Sourdough Rye Bread

Sourdough rye bread is often dark and heavy. Not this loaf, which takes its lightness in taste and texture from a made-from-scratch sourdough starter. See for yourself.

Rye Bread

This sourdough rye bread recipe shows you how to make a high-quality loaf of homemade bread with only four ingredients. Okay, plus a little patience, seeing as it relies on a sourdough starter, which gives the resulting loaf of sourdough rye a lighter texture than many traditional German loaves. Best of all, no kneading required.–Angie Zoobkoff

Special Equipment: Misting bottle filled with freshly filtered water; 1-pound loaf pan, ideally long and thin

Sourdough Rye Bread

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 D, 13 H
  • Makes 1 loaf
Print RecipeBuy the Eat Right cookbook

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  • For refreshing the sourdough starter
  • 3 ounces sourdough starter from its recently refreshed mother (about 1/3 cup or 85 g)
  • 2/3 cup rye flour (70 g)
  • 1/3 cup filtered water (80 ml)
  • For the preferment
  • 2/3 cup filtered water (160 ml)
  • 3/4 cup rye flour (75 g)
  • For the loaf
  • 1 1/3 cups rye flour (135 g), plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground sea salt (12 g), plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup filtered water (120 ml)
  • 1/2 tablespoon blackstrap molasses (10 g)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons seeds, such as caraway, coriander, or fennel (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon dried fruit, such as raisins or figs (optional)


  • Refresh the sourdough starter
  • 1. Prior to making the bread, refresh your sourdough starter with 2/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup water, and leave it at room temperature for 8 hours.
  • Make the preferment
  • 2. In a medium measuring pitcher, mix the water with the starter to make a slurry. In a large bowl, measure out the 3/4 cup rye flour, make a well in the center, then add the water and starter mixture. Mix by hand until the flour and starter have combined and the texture resembles loose pancake batter, about 1 minute. Cover with a cloth and leave out at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.
  • Make the rye loaf
  • 3. Take a look at your preferment; it should be active, and therefore bubbly. Pour the 1 1/3 cups rye flour into the preferment, along with the salt and water. Mix by hand, using one hand like a big fork for about 1 minute, and then add the molasses (and any seeds or fruits), and continue to mix coarsely until well combined, about 1 minute longer.
  • 4. Generously cover your work surface with rye flour and sprinkle a little into the loaf pan.
  • 5. Using a dough scraper or your hands, scrape your dough out of the bowl and onto the floured surface. Flour your hands and then shape the dough into a rectangular block, about the length of the pan. Now slightly flatten the block and then roll one long edge of the dough over onto itself, creating a coarsely shaped rectangular loaf with a seam. Roll the dough through the flour so that it is well coated all over and then drop it into the pan, seam-side down. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 2 hours.
  • 6. After 2 hours the rye dough should show signs of marbling or cracking on its surface. It’s now ready for baking. Preheat the oven to as high as it will go, preferably 475°F (245°C), and have your misting bottle ready by the oven.
  • 7. Slide the pan onto the middle oven rack, and then, with haste, spritz filtered water all around the oven, and then close the oven door.
  • 8. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the pan around and reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • 9. Remove from the oven and tap the loaf out of the pan, but then let it sit in the pan, but with one end up, resting on the end of the pan, for 8 hours. The rye loaf is a very wet mixture and it needs to cool and set.
  • 10. Once cool, wrap in a cotton cloth and leave for as long as you like, or wish, or can, to mature. It will improve with age. Slice thinly before serving.


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Recipe Testers Reviews

I have friends who make bread all the time. You know, the kind of people who think they want fresh bread at 10 am and they have it ready for sandwiches at noon. I want to be that person. Sadly, all my attempts to be a bread baker have failed—until I found this sourdough rye bread recipe. It seems complicated but just stick with it. Read and re-read the instructions and it works! I followed the recipe with minor exceptions: bottled water instead of freshly filtered water; sugar instead of molasses; and I only waited 5 hours for it to rest instead of the 8 hours specified. The results were great and I now feel like I am officially a bread baker!

I did notice that the bottom of the loaf is just a teensie bit denser than the rest of the loaf. I suspected that the loaf didn’t rise as it should have but it rose enough to make me feel successful. I’ll make it again. And again. After all, I have the starter in the fridge nagging me now. I threw in 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds because I had them in the house. I only have a regular loaf pan so I made a longer form from foil and put it on a baking sheet. It worked. For the preferment, I used a 6-by-5-inch deep bowl but I planned to transfer the mixture to another bowl to make the dough which I did but I probably could have done it all in the same bowl.

The preferment, once mixed, had the texture of a thick-ish cream of wheat. I wondered if it should have been a little looser. I let the preferment stand for 24 hours. Covering the mixture (both the preferment and the starter over the 5 days) was a little problem: If I covered it with a cloth, the top dried out but if I used plastic it seemed to inhibit the fermenting process. So, I used the cloth but didn’t like that the top always was dried out. In the end, it didn’t seem to affect the final outcome.

I shaped the dough and let it rise in the form I made for 2 hours. Again, it didn’t rise as much as I thought it would but it rose a bit. The form I made was 3 1/2 by 9 inches.

After the 2 hours of rise, the loaf did indeed show signs of marbling on the surface. I baked the loaf at 450°F, which is the best I could get my oven to do—and misted the oven in the beginning and at the mid bake point. At mid bake, the loaf looked done but I kept it in for the rest of the time. I guess it was a good call. The loaf did not burn. Perhaps the bottom denseness was because it needed to cook a bit longer? I’m not a bread baker so I don’t know.

The loaf looked like the picture. I left it out on the counter overnight and the crust it had when it came out of the oven softened but it is a humid summer in NYC so I guess that’s to be expected. We ate the bread, sliced as thinly as I could manage, first with an aged gouda—very nice—and then in the morning with butter and raspberry preserves. It was divine. I’d love to try it with cream cheese and lox. Tomorrow.


  1. I make the bread, not good , salt was too much I will cut to 1 teaspoon next time ,
    But the dough didn’t grown . No were say anything about yeast, .

    please HELP what did I miss.


    p/s the ciabatta recipe is great I’m making it every week, my husband loved.

    1. Sylvia, sooooo glad to hear you love the ciabatta recipe! As for the sourdough rye, the recipe doesn’t require yeast because it relies on the sourdough starter. Did you make and use the sourdough starter?

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