Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Jim Lahey's no-knead bread making recipe turned traditional bread making upside down for all of us. Perhaps it's time you tried it so you can understand what everyone's been raving about.

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread Recipe

This is it, folks. Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe. The no-knead bread that incited an insurrection among bread bakers everywhere. It’s an adaptation of Lahey’s phenomenally and outrageously popular pugliese sold at Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan. And once you taste it, you’re going to wonder where it’s been your entire life. This recipe has been updated. Originally published April 23, 2015.Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Take the Time To Read This! Note

Baker Jim Lahey took great care to explain as many tricks in this no-knead bread recipe as he possibly could to help ensure you have spectacularly satisfying results at home. Don’t rush through this recipe and skim the details. Each word, each visual cue, each explanation has meaning. Rely on the description of how the dough should appear or feel more than the timing. And know that conditions change from kitchen to kitchen and from day to day, so some days your bread baking may seem blessed and others it may feel cursed. As Lahey says, “Even the loaves that aren’t what you’d regard as perfect are way better than fine.”

As easy as this recipe is, Lahey cautions that it’s not exactly an impromptu sorta thing. “This bread is incredibly simple and involves little labor, but you need to plan ahead. Although mixing takes almost no time, the first rise requires from 12 to 18 hours. Then you’ll need to shape the dough and let it rise for another 1 to 2 hours. The longer rise tends to result in a richer bread, but you need the patience and the schedule to do it. After preheating the oven and the pot, you’ve got 30 minutes of covered baking, another 15 to 30 of uncovered baking, and about an hour of cooling. And please, don’t gulp down that first slice. Think of the first bite as you would the first taste of a glass of wine: smell it (there should be that touch of maltiness), chew it slowly to appreciate its almost meaty texture, and sense where it came from in its hint of wheat. Enjoy it. You baked it, and you did a good job.”

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 3 H, 30 M
  • One 1 1/2-pound loaf

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (400 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) salt
  • 1 3/8 cups (320 milliliters) water
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed

Directions

  • 1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon or your hand until you have a wet, sticky dough. This should take roughly 30 seconds. You want it to be really sticky. (Many people who bake this bread find the dough to be unusually wet. Remember that most of the water is meant to be released as steam during baking. Besides, you’ll be handling the dough very little, so you don’t have to worry about your hand looking like some creepy monster that just crawled out of a lagoon.)
  • 2. Cover the dough and bowl with a plate, towel, or plastic wrap and set aside to rest at warm room temperature (but not in direct sunlight) for at least 12 hours and preferably about 18 hours. (Ideally, you want the room to be about 72°F. In the dead of winter, when the dough will tend to rise more slowly, as long as 24 hours may be necessary.) You’ll know the dough is properly fermented and ready because its surface will be dotted with bubbles and take on a darkened appearance. This long, slow fermentation is what yields the bread’s rich flavor.
  • 3. Generously flour your work surface. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to turn the dough onto the surface in one blob. The dough will cling to the bowl in long, thread-like strands and it will be quite loose and sticky. This is exactly what you want. Do not add more flour. Instead use lightly floured hands to gently and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the center, effectively folding the dough over onto itself. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. That’s it. Don’t knead the dough.
  • 4. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. Place the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust the surface with a little more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover the dough with another cotton towel and let it rise for about 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will hold the impression of your fingertip when you poke it lightly, making an indentation. If the dough readily springs back when you poke it, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
  • 5. A half hour before the dough is done with its second rise, preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot and its lid (whether cast iron or enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.
  • 6. When the dough is done with its second rise, carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover it. Also uncover the dough. Lift up the dough and quickly but gently turn it over into the pot, seam side up, being very careful not to touch the pot. The blob of dough may look like a mess, but trust us, everything is O.K. Cover the pot with its lid and bake for 30 minutes.
  • 7. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is beautifully browned to a deep chestnut color, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack. Don’t slice or tear into it until it has cooled, which usually takes at least an hour.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Larry Noak

