Post Image
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

The Squishy Allure of Buff Bear Bread, the Best Thing Happening on the Internet Right Now

published Mar 3, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

It’s hard not to giggle when you first see buff bear bread. The edible golden-brown bread has muscular arms that look like they could carry away whatever weight that’s sitting on your shoulders. The rippled six-pack abs are shiny and tan, resembling oiled contestants from a bodybuilding competition — but instead of a hard, muscular texture, each one is squishy and light as air. Floating above its strong physique are two tiny ears and a sweet round face with a gentle smile that look both inviting and delicious. Buff bear bread is part cute internet and part frivolous internet, and it leaves a strong first impression.

Among the seemingly endless bread trends that have come and gone over the past year (I’m looking at you, sourdough), buff bear bread has stood out and continues to grow in popularity across all social media platforms because of its striking aesthetics. Although white bread is the most popular way to make it due to the natural brown coloring, the exact dough and even taste is an unimportant factor in its appeal. 

Buff bear bread first gained momentum in May 2020 after illustrative bread artist Ran made the muscly bread on her Instagram (@konel_bread), where she has over 330,000 followers. Ran, who is based in Japan, has been baking bread since 2010. After being inspired by Japanese sushi and Kintaro ame candy art, she began to create bread that revealed illustrations after it was cut. Buff bear bread was the next phase in her baking journey. “I made it because I thought it was cute,” she told Kitchn. 

The origins of strong internet bears are hard to fully track down, but the oldest illustration in the U.S. that I could find dates back to 2015. The face appears to be modeled after Rilakkuma, a fictional Japanese character who has its own merchandise and even a Netflix series, but its body was very muscular, completely opposite from the original character. “Rilakkuma” means “bear in a relaxed mood,” and the original physique of the bear is soft and small. This muscly interpretation of Rilakkuma adds to the overall humor and is likely one reason why it’s gained popularity online.

Although Ran’s bear creations resemble Rilakkuma’s face, she says it is fully unrelated to the character. Instead, she was inspired to make buff bread based on artist KamenTotsu’s illustrations of ripped bunnies. KamenTotsu also has buff bear illustrations, but Ran says her creations are unrelated.

While buff bear bread is a recent trend, bear bread itself has been around for many years. A former trend was to make squishy pull-apart rolls decorated with bear faces that accentuate its cute features. “There is something very placid and peaceful about their general representation in shape and iconography,” said Lin Gan, a vegan baker and creator who has baked various bear goods on her popular Instagram. “It’s quite sweet to see that on your plate and to serve it up to instill a certain reaction from a friend or family member.”

Ran’s buff bread photos have been shared wildly across social media within the U.S. She’s inspired artists to create new illustrations based off of her creations, and hundreds of people have tried to make their own edible buff bread versions at home. “It’s a gift to the world,” said Dami Lee, an artist who was inspired to make her own after seeing them on Twitter. The process of patiently forming every piece by hand was “very therapeutic” and provided a brief escape from reality, she said.

Some fans have begun making their own spin-offs, like this large, unmuscular version by Michelle Lee, a self-taught baker based in Australia. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, she transformed what were once six-pack abs into a squishy belly. “I laughed so much when I pulled them out of the oven because I didn’t expect them to turn out so fat!” she said. “They grew even fatter during their time in the oven.”

Ran’s buff bears have expanded beyond bread with the recent launch of squishy keychains that came out last December in Japan. She currently plans to make different types of buff bread that go beyond bears, and to expand the flavors (like this recent chocolate-coated version holding a large banana) — but only time will tell what exactly comes next.

Until then, the internet has buff bear bread, which is good enough for now. Here’s how to make a muscly version of your own.

Get the recipe: Buff Bear Bread