Authentic German Pumpernickel Bread Recipe


It’s hard to find a good recipe for traditional German Pumpernickel so I thought I would try and fill this gap! Here you’ll find a step-by-step guide to baking the real thing as well as some interesting Pumpernickel facts. Give it a go – you won’t be disappointed!

Pumpernickel bread
Pumpernickel bread
Pumpernickel slice

What is Real German Pumpernickel?

  • 100% rye bread (only whole rye grain and cracked rye is used for the dough, no milled flour – Pumpernickel has humble origins and for a long time it used to be peasant fare for people with no access to a proper mill)

  • Rich dark-brown colour, but no crust (it’s baked in fully covered baking tins)

  • A very heavy bread with a darkly sweet aroma and earthy in taste (rye has 7% natural fruit sugar, compared to wheat at 4%, which caramelises during the bake)

Pumpernickel bread recipe
Pumpernickel bread based on my recipe

How to make traditional German Pumpernickel?

  • All you need is a rye sourdough starter, rye grains, cracked rye, salt, water and syrup.

  • No colouring agent such as caramel colour is added.

  • The characteristic dark colour is achieved through a very long baking period (about 14 hours in a low temperature of around 120°C) and caramelising fruit sugars.

  • In this process it’s important that the steam doesn’t escape – otherwise the bread will completely dehydrate during the long bake. The moisture can be retained by wrapping your baking tin with a few layers of tin foil. However, I invested in two Pullman Pans (one large, one small), loaf tins with a lid that slides on top to keep the loaf entirely contained. I still wrap a layer of tin foil around to be doubly sure.
  • The bread should mature at least 24 hours before cutting to allow the crumb to fully develop (all-rye breads tend to otherwise gum up due to the high percentage of pentosans – read all about this and what makes rye different over here at Azélia’s Kitchen)

Is Pumpernickel healthy?

  • Yes, the starches of real Pumpernickel have undergone so much of a transformation that they are quite easily digested (source: “Bread” by Jeffrey Hamelman)

  • Whole-grain rye contains nearly 15% fibre

  • Pumpernickel also has a low glycemic index (less likely to increase in your blood sugar level)

Where to buy Pumpernickel ingredients?

  • Organic rye grains (also called rye berries or kernels) from health food stores like Real Foods

  • Organic cracked (or chopped) rye and rye flours directly from the mill e.g. Shipton Mill. While Shipton Mill produces coarse cracked rye, I like to mix this up with fine cracked rye by The Prior’s Flour

  • Both Real Foods and BakeryBits ship worldwide


Pumpernickel ingredients
Pumpernickel ingredients: fine and medium cracked rye and rye berries

Pumpernickel bread recipe ingredients

This recipe bakes one large loaf.


Scalded Rye Berry Soaker

  • 200g rye berries, 200g boiling water

Cracked Rye Soaker

  • 150g cracked rye, 150g water

Additional dough ingredients

  • 550g cracked rye

  • 150g water

  • 22g salt

  • 120g maple syrup (traditionally cane sugar syrup is used but I prefer maple syrup)

  • A little dark rye flour for dusting

How to make Pumpernickel bread

  1. Prepare the preferment, scalded rye and rye soaker on day 1.
  2. Put together the main dough, prove and slow-bake for 14 hours on day 2 and overnight into day 3.
  3. Enjoy authentic Pumpernickel bread on day 4.

All the exact instructions to bake Pumpernickel can be found below. I’ve included sample timings for a weekend bake – starting Saturday, completing the bake on Monday morning and enjoying Pumpernickel bread on Tuesday for breakfast…

Day 1 (Saturday noon/early afternoon)
  • Prepare the preferment. Combine in a bowl, cover and leave to ripen for 16 – 24 hours.

  • Prepare the scalded rye. Pour the boiling water over the rye grains and leave overnight.

  • Prepare the rye soaker. Combine in a bowl, cover and leave overnight.

Day 2 (Sunday noon to Monday morning)
  • 12pm
    Add one litre of water to the scalded rye soaker, bring to a boil and simmer for approx. 1 hour until soft.

  • 1pm
    Strain the rye and discard any remaining water.
    In a bowl combine 700g of sourdough, the cooked rye berries, the cracked rye soaker, the 550g extra cracked rye and mix well.
    Add the water, salt, maple syrup and mix until the dough comes together well. The dough should not be wet, but slightly sticky. It should peel off the side of the bowl easily.

  • 1.30pm
    Sprinkle a little flour on top, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
    Butter a large and a small loaf tin and dust with rye flour.
    Place the dough into the baking tins.

