100% rye sourdough bread

Ingredients (to make 4 loaves of approximately 500 grams each)


1.  Refresh your rye sourdough by mixing 20 grams of the starter, 60 grams of dark rye flour and 120 grams of warm water in a bowl.  Cover it and leave it over night.

2.  The next day, take 40 grams out of this bowl and put it back with the rest of your sourdough starter in an airtight container and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  There is no need to “feed” your dough at all until you are ready to use it again and then, just follow the instructions above.  Now, make a pre dough:  Mix the remaining refreshed starter with 300 grams of dark rye flour and 350 grams of warm water.  Cover this and leave this until it has doubled in bulk and is all fluffy.  This can take 2 hours on a hot day but you can also leave it overnight/all day if you want, either in or out of the fridge.

3.  Mix the pre dough with 700 grams of the flour of your choice.  You can use a mixture of any flour at this point – some light rye, some white or whole wheat, or white or whole spelt.  Really – what ever you have on hand.   Just be aware that if you use all dark rye you will have a very heavy loaf.  Delicious, but heavy. Add 250 grams of water and 20 g salt.  If you are using all rye flour give this a good mix to make sure everything is incorporated and add more water gradually to get the consistency of a mud pie.  Don’t bother kneading.  It won’t make any difference to the final bread.  If you are using any component of spelt or wheat, knead the mixture for a good 10  minutes and then add the salt and up to 100 g more water and then knead for another 5 minutes until you get a dough the consistency of a thick pudding.  Depending on your flour you may need to add more or less water.

4.  Let the dough rest for 30-60 minutes or so, covered.

5.  Shape the dough with wet hands.  If you are making 100% rye, make four rectangles and slide each one into a well buttered tin.  If you are using baskets to rise the bread, roll the rectangles in dark rye flour and pop them in the baskets.  Cover the tin/baskets with clingfilm and let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk.  This will take 2-4 hours depending on the warmth in the kitchen.  If you have a component of spelt or wheat, make four blobs and hold them one by one in both (wet) hands.  Transfer the blob to one hand and imagine it has four corners.  One corner at a time, gently pinch the dough and stretch it away from the blob and fold it back on itself.  Gently massage the blob into a sausage shape.  Then, slide each sausage into a well buttered tin.  If you are using baskets to rise the bread, roll the sausages in dark rye flour and pop them in the baskets.  Cover them with clingfilm and let them rise until they have double in bulk.  Again, this will take 2-4 hours depending on the warmth of the kitchen.

Sourdough loaves are ready for the oven when this happens:  Push the dough gently with a finger.  If the indentation comes out again within a minute or so they are ready for the oven.  If it takes longer than that they need more time.  If you can push you finger in really easily and it is clear that the indentation will never come out again, they have over risen but do not despair!  Just scrape the dough out of the tins/baskets one at a time, knead a bit more flour into them until they are somewhat more solid and put them back in the tins/baskets as you did before.  Try rising them again and watch them a bit more closely.  They will rise again, trust me.

6.  Bake the bread at 220 degrees for 10 minutes and then a further 30 minutes at 200 degrees.  I am sure I don’t need to say this but you don’t bake bread in a basket.  You roll the dough out of the basket onto a cookie sheet that you have lined with baking parchment or liberally dusted with polenta.  Ideally, heat the cookie sheet up first and roll  the dough onto a hot sheet.  If you forget, don’t worry about it.

Take the bread out, lovely and cracked on the top and WAIT until the next day to eat it.  Sourdough is very damp and is better the next day.  It will stay fresh for 4-5 days.

If you would like to add dried fruit or nuts or seeds it is a nice idea to soak these in water for 12 hours so that they are moist and don’t take any moisture out of the dough.

70 Replies to “100% rye sourdough bread”

  1. there are no ingredients listed for the rye sourdough bread..would love to try it out, as I miss my german bread! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Dear Sabina, Thank you for your message. If you click here: http://www.virtuousbread.com/how-to-make-bread/recipies/peter-owen-jones-rye-bread-is-just-yrughfhfh-thats-a-good-thing-by-the-way/ you will find a recipe for rye bread. I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Thank you for this. Looks great. I make a sourdough rye from ‘Bread Matters’ but struggle to get any consistency with it (sometimes very wet, sometimes burns), so want to try another one and this one looks great. Just to be clear, I start with 160g starter to make the pre-dough, as the refreshed dough adds up to 200g and then I keep 40g for next time? Also are they baked in a 2lb loaf tin? Many thanks.

