Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

This no-knead whole-wheat bread from Jim Lahey is quick to make but as good as old-fashioned bread. And with the added benefit of whole wheat and being done in less than two hours.

Cast-iron pot with a loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead whole-wheat bread on a gray background

Jim Lahey’s no-knead whole-wheat bread is a brilliant innovation that brings you healthfulness with ease. And that’s to say nothing of the nutty, not overly healthful taste. More of that, please.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

  • Quick Glance
  • (16)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf
4.8/5 - 16 reviews
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Ingredients

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Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, salt, 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 it sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

Generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the surface in 1 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 feels tacky or sticky, 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 double in size. When you gently poke the dough with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

About half an hour before you think the second rise is complete, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a 4 1/2-to-5 1/2-quart heavy Dutch oven or pot with a lid in the center of the rack.

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 hot.) Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until the loaf is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. The bread is done when it registers 200°F to 210°F (93°C to 99°C) on an instant-read thermometer.

Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.

Slice and…sigh. Originally published October 5, 2009.

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    Variations

    • Seeded Whole-Wheat Bread
    • You can make this sturdy whole-grain loaf even more substantial–and satisfying–when you consider pretending you’re German and tossing in a handful of walnuts or maybe some pumpkin and sunflower sesame seeds when mixing the dough. Consider it bread that sprecheksn the Deutch.

    • Slightly More (Or Less) Hearty Whole-Wheat Bread
    • You can easily adapt this whole-wheat bread recipe to turn out loaves that are a little less hearty by tweaking the proportion of all-purpose to whole-wheat flours. The recipe currently offers a 3:1 ratio, but feel free to nudge it slightly up or down, making it closer to 4:1 or even 2:1 (all-purpose : whole-wheat) depending on how pale or dense a loaf you like.

    Recipe Testers Reviews

    This no-knead whole-wheat bread is so simple to make it has become my go-to bread recipe. (I rarely buy bread.) It has a chewy crust and a well-developed flavor.

    When making bread with all whole-wheat flour and/or if adding bran, I’ve found adding about a tablespoon of any kind of sugar or syrup really helps jump-start the yeast; otherwise it must sit for considerably longer than 12 hours to finish the first rise.

    My favorite thing about this recipe is that it lends itself very well to experimentation, I’m still trying to figure out what combination and proportion I like best!

    This no-knead whole-wheat recipe makes it easy to turn out crusty loaves of chewy whole-wheat bread that will have you turning up your nose at supermarket bread in no time.

    It also invites experimentation, begging to be tweaked with more or less whole-wheat flour and the addition of nuts and seeds (flax? sunflower? pumpkin?). Loaves of bread don’t last long in our house, so there are very few days now when we don’t have a bowl of dough rising on the counter.

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    Comments

    1. Fantastic easy recipe. Soooo tasty with a delicious crust. If you have never made bread before this is a great starting point.

      1. Thanks, Penny! We really appreciate you taking the time to let us know how much you love it.

    2. I have no bread flour, only unbleached all purpose flour. I do have KAF’s white whole wheat flour luckily and the Vital wheat gluten product they sell. Can I sub all purpose flour for the bread flour and maybe throw in a tablespoon of the Vital wheat gluten product? Thanks so much! I am so looking forward to making this bread.

      1. Hi Margot, I posed your question to Larry, one of our bread bakers and this is his suggestion. “I weigh 1 cup AP flour. I then add 1 T vital wheat gluten per cup. I always do a bit more than needed and premix. This way, since I weigh my ingredients the weight of the added gluten is accounted for.”

      2. Margot, you should be fine even using AP flour in place of bread flour without adding any more gluten even. I do it all the time and rarely ever buy “bread” flour specifically.

    3. The bread was done in only 35 minutes and came out with a beautiful crust.

      After it sat on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, the crust became very soft and lost all of its “crustiness.” Is this expected?