  • 2pm
    Leave to prove for 3 hours.

  • 4.30pm
    Preheat the oven to 150°C.

  • 5pm
    Brush the top of the dough with a little water.
    Fully wrap the baking tins with two tight-fitting layers of tin foil to avoid the dough drying out during the long baking process.
    Place the wrapped tins at the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for approximately 14 hours (best done overnight).

  • 6pm
    Turn down the temperature to 120°C.

  • 7am
    After baking, turn off the oven and leave the baking tin in the cooling oven for another hour.

  • 8am
    Take the loaf out of the baking tins and wrap in a kitchen towel, baking paper or tin foil for another 24 hours.

Day 3 (Tuesday morning)
  • Cut into thin slices and enjoy with butter and jam or smoked fish for a hearty breakfast!



  • misterkel

    Wish this was in cups, too. I don’t have a scale in my kitchen.

    • Rii

      You can get really inexpensive scales pretty much anywhere, and if you’re getting into bread baking of any kind, it really is a necessary investment. Measuring my volume is going to produce drastically different results than measuring by weight.

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  • Jens

    Hi- Looks great! Is the syrup necessary? Have you tried baking this without the syrup?

    • paemsn

      Hi Jens,
      I have baked it without the syrup before and feel that by adding syrup the pumpernickel doesn’t break up as much.
      Due to the long baking time, the ingredients caramelise nicely, giving the bread its dark brown colour and sweet aroma. The addition of syrup for me is therefore about the texture, not the flavour. Let me know how you get on!

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  • dmo25

    Thanks so much for taking the trouble to post this great formula! My wife didn’t want the oven on overnight so I adjusted the recipe – made the final dough with 200g starter instead of 700g, but fermented it overnight (10 hours instead of 3)) then baked it all next day. Wonderful looking (and tasting) loaf but it came out a bit too sour – 200g starter and ten hours is a bit too much fermentation apparently. CAUTION FOR OWNERS OF GE OVENS – Many (including mine) have a safety feature that shuts it off automatically after 12 hours. Next time I’ll turn the oven off after a few hours then turn it right back on to override this feature. Thanks again Pam, very generous of you to share this!

  • Denise

    The recipe doesn’t say anything about kneading the bread. Is this correct?

    • paemsn

      Hi Denise, thanks for your question!
      That’s correct – kneading is not required for this recipe. The flour content is very small as the main ingredients are cracked rye and rye berries. In general, rye flour contains much less gluten than wheat and the gluten is also less stretchy. Pure rye breads therefore have a less open crumb structure as the rye gluten doesn’t manage to trap air bubbles very well. In summary, thorough mixing is all that is required here.
      Thanks and good luck! Pam

  • Helen

    Just had a taste of this bread after following your instructions…delicious!! Thank you so much for clear istructions to a very tasty bread indeed! I used a starter made from kamut flour but had no problems getting it going in cracked rye. Will definitely make again as shop-bought pumpernickel bread will never get this good!

  • paemsn

    Hi Elan, I think it may not be enough. I would recommend to reduce the ingredients by about 2/3. Hope it works out!

  • Stéphane Viau-Schryer

    I had all the ingredients but my oven only goes to a minimum of 170, how much would you guess I’d have to adjust for baking time?

    • paemsn

      Hi Stéphane, that’s a shame! To achieve the distinctive taste of pumpernickel, baking for a long time at a low temperature is really important. 170°C is quite high and your bread will be baked through in maybe 4 – 5 hours or so. It’s best to keep a close eye on it though. Hope this helps and your bread will be a success, good luck! Pam

  • Sue

    Hi! i just baked your pumpernickel bread and the flavour was great. However I followed the baking times (overnight at 120°C) but the middle was still really sticky, possibly raw, even after I left it to cool for a day. I really liked this recipe and would like to try and get it right. Any tips?

    • paemsn

      Hi Sue, thanks for getting in touch!
      I’m glad the flavour was good and you got to enjoy at least some of the Pumpernickel. Hopefully the thoughts below will help with getting the texture right for the next loaf. There could be several reasons why the middle bit may not have been baked through fully. The loaf could have been underproved so maybe the three hours were not quite enough to give the loaf a full proving. Is the temperature in your room quite cold? A good way to check if the loaf has fully cooked through is to insert a thermometer to check the temperature in the middle towards the end of your bake. Your bread will be fully baked at about 95°C. Additionally, rye is quite peculiar in that it has a high water-binding capacity. Depending on the rye ingredients you use and perhaps influenced by how finely cracked your rye kernels are, you may have to adjust the amount of liquid which goes into the dough. Was your dough very wet i.e. more like a batter? If so, try to decrease the amount of water you add into the final dough. Perhaps add 100g instead of 150g and see if the dough consistency feels less wet. You can then add slightly more water until the consistency feels just right. Hope this is helpful, look forward to hearing back from you! Pam

  • David

    I’m getting ready to attempt this recipe. Gathering up my ingredients today. My question is what size loaf does this recipe make? Also, if i double the recipe and make two loaves, will the cook/temp be affected by the additional loaf?

