100% Rye Bread Recipes (Sourdough)


Rye flour is by far my favourite flour for bread baking. It produces breads with a rich hearty taste, complex nutty flavours and a moist, dense and chewy texture. Rye breads are higher in fibre and lower in fat than wheat loaves and therefore have added health benefits. From a practical viewpoint, I also love their longevity.

100% rye bread with cheese and vine tomatoes

100% Russian rye bread with cheese and vine tomatoes

There is however one thing in all-rye bread baking I don’t enjoy – the sticky dough which is difficult to handle. The good thing is that rye gluten isn’t particularly strong and kneading is therefore not feasible/required.

For purist reasons, I prefer not to add colouring agents such as molasses, malt, treacle, caramel, coffee or cocoa to achieve that rich, dark colour associated with rye breads.

Having experimented with quite a few 100% rye bread recipes, my favourite loaves use sourdough, no commercial yeast. All recipes below are 100% rye sourdough loaves.

Andrew Whitley’s Russian Rye Bread

The recipe I love most requires only four ingredients: rye sourdough starter, rye flour, water and salt. I usually add a bit of Brotgewürz as an optional addition as it enhances the flavour of the loaf.

The recipe has been taken from the book Bread Matters: Why and How to Make Your Own by Andrew Whitley. Here is how it’s done –

Day 1 – Prepare sourdough

  • In a bowl, combine 50g rye sourdough starter, 220g wholemeal rye flour and 220g lukewarm water.
  • Cover and keep at room temperature for approx. 16 hours.

Day 2 – Prepare dough

  • In a large bowl, combine 440g of yesterday’s sourdough mixture (keep the remaining sourdough for your next bake), 260g rye flour, 280g lukewarm water and 7g salt (plus 1 large tbsp of Brotgewürz if you like).
  • Mix thoroughly, place the dough back into the bowl, cover and rest for approx. 30 minutes.
  • Grease a large lidded pullman loaf tin (I use vegetable oil and a kitchen brush to do this).
  • Transfer the dough from the bowl to the tin. This is best done with wet hands. Distribute evenly.
  • Sprinkle a little rye flour on top, then place the lid on the tin.
  • Place the tin in the fridge overnight.

Day 3 – Bake

  • Take the tin out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 240°C.
  • The dough should have risen considerably – if the dough half-filled the tin on day 2, it should now be close to the top.
  • Bake at 240°C for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 220°C and bake for another 45 minutes or so. If in any doubt, give it a little longer in the oven – rye loaves hold a lot of water.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Once completely cooled, wrap in cling film and leave to rest for a day. The flavour of the loaf will develop further in that time and the crumb will improve.

Dan Lepard’s Sour 100% Rye Bread

Another one of my all-time favourite all-rye bread recipes uses a rye sourdough starter, fine rye flour and a clever gelatinised rye mix (made by mixing boiling water and rye flour) to aid the elasticity of the crumb. It’s a recipe from the book The Handmade Loaf: The Best European and Artisan Recipes for Homemade Bread by Dan Lepard. I ususally add add caraway seeds for extra flavour.

100% rye bread in the proofing basket

100% rye bread in the proving basket

Rye bread wrapped in parchment  for a day after baking

Rye bread wrapped in parchment maturing for a day after baking

Pure rye bread - best sliced thinly

Pure rye bread – best sliced thinly

All-rye bread with homemade marmalade

With dark homemade marmalade

The bread also tastes great with smoked fish, smoked meats with horseradish or root vegetable soups.

German-Style Pure Rye Bread

Day 1 – Prepare sourdough

  • 10g sourdough starter
  • 140g fine rye flour
  • 70g water
  • Combine ingredients in a bowl, cover and keep at room temperature for 16 – 24 hours.

Day 2 morning – Enhance sourdough

  • 210g sourdough from the day before
  • 200g fine rye flour
  • 200g water
  • Combine ingredients in a bowl, cover and keep at room temperature for 3 hours.

