Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Olive Bread

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

When I first opened Sullivan Street Bakery, with Roman baking in mind, this slightly pungent olive bread immediately became my signature loaf.

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 I turn 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.–Jim Lahey

LC What Jim Lahey Has To Say Note

Curious what famed breadmaker Jim Lahey has to say about his 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's No-Knead Olive Bread

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf
4.8/5 - 5 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the My Bread cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • 3 cups bread flour
  • About 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pitted olives
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant or other active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups cool (55 to 65°F) water
  • Wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting


  • 1. 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 is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. Place a tea 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 is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Fold the ends of the tea 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.
  • 4. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C), with a rack in the lower third. Place a covered 4 1/2-to-5 1/2-quart heavy pot in the center of the rack.
  • 5. Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. (Use caution—the pot will be very, very hot). Recover 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 thoroughly before slicing.


#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.

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.

This is an easy-to-make 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.

I'm an experienced bread baker and used to teach bread-making. This olive bread recipe was so fool-proof, simple to make, and delicious that I will definitely make it again and again. It’s an especially good recipe for a neophyte to breakmaking. It had an excellent crust and crumb structure. 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.


    1. Besides the yeast, the other problem could be not letting it rise long enough or letting it rise too long so that it falls again. Let the dough rise until doubled in size; it may take more or less time than the recipe states (12 to 18 hours), depending on environmental factors. Let the dough tell you when it’s ready, not the clock. I find a container with tall see-through vertical sides, like a large Tupperware-type container, makes it easier to measure the volume of rising dough. I hope this helps and that you try this recipe again, it’s a good one!

    2. Patty, usually when that happens it’s your yeast. Was it out of date? Was the water you used too hot? Did you let it rise long enough? If you still have some of the yeast place a teaspoon of it in a glass with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of flour and warm water (the temperature you’d use for a baby’s bottle). After several minutes it should start bubbling. If it doesn’t your yeast is no good. I’ve made this recipe several times and it always comes out good.

    3. For me, not rising is due to too much salt, too low a rising temp, not enough yeast, or, my most common error, not enough water. When i stick to amounts from the recipe, i often get variable results. It’s better to add water till the dough sticky and stringy rather than follow the results precisely. Different flours and different yeasts need slightly different amounts.
      The comforting thought is: if it’s somehow not what you expected, it probably still tastes great. Just heavier or thicker crust.

  1. Hi Patty. If your bread did not rise, it could be a problem with your yeast. First, always make sure the yeast has not expired. Second, many times we use water that’s too warm, and we literally kill the yeast. For future breadmaking sessions, you can always use an instant read thermometer to test the water temperature. Do try the bread again, I believe you will have success. Good luck!

  2. By the way, now I am making this bread all the time. With respect to unpitted olives, the way to pit your olives very quickly is to hit them with the bottom of a glass. Then just remove the pits. Oftentimes, it is much cheaper to buy unpitted olives rather than pitted ones, and really the pitting process is simple.


  3. I just baked this bread—it’s the best bread I have ever made! I used black Spanish pitted olives from a can instead of green ones and added 1 teaspoon rosemary. Thank you so much for the recipe! I will be using this from now on to impress friends & family!

    1. Wonderful to hear, Poppy! That’s so terrific, thank you for letting us know! And I love the sounds of rosemary in this bread, that’s a beautiful idea, one that I know others will try as well. We so appreciate you taking the time to let us know it went so well. Looking forward to hearing what recipe you try next….

    1. the gamin, as Lahey says in the headnote: “As a result of the brine the olives release during baking, this recipe calls for no salt.”

      In step four, the instructions say to place a covered pot into the oven. So, yep, heat the lid.

      No, no olive oil.

  4. I feel like the bad penny, but if you will insist on putting together these slide shows…;)

    I love olive bread, but what I don’t like is the sour bite of it. Is this due to the olives, or is it the long rise time? That bread looks quite a bit like ciabatta inside, think I could just put the olives in the ciabatta dough and get a not sour bread, or will the olives make it sour/tangy?


    1. Ruthie, no bad pennies here. You might be tasting the brine from the olives. What I suggest is to rinse the olives very well before using them. I think that will help minimize any off tastes for you.

  5. I just baked this bread and followed the instructions exactly. The crust turned out beautifully but the inside is still moist–the bread is not completely cooked through. Any idea what I could have done wrong? I have an oven thermometer and the temperature was at 475 as prescribed. Thanks!

    1. Amy, sorry to hear the bread was less than stellar. With these high-moisture breads, it can be tricky. The best way I find to make sure that everything is copacetic is to use an instant-read thermometer. I insert the thermometer in the bottom of the loaf and look for a temperature of between 200°F-210°F. (I usually hit 207°F, and it’s perfect for my taste.)

  6. By the way, I’ve made this bread several times since my first desperate appeal for help. It’s really good. But I wanted to mention that the oil-cured moroccan olives are really good in this, too. :) And they are salty, so definitely don’t add salt, but they have a nice flavor.

  7. I haven’t made this yet. The long proofing time puzzles me. Is there a reason for it to be so long compared to other loaves? I’m a beginner who finds proof timing difficult. How can I get it right? Is dough temperature an answer?

    1. Ron, this is the famous no-knead bread. It relies on slow, long rising time for better flavor. All that’s important is that you give this the time required to double in size. (You don’t have to be too precise with this.) I think you’ll find this is one of the most forgiving breads out there.

    2. Ron Young, elides giving a more flavoursome loaf, the long 12 – 18 hours fermentation breaks down phytates in the grain (flour) which enables most people to be able to digest the bread a lot easier.
      If you decide to make this loaf, persevere with the long proofing/ferment time. It is truly worthwhile….

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.