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. 100% pure 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, without wheat flour. If you haven’t already got a rye sourdough starter, you can easily prepare one from scratch.

I. Andrew Whitley’s Russian Rye Bread (Sourdough)

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.

II. 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.

III. German-Style Pure 100% Rye Bread (Sourdough)

I bake this pure rye sourdough bread almost every week. It uses an old bread soaker which is popular in German sourdough bread baking.

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.
  • Butter a large heavy-duty loaf tin and sprinkle some crushed fennel or coriander 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.

IV. Traditional German Pumpernickel (100% Rye)

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.

  • Patrick Frazier

    In the first recipe, do you bake the loaf with the tin lid still on, and once the bread is finished baking take the loaf completely out of the tin to cool on a wire rack?

    • paemsn

      Hi Patrick, apologies – this wasn’t clear in the recipe, so thanks for asking the question! The loaf is baked with the tin lid on. Then, once finished, take the loaf out of the tin and place on the wire rack for cooling. Good luck with your bake! Pam