Mar 04, 2017

For me, this is the PERFECT bread recipe. Making bread is my obsession. I have made nearly every bread recipe you can name. As much as I love the ritual of old-fashioned bread-making—kneading, resting, proofing, etc.—this no-knead bread recipe is my go-to loaf. I base this on two things: texture and flavor. This is hands-down the best-tasting "white bread" that I have ever eaten, let alone made. I use a digital scale and weigh my ingredients, it just seems more accurate for me. So, that would be 400 grams bread flour, 8 grams table salt, 1 gram instant yeast, and 300 to 310 grams 55- to 65-degree water. Good bread takes several hours to produce. GREAT bread takes nearly 24 hours. If you rush this recipe, you will be doing yourself a great disservice. When Jim Lahey says this dough should be wet, trust him, it will be as wet as a ciabatta dough. VERY WET. When folding the dough, it doesn't have to be precise. I simply pull 4 edges up and toward the center. Then simply turn the dough, seam side down, on a floured cloth or linen. Do not scrimp on the flour for the tea towel. You will NEED a THICK coating on the cloth or it will stick when you flip it into the 450°F Dutch oven. Trust me. Don't fret over how the dough looks when you put the lid on and just slide it back in the oven, set your timer for 30 minutes, and, like some crazy magic, when the lid comes off, it will always be perfect. The last 15 minutes is the hardest for me. I always want to take it out of the oven before it turns a lovely dark brown. DON'T DO IT! Let it bake without the lid for at least 12 minutes. Remove your masterpiece from the oven, carefully place it on a cooling rack (I use 2 silicone spatulas) and, while you're admiring your mastery, listen. The bread will crack and hiss and sing. Truly one of the most beautiful sounds that you'll ever hear.

Comments

  1. THIS is my go-to bread recipe and my FAVORITE bread cookbook of the 20 or so that I own. The rye bread recipe is utter perfection!

    1. Crazy. The instructions say to follow the instructions. Exactly! Well I did. When I told my gal that I didn’t think it raised quite as much as I expected she said well did you use warm water? (Yes the quick yeast had NOT expired.) I said the very specific instructions didn’t say warm water. So … whose FAIL?

      1. Mako, we’ve made this bread many times with room temperature or cool water. True, most American bread dough recipes call for warm water, but because it’s a slow ferment at room temperature and there’s no rush, the water doesn’t need to be warm to jump start the process. The recipe mentions the ideal room temperature, I’m just curious if your kitchen was cooler than that? And sometimes yeast can fail to be viable even before its expiration date, so you may want to stir a little yeast into warm water just to see if it bubbles within a few minutes. Beyond that, I don’t know whose fail this is, as we and many, many others have made this without warm water and still had a rise.

        1. Yesterday I made two batches – one with tap water and the other with warm water. It is winter where I am (outback Australia) so the tap water was quite cool/bordering on cold. After sitting for 20 hours I would defy anyone to identify which is which. Thank you for this recipe, it is truly wonderful bread and the word “fail” has no place in any description of it. Ever.

      2. I have made this recipe a million times. I have added not enough or too much of each ingredient. I have made super wet and a little less than wet. I have waited as long as 26 hours (surface dries out) and as little as 8. This bread is truly idiot proof. If it didn’t raise for you, the yeast was probably old. Maybe not from when you bought it, but either how long it sat on the shelf or how old before being packaged. Don’t give up. Also make sure that when you look at it, that it is covered with a ton of bubbles. It should almost looks like tapioca. When you turn it out on the board, it should stick with long strands or “fingers.” If not, put it back in the bowl and let the yeast develop longer.

        1. ps I dump all ingredients in a bowl and add room temp/tap water. Never fails. Seriously no muss no fuss.

          1. Also I weigh my flour. If you just scoop and don’t spoon or weigh your weight could be too heavy for the amount of yeast to lift in the stated amount of time. look for the “eyes” or bubbles in the dough. That will tell you it is ready regardless of the amount of time that has passed.

