Bifidobacteria are common gut commensals with purported health-promoting effects. This has encouraged scientific research into bifidobacteria, though recalcitrance to genetic manipulation and scarcity of molecular tools has hampered our knowledge on the precise molecular determinants of their health-promoting attributes and gut adaptation. To overcome this problem and facilitate functional genomic analyses in bifidobacteria, we created a large Tn5 transposon mutant library of the commensal Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 that was further characterized by means of a Transposon Directed Insertion Sequencing (TraDIS) approach. Statistical analysis of transposon insertion distribution revealed a set of 453 genes that are essential for or markedly contribute to growth of this strain under laboratory conditions. These essential genes encode functions involved in the so-called bifid-shunt, most enzymes related to nucleotide biosynthesis and a range of housekeeping functions. Comparison to the Bifidobacterium and B. breve core genomes highlights a high degree of conservation of essential genes at the species and genus level, while comparison to essential gene datasets from other gut bacteria identified essential genes that appear specific to bifidobacteria. This work establishes a useful molecular tool for scientific discovery of bifidobacteria and identifies targets for further studies aimed at characterizing essential functions not previously examined in bifidobacteria.