Day 2 morning – Prepare old bread soaker

  • 50g old stale bread (preferably dark sourdough bread)
  • 100g water
  • Soak old bread in a small bowl for 3 hours, then puree with a stick blender.
  • This is a technique commonly used in German-style bread baking and adds great flavour.

Day 2 afternoon – Prepare dough 

  • 610g sourdough (as prepared in the above steps)
  • 325g dark rye flour
  • 250g fine rye flour
  • 150g pureed bread soaker (as per the above)
  • 400g water
  • 16g salt
  • Combine the ingredients and mix well.
  • Place the dough in a bowl, cover and keep at room temperature for approx. 30 minutes.
  • Line a Dutch oven dish with kitchen paper (make sure the sides of the dish are lined fully as well).
  • Sprinkle some fennel seeds onto the bottom of the pan (these will infuse the bread during baking).
  • Place the dough (shaped into a round loaf form) into the dish and cover with a lid.
  • Place the dish in the fridge overnight.

Day 3 – Bake

  • Take the dish out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Bake for 65 minutes.
  • Take the lid off for the last 10 minutes of the baking time.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Traditional German Pumpernickel

Finally, taking pure rye bread baking one step further, try my traditional German pumpernickel recipe, using rye grains and cracked rye instead of flour.

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  • Nomnomblabla

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve made it several times. I use a tin, as I always seem to muck my loaf up when I use a basket. My rise time is considerably longer – maybe 5-7 hours! I live in Brighton, UK and it is cool here. I have never let the loaf mature overnight after baking, simply because I am always too eager to taste my bread, but one day I will!

    • paemsn

      Thanks for your comment, that’s great to hear! Using a tin is a great way of making sure the shape of the loaf is perfect every time. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hannelie

    Hi I would like to know if I can use the 100% rye dough for buns maybe?

    • paemsn

      Hi Hannelie, yes you can – you would just need to adjust the proving and baking times.

      Here is a beautiful recipe for 100% rye bread buns – http://www.ploetzblog.de/2014/02/05/auf-der-walz-reine-roggenbroetchen/ – written in German, so I have summarised the recipe for you here in English.

      Day 1 – Prepare Sourdough and Scalded Cracked Rye

      Combine the ingredients below and leave for 11 hours at room temperature
      – 55g dark rye flour
      – 55g water (circa 35°C)
      – 11g sourdough starter

      Add the ingredients below, mix and leave at room temperature for 5 hours at room temperature
      – 170g dark rye flour
      – 110g water (circa 30°C)

      Scalded Cracked Rye
      Combine cracked rye and salt, pour over boiling water, mix well, leave to cool, cover and keep in the fridge for at least 1- 2 hours until you need it for the final dough
      – 55g medium cracked rye
      – 110g water, boiling
      – 11g salt

      Day 2 – Prepare Final Dough, Prove & Bake

      – Sourdough from Day 1
      – Scalded Cracked Rye from Day 1
      – 285g dark rye flour
      – 80g water (circa 60°C)
      – 30g malt extract
      – 17g butter

      Combine all ingredients and knead for 5 mins.
      Prove for 30 mins to 1 hour depending on the room temperature.
      Knead again for 3 mins.
      Prove for 30 mins to 1 hour depending on the room temperature.
      Shape the dough into a rectangle (3 cm thick) and use your dough scraper to cut out 9 smaller rectangles.
      Place the dough rectangles on baking paper, dust with flour and prove for 1 – 2 hours depending on your room temperature.
      Preheat the oven to 250°C in time for baking.
      Score the buns across one corner.
      Bake for 20 mins, decreasing the temperature to 220°C after 5 mins.

      Good luck!

      • Hannelie

        O that is so nice of you Thank you soooo much will start tomorrow :)
        We can only eat 100% rye and your bread is really good I am baking it every few days.