Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

This no-knead whole-wheat bread from Jim Lahey is quick to make but as good as old-fashioned bread. And with the added benefit of whole wheat and being done in less than two hours.

Cast-iron pot with a loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead whole-wheat bread on a gray background

Jim Lahey’s no-knead whole-wheat bread is a brilliant innovation that brings you healthfulness with ease. And that’s to say nothing of the nutty, not overly healthful taste. More of that, please. –Renee Schettler Rossi

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

  • Quick Glance
  • (9)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf
4.9/5 - 9 reviews
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In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, salt, and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.
Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
Generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the surface in 1 piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
Place a clean towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough feels tacky or sticky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.
Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost double in size. When you gently poke the dough with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
About half an hour before you think the second rise is complete, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a 4 1/2-to-5 1/2-quart heavy Dutch oven or pot with a lid in the center of the rack.
Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. (Use caution—the pot will be very hot.) Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue baking until the loaf is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. The bread is done when it registers 200°F to 210°F (93°C to 99°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.
Slice and…sigh. Originally published October 5, 2009.
Print RecipeBuy the My Bread cookbook

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  • Seeded Whole-Wheat Bread
  • You can make this sturdy whole-grain loaf even more substantial–and satisfying–when you consider pretending you’re German and tossing in a handful of walnuts or maybe some pumpkin and sunflower sesame seeds when mixing the dough. Bread That sprecheksn the Deutch.
  • Slightly Less Hearty Whole-Wheat Bread
  • I invite you to try the experiment yourself if you’re interested in finding your own favorite ratio. Go all the way with 100-percent whole-wheat flour, then drop down to 85 or 50 percent or lower. And maybe you’ll actually prefer the taste and feel of this no-knead bread based on a higher ratio of whole wheat than the one I offer here.

Recipe Testers Reviews

This no-knead whole-wheat bread is so simple to make it has become my go-to bread recipe. (I rarely buy bread.) It has a chewy crust and a well-developed flavor.

When making bread with all whole-wheat flour and/or if adding bran, I’ve found adding about a tablespoon of any kind of sugar or syrup really helps jump-start the yeast; otherwise it must sit for considerably longer than 12 hours to finish the first rise.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that it lends itself very well to experimentation, I’m still trying to figure out what combination and proportion I like best!

This no-knead whole-wheat recipe makes it easy to turn out crusty loaves of chewy whole-wheat bread that will have you turning up your nose at supermarket bread in no time.

It also invites experimentation, begging to be tweaked with more or less whole-wheat flour and the addition of nuts and seeds (flax? sunflower? pumpkin?). Loaves of bread don’t last long in our house, so there are very few days now when we don’t have a bowl of dough rising on the counter.



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  1. This is an excellent recipe and, especially, a new-to-me technique. I have been baking bread for years and years, and baking bread in a 100-year-old cast-iron Dutch oven has been a revelation to me. The recipe ingredients were absolutely correct for making a traditional 1 1/2-pound loaf of artisan bread. The no-knead revelation, coupled with overnight proofing, led to a perfect loaf. It’s an absolutely no-brainer. My normal method for making this artisan loaf takes three days! The only criticism of the recipe I have is that the author specified only “cool water,” implying that the baker use tap water. Chlorinated city water is not water you should use in making bread.

  2. The result has provided much pleasure, but probably not as intended.

    The dough was a difficult-to-handle sticky puddle during the whole process. There was raising during both cycles (However I did not see much bubbling on the dough surface), but in the end I ended up with a 5 cm (2 inch) high loaf with a 23 cm (8 inch) diameter (matching the shape of my Dutch oven). Great crust, chewy consistent, aerated texture (large and small bubbles).

    I am a neophyte keen to learn the INs and OUTs of no-knead, so any feedback would be appreciated. Too much water? Insufficient flour? Substandard yeast leavening? (NOTE: I tested the yeast before use to ensure that it was active.)


    1. Philippe, so sorry that you didn’t get the rise you were expecting. There are a few things that could be the issue, yeast being one of them. Even if my yeast seems active, I always make sure that it’s fresh, do I buy it often and keep it in the freezer. But I suspect the culprit here is the water-flour ratio. (Oh, did you use whole wheat?) I just added the metric amounts. Do you have a scale? Weighing is the most reliable way of making any baked good. Flour is just a pain in the ass when it comes to exact volume measurements. If you don’t have a scale, then I would suggest adding a bit more flour–up to 1/2 to 3/4 cup more–if you’re faced with that monstrous puddle again. That should help. Please keep me informed.

  3. Wanted to mention that I did this recipe with all-purpose flour instead of bread flour since I didn’t want to buy another bag of flour. It does work however crumb structure doesn’t match the non-whole wheat version. It’s not fair to rate based on this difference so I won’t rate it. If I could do it again I would stick with bread flour.

    Man's hand holding a half loaf of no-knead bread

    1. A little update. I did this again but mixed the water in much better, doing a little bit of kneading to make sure it was well incorporated. Results were far better this time.

      So just don’t go over board with the “no knead” part of the recipe. Spending a couple minutes to mix everything up initially is worth it.

