An Easy and Healthy 100% Whole Rye Bread Recipe


I’m a huge fan of making your own rye bread. Why? The rye bread you get at the market ain’t rye bread. It might have a bit of rye in it but it’s also got a lot of other stuff: often white flour, caramel coloring, dough conditioners and preservatives.

This recipe that I often teach as a class, has a lot going for it:

  • It’s 100% whole rye. Whole grains, as most of you know, are much better for you than white flour. Nothing has been removed and no strange vitamins added.
  • The use of a natural starter (sometimes called a sourdough starter or levain) predigests substances in the flour that may not be good for us. You can thank lactic acid producing bacteria that work symbiotically with natural yeast for this. Don’t have a starter? Here’s how to make one.
  • That lactic acid also produces a flavorful tang as well as bread that lasts a long time on the counter (acid is a preservative).

This recipe is also super easy. There’s no tedious shaping or worrying about a loaf deflating in the oven. Breads made with 100% rye don’t hold their shape–rye is low in gluten (though, it’s important to note, not gluten free) and that gluten doesn’t behave like the gluten in wheat–you bake it in a loaf pan which makes it easy as cake, so to speak.

100% Whole Rye Bread
Based on a recipe by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou from How to Make Bread
Ingredients Day One
Before going to bed mix:
150 grams/1 1/4 cups dark rye/pumpernickel flour
150 grams/scant 1/2 cup rye sourdough starter
200 grams/3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold water
Let sit overnight at room temperature.
Ingredients Day Two
In the morning when you wake up mix in the dough from the previous night with:
200 grams/1 1/3 cups dark rye/pumpernickel flour
1 teaspoon salt
150 grams/2/3 cup hot water
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
1. In a large bowl mix the 200 grams cold water with the sourdough starter. Add 150 grams of flour. Allow this mixture to ferment overnight.
2. In the morning add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Spoon into a well oiled and floured standard loaf pan. Smooth the top of the dough with a wet spatula. Flour the top of the loaf and cover with a kitchen towel.
4. Allow to ferment for 2 to 3 more hours. The dough will rise a little but not much.
5. Pre-heat your oven to 425º F.
6. Cover your loaf pan with aluminum foil. Put the bread in the oven.
7. After 15 minutes remove the aluminum foil
7. Bake your loaf, uncovered, for at least another 30 minutes, until brown or until the internal temperature is 210º F. Your oven may vary greatly. The best way to check is by internal temperature. Second best is the color of the loaf.
8. Remove bread from the loaf pan and let cool on a wire rack.
9. Let this loaf sit before you break into it! It will taste better the next day if you’re the patient type. At the very least don’t’ slice into it for a few hours.

A note on scheduling

Since there’s no kneading, this loaf goes together quickly. Instead of starting the loaf in the evening, you could start it in the morning and finish it in the evening after work. The fermentation times are flexible since you don’t have to worry about the dough keeping it’s shape. If at anytime something prevents you from completing a step just put your dough in the refrigerator (which is kind of like hitting the pause button).
The longer the bread sits the more sour it will get (note that it could get too sour if you really extend the fermentation). Too short a fermentation will lead to an overly dense loaf. That said, you’ve got considerable flexibility. A few hours in either direction won’t make much of a difference. This is one loaf I’ve never managed to screw up.
If you try this loaf please let me know how it works out. Also let me know if you try any variations such as adding nuts and sprouted grains.

Leave a comment


  1. Thanks for the recipe, I will definitely be trying it out. I think that it is sad that most people I know when I mention Rye bread really think of the taste of Caraway. I have no problem with Caraway in my Rye bread, but they are not the same.

    • Absolutely. Caraway and caramel coloring covers up the fact that industrial rye bread is just bland white bread pretending to be something it ain’t.

  2. Where do you get your rye flour from? I have trouble finding it in stores, and when I finally found some, it was of very low quality.

    • We’re lucky to have a new mill in town—Grist and Toll in Pasadena. I actually get rye kernels from them and grind them myself in my Komo mill. But indeed, it can be hard to find. Whole Foods has it via Bob’s Red Mill. I’ve also seen it at upscale supermarkets.

  3. Hi,
    one caveat (coming from a Dane – we eat this type of bread every day) is that a 100 % ryebread does have a tendency to be difficult to bake right, ie it keeps being too sticky and dense inside, even when you bake it for 2-4 hours (which usually is the bakingtime here) – 45 minutes seems to me very short, but perhaps you bake it at a much higher temperature (oh damn, those fahrenheits …)

    • Thanks for the tip! And also thanks for reminding me that I need to put things in Celsius! We Americans have a bad habit of forgetting about the rest of the world!

  4. Do you see any negatives to grinding flour with the Vita Mix. I know that the flour can heat up a bit, but i took a temp reading and it was under 115. A while ago we purchased a Schnitzer crank grinding stone that we thought we would use off the grid somewhere. That dream didn’t happen and we are left with a tired arm and an expensive stone that takes 30 minutes to get 1/4 cup of fine flour. Until we come up with a motorized solution what are your thoughts on using the Vita Mix.

    • I have not used one, but I hear that it does not give you a very fine grind. I would not buy one for the purpose of milling flour. And, yeah, non-motorized mills are a heavy workout. I’m very happy with the Komo mill that I bought last year.