    • paemsn

      Hi David, the final loaf will be about 2.2kg. If you follow the recipe and you make two loaves in two tins at the same time, you won’t have to make any temperature adjustments. Good luck, let me know how you get on! Pam

      • David

        Hi Pam, first off, my attempts at your recipe were not in vain. The pumpernickel rocked. I made four loaves and they were all great. I work at a local bakery (this was a at home project) and the head baker’s all loved the finished bread. My bosses took a huge slab home and told me they love it and to keep making it. 🙂 I even sent a loaf back home to Georgia ( my cousin is married to a German, haha) I had so much fun making it. I’m totally fascinated by the whole process. So simple, yet, not so simple. Anybody reading this should not be intimidated to try. Thanks so much for the great recipe. Looking forward to more experimentation with pumpernickel. Yum!

        • paemsn

          Hi David,
          Thank you so much for sharing your feedback! I’m very glad the Pumpernickel was a success. I’m particularly impressed with the fact that you delivered a loaf to Georgia – but of course Pumpernickel is perfect for international shipping 🙂
          Keep in touch and let me know about any other home baking projects you’re working on.

  • Rose

    How would I start a sourdough starter from scratch for rye bread?

  • Leif Horup

    Hi Pam,
    I have now made several pumpernickel breads and they are delicious. I always follow your recipe but always get a dip in the along the centre length of the bread, about half an inch deep. What do I do wrong???

    • paemsn

      Hi Leif, that’s great to hear, it really does pay off to make the effort 🙂 It could be that your loaves were over-proofed. If dough rises too long, it becomes fragile and collapses / falls flat. If it sags in the middle, it could also be that the dough held too much liquid. It’s always hard with recipes to give the exact amount of liquid required as this will depend on the coarseness of your cracked rye. You might want to make some slight adjustments; try adding a bit less water next time you bake. Only ever make one adjustment at the time to know what’s working and what isn’t. Good luck! Pam

      • Leif Horup

        Thanks Pam I used a tiny bit less water and the loaf came out perfectly flat. Merry Christmes. Leif

  • araczynski

    Wow, that takes some serious baking 🙂 I love this bread, but think I’ll stick with buying it from a local Lithuanian bakery that makes it exactly like this (in appearance) Stuff is heavy as a brick, and I love it just plain, or some spicy mustard 🙂

    Thanks for the lesson on all that’s involved, makes the price I pay for a loaf seem almost free, and definitely makes me appreciate this deliciousness even more.

    • paemsn

      Thanks for your comment! You’re very lucky to have a bakery round the corner with good bread. If you do decide to bake Pumpernickel at home one day, it will be well worth the effort, the wonderful smell of caramelised rye berries filling your kitchen overnight and the moment when you get to taste the first moist, heavy slice of pure rye goodness are magical 😉

  • paemsn

    Thanks for your comment, great to hear the pumpernickel worked out so well! Having your own mill is great for this recipe 🙂

  • Pwave

    Great recipe Pam… Everything panned out perfectly. Only problem I had was the bottom part of bread was a bit dry and slightly cracked after baking. I used a baking steal on top of my baking stone during the bake. Must’ve generated to much heat during the long bake. I sprayed a bit of water on the bottom before wrapping it in tin foil to let it cool for 24hrs. I won’t know the final product until tomorrow. Next time I won’t be using a steal, only the stone.

    Thank you for this hidden gem of a recipe. So simple and rewarding. I will be using this same recipe when I open up my bakery in 4-5yrs. I’ll call it “Pampurnickel” lol….

    Just wanted to add. I used a 2lb Pullman pan with lid. I simply covered the pan fully with a sheet of foil and then slid the cover close carefully. Doing my best not to rip the foil to prevent any steam from escaping. The dough all fit in this pan. 17inches length 4 inch white about 4 in depth.