      3. I had the same thoughts when they said add water. What temperature of water? Anyone who makes bread knows you have to have warm water to make your yeast work sooo I will add warm water when I make my bread. I haven’t tried it yet but plan on making it tomorrow. My new cast iron covered pot arrived today in the mail so now I can get to baking! After reading other comments I see because of the long fermentation process I guess room temperature water would work but I am so old school I need to see that rise in my bread to make sure it’s working it’s magic. I’m sure it’s going to be out of this world delicious when I make it regardless of the water temperature! I can hardly wait to try it!

        1. Bettye, because the dough sits in a warm spot for up to 18 hours, the temperature of the water isn’t that important. In fact, you want a slow, loooooong rise, so cooler water works just fine. I’ve made the bread many times and never thought twice about the water temperature!

    1. China, I don’t, but I have heard and read that if you let this dough rise the first time and then refrigerate it for three to four days, you will have a more complex, sour taste. Not a sourdough, but closer.

    2. China, The very best sourdough is the one by Chad Robertson in his book Tartine Bread. In short, here’s the short and modified version recipe:

      Ingredients (Use a scale!)

      • 1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
      • 2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
      • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
      • 1 1/2 cups purified water
      • 1/4 cup starter

      Mix together the dry ingredients.

      Dissolve 1/4 cup starter into purified water.

      Add water / starter to dry ingredients and stir until the water is incorporated.

      Cover with plastic and let sit 12-18 hours.

      For the last 3 hours, fold the dough every 30 min – as though you were making a box (4 folds, long sides and 2 ends). As you do the folds, gently pull out each “side” to lengthen your pull before folding toward the center. This creates the long gluten strands that make those beautiful holes in the crumb.

      Cover loosely with plastic and rest for 15 minutes.

      Transfer to well floured towel, parchment paper or proofing basket. Cover with towel and let rise about 1 1/2 hours.

      Prehead the Dutch oven to 500 degrees (with lid).

      Bake in covered Dutch oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

      Remove cover; reduce heat to 450 degrees and bake an additional 12-15 minutes till brown.

      Let cool completely on rack. LIsten to it crackle as it cools!

      Consume bread, be happy.

    3. China, to make really good sourdough you need a starter. It’s a flour, yeast, water mixture that needs to ferment for several days before it can be used. Look on line for sourdough starter recipes. The taste of the bread is worth the wait!

  2. I make bread on a regular basis using Charles Van Over’s Best Bread Ever recipe and it’s delicious. I can’t wait to try this with the 24 hour fermentation! Also, I would love to have the rye bread recipe if you’re willing to share. :)

    1. Dana, We use Lahey’s recipe while substituting about 30 percent (2 out of 6 cups) of white flour with rye—or a mix of rye and whole wheat. We also thrown in a tablespoon of rubbed caraway seeds, since so many people associate that with rye. (Some think that’s the taste of rye!) Give it the full 18 hours fermentation—or, better, 24—for best results.

  3. Hi, I wanted to add that I do this recipe with sourdough, and it works well. You might have to reduce a bit the water (didn’t measure). Anyway, the exact same recipe yields a great sourdough bread.

    X

      1. Hi again,

        As I am not a native in English, please excuse me for any language errors– I don’t really know technical bakery terms!

        What failed in your recipe How was the bread afterwards? I’m really a lazy baker, so I do most things without weighing, but I did weigh today. Even when doing things without weighing, and even the time I put too much water in, this recipe always comes out very well (better than any other recipe I tried).

        I use the exact proportions with semi-whole flour (110g), but reduce to 300ml of water or less when using white (65g) flour, with variations depending a bit on my sourdough’s texture that day. Today I measured 200g of sourdough, it’s less than half the jar, but enough with such a long rise at room temp. For step 1, I mixed sourdough first, then water and salt, then only add flour. After that, I follow the recipe.

        If the dough ends up having too much water, it’s obvious as at step 3: the dough will keep expanding on whatever surface you put it, without much hope of shaping it at all (I still tried). If that happens, after a desperate attempt to shape it, just perform step 4 but put the towel in a big kitchen bowl (“cul de poule” – I have no idea what the English term is for that) so the bread won’t keep flowing. You’ll be able to pour back everything from the towel to the oven dish, and even if the crust will look messy, it’ll still be extremely good bread. This recipe is so forgiving ! Next time, just put a bit less water, to be able to follow the recipe as-is.

