The process of making a sourdough leavened no-knead loaf (at least the way I do it) is almost identical to the instant yeast variety. I just substitute 1/4 cup of sourdough starter for the 1/4 tsp. instant yeast.

Of course, working with sourdough can alter things quite a bit depending on how wet you keep your starter and how healthy it is. Some starters are very liquidy and can be poured out of their containers. I keep mine pretty thick. It has to be spooned out of the jar. I go into quite a bit of detail on how I manage my starter in the various related videos.

That said, here’s the most basic recipe that I use quite frequently.

  • 1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups purified water
  • 1/4 cup starter

The baking times and all that are the same as the basic no-knead method. So you can easily just watch that video but follow this recipe. I usually bake the bread at 500° for 30 minutes with the lid on and then remove the lid and continue baking for 15 more minutes at 450°.

You might have noticed that there’s a bit of difference between what I say in the video regarding recipe quantities and what’s written. The weights shown are probably more precise, but you should be fine either way as there is a fair amount of leeway in this recipe.

Generally speaking, the wetter your dough the bigger the holes will be, which many people really like. However, a drier dough will make it easier to get the bread to rise while baking, giving you greater “oven spring” and a more spherical loaf versus a pancake. With practice, you’ll get so you can come closer to predicting how your bread will turn out just based on the consistency of the dough when you’re mixing all the ingredients together. You can adjust the amount of water and flour to get the consistency that suits you best.

Many people want to know how to make their bread more sour. Breadtopia reader, Rhine Meyering, enjoys success with this by using just 1/8 cup of sourdough starter and extending the fermentation time by refrigerating the dough. Click this link to his October 7, 2007 post to read what he says. It makes a lot of sense based on my understanding of sourdough baking too.

Also, click the following link to Ariela’s post of November 25th, 2007 where she describes her success with the sourdough no knead method using spelt flour. She includes the actual recipe she uses too – very nice.

No Knead Revisited – A Three Year Check UpIt’s been over 3 years since the original New York Times no knead bread recipe was published. That’s also about the same time Breadtopia was born. By far the most common difficulty people write or call in about is with the dough being too wet to handle at the end of the long first proofing period and also when it’s time to place the dough into a covered vessel to bake at the end of the second rise.

When you run into this, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it other than attempt to follow through on the instructions and ultimately wrest the dough into your heated baker and into the oven. Your “mistake” may turn out better than you expected and if nothing else, you’ll learn from it. The next time around you can do one or a combination of a couple things differently.

  1. Add more flour and or use less water than you did the first time. Dough has a way of getting more slack as it sits for many hours so if you start off with the dough being a little stiffer than you think it should be, that’s fine and maybe it’ll be easier to handle later.
  2. Consider reducing the long proofing time by several hours. Don’t get stuck on the idea of 18 hours. Depending on your room temperature and humidity, 18 hours may result in over proofing. When dough proofs too long, the gluten breaks down, the yeast looses some oomph and it can just get downright soupy. Most of the time, I find 12-14 hours to be about right. If you want or need to prolong the proofing time, but don’t want to risk over proofing, stick the dough in the fridge for several hours or overnight. That will slow things down a lot. Then resume proofing at room temp until it’s ready to bake.

The same principle holds true on the second rise. While 1-2 hours is the suggested range, I’m almost always at about 60 to 75 minutes.

Another concern we hear a lot is about the dough not rising much during that second short proofing period. I don’t see mine rise much then either and it doesn’t matter so long as you see a good rise during the first several minutes that the dough is in the oven. That’s called oven spring and it’s a very good thing. By keeping your proofing periods on the shorter side, you’re more likely to get good oven spring from the still vigorous yeast or sourdough starter.

Of course all of the above is assuming your yeast or sourdough starter is fresh and viable to start with.

In summary, most problems can be helped or solved by stiffening the dough a little and/or shortening the rising times.

