

I began making homemade gluten free bread way back in 2005, only my second year of baking gluten free at all. Those first breads were all in the “batter-style,” which simply means that the bread dough appears more like a cookie dough batter than what you would expect from yeast bread dough.

Even though I’ve moved on to develop other methods, recipes like this gluten free Japanese milk bread and our old-style gluten free white sandwich bread still work beautifully—and have a special place in my kitchen (and my heart ❤️).  

The raw bread dough itself in batter-style bread baking is wet and remains that way all the way through shaping since it doesn’t “stretch” when raw. Gluten free flours are typically water-loving, and the original successes in gluten free yeast bread baking called for adding more liquid to the bread to enable the yeast to thrive. 

If any yeast bread dough is too dry or becomes that way during its rising time, the yeast will not thrive and the bread dough will not rise. My newer gluten free bread recipes have something different (whey protein isolate and Expandex modified tapioca starch) added to them.

Without that, all purpose gluten free flours will absorb tons of the water in the recipe and dry out the dough without more moisture. And that leads to an underwhelming (or completely absent) rise. 

These batter-style bread recipes aren’t as easy to shape as conventional bread recipes, and the rise isn’t as smooth. That’s why you’ll see pock marks in the bread both before and after baking.

But they require fewer unfamiliar ingredients as my newer recipes, and they are much easier to adapt to accommodate additional allergies (please scroll down for the Ingredients and substitutions section for more detail on that).

This super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you've ever seen, or tasted!

How to handle this bread dough

Since this batter-style bread dough is quite wet and must stay that way, keep in mind that the dough will be tacky to the touch both before, during and after shaping. It also will not rise as smoothly as we might like, taking on something of a cratered appearance. 

You can smooth out the dough after its rise, if you like, with wet fingers but don’t expect a tight rise. Even though the dough is wet, though, the moisture is still in balance with the other ingredients in the recipe. If you add too much moisture, the bread won’t ever bake all the way through to the center and you’ll end up with gummy spots.  

You can sprinkle this dough very lightly with more flour as you’re shaping it, but use as little as you possibly can. Try flouring your fingers a bit, rather than the dough very often, and use a light touch so the dough stays wet.

Remember that you won’t be able to get the dough to be completely smooth on the outside, so let go of that goal! If you want to learn more, I’ve got 10 secrets to making the best gluten free bread.

This super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you've ever seen, or tasted!

What is a water roux and what does it do in this recipe

Our batter-style gluten free white sandwich bread develops a thick bakery-style crust on the outside. But this loaf of bread stays soft all the way through the end of its baking.

The water roux that you make at the start of the recipe helps lock in moisture. It’s just a simple cooked mixture of gluten free flour and water.

The water roux can be made days ahead of time (and even doubled, then divided for each loaf), and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. That way, you can dump all of the ingredients into your mixer whenever you’re ready to make some bread without having to engage in that extra step of making the roux. 

This super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you've ever seen, or tasted!

Ingredients and substitutions


This recipe contains dairy in the form of butter and milk, both of which are generally not that difficult to replace. Instead of cow’s milk, you can easily use unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk in the carton. Just be sure not to use anything nonfat (dairy or otherwise) since it has less richness and more additives. 

Instead of the butter, try using Earth Balance buttery sticks in both the bread dough and for brushing the top of the bread. You might actually even be able to use a mild-tasting extra virgin olive oil in place of butter as well, but I haven’t tested any fats in this recipe that are liquid at room temperature. 


Since there is only one egg in this recipe, you can try using a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) in its place. Since this is a batter-style bread, you need a fair amount of help getting it to rise. Without the egg, even with an egg replacer, the bread will likely be denser. 


You cannot make this yeasted bread without yeast as there is no proper substitute. Try my yeast free gluten free sandwich bread instead!

If you only have active dry yeast, you can use that to replace instant yeast. Just use 25% more yeast (here, that would be a total of 10 grams). You’ll also have to hydrate the yeast in a few tablespoons of the milk before adding it to the dough at the same time as the rest of the milk.


Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

Gluten Free Japanese Milk Bread - the Softest Gluten Free Bread Ever

This super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you've ever seen—or tasted!
Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread everThis super simple recipe for gluten free Japanese milk bread makes the softest recipe for batter-style gluten free bread you've ever seen, or tasted! #glutenfree #bread #gf #sandwichbread

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 1 loaf of bread


Water Roux
3 tablespoons (26 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) water

Bread dough
3 cups (420 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter), plus more for sprinkling

1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons (8 g) instant (or rapid-rise or breadmaker) yeast

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature

1 1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) warm milk (about 100°F)

4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Water roux, at room temperature

Melted butter, for brushing (optional)


  • First, make the water roux. In a small saucepan, place the roux ingredients and whisk to combine well. Cook the roux over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened enough that the whisk leaves a visible trail. Remove it from the heat immediately and allow to cool to at least warm room temperature. The roux can be made ahead of time and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Just allow it to come to room temperature before baking with it.


