You needn't be a Tolkien Fan to enjoy this Lembas Bread Recipe... but if you are, all my nerding out about Elven bread in the commentary will make more sense!
Originally published February 7, 2015. Updated on 9/6/22
With the new “Rings of Power” series out, seems like a good time to update this post with more photos and video!
Back in the day, I decided that it the Elvish waybread would be make ideal snacks for our trip, and great for the hotel room (along with our Homemade Miruvor!).
It’s cheaper than airport food, healthier- especially in light of the travel, looong hours, etc we are about to subject ourselves to - and, you know.. thematic.
None of the Lembas recipes out there seemed... legit. They were just fairly generic bread products with the look of Lembas.
Elvish bread may be a fictional food, but if I’m going to make a special food for one of the rare occasions we travel and socialize... I want it to be as canonical as humanly possible!
Besides, as a huge lord of the rings fan, this creative problem solving was a good way to keep me distracted while waiting for our departure date!
So, I spent an entire day digging into the minutiae of J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth, as it related to Elven custom, mentions of agriculture / food, and more.
I also spent a lot of time cross referencing, and brainstorming real-world equivalents to foods and ingredients that were mentioned.
I’ll get to those details in a bit....
In the end, I developed a terrific Lembas bread recipe, that fits pretty much all of the descriptions, and is nutritionally sound.
It’s terrific, and has a great taste - subtle, elegant, and complex. Ethereal, even.
Additionally, it has a nice texture. When creating this way bread, I deviated from the idea of hard tack, as that’s just not good eating. This Lembas Bread Recipe is actually pleasant to eat!
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a bite will fill a stomach for an entire day, my lembas is QUITE filling, on account of the way it was designed.
They are incredibly nutritionally dense, and make a fantastic travel/convention snack, second breakfast, or even as a part of afternoon tea.
As an update on the trip, our own “fellowship of the ring” had a GREAT time, met a lot of fun people, and yeah - the Lembas came in handy!
I made a batch when redoing this post, and it had been a few years since I last made some lembas.
... I forgot how GOOD it is. First bite, and I said to my husband “Yep. That really does taste like what I’d imagine elves would eat”.
It may sound like a weird combination of flavours on paper, but it’s really, REALLY tasty, in practice!
We posted a bunch of photos from the LA “One Last Party” trip to album on my Facebook costuming page. Check out that album here!
What is Lembas Bread?
The facts are these...
Lembas is a type of Elvish bread / cake / biscuit from Tolkien's writings.
First made by Yavanna from a special corn, it was nutritious, and known to be ridiculously sustaining - that "One small bite will fill the stomach of a grown man", etc.
It's generally theorized that Lembas was based on hard tack - a very dry and bland bread product used for military rations and some traditional Newfoundland cooking.
"Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall men of Minas Tirith." - Fellowship of the Rings
"The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream." - Fellowship of the Ring
Like other products of the elves, it was some degree of repellent to evil creatures.
A large store of lembas was provided to them by the elves of Lothlórien, for them to live on for the majority of their journey.
Apparently the movies used an unsweetened shortbread that tasted awful. They were presented wrapped in leaves, and tied up with twine.
Tolkien has said that they contain honey, and the "fruit of the Mallorn tree", which was described as " Its fruit was a round nut with a silver shale" in Unfinished Tales.
Oh, and as one other challenge to this little exercise?
Half of our little fellowship is allergic to gluten.
So.. lots of random information to work with, in addition to my own assumptions... and nutritional goals for the finished product.
Designing This Lembas Bread Recipe
If I'm going to make something based on a book, I'm going to make it as "canon" as possible. So, here we go!
To me, I picture real lembas bread as a sweet thing, but not a DESSERT thing. They straight up mention its sweetness, after all.
I picture some of the sweetness coming from the (canon!) honey, but also from dried fruit, which would contribute to the nutrition of it.
Dried apples would work best given the colour description of the interior, but I decided that thinly sliced apricots are more in line with the flavour profile I was picturing.
In the end, I went with rosemary and cardamom. (Cinnamon also works, if you don’t have cardamom on hand)
In terms of "fruit of the mallorn tree", I am choosing to interpret that as almonds. Sliced almonds, specifically.