If you’re new to bread baking, don’t think from reading this that it’s difficult or tricky to get great results. Most people find it a breeze and enjoy success right out of the blocks. Others may find it takes a few tries. It’s important to have fun with it and don’t worry about bombing. There’s no significant downside to bread baking but the upside can be fabulous. Enjoy!

March 20th, 2010 update: Beadtopia reader, Beth Adams, emailed this:

I have been a follower and contributer (through the comments sections) to the site for a few years. I just tried something that I wanted to share. I added a tsp. of lavender to the regular sourdough recipe and had great results when using it for sandwiches. Hope you are able to enjoy it!

For more no-knead recipes using sourdough, check out No-Knead Recipe Variations.

1,432 thoughts on “Sourdough No Knead Method

  1. I would try it that way first and see what happens.

  2. Elizabeth

    Thanks, I’ll try placing a cookie sheet on the rack below the bread and see what happens.

    If I reduce the oven to 450 during baking would I also leave it at 450 during the 15 minutes of uncovered baking?

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    Your oven may run a little hot. You could try baking at 450 instead of 500. Many people have also had success by placing a cookie sheet underneath the cloche, either directly underneath or on the oven rack below.

  4. Elizabeth

    My KN breads come out very well, however, the bottom of the loaf seems to burn slightly. I bake at 500 for 30 minutes covered and 15 minutes at 450 uncovered. I make sure the pan is free of debris from previous bakes but the bottom still gets a lot darker than the rest of the loaf.

    Also, when baking two loaves at a time, should I adjust the oven temp and/or baking times, covered and uncovered?

    Appreciate any input!

    Thanks,
    Elizabeth

  5. Hi Les,

    That’s very interesting. Please let us know if you get much different results on a very sunny day.

  6. Les V

    It was partly cloudy today, but I had the day off and the dough was ready, so I tried a loaf in the solar oven. It was partly cloudy so the oven only averaged about 280 degrees, and it took a little over 2 hours to reach 200 degrees internal temp. The crust wasn’t crispy and of course I didn’t expect it to be, but all in all it was very good. Certainly worth trying, I will try it again if I have a better sunny day off.

  7. Les V

    Has anyone tried baking at lower temps? I don’t bake much in summer to keep from heating up the house. I cook in my solar oven a lot, casseroles, roasts, stews, things like that, but have not tried baking bread. Empty the oven temp gets up to 350 on a good clear day, loaded the high is a bit lower. I know I wouldn’t get a nice crispy crust, but it should go ahead and bake, just slower, right?

  8. Les

    CindyT that looks very good! I use 100% bread flour most of the time and it works fine. I use the “topper” method sometimes too, when I don’t feel like hauling out the cast iron. No worries.

  9. CindyT

    Oh, a bit of an addendum: this was spritzed and baked at 450° on a pizza stone with a disposable aluminum roasting pan as a “topper” for the first 30 minutes. Then the temp was dropped to 425° and the pan removed for an additional 15-20 minutes. I had baked a previous loaf in my cast iron Dutch oven at 500°/450° and it came out rather darker than I really like. Not to mention that my Dutch oven wants re-seasoning now.

  10. CindyT

    Sourdough Loaf #2. I’m almost a complete novice at breadmaking although I dabbled in a bit many years ago. Never could quite get the dough kneaded enough it seemed like. I’m very glad to find a method that eliminates that problem! This loaf was made from 100% white KA bread flour which I suppose contributed to the rise, everything else was exactly like the recipe.

  11. Shirley

    Thank you Tom for your comment. See my success story and comments that I wrote under Sourdough Pancakes. I can’t wait to try some more recipes.

    I love this Breadtopia website! I have already learned so much. I’m discovering all these wonderful recipes for variations of the No Knead Bread method. One recipe that I want to try next is the Steel Cut Oats. In fact, I thought I might also try it with whole oat groats. I’m thinking I would soak the oats overnight night to soften them, say ½ cup of oat groats with an equal amount of water; and then add them to the recipe the next day.