    1. Hi Rochelle

      not quite. On day 1 you refresh your starter so that by the next day it is bubbly and lively. Make sure you make more than you need so you can put some back. Now, I don’t know how your starter is made. Mine is pretty liquid and this clearly will impact the rest of the recipe. So you will need to use your judgement!

      Take 160 g of the refreshed starter and mix it with 240 rye flour and at least 140 of water plus 5 g salt. I say at least 140 g water because your dough has got to be soft – almost too soft to handle – and the starter you use and the flour you use will be different from mine and so will hold more water, if you see what I mean. So adjust the water to have a very soft dough and then shape it into a little oblong and pop it in a greased tin. In this case a 1 lb tin. Cover and let rise. I hope this helps! let me know!

  3. Thanks so much for this. I have been experimenting with another one in ‘Bread Matters’ but plan to try this one next. Your instructions are great. Thank you! I will definitely let you know when I try it. Rochelle

  4. Hi Jane,

    A year and a half after taking your sourdough course I finally taking the plunge with sour dough.

    I have a question about proofing times for a 100% rye loaf? I seem to be getting very little rise (a 1/2 full tin only rises to 3/4 of the tin rather than to the top) even though I left it for over 14 hours. I cooked it anyway and it had a great taste, and the texture wasn’t too bad, but I wonder what it would be like if it had risen fully. It’s mid winter now and my kitchen rarely gets above 20C and drop down below 15C. Do I just have to wait even longer?

    1. Hi Gillian, that sounds like an awfully long time. Sorry, some questions: are you refreshing the sourdough over night before mixing the rye bread together and putting it in the tin. I refresh the starter the night before I want to bake and then it is really frothy. I put together the dough and pop it in tins and it comes up in between 3-5 hours. My kitchen is never warm either. Or I put it in the frigde to rise overnight (8 hours). So, are you refreshing it overnight first?

  5. Hi. It’s a new starter that’s only been going for a week or so but smells and looks right.

    Yes, I refreshed the night before (1:3:6) and it was nice and frothy. It was definitely doing something during the proof because I got a vinegary smell when ever I opened the bag that I put the tins in. Two things I thought of

    1) Could it just not be wet enough? It had a lovely wet clay like texture like I remember from the course…

    2) I’m using stoneground rye with all the bits (Bacheldre Mill) so that would make it a dark rye. Maybe that just won’t rise that much?

    As I said, it had a great flavor. My (German) husband has just happily eaten half a loaf…

  6. Hey Gillian, both good thoughts. And you would get a vinegary smell if it rose for 14 hours!!!! I use dark rye all the time and although it is a little smaller, it should still come to the top of the tin. Try making it a little wetter (you should see your hand print in the dough when you hold it just before you slip it into the tin). It really cannot be too wet – for a danish rye, for example (pumpernickel) you literally pour it into a tin and it bakes like a cake….Let me know!

  7. Hi, just to follow up. There seem to have been two problems with my original attempt at 100% rye.

    1) I hadn’t left my refreshed started for long enough. This time I left it for 18 hours (instead of 12) and it was much more frothy. I suspect that it just needs longer due to the cold temperature.

    2) Definitely needed more water.

    I got a more significant rise within 6 hours this time, and the loaf was less heavy. And a lovely flavour…

  8. Why is my first attempt so heavy? Very tasty but very disappointing. It didn’t seem to rise much on the last proving and Ieft it 5 hours
    Any suggestions gratefully received before I throw away my starter and give up!

    1. just be patient! try covering it an putting it in the fridge overnight 8 hours or so should do it. and make sure you are making it with a really fresh starter – ie one you have refreshed within 12-14 hours. Let me know how it goes.

  9. My rye dough looked wonderful. Felt right, shaped right, rose a little in 3 hours but not much.
    However, it turned out like a hockey puck.

    Are you certain 200C is not too high? What else could it have been?

    1. Dear Lucie, were you making sourdough or with yeast? this is important. sourdough will take longer and the starter needs to be very recently refreshed (and REALLY refreshed) to make the bread. As re rising – it’s a moveable feast and the important thing is not time (if cold it takes longer) but appearance. There must be little holes all over the top of the loaf before you bake it. If it is to the top of the tin with no holes you have to be patient. If it spills over the top of the tin before holes form – the tin is too small! Baking – 200 is a minimum. I start mine at 250 for 10 minutes, then 230 for 10 and 200 for 10. I hope this helps. Jane

  10. Hi Jane,

    Thank you for your wonderful website. Just a quick question – I am fairly certain that I found a recipe for a spelt sourdough loaf using a rye starter on your website…but now I can’t seem to find it? Did i make that up?