Now, in terms of the nutritious / sustenance properties of Lembas... I wouldn't have used white flour even if we weren't working around gluten issues. There's just no real nutrition in all purpose flour.
I decided to use a small amount of masa flour, due to the canonical Lembas being corn based. As I have no access to Elven magical corn, it'll have to do 🙂
Also, I'm supplementing it with protein powder and ground flax meal to contribute to nutrition. Non-magical, non-Valar corn is only slightly more nutritious than wheat flour, after all.
A Few Notes
You can use maple syrup instead of honey, in the same amount.
If you can’t use oat flour, feel free to use sorghum or light buckwheat flour instead.
Choose your protein powder wisely! If it's something you don't like to drink, it'll make the bread taste weird.
Unflavoured protein powder can be used in place of vanilla protein powder, just add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract at the same time as the milk.
How to Make Lembas Bread
In a large bowl, mix butter and honey together just until combined – do not cream it or over beat it.
Add milk, gently mix until combined and smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.
Wrap dough in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.
Generously sprinkle clean work surface with corn starch, roll dough to ½″ thick.
Cut into 3-inch squares, and carefully transfer each bread piece to a prepared cookie sheet, leaving 2″ between each.
Cut a shallow “X” into each cake, if desired.
Allow lembas to cool on cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before moving, cool completely before serving, or transferring to an airtight container for storage.
If you want to get fancy with it, wrap them in leaves, and tie with twine - see below for info!
Wrapping Your Lembas
While these Lembas biscuits can be stored in normal containers and served on plates like any other bread or cookie type product, where’s the fun in that?
If you have the time and inclination, may as well go the extra step and wrap your pieces of bread up in leaves... or “leaves”, if that works better for you.
As pictured, we used fresh collard greens to wrap our Lembas, then tied with some kitchen twine.
Another fresh option would be to use banana leaves, if you have access to them.
Both fresh leaf options are best if you’re going to use the Lembas the same day, I wouldn’t recommend them for longer term storage.
There are two main ways to do artificial leaves: Buy some large silk floral leaves at your local craft or floral supply shop, or make a “leaf” packaging from craft foam (which I detail below).
When you’re using either of these artificial leaf options, I recommend wrapping your Lembas in plastic wrap before using the “leaves”, as neither of these options is food grade on their own.
Craft Foam Leaves
If you’re looking for something with a bit more longevity - or is a bit more robust for long journeys! - you can use craft foam.
When I’m making craft foam “Mallorn leaves”, I make a template first, about the size of one Lembas, with about ½" border all around it.
From there, I draw a line out from the center of each side, an inch or two longer than the square itself.
Then, I joined each corner of the square to the end of each line, with a wide arc. This creates 4 “leaves” radiating out from the square, as shown below:
Use your template to cut the shape out from thin sheets of green craft foam. If you’re feeling fancy, you can use a gold or silver pen to draw veining on the leaves.
Tie with kitchen twine. To secure.
Repeat with remaining pieces.
More Fandom Recipes!
Looking for more Tolkien - or just fandom in general - recipes? I’ve got you covered. Here are a few covering Tolkien, and Doctor Who, as well as some Convention Food recipes!
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- 2 Baking Sheets
- Parchment Paper
- 1 cup Unsalted butter softened
- ⅓ cup Honey
- 2 tablespoon Milk Or unsweetened almond milk
- ½ cup Masa Flour
- ½ cup Gluten-free oat flour Or Sorghum flour
- ½ cup Vanilla protein powder*
- ½ cup Sliced almonds
- ½ cup Thinly sliced dried apricots
- ¼ cup Coconut Flour
- ¼ cup Ground flax seed flax meal
- 1 tablespoon Tapioca Starch/Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¾ teaspoon Cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon Dried Rosemary finely crumbled/chopped
- Corn starch for rolling
- Mix butter and honey together just until combined – do not cream it or over beat it. Add milk, gently mix until combined and smooth
- In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry mix to butter and honey, mix until combined. Wrap dough in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Generously sprinkle clean work surface with corn starch, roll dough to ½″ thick. Cut into 3″ squares, and carefully transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheets, leaving 2″ between each. Cut a shallow “X” into each cake, if desired.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow cakes (biscuits?) to cool on cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before moving, cool completely before serving.
- If you want to get fancy with it, wrap them in leaves, and tie with twine. (I used collard greens).