    Then there is the Parmesan-Olive. Yumm! And the Seeded Sourdough, Cranberry-Pecan, Sourdough Rye, or the 7-Grain. I can’t wait to try ALL of these recipes, in my new La Cloche. I just wish I had a bigger family at home, lol. Realistically, I can probably only make one or two loaves a week.

    Just as a side, before I got into this sourdough stuff, for months I was trying to perfect my brother’s recipe that we call Floyd’s Prairie Grain Bread. My brother recently sold his bakery in Sooke, BC and this was the first recipe I had of his (so it was special to me). But being that it was a recipe from a baker, I found the recipe way too large, and the quantities of water and flour were vague. I actually tried applying the Peter Reinhart’s baker’s percentage theory to figure it out. I finally got it down to two loaves; but truthfully, most of the time I was making bricks. Tasty bricks, I might add, and obviously very healthy, but the ‘look’ had much to be desired. I had the most success with the Prairie Grain Bread recipe when I tried to adapt the recipe into a Sponge Method. I got this idea from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum in her recipe called the Tyrolean 10-Grain Torpedo. Actually, I find it rather similar to the No Knead method, where we do the dough the night before.

    I guess I was a bit long winded here, but I said all this to say, it has been refreshing to find this website. I’m very visual, so I can’t get enough of the videos on the No-Knead bread method. Thank you Eric.

  12. Tom

    Shirley,
    I, too, had the problem you are describing. I was able to rectify it by feeding my yeast 3 times before the time I made my sponge. After each feeding, I let it sit for about 6 hours. So, in other words, start the day before.
    My bread is absolutely wonderful and light with a nice sour taste.
    Also, I have experimented with making the sponge with more water, and have even gone to 400 gr. water and 400 gr. flour. All was perfect and the bread is amazing.

  13. Shirley

    I recently bought your live sourdough starter and a La Cloche Bread Baker. I made my first loaf of sourdough bread yesterday. I was pleased with the end results, the bread looked impressive coming out of the La Cloche and my husband enjoyed the bread; but I found it very dense and heavy. I was shooting for the more airy, lots of holes, look. I noticed that my dough was not as wet as you mentioned in your video; perhaps because I didn’t use a scale to weigh the ingredients?

    Your video says, “You really want your starter to be at its peak of health on the day you bake, which means that is fresh, vibrant and active.” Is it possible that my sourdough culture wasn’t at its full potency? Like other comments on this website, each time that I fed my sourdough culture, it would bubble up and expand; but as I let the starter sit on the cupboard, it would relax and decrease in volume. Is this normal?

  14. John Fitz

    Fred: I do my rests at room temp, in So. Cal. this means 60s-70s pretty much recently. I like “low maintenance” so don’t worry about whether it gets too cool/warm.

  15. Fred

    John Fitz: When you “rest” the dough, is that at room temp or in the fridge?

  16. Big thanks to breadtopia! Found your site 5-6 months ago, been baking 3 loaves of sourdough/week since. (got my la cloche for Christmas).
    Just thought I’d share my variation – to *maximize* sour flavor (which is what my family likes) I break the fermentation process into thirds, so it takes several days between starting & baking. I switch between 12 & 24 hour “rest” times, depending on when I start and when I want to bake.
    step 1) one cup starter, 1 cup flour, 1 cup water
    rest time #1
    step 2) 1 cup flour
    rest time #2
    step 3) 1 cup flour, 1.5 tsp salt, adjust flour to final desired dough consistency.
    rest time #3, now just proceed with final NK methods. I’ve used it with lots of combinations of flour (tonite’s is 50/50 whole wheat & rye!), and have always been pleased.

    btw, Don, I wouldn’t call 200F done, and always bake mine until 206-210.
    Thanks everybody for all the tips & recipes, been loving it all. :)

    John.

  17. Fred

    I have been getting an excellent rise, good crisp crust, good crumb, for a long time. My only problem has been that the crust would rise over the body of the bread making it hard to slice. This happened regardless of slashing it one or more times. I had been baking at 450 for 40 minutes followed by 10 minutes uncovered. (The temp is what my oven reads, rather than what it probably is.) I started to lower the temp by 5 degrees at at time and increasing the time by 5 minutes each time. Today I set the temp to 430 and baked for 50 minutes + the 10 uncovered. The shape of the loaf is beautiful – smooth, no cracking.