    I have used the recipe above this time, and it is rising as I write this, but I just thought I’d check if i was going mad…? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks

    1. Hi there, oof, you may have but I have no idea where. Have you tried searching “rye and wheat” that might turn something up. The thing is just use spelt in the same way you would use wheat. They are pretty interchangeable. The spelt you use may or may not need as much water as the wheat (add it gradually) and it may or may not rise as much. Depends on the strength of the flour. But consider them more or less equal! Let me know how you get on.

  11. Thanks for getting back to me. It was definitely a Spelt specific recipe…but I was just trying to satisfy my curiosity more than anything. I have been using spelt instead of wheat in cakes for a while now, and am in the process of rekindling my breadmaking. To be honest, so far it hasn’t been great…but is improving each time. I’m just not getting a very good rise. This time was better (the last time my loaf of bread was competing with the bricks in the house in weight and strength!). It tastes really good…but just not rising enough. I think my starter isn’t active enough. It has bubbles, but it’s not bubbly/frothy. I shall persevere!

    I had the pleasure of attending one of your workshops at a Weston A.Price weekend event, which was fantastic, but I’ve noticed in my notes from that day that you talked about using a rye starter for a wheat/spelt loaf, so that you had very little rye in the actual loaf. But in the recipe above, the ratio of rye to wheat/spelt is a lot higher. (Which I guess may affect the rise a little?) Is it possible to make the pre-dough with spelt flour instead, using the rye starter?
    Thanks for taking the time to advise ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hey! There are plenty of recipes and you can go from mostly rye to mostly not rye depending on how you do it. Another recipe is to refresh the rye starter with the spelt flour (1 tablespoon rye starter and 100 g each of flour and water. Mix together and leave over night. Then add up to 1 kg of flour and 600 g (ish) of water and salt. knead 10 mins and let rest at least 4 hours before shaping. Let rest at least 2 hours and then bake. As above, your spelt may be weaker than your wheat. Some is, some is not! In this way you refresh the starter with the spelt. I would not make a spelt starter, though. It’s tricky and bitter (clearly needs councelling…). But do, as above, refresh with spelt. Don’t run out of rye starter though! So every once in a while refresh the rye with rye just so you don’t run out! WHere do you live? Why not come and take a class – all mysteries solved!

  12. Great Site! I read everything and knew about all the problems but still the Sourdough recipe got me. The starter was working the pre-dough was good, after 4 hours rise in the tins the loaves were just peaking over the rim, when I put them in, but they fell and ended up 2 to 2.5 inches in the pans. I used all dark rye until the main flour addition of 700 gms which I split 300 Rye and 400 whole meal wheat. dough was very wet, but I put all 4 loaves in at once, any clues to my error? I was VERY careful of the tins of risen dough.

    1. Hi there, i have never heard of this so I have to ask – was the oven right up at 230 degrees celcius? Also, check your dough in the tins – the rise of sourdough dough is about 1.5 times (not double, like yeasted dough). Is it possible the dough over rose? If you poke the dough with your finger it should spring back at you. If you go right into it OR if you have a “wavy” surface OR if you are baking with wheat and you have holes in the top of the dough, it has over proofed and may well collapse in the oven. let me know!

  13. My oven was at 230 for first 10, and 200 for last 30. I did the poke test, and while the surface popped back, it was very soft, the dough rose well, but I may have left it too long. I may have reached full rise 40 min. before I started baking. I am a beginner, and probably wanted more of a wheat yeast looking loaf and thus killed the poor sourdough. I WILL try again. The rye loaves tho short are very tasty. Thanks, I will tell you how things work out.

  14. Sorry, my first reply must have gotten lost. My oven was set at 220 for 1st 10 min., and 200 for last 30 as per “Sourdough the way we make it” recipe. Dough rose about the 1.5 increase, but then I waited for the look of your beautiful loaf from the “simple and delicious” recipe, the one with yeast. This was probably my mistake and the bread over proofed. When I did the poke test it did rebound but the dough surface was very soft and not resilient like yeast bread. I thought since I used some whole wheat flour, that the extra gluten would make it a stronger dough. The kneading may have set the sourdough back, although the texture of the four loaves isn’t as heavy as the two inch tall height would suggest. Never the less I will try again and am eating the very tasty but SHORT slices of bread. I will report future attempts.