          1. Lisa, I’m over the moon that you used to thermometer. So many people don’t! We’re halfway there. It definitely wouldn’t dry out because this is a very, very wet dough. And, in my opinion, you want that nice crisp crust. I always lean on that baking time to get a dark crust; the flavor is so much more complex. But when I making it for my partner, The One, who doesn’t like dark crusts, I bake it similarly to yours. Next love, go longer and see if it works. Keep me posted.

    4. Great recipe! I’ve tried the regular recipe and this one (which seems to be the same with a sub for wheat flour). The dough seemed a bit less soupy this time and easier to work with.

      My question–if I wanted to do a 2-3-day rise to get better flavor, would I refrigerate the dough after the on-the-counter overnight rise? Do I punch down the dough and then put in fridge? Or shape the bread and then refrigerate? Or just mix the dough and skip the overnight counter rise and put directly in the fridge?

      I know I can get even better flavor with a few more days of fermentation but don’t want to mess up the dough. Thanks for the advice!

      1. IFL, I would stop at step two. Then instead of letting it sit out on the counter for 12 to 18 hours, I’d put it in the refrigerator. But here’s the caveat: you need to make sure that it’s covered with more than just a towel as the skin will dry out. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out, and continue with the recipe

      2. I have tried this recipe and loved it. However, I decided I wanted more flavour so I substituted 50g of flour and 50g of water and added 100g of sourdough. It turned out fantastic.

    5. Great recipe! But save your energy bill and heat up your oven for 10 mins instead of 30. That should be plenty.

      1. Thanks, James. I will have to respectfully disagree with you about oven times. It takes mine a full 30 minutes to heat up. At 10 minutes, it’s barely cresting 350°F!

        1. This is truly a great recipe, now a classic. But handling the heavy, blazing hot pot is tricky and, for me, terrifying. I discovered that it isn’t necessary to start your bread in that blazing hot pot. Both the bread and pot can be started in a cold oven. After the long rise, cut a piece of parchment paper slightly smaller than the base of the pot. Place the parchment paper inside the pot. Sprinkle just enough flour on the dough to be able to scoop the dough out with your hand without being too sticky. Place the loosely formed dough ball in the center of the pot, on top of the parchment paper. Place an oven-safe lid on top of the pot and place it in the cold oven. Turn the oven on to 450 degrees. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the lid from the pot and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove loaf from the pot. Allow the bread to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into slices.

          If using a convection oven, bake for 30 minutes with the lid covered and 15 minutes without the lid.

          This works! (another tweak I use is to substitute 2 tablespoons of orange juice for two tablespoons of water. Learned this from King Arthur Flour. The OJ cuts down on the bitterness of the whole wheat.)

        2. I have to agree with roz on starting with a cold oven. I tried this and it works fine. I’ve actually done this before with other breads in regular bread pans but this was my first time with a Dutch oven. I actually got a little more rise this way.

    6. This is the first time I made bread that proofed for this long. It is a good bread as a companion bread for soups… I don’t know if I really like it plain with butter. A little bland in taste. My oven is old so the temp went up too high for about 10-15 mins, so the crust was a little hard. Overall, I think this is nice and easy recipe.

    7. Hi, I would love to use only whole wheat flour to make this artisan bread. But I don’t understand what the meaning of “Go all the way with 100-percent whole-wheat flour, then drop down to 85 or 50 percent or lower.” Can anyone give me the recipe for using 100% whole wheat flour and the changes in any ingredients and steps if needed? Thanks.

      1. Evon, you’re absolutely correct, that WAS really confusingly worded! Thank you so much for pointing that out. I’ve reworded that variation to be, I hope, much clearer. Can you kindly take a look and see if that answers your question? The author, Jim Lahey, had suggested that you can make it with 100% whole wheat flour although we haven’t tried that in our own kitchens so I think you’re going to have to go by feel and add a little more water if the dough seems to need it. The other steps remain the same although expect perhaps a slightly longer rise time and don’t expect to see the dough rise as much, of course, as bread made from white flour. Kindly let us know when you give it a try…

    8. This is an excellent recipe and, especially, a new-to-me technique. I have been baking bread for years and years, and baking bread in a 100-year-old cast-iron Dutch oven has been a revelation to me. The recipe ingredients were absolutely correct for making a traditional 1 1/2-pound loaf of artisan bread. The no-knead revelation, coupled with overnight proofing, led to a perfect loaf. It’s an absolutely no-brainer. My normal method for making this artisan loaf takes three days! The only criticism of the recipe I have is that the author specified only “cool water,” implying that the baker use tap water. Chlorinated city water is not water you should use in making bread.