  5. Pingback: How To Make Rye Bread — Homestead and Survival

  6. I’m in my fifties and remember lots of rye bread at my grandparents house. My Grandma was Danish, and my Grandpa was the son of German immigrants. They loved the stuff. I hated it! It wasn’t until a few years ago that I tasted rye bread made without caraway. SO GOOD! All these years, and it was the caraway I didn’t like. One of the big grocery chains used to bake rye bread, seeded or unseeded. Of course after I discovered it, they discontinued baking the unseeded bread. I wonder whether rye would gain a larger following if it were available commercially without the caraway. Now that I know I like it, I’ll bake it myself, but I sure wouldn’t for all those years when I thought I hated rye.

  7. I’m excited to try this. I’ve had a little ban against home bread baking for some time now, but seeing Trine Hanhemann helped me overcome that. I made her bread the other day and this loaf is up for today. I’ll be starting right away with a change, adding sunflower seeds. I will let you know how it comes out.

    • Please do. And I need to catch up with Hanhemann–you’re the second person in a week who has mentioned her.

  8. Thanks for a great recipe. The bread came out great the first time! I can’t stop eating it. It is like the bread I used to eat in Poland decades ago.

  9. Can I bake this bread in a preheated clay baker with a lid? What is the hydration of your starter?

    • Hi Lesley–yes, a clay baker would work well. I’d take the lid off after 15 minutes or so to brown the top of the loaf. My starter is always 100% hydration. Hope that helps and good luck.

  10. Made myself a healthy starter, followed your recipe, and after an additional 10min baking time the internal temp is still too low and the dough is entirely too moist. I was wondering if you could post a link to where you purchased the bread pan that made the loaf in the picture at top? I’ve been looking for a pan like that but haven’t been able to see the angles I want online. The pan my loaf was baked in is more of a longer/thinner rectangle, I think that might have something to do with the failure of this loaf.

  11. Hey – just to say, I made your recipe and it was so good. Rye bread texture is always a bit heavy and sticky, IME, as this was, but the flavour was superb. Thanks for the recipe

  12. Hi there,

    first of all…..THANK YOU! This is probably the first time I have ever left a comment on a blog. I had tried making Rye bread (with a different recipe..not from this site though) and it was a disaster.

    I followed your recipe with a few alterations and it produced a fantastic rye bread. A lovely soft, yet firm texture on the inside and a semi crunchy outside.

    I added sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and caraway seeds. Because of my last experience with a Rye bread recipe, I decided to use a little less water than recommended here for the ‘ingredients on day 2’ – probably – 15-20g less. I’m no pro but would say, the addition of the seeds also detracts from the water content and helped in producing this loaf. I left the day one ingredients for about 18 hours.

    I used a glass oven proof loaf shaped tin and after leaving it for 3 hours on day 2 to rise, which it did quite significantly, I put it in the oven as the oven heated up. Due to this fact, this also meant I let it bake for about 20mins longer than the alloted time period.

    Will be using this recipe again – both family members really enjoyed it. Thanks for restoring my faith in baking Rye bread !

    • Joseph,
      Thanks for the feedback–I really appreciate it. The amount of water you use can vary widely. Just the weather in the field where the rye was grown can effect this as can how it was ground at the mill. Getting the hydration ratio right is always a matter of trial and error. And with seeds I recommend toasting them and soaking them in warm water for a few hours. Let me know how your future baking projects go and best of luck!

  13. Hey Mr. Homegrown + the root simple hive mind:

    I came across rye berries I bought 4 years ago. Should I use for a loaf of vollkornbrot or toss? Slight sentimental attachment since I bought them at Wheatsville Co-op in Austin (where I worked in the early 90s) for my first vollkornbrot ever. Will throw away if there’s any chance of ergot hallucinations.

    • We say go ahead and make bread with them! You shouldn’t end up hallucinating, provided the rye has never been damp.

  14. Hi,

    Will this recipe work in a 9 by 5 or 9 1/2 by 5 1/2 pan? If not, could you tell me what the dimensions of the pan should be to make the recipe as is, and also, if it’s not too much trouble, how to adjust the recipe (if needed) so that it fits either of these size pans?

  15. Hi,

    I tried your recipe, and my loaf turned out overdone (burnt in places) on the outside, and not quite 210 degrees on the inside. Any suggestions?

    • It sounds to me like the oven is running hot, which accounts for the outside burning before the middle is done. It could be that your oven temperature gauge is off. That is surprisingly common. You can buy an inexpensive oven thermometer (the metal kind which sit inside the oven) and test it. They’re pretty easy to find–our local hardware store sells them.

      If this proves to be true, then you can find out what the discrepancy is between your dial and reality, you can adjust accordingly– e.g. set your dial to 375 when you want 400.

  16. Hi,

    I have made my sourdough starter as per your instructions, but I only have a small jar of it. How do I get the 150grams required for this recipe?



    • The night before you want to mix your dough, combine one tablespoon of your starter with 75 grams of rye flour and 75 grams of water. The next day you’ll have “built” your starter up to 150 grams.

  17. Awesome. Thanks.

    Also, my starter began smelling like acetone. I think because I missed a day of feeding. Do I have to restart or can I try and revive it?

    • Try feeding it–maybe even twice a day for a couple of days to get it up to speed again.

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