  15. I make sourdough bread with various flours. I am now using rye and have a question about proving the dough. As far as I can ascertain, when making 100% rye bread you should only rise the dough once then bake. When making wheat bread I rise, then prove, then bake. So if I am making 50% rye, 50% wheat bread what should I do?

    1. Hi there, well, there is no ONE way to make bread. I don’t bother “rising” 100% rye twice. I mix and shape and rise and bake. With 50-50 you can do the same OR you can let it rise and then shape it and let it rise again. That way you will get a bit of a better rise on it and you will have a thinner crust. It’s up to you!

  16. Hi Virtuous Bread, I really want to try this recipe, but could you please post one that is specifically for one loaf of bread? I am a total novice and don’t want to mess up the measuring calculations and ruin the whole thing! Thanks so much ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Hi – the recipe looks great and easy. I would like to make one loaf only so am wondering about the quantity of sourdough starter necessary. Would one use a quarter of the amount used in this recipe – that seems like a very small amount.

  18. Hi,

    I’d like to make 2 loaves with 100% dark rye using your recipe. My bread pan size is 91/2 by 51/2. Can I just use the recipe and then split it into two loaves? If so, what temperature, and for how long, would I cook them if cooking them at the same time?

    Thanks for your time

  19. Can you use only light rye for this recipe or do you need to have dark rye for refreshing the starter and at the beginning of the recipe?

  20. OK, stupid question I know but – if you are making the 100% rye bread and you are using the 4 loaf tins, am I right thinking you just leave them in the tins at the end stage to bake them? Or do they need to be rolled onto a cookie sheet covered in baking parchment or polenta too? Sorry for my confusion, this is my first ever attempt! Many thanks for your wonderful site!

  21. Thank you so much for your amazing site! I have now made my first sourdough using your rye starter and recipes. I have two more questions! 1) I don’t bake every day so my starter is back in the fridge- to refresh it do I need to take it out the fridge the night before feeding it, or do I just take it out, feed it and follow your instructions above? 2) the loafs I made seemed to rise the second time much more quickly than the two – four hours you suggest it needs – after one hour they already seemed ‘over-risen’ (although my rye starter behaved exactly as you described it would). The bread still tastes great though. I just couldn’t work out quite what I’d done wrong! (my kitchen was very warm when it was rising the second time) Many thanks!! Cat

    1. Hey! Thanks so much for your questions. OK, let me take them in order. When you refresh the starter, just take it out of the fridge (cold) and add it to the new flour and water to refresh. Any that you do refresh that you don’t need, stick it back in the jar in the fridge. 2) you have done nothing wrong! Rye is hilariously tricksy that way. Sometimes it moves and some times it does not. If you want a predictable rise, pop it in the fridge for 8 hours and it comes out ready. Take it out, heat up the oven, and throw it in.

  22. Thank you so much for all your guidance. I have one last question! Is it safe to store the dormant starter in the fridge in a kilner jar? I wasn’t sure if it would be likely to explode or not!

      1. I’m really enjoying making sourdough using your directions here and the bread tastes great. Yesterday though I noticed the bread seems to be taking the coating off my loaf tins – don’t know if this is because it’s acidic and proving it in the tins is eating the tins? Anyway I wanted to keep making it in the tins but wondered if you knew whether using uncoated stainless steel loaf tins would stop this happening?

        1. Hi there Cat, there are some people who do think that the acidity can take the the coating off tins but I really don’t think it is that – the acidity is simply not all that high. I think all tins lose their coating after a while but I have been baking 100% sourdough rye for years and don’t see any more wear and tear in the tins used for them (different size) than the ones in which other things are baked. I always grease tins whether coated or uncoated because it gives nice flavour (use a hard fat not oil) and also removes any frisson of the danger of sticking. So, sorry I cannot be more helpful. Give it a try and let me know!

  23. Hi, Jane. I think I got a big confused about the recipe, as it is for 4 loaves. May I please ask you first:

    1. If I’m just making a 100% rye loaf at a time (bread machine), how much sourdough should I refresh? Also, when you say, leave it overnight, do you mean in the the fridge?

    2. The next day, how much starter from this should I mix with the rest before I make the bread? Is it still 40 grams?

    3. You said you only make 100% rye rise once. In this case, how much should I mix? Is it 160 g of the refreshed starter, 240 g of rye flour and 140 water plus 5 salt, as you said in another message? My bread is usually double the size than the loaf you quoted in your yeast recipe – I used 600 g of rye flour instead of the 300 you quoted on your recipe, and doubled the other ingredients as well. Is this the same, you think? Thank you so much!