  • Grease and line a standard 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan and set it aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place 3 cups of the flour, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, sugar and yeast, and whisk with a separate handheld whisk to combine well. Add the kosher salt, and whisk once again to combine. Add the vinegar, egg, milk, butter, and water roux, and mix well on low speed. Once the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet ingredients, turn the mixer up to high speed and allow to mix for about 3 minutes. The dough should be shaggy and tacky to the touch.

  • Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and divide into 3 equal portions (each about 350 grams). Working with one piece at a time, pat out the dough into a flat disk about 3/4-inch thick. Fold the disk loosely in half from one short end to the other. Stack the folded pieces of dough one behind the other, the rounded (folded) part facing up. The shaped pieces of dough should fit snugly in the pan from end to end, and will rise up, not out. Spray the dough lightly with warm water, and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free location to rise until it has reached about 150% of its original volume. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 350°F.

  • Once the dough has finished rising, remove the plastic wrap, brush lightly with the optional melted butter, and place in the center of the preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the bread from the loaf pan and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Return the bread on the baking sheet to the oven and continue to bake until the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the side and reads about 190°F when an instant-read thermometer is inserted in the center of the loaf and is lightly golden brown all over (about another 10 minutes). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

  • Adapted heavily from The 350 Degree Oven: Adventures in Mika’s Kitchen. Originally posted on the blog in 2012. Recipe adapted slightly, photos, video, and text nearly all new. 


Comments are closed.

  • Katchen Laquer
    April 9, 2019 at 12:33 PM

    Hi, so i’m using your bread flour mix. can i use that instead of all purpose? I have the same question with any of the older bread posts looking for better batter, or is it best just to use the mock better batter mix and reserve the bread flour mix for those recipes that call for it?

    • Nicole Hunn
      April 9, 2019 at 1:03 PM

      Hi, Katchen, Only use the bread flour blend in those recipes that have been specifically formulated for use with it. It is not at all interchangeable with the all purpose gluten free flour. If you’d like to make this bread with the bread flour, you’ll have to use the recipe in Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread.

  • Victoria Donaldson
    April 1, 2019 at 1:20 AM

    Always my go to bread, I’ve written the quick version into my bread book, so I can have whichever option I need. My husband requests this bread!

    • Nicole Hunn
      April 1, 2019 at 7:47 AM

      I’m so glad, Victoria!!

  • Maria Lucia Berarducci
    March 31, 2019 at 5:32 PM

    Can swerve or monk fruit substitute for the sugar?? Or maybe honey mixed with milk?

    • Nicole Hunn
      April 1, 2019 at 7:42 AM

      Hi, Maria, there is a very small amount of sugar in this recipe and it helps to feed the yeast. I’m afraid you can’t use a liquid sugar or an alternative sugar, no.

  • Teresa
    March 31, 2019 at 12:23 PM

    What if you don’t have cream of tartar? Can lemon juice be used to substitute? How necessary is it in this recipe? I want to make this right away for a dinner tonight. Thanks, Nicole.

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 31, 2019 at 1:53 PM

      Hi, Teresa, it helps preserve the rise in the bread so, yes, all of the ingredients are necessary for a successful bread. You can try replacing the cream of tartar with an additional 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

  • Victoria Loud
    March 29, 2019 at 11:58 AM

    Nicole do you have a recipe that would work with all of those cute Japanese animal shaped breads? I have a number of them pinned-bunnies,pigs,chicks,doves etc. I have a son that has Celiac and would love to make these little special breads during holidays for him. ( You know how hard the holidays can be when the special stuff is never for someone with Celiac! SO SAD! Thank you for putting all of these recipes out there! LUV YOU!-Vikki

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 29, 2019 at 12:29 PM

      I know exactly what you mean, Vikki! I tried doing that years ago and failed miserably but that was long before I even wrote my bread book, so I think I’d be more successful if I tried again now. I wonder if you might be able even to use the recipe for Weight Watchers-style breadsticks? I wish I could give you a more definitive answer, but it will take some experimentation, I’m afraid.

  • Edna
    March 28, 2019 at 7:46 PM

    I’ve been wondering if you have a substitute for your Better Blend that’s grain free as I cannot have grains and gluten in my diet- I love breads and this Japanese Milk bread is torture for me to look at – knowing I can’t eat it.
    Thank you so much .

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 29, 2019 at 7:54 AM

      I’m afraid there is no grain-free flour blend that will perform as an all purpose gluten free flour that is rice-based. I recommend that you check out my Paleo recipe category, though. I think those recipes would suit you!

