Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe turned traditional bread making upside down for all of us. Made with just flour, yeast, salt, and water, the bread is the fastest, easiest, and best you may ever make.

A piece of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread with three pieces of butter and a sprinkling of salt on top.

This is it, folks. Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe. The technique that incited an insurrection among bread bakers everywhere. The recipe is ridiculously easy, even for first-time bread bakers, and will make you wonder why you ever spent all that time and effort kneading dough in the past. The loaf is an adaptation of Lahey’s phenomenally and outrageously popular pugliese sold at Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan. And once you try it, you’re going to wonder where it’s been your entire life. Originally published April 23, 2015.Renee Schettler Rossi

How to ensure magnificence from your loaf of no-knead bread

Baker Jim Lahey took great care, in his original recipe for this no-knead bread, to explain as many tricks as he possibly could to help ensure you have spectacularly satisfying results at home. We’ve included them in the instructions below.

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, depending on the exact flour you’re using and the temperature of your house and the humidity and, we suspect, the barometic pressure, the phase of the moon, and maybe even your mood. So some days your bread baking may seem blessed and others it may feel cursed. Although as Lahey says, “Even the loaves that aren’t what you’d regard as perfect are way better than fine.”

A round loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, dusted with flour on a leather chair

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

  • Quick Glance
  • (100)
  • 30 M
  • 3 H, 30 M
  • Makes 16 slices | 1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf
4.9/5 - 100 reviews
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Special Equipment: 6- to 8-quart heavy pot with lid

Ingredients


Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and mix with a spoon or your hand until you have a shaggy, sticky dough. This should take roughly 30 seconds. You want it to be a little sticky. (Many people who bake this bread find the dough to be sticker than other bread doughs they’ve worked with. Even though it’s not what you’re accustomed to handling, it’s perfectly fine.)

Cover the bowl with a plate, towel, or plastic wrap and set it 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. This long, slow fermentation is what yields the bread’s rich flavor.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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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    Commonly Asked Questions About No-Knead Bread

    • 1. Why didn’t my bread rise?
    • Because the recipe calls for so little yeast, it’s important to make sure the yeast is fresh. Also, if the room is too cool (the ideal temperature is 72°F/22°C), the dough will need longer to rise.

    • 2. I don’t have a Dutch oven. Can I still make the bread?
    • You certainly can. What’s most important is to have a tight-fitting cover. Some bakers have had success with:

      — a stainless steel pot with a lid
      — an oven-safe glass (Pyrex) dish with a cover
      — a clay pot with a lid
      — a pizza stone with an inverted stainless steel bowl as a cover

    • 3. Why are my bread loaves flat? They’re not big and round.
    • First, check your yeast. It could be old and expired. Keeping yeast in the freezer helps extend its life considerably. Another culprit is not letting the dough rest enough after shaping and before baking. Creating a tight skin on the surface of the dough allows it to rise to lofty heights in the oven–something called oven spring.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    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.

    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.

    Yum! This no-knead bread recipe is perfect! I used bread flour and let it rise for 22 hours. I used a glass bowl so I could see many bubbles visible on top and throughout the dough along the sides. After the first rise, the dough is exactly as described—quite loose and sticky. I let it rise 2 hours after shaping the loaf and baked for the recommended time. The bread matched the picture color.

    I hopped into the shower and left the bread cooling and unguarded from bread lovers. When I came out, my husband had cut the bread only about 20 minutes into the recommended cooling time. There was no detriment to the bread. It retained a moist chew inside and a lovely, crunchy crust outside. I will definitely make this again.

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    Comments

    1. 5 stars
      My bread turned out excellent, with wonderful crust and crumb, large holes, fermented for more than 18 hours. Then I increased the recipe by 1.5 times the ingredient weights, which also came out good, but a little dense, So will do the 1.5 times the ingredients again and lengthen the bulk fermentation.

      Another question: Now creating a sourdough starter, and when it’s absolutely ready to be used, how would I incorporate my starter into Jim Lahey’s no-knead recipe and eliminate the yeast, if possible.

      Thank you in advance for your response.

      1. Hi Linda, I stumbled over this YouTube video today to make an “Easy Homemade Sourdough Bread | A Basic No-Knead Recipe That Gives Amazing Results Every Time”. You’ll find it here. It’s very interesting.

        Hope that helps a bit. ☺

      2. 5 stars
        I’m also looking into this but I think the two are fairly different animals. Jim’s no-knead, long fermentation method is used to build flavour and crumb structure WITHOUT the use of a sourdough starter. It isn’t a match but it still makes a damn nice loaf of bread.

        An established sourdough starter adds more flavour to the dough in less time (though you could cold ferment it in the refrigerator to deepen the flavour further). The best instructional video on making a sourdough starter and loaf that I have found is from Irish baker Patrick Ryan. I haven’t found ANY vids or articles on combining the 2 methods ANYWHERE–and, boy, have I trawled the internet for them.

        As to a good bread baker’s % calculator, you’ll find one here.

        Bonne chance !

        1. I used to use the Jim’s method and with some very good successes, but for the last two years I have had good and consistent results with this combination of a method and dough computer from “the Instructables” make fast workshop.