    9. The result has provided much pleasure, but probably not as intended.

      The dough was a difficult-to-handle sticky puddle during the whole process. There was raising during both cycles (However I did not see much bubbling on the dough surface), but in the end I ended up with a 5 cm (2 inch) high loaf with a 23 cm (8 inch) diameter (matching the shape of my Dutch oven). Great crust, chewy consistent, aerated texture (large and small bubbles).

      I am a neophyte keen to learn the INs and OUTs of no-knead, so any feedback would be appreciated. Too much water? Insufficient flour? Substandard yeast leavening? (NOTE: I tested the yeast before use to ensure that it was active.)

      Thanks!

      1. Philippe, so sorry that you didn’t get the rise you were expecting. There are a few things that could be the issue, yeast being one of them. Even if my yeast seems active, I always make sure that it’s fresh, do I buy it often and keep it in the freezer. But I suspect the culprit here is the water-flour ratio. (Oh, did you use whole wheat?) I just added the metric amounts. Do you have a scale? Weighing is the most reliable way of making any baked good. Flour is just a pain in the ass when it comes to exact volume measurements. If you don’t have a scale, then I would suggest adding a bit more flour–up to 1/2 to 3/4 cup more–if you’re faced with that monstrous puddle again. That should help. Please keep me informed.

    10. Wanted to mention that I did this recipe with all-purpose flour instead of bread flour since I didn’t want to buy another bag of flour. It does work however crumb structure doesn’t match the non-whole wheat version. It’s not fair to rate based on this difference so I won’t rate it. If I could do it again I would stick with bread flour.

      Man's hand holding a half loaf of no-knead bread

      1. A little update. I did this again but mixed the water in much better, doing a little bit of kneading to make sure it was well incorporated. Results were far better this time.

        So just don’t go over board with the “no knead” part of the recipe. Spending a couple minutes to mix everything up initially is worth it.

    11. So I have revisited this recipe a few times recently and have fallen in love with it again. Making a few each week. Consumes zero time and it’s delicious. I have taken to 1 cup of wholewheat and 2 all purpose, plus seed and nut add-ins. Currently one in the oven with flax seed, sunflower seeds, crushed walnuts and raisins. Added an extra 1/3 cup of water and dough still seemed a bit drier than without any add-ins. Probably the raisins… We’ll see how it comes out. Very versatile!

        1. Just reporting back to say, this is a killer version! Have made 4 like this the past week, both for ourselves and to give to others. Absolute winner. Also, I am now doing the second rise on top of some parchment paper instead of a tea towel and I put the dough in the Dutch oven with the parchment paper. Less messy!

      1. Could you please give a measurement of raisins, seeds and nuts? Your version sounds delicious!
        Catherine

    12. love this bread a lot!! however, i thought bread, when done, has a temperature of 210°F. if i don’t use a thermometer i wouldn’t know when it was done. just looking at the top crust doesn’t really tell me much. why don’t you put a temperature to reach for the finished stage?

      thanks, Phyllis.

      1. Thanks for the tip, Phyllis. Yes, 200°F to 210°F (93°C to 99°C) is the correct temperature. I’d guess that Jim didn’t include temperature because of the extra fiddling with a wicked hot pot. But I have added it for those who prefer it.

    13. I have made Jim Lahey’s bread since I first saw the recipe in the Times in November 2006. You may be interested in trying my multigrain version of his bread.