  • Sarah
    February 26, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    So I just tasted my first loaf of Japanese Milk Bread. It looks beautiful AND tastes wonderful. It’s definitely the best gluten free bread I’ve made so far!
    Besides a big “Thank You” for the recipe, I wanted to ask if you recommend storing the loaf whole or slicing it all before storing it.

  • ErinK
    February 26, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    hey there!
    I am accidently visit your sites and wow!
    It is the perfect place that I was looking for!
    cuz these days I am trying to have a gluten-free diet! and really worried about the recipies! and you have all!
    I am in Korea but I think I’ll visit here everyday!

    • February 27, 2012 at 9:06 AM

      Hi, ErinK,
      Welcome! I hope you are able to find the gluten-free products you need. :)

  • February 24, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    here’s a link to the photo of my bread still cooling!

  • February 24, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    I have my bread in the oven–actually I just took it out of the pan and put it back in the oven just a moment ago. it looks awesome!

    I already know that the dough tastes yummy because I had a small chunk of the dough that wouldn’t fit in my 8.5×4.5 USA Pans. The bread is browning wonderfully!

    So, I cut my flattened disk into 4 pieces let them raise while my little baby deep fryer heated to 350 degrees. Then I fried them up and topped with a small amount of maple frosting.

    I can hardly wait to get my next batch of dough made (Looks like Sunday after my Hubby’s birthday party–gotta get the chocolate Whoopie Pies made on Saturday–YUM!!!

    Oh My goodness! Light, Fluffy, Soft fried doughnuts.

  • jen
    February 24, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Cannot WAIT to try!
    Just so you know…my pastry instructor in culinary school referred to dough being shaggy all. the. time! What does that BOOK editor know anyway?!
    P.S. – Your GF blog is my favorite of all!

    • February 24, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      Hi, Jen,
      Ha! So glad to know that about your pastry instructor! In fairness, it was a magazine editor (my book editor is a dream), and she doesn’t even cook! What-does-she-know indeed. Thanks, Jen. So glad you enjoy the blog. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Kristi
    February 23, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    You never cease to amaze me. This is a beaut! I know this seems weird but I really want to smell that bread, like now!

    I am breaking down and getting the Brod and Taylor. I also want the pullman and the muffin pan from USA Pans.

    I hope my husband will still respect YOU in the morning (when the bill comes). I tell him that you are bossy and make me buy things. ;-)


    • February 23, 2012 at 8:25 PM

      Kristi, I would not dispute even one thing you said. I am bossy, and I do make you buy things. And I take full responsibility for it.
      And it doesn’t sound weird to me at all that you want to smell that bread. It smells amazing. Unlike any other bread I’ve made before. It’s really different.
      xoxo Nik

  • JoAnn C
    February 23, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    I’m baking this bread tomorrow after I remove the snow from the driveway. I have the flour problem, (no more gritty bread), settled and am back in business, (so to speak), baking again. I really miss soft bread.

    Unrelated to this recipe, two thumbs up to you for the Pound Cake recipe from your book. It is the best I’ve ever made. Thanks.

    P.S. I love to read cookbooks and have at least 30-40, some from when my parents got married 56 years ago. So am I a food dork too? Is there some sort of secret handshake?

    • February 23, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      Hi, JoAnn,
      Glad you’re back in the saddle. So glad you liked the pound cake! It takes a lot of tender-loving care, but it’s worth it. You are clearly a Food Dork. Check your wallet, there must be a card in there somewhere. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Mattison Mania
    February 23, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    You truly are a fantastic human being! We are truly spoiled with such a talented soul as yourself. Not only great recipes, but prompt responses. You really shouldn’t be so kind … next time ;-) … this is time is fabulous!

    A million thanks!

  • Emma
    February 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    Hi Nicole, this bread looks great! I’ve been trying many different bread recipes lately and I think this one might be a winner. I was looking at the original recipe that you adapted yours from and wondering if you tried rolling the dough into cylinders at all? If so, what were your results like?

  • Anonymous
    February 23, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    Do you think it would work with a hand mixer? Silly question I know, most dough is too hard to mix with a hand mixer, but just curious. Thanks so much for all your work!!

  • Linda Stoddard
    February 23, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    This looks wonderful!. Interesting reference to ‘Japanese water roux.’ I first learned about this method in a book by Chinese writer Yvonne Chen (“65 Degrees”) in which she coined this dough mixture as ‘tang zhong.’ In any case, it’s a wonderful method of keeping bread soft. I never thought I’d miss that Wonder Bready softness, but here it is….:-)

  • February 23, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    You did, Pam?! I can’t believe it! I know it’s expensive, but you know I wouldn’t recommend it so highly if it weren’t worth it. Think of all the bread you’ll make without having to worry about its rising perfectly. I can’t wait until you see! Congratulations!
    xoxo Nicole

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