            1. I neglected to provide the link.

              This is worth taking a look at. This is a sourdough loaf using an overnight ferment at room temp, and the recipe can be altered by, for example, including a percentage of rye, hydration, etc. It will recalculate the other ingredients accordingly.

      3. Gorgeous bread, Linda!

        You can replace the yeast with starter, but we don’t have an exact amount. You’d have to play around with it a little to see what works best, but I’d suggest starting with 2/3 cup of starter in place of the yeast. Keep in mind that your starter is half flour and half water, so you need to subtract those amounts from the amount of flour and water called for so that the total amount of flour and water in the recipe remains the same. Does that make sense?

        If any of our readers have found a method and amount of starter that works well here, we’d love to hear from you.

    2. Would multiplying just the ingredients x1.5, give me the same results without changing anything else? Would mean I wouldn’t have to bake so often, would give me a couple of days more to not make dough again. Ideas?

      1. Linda, you could try it. In theory, it should work if you have a large enough baking vessel. You will definitely get a bigger loaf but you may find that it doesn’t rise as much as a single recipe loaf would. You could also just make 2 loaves at once and freeze one, if you’re trying to stretch the time between bread making days.

    3. 5 stars
      Has anyone tried cold-proving after the initial 18-24hr bulk ferment? That is, shape into a boule, place in a lined banneton that has been well floured with rice flour, covered with a linen cloth and placed in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours to slow prove?

      If so, did you bake from cold or let it rest at room temperature for an hour while the dutch oven heated?

      Thanks for any thoughts.

    4. 4 stars
      i’ve made this recipe 4 times in the last week. two successes & 2 failures. i modify the recipe this way, i use a mix of 375g of bread flour with 125g of whole wheat (25%) & 3/8 tsp approx. +1 g of ADY. this is what i have learned so far.

      1. it was not beginner’s luck that i created a beautiful artisan loaf, it was following the recipe closely the first time & the 4th time to prove i could do it again, very repeatable.

      2. i learned in order to get a more flavourful bread, please let the initial proof go for the longer 18 hr period, good-tasting bread takes time.

      3. i’ve learned to work with extremely wet, sticky dough much better. i am not using my hands as much, but using utensils & most importantly parchment paper. i am going to be using floured parchment paper & a covering towel from now on for the final proof period. my tea towel was ruined & thrown out after the second attempt.

      4.  the use of a dutch oven/cocotte is now an indispensable tool in my bread baking repertoire. these loaves are the first ones i’ve baked in my new favorite toy.

      5. the “no knead” method still needs a forming or strengthening step for the dough. i’m going to go into the detail of this now.

      ~ do this by extending the final proof into a 3-hr period, the first hour is a forming period.

      ~ first, turn out onto a well-floured piece of parchment taped down to a half sheet. first is a punch down step, pulling to the middle going around making loose semi-sphere, flip it over seams down.

      ~ then let it rest 20 minutes. i use a silicone spatula for this step. i am forming a log loaf shape so then get the dough loose by scraping excess flour under it & then creating folds, tri-folds or coils. flour sticky spots top & bottom as required, i am using thin pastry scrapers in each hand for this.

      ~ let the dough rest again for the next 20 minutes, then repeat.

      ~ let the dough rise under a towel for two hours.

      ~ in the last half an hr of the final proof preheat the oven with the dutch oven inside to 500 degrees F.

      ~ scrap corn meal or bran underneath the formed dough log. slash if you so desire.

      ~ at the end of the proof, take the dutch oven out & place the dough into it by lifting the dough parchment paper & all place it into the pot.

      ~ push the paper out to the side with a spoon or a spatula.

      ~ cover with the top & place in the oven, resetting the temperature to bake at 450 F, 20 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered. these times are estimated for your use.

      May your bread rise high.

      mikec

    5. I tried using a well floured banneton to proof, but when I turned it on to my parchment paper to transfer to pot, it stuck and I had to pull it out and try to reshape. What did I do wrong? Use a combination of all purpose and rice flour for the banneton. Thanks for any suggestions.

      1. Was it a lined banneton, or an unlined banneton? I use heavily-floured cloth liners with my bannetons, rubbing the flour into the cloth before putting the boule into the basket. I also lightly dust the top of the loaf before rolling it in.

      2. Claudette, it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. This dough can be quite sticky, so you may just need more flour in the banneton, or you could also try dusting the seam side of the dough with some flour (as well as the banneton) before you pop it into the basket.

        1. Thank you, Angie. I will try again using your suggestions. I was actually surprised that the finished bread tasted fine. It just wasn’t pretty to look at!

          1. I have been baking this recipe throughout the pandemic and it works great. My only problem is that sometimes the finished product has traces of flour in the bread – why is this happening and what can I do to eliminate this?
            Thanks
            Ken

            1. Hi Ken,
              I bake this bread with an 80% hydration – (375g flour / 300g water) and use a Danish whisk for the initial integration of the ingredients but then use dampened hands to squeeze through the mix to ensure everything is incorporated. I have never had a problem with flour in the finished loaf.
              Good luck!
              Kim

            2. Ken, when you add the water in step 1 and stir it, make sure that there aren’t any dry pockets of flour in the dough.

          2. Sometimes the best ones aren’t the most beautiful, Claudette. So glad it turned out in the end.

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