        X.

      1. Anita, I haven’t been able to turn this into a sourdough recipe. But I’m the worst person to ask. I’ve killed every starter that has ever entered our home. But Xara seem to be proficient. I’d try her method.

  4. Sorry for posting again: I realize that I gave the coarseness of flours according to French standards. Here’s a table and explanations, apparently in the UK and US, there is no such numbers. I’m pretty sure that because of these variations in flours, most readers will have to make adjustments in water.

  5. This might be a silly question but I can’t get instant yeast where I am…can I use active dry yeast and just proof it first and then follow the steps as listed above? Thank you!

    1. My dear Mary, absolutely. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of well-drained chopped olives to the dough when you mix it. It should be perfectly fine. I’ve added cheese, bacon, sausage, rosemary–in short, all kinds of fold-ins. I’ve never had a problem. But…if you want to play it safe, use Jim’s olive bread recipe.

  6. Just made my first no-knead bread with your recipe. Loved it! I added dried onion to it and very good. Thank you!

    1. You’re so very welcome, Claudia! I dare say you’re going to be hooked, just like us, by the no-knead approach…

  7. I have to say after more or less “retiring” from bread baking I’m back in it full swing! It is true you get ” the bug”! Only one drawback is you want to eat the whole loaf! This is when it’s nice to give it away! I don’t buy bread anymore. Only flour and yeast!

  8. Fantastic! But you already know that. What I don’t understand is why do you do the second rising in a tea towel? Why not just return the dough back into the bowl? Perhaps add oil or flour/cornmeal to the bowl first.

    1. Piet, glad you liked it. The tea towel makes flipping the dough easier. Some people have greased the bowl and had success flipping. Adding flour or cornmeal to won’t sufficiently cover the surface of the dough and it will stick to the bowl. (I’ve even had problems with the dough, which is quite wet, sticking to the tea towel.) Hope this helps.

  9. I tried Jim Lahey’s recipe for calzone dough last week and it was better than any other yeasted dough I’ve ever made ( I have an unfortunate history with yeast– everything I make turns to heavy bricks) and it had a complex flavor, bubbly texture… It was a miracle. I am sooo going to try your recipe David!
    One question: I can’t find any mention of greasing the dutch oven before putting in the dough. Is this correct?

    1. Carolyn, so glad you’re liking the Lahey Method. It’s really simple. And, nope, no need to grease the Dutch oven. Just drop it in and bake. (But definitely make sure you spread a good layer of flour or wheat germ on the towel because this is a wet dough.)

  10. Can this be doubled or tripled? I have lots of family coming and would like to make more than one loaf at a time

    1. Eileen, we’ve never tested it that way. Because each recipe makes just one loaf, I’d be concerned that you’d deflate the dough after the second rise by dividing.

      1. I have doubled the recipe, split the dough into two after the first rise, and then proofed and baked the two in separate pots at the same time. Both came out spot on. One thing I didn’t do was double up on the yeast, I only used 1/4 teaspoon plus half of that, so 3/8 teaspoon total. Hope this helps.

  11. My grandson loves this recipe but was just diagnosed with diabetes and would like me to try making with half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. Will it work. Does anyone have an easy good sandwich whole-wheat flour bread recipe

    1. Leslie, Yes. I have made this with 50 percent toasted barley flour (Tibetan “tsampa”) in place of white flour. The only other adjustment is that I have to add more liquid, as tsampa soaks up moisture. (Himalayan people make an instant porridge by spooning some tsampa into butter tea.) Anytime we use a heavier flour—barley, rye, whole wheat—we make sure to let it sit for a good long time in the first proofing: 18-24 hours. I also save the whey from cheesemaking to replace the water. Delicious.