  4. So I have revisited this recipe a few times recently and have fallen in love with it again. Making a few each week. Consumes zero time and it’s delicious. I have taken to 1 cup of wholewheat and 2 all purpose, plus seed and nut add-ins. Currently one in the oven with flax seed, sunflower seeds, crushed walnuts and raisins. Added an extra 1/3 cup of water and dough still seemed a bit drier than without any add-ins. Probably the raisins… We’ll see how it comes out. Very versatile!

      1. Just reporting back to say, this is a killer version! Have made 4 like this the past week, both for ourselves and to give to others. Absolute winner. Also, I am now doing the second rise on top of some parchment paper instead of a tea towel and I put the dough in the Dutch oven with the parchment paper. Less messy!

  5. love this bread a lot!! however, i thought bread, when done, has a temperature of 210°F. if i don’t use a thermometer i wouldn’t know when it was done. just looking at the top crust doesn’t really tell me much. why don’t you put a temperature to reach for the finished stage?

    thanks, Phyllis.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Phyllis. Yes, 200°F to 210°F (93°C to 99°C) is the correct temperature. I’d guess that Jim didn’t include temperature because of the extra fiddling with a wicked hot pot. But I have added it for those who prefer it.

  6. I have made Jim Lahey’s bread since I first saw the recipe in the Times in November 2006. You may be interested in trying my multigrain version of his bread.

    1cup white flour, 3/4 cup each of whole wheat and rye flour topped off with white flour to make 1cup each, a total of 3 cups of flour. 1 tsp yeast, 1 tsp salt, a little less than 2 cups of water warm to the touch. 2 heaping tablespoons each of wheat bran, oat bran, wheat berries, rye berries, oat groats, steel cut oats, millet, and whatever other grains are convenient.
    I bake for 1/2 hour in a 450 degree oven and test the temperature. If it is 200 degrees the bread is done. I take it out of the pot and let it rest 5 minutes in the oven to crisp the bottom. It usually takes about 30 minutes in the pot and 5 to 10 minutes more.
    I have also made a gluten free version of this recipe which is extremely dense but tastes very good if anyone is interested.

  7. I tried this recipe. On the second rise inside the tea towel, the bread doubled in size by spreading out, not up. How can this be overcome? What might I have done wrong?

    1. Hi Ian, it could be something as simple as your yeast being a little off. Also, softer doughs will spread more than a stiff dough. You can always counteract this by placing the tea towel and dough in a colander to prevent spreading. Did you fold the dough under to create a round loaf? How was the finished product?

      1. Funnily enough, it rose in the Dutch oven and came out fantastically. Slightly oval as that is the shape of my Dutch oven. I would upload a picture of it but can’t seem to do it here.

        Thank you for your suggestions Beth. I shall try the colander and make a slightly stiffer dough. I had a 50-50 split of brown/white flours. I think I might try it with some sourdough flour too.

        1. So glad that it worked out, Ian. These no-knead doughs can behave differently but turn out great. Let us know about your future variations!

  8. This is great!! I live in Bethlehem, Palestine and only have whole-wheat flour available that is ground by women in the villages. Because its rather coarse I went with the amount specified in the recipe and the loaf turned out absolutely wonderful. I’ll be adding more whole wheat next time to see if it alters the structure. Love this, great alternative to eating pita bread (chubz arabi) all the time :)

  9. Is there a way to make it less dense with more air pockets? I have tried a few times and it always came out very doughy.

    1. Did you use instant yeast or active dry yeast? If you used active dry, you really need to use a little more than the 1/2 teaspoon of instant. Go with 2/3 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon. In addition, I personally like to do my first rise in the refrigerator overnight, the cool rise lends itself to better flavor and texture. Then after shaping it, remember that the second rise will be longer since the dough is colder. This, I think, will make your bread more airy and less dense.

    2. Is your dough doubling (or more) within the 12- to-18-hour window? I’ve had different no-knead doughs ready in eight hours, and I’ve sometimes skipped the second rise because it was ready. Your dough might have risen too much. If it over-rises, you won’t get the oven spring and you would get a flatter, doughy loaf.

      I have to slightly disagree with the instructions given in the recipe on what to look for when poking the dough. If you wait until the dough doesn’t spring back at all, there’s a chance it’s over-risen. It should spring back slowly. If you can’t be exact, I find it better to catch the bread before it’s fully risen than waiting too long.

      Also, if you used the same package or jar of yeast for all of the doughy ones, then start with new yeast to eliminate that variable.

  10. I made this to take to a Christmas Eve dinner. It was exceedingly easy to bake. (The only difficulty I had was the dough stuck a bit because I didn’t flour the tea towel well enough.) The loaf was chewy, with a dense, crackly crust and tons of big, irregular air bubbles. It nearly disappeared during the hors d’oeuvre hour. I will definitely be making this regularly during week. It’s too easy not to.

  11. Just tried this recipe here in Honduras the land of white bread and tortillas. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome when I had not had good results with other recipes of this kind no-knead that is. I added 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seed, and 1/4 cup steamed wheat berries. The flavor was terrific. Texture ditto, and the crust was just the way we like it. CRUSTY! Because of the extra seeds, next time, and there will be a next time, I will add just a tad bit more moisture.

    On to the olive bread. The challenge will be to find an olive dry enough, if possible. Have kalamatas available in oil. Thank you. It was well worth the effort.

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