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
  • (14)
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf
4.6/5 - 14 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.


    #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. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. I’m made breads in the past, but I have never had the holes that this olive bread produced…was this the way it should be?

        1. Oh thank you David…I have been enjoying it. I am 75 years old and am having fun making cooking videos. I think Martha should beware 🤣. I made a video of making this bread and certainly did enjoy it as did my friends. The long rise was 23 hours as opposed to the 12 to 18 hrs. I really should time it properly. Now I know I am in the right direction. Thank you so much for getting back to me.

          Be safe.

            1. Arlene, I watched every minute. You’re a consummate natural!! And that loaf? It’s perfect! People kill for those big air bubbles. I am so glad that we’re able to see this. Thank you so much for sharing.

    4. Made the recipe as shown – wonderful. Very little handling of the entire (one loaf) batch. It was distinctive with its great flavor and big holes – almost sourdough like.

      Now, I want to make a bigger batch and then scale it. But, my first attempt ended up with ‘average bread’. NO big holes. Nothing special (other than the special nature of fresh bread). I suspect that it is from the handling (vs very minimal handling when it is a single batch. But, I am looking for smaller loaves (about 600g of dough each) without making small batches.

      Even though I let the dough rise significantly before going into the oven, it deflated when I slashed it (over proofed?) after dumping it in from the banneton.

      Any suggestions?

      1. joe, yes, you’re most likely over proofing it. Also, you might be pushing air out of the loaf when you tip it out. I would suggest two things: 1.) Let it rise in a cooler place. 2.) Line a bowl with parchment paper and let the bread rise on top of the paper. Then lift the paper with the loaf cradled in it and lower the who shebang into the pot. No compressing of air.

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