    1. Ana, we don’t have that recipe from his book, sorry. If you want a recipe for ciabatta that is NOT no-knead, we can heartily recommend this ciabatta recipe, which is one of the most popular recipes on our website. Be sure to read the instructions carefully as it’s a very wet dough (as are most Italian breads) and requires a little special handling.

  12. I’m trying this recipe today. A bit of guidance would be appreciated. Should the water be hot, warm, cold? Also what is the target internal temp? I’m guessing 180 on this one but just checking.

    1. Hi Michael, I would use lukewarm water and aim for a target temperature of around 185 degrees. Please let us know how it turns out.

  13. I do not have a dutch oven pot, what else can be used? I have made bread in the past but would like trying this no knead bread. My b-i-l made a Ricardo recipe where he says to not use a pot with a glass lid and to preheat the cooking pot at 450 for 30 minutes. I think pre-heating a pot for 30 min. sounds like a bit much; would appreciate expert counsel…Thanks!

    1. Lina–fear not–I’ve used all sorts of lidded vessels, including small Corningware casseroles with glass lids. You can make a smaller batch if you only have a small vessel. (But I usually make a double or triple batch and divide it to fit various Dutch ovens and casseroles–if you’re going to heat up your oven and your kitchen, might as well make a loaf for a friend while you’re at it!)

  14. I just bought a 4-qt lodge cast iron pot thinking it was the right size for lahey’s bread. You call for 6-8! Counsel please.

    1. Hi, Elle. The recipe is Jim’s, and he calls for a 6- to 8-quart pot, which I agree with. The loaf needs space, especially when you flip the dough into it.

  15. Jim’s recipe is wonderful–and versatile. I’ve used the Dutch oven technique on more conventional doughs, too. But in addition to this recipe, Jim’s book is a good read. His own story is compelling. Many other neat recipes for beer bread, stecca, unusual pizzas…

    1. Thanks so much, alan! We couldn’t agree more with you about Jim’s book. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s a national treasure.

  16. I’d like to make my no-knead bread in my Pullman Loaf pan so it is more serviceable for sandwiches and toast. Any tips on this, to save me some trial-and-error? Thanks!

    1. Patticake, while I love anyone who knows what a Pullman pan is, this recipe isn’t right for that. You need a really good sandwich-loaf recipe. One with a tight, light crumb. This bread had an open-hole texture and can be quite moist. To avoid disappointment, I’d suggest searching for a recipe designed for a Pullman pan.

  17. I just tried this recipe and it seemed to go perfectly, they is until cutting it and tasting it. It looked, felt, smelled and sounded beautiful, but had no flavor and was quite sticky inside, uniformly sticky all the way out to right near the crust. This is despite the crust being very dark. It also came out a bit flatter in shape than I expected.

    So what could be wrong? I believe I used 1 5/8 cup water, so maybe just too much water? The dough seemed to conform perfectly to the description in the instructions.

    I didn’t have a Dutch oven, but used a pizza stone pre-heated for 1 hr. Then I tossed the dough on that and covered it with an upside-down mixing bowl for the first 30 minutes.

    Would lower temp and longer bake time help? It did not seem underbaked, but done, just uniformly sticky inside. Beautiful holes and everything.

    I want to try again, but any ideas to improve? Thanks.

    1. Hi Tim, I certainly admire your creativity but I wonder if your cooking method is causing the problem. As David mentions in one of the comments, this recipe does require the proper pot. I wonder if this bread might be easier for you to tackle as no special pot is required.

  18. I’m not a novice bread maker, but far from a pro. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while after seeing Jim Lahey in a TV piece. I was amazed by the result, so was my family. I hadn’t ever tried a crusty bread like this. Most of mine come out of a loaf pan. This was everything it promised to be in ease of preparation to a fantastic product with a chewy crust and a soft, tasty interior and a wonderful open structure. Now I have to try it again and give it a few more hours in the first fermentation. The only problem is that my family may insist that I make this everyday for the next few weeks.

    1. Gary, this is magnificent to hear! All of it! I could not be happier for you—and I could not be more grateful to you for sharing this with us. Thank you! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

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