  18. Hi Elizabeth,

    That does sound like something that would be solved with a sharp serrated knife.

  19. Elizabeth

    At times I have difficulty cutting my bread, whether it is the sourdough or just regular NK bread. The crust is crunchy and the inside is nice and “holy” but it squishes down when I cut it. This happens with both the oblong and rectangle bread pans. Is that normal or do you think I need a new bread knife?

    Thanks!

  20. Don N.

    Aloha from Hawaii! I was able to make a sourdough starter in my kitchen here in Hawaii using the pineapple juice method. After a couple attempts I’ve started getting great loaves using the standard Sourdough No Knead recipe and was feeling confident enough to start sharing my bread. We had a green food potluck at work for St. Patricks day so I decided to add food coloring to the dough and baked two loaves. I added toasted pumpkin seeds to one of the loaves to make it just a little different in taste and texture. The bread came out wonderful shade of green and was a huge hit at the office party! Thank you to Breadtopia for all of the great advice!

  21. Les

    It is important to let the bread rest for a couple of ours after taking it out of the oven. If you cut it too soon it will be damp and gummy.
    I always wait at least an hour, usually 2. Overnight is better, but then you loose the cripsness of the crust.

  22. Erez

    Hi Don,
    Few things per my experience.
    – You shall use ripe Starter and catch it in the peak.
    – Keep at a temp >21 deg but <24 deg
    – Heat your oven at least 1/2h before baking
    – After baking leave the bread in the oven with door ajar for 3-5 minutes to let it dry

  23. Don

    Have tried sourdough starter now a couple of times – I am not getting nearly the rise from it that I do yeast, though my starter seems very active. It has good flavor, but is very “doughy”. I have used less liquid, and that does not seem to be the issue.

    I am very close to sea level. Gas oven about 2 years old. Dutch oven goes in at 500 for 30 minutes, even though oven is at temp at about 15 minutes, but I doubt the D.O. is, hence 30 minutes. I bake covered 30 minutes, then uncover. Bread can reach internal temp of 200 anywhere from immediately when uncovered, to 6-8 minutes after uncovering. I use both a wired oven thermometer, as well as a Thermapen instant read one. I smoke a lot of meat, so am used to cooking by temp, and not time. Per many suggestions, I am pulling them out of the oven at 200 internal, and not after a fixed cook time after uncovering.

    Every loaf I have made is very doughy… wet. spongy. Any suggestions?

  24. Harold McArthur

    I was given a $25.00 gift card to attend a class by Mrs. Bell to make “No knead sourdogh bread, at the co-op in Eureka, Ca. Though I didn’t have the suggested 5 qt. “Dutch Oven” I found a blue enameled roasting pot with white speckels to make my first round. Which I didn’t get to use as I ran out of time with the dough having been taken out of it’s bowl, and covered with it’s covering kitchen towel for an hour and a half, as it was time for me to take off for work I took the gooey mess up to my girlfriends house to drop off, and she baked the dough in one of her steel cooking pots, with a bakelite top handle. The finished sourdough bread, had a thick layer of dough at it’s base, about a half inch! is that normal?

  25. Christina

    Finally! My 5th try produced a great sourdough bread. (So I’m obsessive…) :) I have had great success with all the recipes using commercial yeast, but had never done sourdough.

    I made the pineapple starter and thought all was good, but when I left it out of the fridge 3 days or so and fed it a couple of times a day and saw it actually rise to 3 or 4 times the height, I realized that my starter wasn’t strong enough before. Just a hint to those who try and don’t succeed…you may want to make sure your starter is good and strong.

    On a side note, I am in love with this website. I can’t get enough! My husband just groans when he sees me on here AGAIN! :) (Of course, he never groans when I pull a new loaf out of the oven!)