  24. Hi, Jane! I’ve worked out a way to do my sourdough breadmachine rye bread. I’m halving your recipe :), so disregard my earlier message, please, and sorry about that.

    Although I needed to ask you just one thing: You know in step 2. when you say: ” Mix the remaining refreshed starter with 300 grams of dark rye flour and 350 grams of warm water.” I’ve followed your recipe for the actual starter, but If I’m using half the amount in everything, should I then also halve the starter amount that I mix for the pre-dough? Please, let me know. Thank you so much, Jane!

    I’m really looking forward to make this sourdough rye bread now!

  25. Hi, Jane. Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough. I think I’ll be using your method with the same ingredients and the same quantities, and just bake twice in two tins, so my loaves will be 1 Kg each in the bread machine. My question is, how much starter do I have altogether before I mix it with the flour for the pre-dough?

    Also, if I keep on making bread I should put away some sourdough for the next time. How much should I put in the fridge and at what stage? Thank you, Jane. I really appreciate your help and advice.

  26. Hi, Jane. I think I understand now … Sorry for the many questions. Those 40 grams at the beginning are to put away for the next time, I get it now. I was getting confused. Never mind. Don’t pay attention of my questions. I will make the bread now and tell you how it went! Cheers

  27. Jane, the bread turned out beautifully! It tastes less raw, less grainy than the loaves I’ve baked with commercial yeast. It’s not sour at all, actually. It has a gentle taste, almost sweet.

    The starter smelled tingey, like a mixture of beer and yoghurt, very interesting. I hope this bread will be better for my tummy as yeast might have produced too much gas.

    Thank you so much for allowing us to have your recipe and expertise! The bread machine worked very well with an hour baking, just half of the ingredients per loaf. Cheers!

    1. Ooo That is great news! And your observation is spot on. Sourdough rye is less gummy than rye made with yeast. The acidity of the sourdough does something chemical (don’t ask) that causes the rye to bake in a more “dry” way. That is just great!!!!!! I am sure you will not have a tummy ache at all. This is my very favourite bread and I usually make about 4 at a time (in an oven) and freeze them so we always have some.

  28. Yes, Jane. Thank you so much! People on my Facebook page are going nuts! I will let them know about your recipe. They can’t believe it has no wheat, hehe.

  29. Just made my second sourdough loaf. The first one was ok but a bit close textured, but my second effort seemed to be going so much better – the pre dough really worked up a head overnight, and it felt good when I was kneading it (I used to make ordinary bread, so I’m going by that). When I took it out of the oven it was well risen on one side but not the other – probably a case of half a loaf is better than none. I don’t usually bother with the fan on our gas oven, would that make so much difference? Or any other ideas, please.

    1. Hello – sorry for the late response…..have been rather under presser of late. I have never heard of a loaf that was only risen on one side – and would normally attribute that to a fierce fan. Did you bake it in a tin? Do let me know.

  30. When I sliced the loaf it was like the top was a lid and pulled away from the rest of it, with a big gap. Oh well, back to the drawing board

  31. For the Rye Sourdough bread how much salt do you use ? In one of the comments you state 5 grams, but that doesn’t seem enough. Thank you in advance for your reply.

  32. Thank for your informative site.

    Hi, Will be making Rye sourdough bread at the weekend. I have supermarket aluminium tin 1.5 l loaf tins bottom of tin is 20(l) x 9(w) x 7(d) cm if I make this recipe and put the dough into 2 of these cheap tins and bake same amount of time it would be OK?

    1. Hi Elaine

      I am not quite sure how big there are? The dough in the recipe is around 600 grams and it fits well into one small (500 g, 1 pound) tin. If you are using the aluminium tins, grease and flour them as the dough tends to stick.

  33. Thank you for the recipe, it was a success. I greased, lined with grease paper oiled and filled two tins with the dough and it all turned out very nice. Will make this every weekend and fingers crossed it will continue to be a success and when I get to my home base collect and bring back my bread tins etc. All good.

  34. I would be very appreciative if you would give me the amount of each ingredient for just one loaf. Also what is the oven temperature in Fahrenheit? Thank you so much. Karen in Portland Oregon

    1. DEAR Karen, thank you for this. Thankfully bread is super simple – all you need to do is divide everything by 4 and you will have quantities for one loaf. Oven temp in F is 450 and then down to 400. A really great site for comparisons is: https://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/cooking/ there you can find every possible conversion!

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