    • paemsn

      Thank you so much for your comment! So great to hear that the recipe worked well for you; shame that the bottom part was a bit dry. I usually place the Pullman pan straight onto the wire rack. Enjoy the bread tomorrow when the final wait is over.
      Good luck also for your bakery, would be an honour if Pampernickel would be sold there 🙂

      • Pwave

        Amazing results Pam!! A taste of the old world. Moisture evened out quite well after 24hrs. I had to trim the bottom edges off, about 1/2 cm due to using a baking steal. It’s good on its own, but with some cheese it’s heaven… I just picked up a chicken pate recipe, so much potential with this bread. Thank you again for posting this recipe.

  • Adrian Walton

    Hi Pam,

    I just made this loaf. It smells and looks amazing, however, my loaf didn’t hold together. It broke into large chunks. Do you think this is because I only used whole rye berries and coarse cracked rye? I read that you used fine cracked rye as well. Maybe I need to throw in some fine stuff to hold it together or maybe I need to mix it more vigorously to break down the grains in the soakers. Any idea why this might have happened? Adrian.

    • paemsn

      Hi Adrian, thanks for getting in touch! I think you have identified the root cause of the issue. The loaf needs something fine to hold and bind things together properly and this is why I used some finely cracked rye (just slightly coarser than wholemeal, stoneground rye flour). If you don’t have fine cracked rye, you can work with wholemeal rye flour instead perhaps. In the meantime, I hope the bread chunks are still tasty. I’ve used pumpernickel in salads and as croutons in the past, so hopefully you can find some good use for the bread. All the best, Pam

      • Adrian Walton

        Hi Pam. Good idea on how to still make use of the bread chunks! Next time I’ll try your idea of adding more fines to the mix. I REALLY want to make your recipe work for me. I am so looking forward to it!

      • Adrian Walton

        Big oops! I unintentionally deleted my original comment. For those reading, basically it said that my bread wasn’t holding together, but I used only whole rye berries and coarse cracked rye. I did not have any fines like Pam did.

  • Sara Greene

    Have you ever tried blackstrap molasses instead of maple syrup?

    • paemsn

      Hi Sara, I haven’t tried molasses but I can imagine it would work well, let me know how you get on! Best, Pam

  • Sara Greene

    The blackstrap molasses worked well. I used 1/3c. and the taste definitely came through. I’m about to start my 3rd batch, this time with honey. I’m not sure I’ll come up with a favorite. Each loaf is delicious!

    • paemsn

      Hi Sara, that’s great news! Glad the blackstrap molasses worked well 🙂 I’m just about to start another loaf today as well, the weather here in Edinburgh is quite wet and cold, so I feel like a hearty stew with pumpernickel slices . Pam

    • Alexander LegisNonScriptae

      Anglo-American culture is obsessed with ruining food with sugar, and molasses or syrup is only slightly less bad. They stuff so much sucrose in their desserts and biscuits one can hardly taste anything else, now they’ve started turning bread into cake, by adding sugar to novelty breads in the supermarkets, and it seems here.

      Sugar burns microscopic holes in your arteries ready for calcium and cholesterol to accumulate, it destroys organs and metabolism, is a co-factor in all kinds of degenerative diseases, ruins children’s lives and education with energy spikes and primes them for all further addictions.

      This is real bread so tasty you can chew on each morsel for many minutes and you want to ruin it with your sugar-destroyed palate. Shame, shame on you.

      • paemsn

        Hi Alexander, thanks for your comment, although I feel your last sentence is a bit aggressive in this context. I used maple syrup in this recipe as it helps to bind the dough ingredients together. The crumb is otherwise prone to breaking up. It’d be great to bake the bread without syrup and achieve a good crumb texture. I agree with you in that it’s best not to use added sweetener in any dish. Perhaps you can work with adding more rye flour than cracked rye to bind things together. Let me know how you get on and I will keep on refining the recipe on my end as well. Best, Pam

        • Ruth Buckley

          Hi Pam. You could try using malt extract instead of syrup. It contains maltose rather than sucrose so is a bit less sweet and perhaps less bad for your arteries etc. I use wort (unfermented beer) cos always have it lying around but malt extract is more widely available and nice and sticky for binding the dough. Great recipe anyway. Thanks, Ruth

          • paemsn

            Hi Ruth, thanks for your suggestion – that sounds like a good option for sure. I’ll try this with my next pumpernickel bake. Thanks! Pam

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  • NCjack

    Pam, I’m going to try this recipe. It looks just like what the doctor ordered. One question: The directions for Day 2 end with actions at 7AM and at 8AM. Are they correct, or should they be 7PM and 8PM for Day 2, or should they be 7AM and at 8AM for Day 3?

    • paemsn

      No problem, happy to clarify. Day 2 actually reaches into day 3 as the Pumpernickel bakes through the night. I will try and make that clearer in the post. Hope everything goes well, good luck with your bake! Pam

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