Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Olive Bread

Jim Lahey’s no-knead olive bread from Sullivan Street bakery is made with flour, water, yeast, and olives and lets you create the bakery’s signature artisan loaf at home with very little effort.

Sliced loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead olive bread on a kitchen towel

Curious what famed breadmaker Jim Lahey has to say about his signature olive bread? On the Sullivan Street Bakery website, he describes it as possessing “a golden brown crust and an open, airy crumb with large pieces of green olive. Slightly sour with an intense olive flavor.” (Did anyone else just go wobbly in the knees?) We’re ogling this olive bread recipe as a conversation-starting nosh with wine prior to a dinner party, as an idyllic accompaniment to a cheese plate, or as just an all-around pass-it-at-the-table-and-grab-a-hunk type of bread. We’re crossing our fingers for leftovers, too, seeing as we think a slice or two of this would be inspired in grilled cheese, as a base for bruschetta, even as croutons. Stay tuned.–Jim Lahey

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Olive Bread

  • Quick Glance
  • (11)
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf
4.8/5 - 11 reviews
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In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, chopped olives, and yeast.

Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.

Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

Place a clean towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough seems sticky, dust the top lightly with a little more wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.

Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C) and adjust the rack to the lower third of the oven. Place a covered 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart heavy pot in the center of the rack to warm it.

Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. (Use caution—the pot will be very, very hot). Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until the olive bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to gently lift the bread from the pot and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Originally published October 5, 2009.

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    *What You Need To Know About Which Olives To Use For This Olive Bread

    • For this no-knead olive bread recipe, any pitted olive will yield something worth eating. (You don’t want to go to the trouble of pitting them yourself, because it is tedious and the results will not be as neat.) But what Jim Lahey turns to most often are pitted kalamata olives soaked in a pure salt brine—nothing else, just salt. A commonly available kalamata that I’m very fond of is made by Divina and can be found at many supermarkets and gourmet stores.

      You might think that because they’re black they will change the color of the bread, but they won’t, unless you carelessly dump some of the brine into the dough. Green Sicilian colossals, sometimes called “giant” olives, packed in pure salt brine, are another good option; they’re often available at Italian food stores. As a result of the brine the olives release during baking, this recipe calls for no salt.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This Jim Lahey bread is absolutely STUNNING, from the crunchy, dark crust to the shiny crumb with nice, big holes.

    I used green and black olives and I also took the liberty of grinding some fresh rosemary from our garden and kneading it throughout the dough. The dough had more than doubled in about 10 hours, but if you wait a few extra hours, the flavors will be WONDERFUL.

    I also recommend patience in leaving the lid on the Dutch oven for the entire 30 minutes. The idea behind Jim Lahey's method is to create a soft, airy crumb surrounded by a CRUNCHY, dark, almost nutty crust. Take your time and adjust for the depth of color AFTER the first 30 minutes when you remove the lid. My oven browns things quickly, and I checked the loaf after 15 minutes uncovered and it still needed another 5 minutes to reach perfection.

    As the loaf cools, listen to it crack and groan and enjoy the wonderful scent of olive and wheat while patiently waiting for the loaf to cool enough to slice. Take your time with this recipe and you will reap RICH rewards.

    I'm an experienced bread baker and accustomed to teaching breadmaking. This olive bread recipe was so foolproof, simple to make, and delicious that I will definitely make it again and again. It had an excellent crust and crumb structure.

    It’s an especially good recipe for a neophyte to breakmaking. The recipe calls for baking it 30 minutes covered and then 15 to 30 minutes uncovered, until it’s a deep chestnut color. When I uncovered it after the initial 30 minutes and tested it with an instant-read thermometer, it had already reached 190°F, which is when bread is fully done. I'd suggest checking it after about 20 minutes and then uncovering it.

    This is an easy-to-make olive bread with simple ingredients that doesn’t require a lot of expertise to put together. I liked that I could assemble the dough and let it rise overnight and during the day. It also freezes well.


    #leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. Suuuper duper easy, which was nice. The bread turned out pretty fluffy with a good taste (though some extra flavour could be fun (I heard jalepeno/cheddar from another comment??), and just a little too moist on the inside. However, I couldn’t shape it for the life of me… It was a wet gooky mess in both first and second rises, and didn’t stay in a ball at all (ended up sticking to bottom of the pan). Can anybody answer why that might have been?? Other than that, it would be an easy make-again bread! Thanks.

      1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Jessica! It is a very wet dough, so don’t be worried about it not holding shape, although if it’s completely unmanageable, you can add a little flour. Also, if you found it a little too moist inside after baking, try baking for a few minutes longer.

    2. I believe the US to metric conversion is off. 3 cups bread flour should be approx 360 grams and not 420? Also 1/4 tsp yeast instead of 3/4 tsp? I will find out tomorrow how my bread turns out, since I feel I may have used too much flour.

      1. Do let us know how it turns out, Maria. We use a weight of 140 g/cup for bread flour, so 420 grams is accurate.

        1. It turned out well, I’m really pleased! I made it into cheddar/jalapeño bread. Used 2 cups (280 grams) regular bread flour and 1 cup (140 grams) white whole wheat flour which included 1 1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten. I did have to add 2 tbsp water. 1 cup shredded cheddar and approx 1/4 cup well drained chopped jalapeños. The different weight(s) for a cup of flour is interesting, I’m glad it ended up working out here!

          1. That’s a good-looking loaf of bread, Maria! I’m so glad you forged ahead with the recipe and that combination of Cheddar and jalapenos sounds divine. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know how it worked out.

    3. Hi! is it possible to put the dough inside the ref for the 12-18 hours? We live in the tropics and the room temp, even with the airconditioning on, may get a bit on the warmer side. Thanks!

      1. kat, we haven’t tried it with this particular recipe, so we can’t guarantee it will work, but there are many recipes that include an overnight rise in the refrigerator, so I think it would be fine. The refrigerator will slow down the rise significantly, so you want to make sure you do get it to the point where it’s doubled in size before proceeding with the recipe.

    4. Any suggestions for no knead bread without using a Dutch oven? Maybe using cast iron skillet? Or something else?

      1. Great question, Victor. You can really use any oven-safe heavy pot or baking dish as long as it has a lid. Cast iron is great too, but unless your skillet is very deep, there might not be enough room for the bread to rise with a lid on.

    5. Hi, David. Just made another loaf of the olive bread and was surprised it didn’t rise as normal. Any suggestions? Doubled in size for the first rising. Hummmm Thanks so much. Haven’t cut it yet.

      1. Arlene, my guess is it’s overproofed. The weather is warmer now, so it may take less time to rise in your kitchen. Are you able to control the temperature for the rise?

        1. Not really. Air conditioning is on. I failed to whisk the flour and yeast at the beginning. Perhaps that was my problem. Cut it and it tastes just fine just not as high…there is always the next time. I still love this bread.

          Thanks again for your help, David.

            1. Well, David you made my day ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️. loved your blog…I WILL NEVER GIVE UP…have a great weekend.

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