      1cup white flour, 3/4 cup each of whole wheat and rye flour topped off with white flour to make 1cup each, a total of 3 cups of flour. 1 tsp yeast, 1 tsp salt, a little less than 2 cups of water warm to the touch. 2 heaping tablespoons each of wheat bran, oat bran, wheat berries, rye berries, oat groats, steel cut oats, millet, and whatever other grains are convenient.
      I bake for 1/2 hour in a 450 degree oven and test the temperature. If it is 200 degrees the bread is done. I take it out of the pot and let it rest 5 minutes in the oven to crisp the bottom. It usually takes about 30 minutes in the pot and 5 to 10 minutes more.
      I have also made a gluten free version of this recipe which is extremely dense but tastes very good if anyone is interested.

    14. I tried this recipe. On the second rise inside the tea towel, the bread doubled in size by spreading out, not up. How can this be overcome? What might I have done wrong?

      1. Hi Ian, it could be something as simple as your yeast being a little off. Also, softer doughs will spread more than a stiff dough. You can always counteract this by placing the tea towel and dough in a colander to prevent spreading. Did you fold the dough under to create a round loaf? How was the finished product?

        1. Funnily enough, it rose in the Dutch oven and came out fantastically. Slightly oval as that is the shape of my Dutch oven. I would upload a picture of it but can’t seem to do it here.

          Thank you for your suggestions Beth. I shall try the colander and make a slightly stiffer dough. I had a 50-50 split of brown/white flours. I think I might try it with some sourdough flour too.

          1. So glad that it worked out, Ian. These no-knead doughs can behave differently but turn out great. Let us know about your future variations!

    15. This is great!! I live in Bethlehem, Palestine and only have whole-wheat flour available that is ground by women in the villages. Because its rather coarse I went with the amount specified in the recipe and the loaf turned out absolutely wonderful. I’ll be adding more whole wheat next time to see if it alters the structure. Love this, great alternative to eating pita bread (chubz arabi) all the time :)

    16. Is there a way to make it less dense with more air pockets? I have tried a few times and it always came out very doughy.

      1. Did you use instant yeast or active dry yeast? If you used active dry, you really need to use a little more than the 1/2 teaspoon of instant. Go with 2/3 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon. In addition, I personally like to do my first rise in the refrigerator overnight, the cool rise lends itself to better flavor and texture. Then after shaping it, remember that the second rise will be longer since the dough is colder. This, I think, will make your bread more airy and less dense.

      2. Is your dough doubling (or more) within the 12- to-18-hour window? I’ve had different no-knead doughs ready in eight hours, and I’ve sometimes skipped the second rise because it was ready. Your dough might have risen too much. If it over-rises, you won’t get the oven spring and you would get a flatter, doughy loaf.

        I have to slightly disagree with the instructions given in the recipe on what to look for when poking the dough. If you wait until the dough doesn’t spring back at all, there’s a chance it’s over-risen. It should spring back slowly. If you can’t be exact, I find it better to catch the bread before it’s fully risen than waiting too long.

        Also, if you used the same package or jar of yeast for all of the doughy ones, then start with new yeast to eliminate that variable.

    17. I made this to take to a Christmas Eve dinner. It was exceedingly easy to bake. (The only difficulty I had was the dough stuck a bit because I didn’t flour the tea towel well enough.) The loaf was chewy, with a dense, crackly crust and tons of big, irregular air bubbles. It nearly disappeared during the hors d’oeuvre hour. I will definitely be making this regularly during week. It’s too easy not to.

    18. Just tried this recipe here in Honduras the land of white bread and tortillas. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome when I had not had good results with other recipes of this kind no-knead that is. I added 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seed, and 1/4 cup steamed wheat berries. The flavor was terrific. Texture ditto, and the crust was just the way we like it. CRUSTY! Because of the extra seeds, next time, and there will be a next time, I will add just a tad bit more moisture.

      On to the olive bread. The challenge will be to find an olive dry enough, if possible. Have kalamatas available in oil. Thank you. It was well worth the effort.

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