    Thanks, Eric, for the easy, no-knead recipes. I had a lady suggest another recipe, but couldn’t go back to kneading. So glad everything finally worked out!

  26. Mrs Dodo Ryan

    The bread turned out lovely! Crusty and chewy! I’ve not had any better.Can’t wait to try some others.I just started the Pineapple starter.Will use my trad. starter for pancakes and the like. Got not a bad rise but hoping the Pineapple will give me a bit more. Great Bread!

  27. Mrs Dodo Ryan

    Just a hint:
    I just finished the final phase.The dough was pretty wet, and I didn’t have a bowl scraper.I used a top to a plastic container and just cut the edges off.It worked prefect!Don’t know what a mess I would have had without it.Hope it help.Now I’m sure to get a real one!

  28. Richard DeLine

    Is the one and a half cups of purified water cold,room temperature or warmer. Sincerely Richard DeLine

  29. Michael Ramirez

    I’ve just made my second loaf of the no-knead sourdough bread and both times the loaf has been rather thin, not like the tall, poofy loaf in your video. The texture and taste are wonderful, it just feels and looks a lot more more dense/compacted than yours. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks. Michael

  30. Michael

    After the first 18 hour rise of the no-knead sourdough recipe, what is the longest I can wait before making the bread? For example if I make the dough can I wait 24, 36 hours or longer, before baking? Is there an optimum point for the dough, and a point at which the dough will be unusable?

    Also is proofing is the same thing as rising? If so, why is it called proofing?

    Lastly, why shouldn’t you use soap to clean the artisan proofing basket?

    Thank you!

    Michael

  31. Mike S

    Followed your suggestions to follow Rhine Meyering’s suggestion to use only an 1/8th of a cup of starter wthe no-knead sourdough recipe. First try came out awesome! And with so little effort this is definately the best bread I’ve ever made. I’ll have to play with the baking temps and times since I use a gas oven with a HUGE (9 qt) dutch oven which apparently does get a bit hotter on the inside wthe lid on – 450 degrees for 1/2 hr made for a bit darker crust than I expected (still tasty) but was so done that I didn’t need the final 15 mins with the lid off. I expect that it’s hotter than 500 deg inside the dutch oven (lid on) even with the stove set to 450 deg. Next loaf (two days from now) I’ll try baking at 400 for 1/2 hr lid on then 15 mins without lid and I expect that I’ll see even better results. Thanks again for this great bread baking resource of a website… Outstanding!

  32. J.D.

    Recipe and method is delicious but I would like to make it less dense, and more airy. I read the idea of adding yeast and that may work and maybe my starter is not quite as active as it should be. Any suggestions?

  33. Bonnie B.

    GENIOUS! This sourdough is delicious! I am going to refridgerate the next batch like Rhine suggests to get it extra sour. I was so pleasantly surprised! My only problem was self-induced, because I tried to make them into boules and bake them on my stone and the dough was too soft. I do have a cast iron dutch oven, so next time I am breaking that out! I LOVE NOT KNEADING!! Thank you so much. Oh yea, and I made your sourdough pizza dough a while back and it was wonderful also!

  34. Les V

    In my case turning the oven temp down by 25 degrees seems to have done the trick. Thanks for the suggestions.
    We had unexpected company a few days ago and I decided to throw together some bread for them. I didn’t have any dough fermenting so i made up a batch with 1 1/2 cups of starter and added 1 tsp of yeast. Let it rise in my proofing box @93 degrees for about 3 hours (it doubled), formed it into my rising basket, let it rise to the top, then popped into the oven. I didn’t get quite as much oven spring as usual, but everybody raved about it. It’s cheating, and wasn’t as good as the normal method, but I have to admit that it was pretty good. Just thought I would mention it.

  35. Dorothy

    Thank you, to Carolyn and Jack. My over is pretty accurate, but will check it again at the high temps.. I my previous attemps I did move the dutch oven to the upper portion of my oven. Now I will try the temps suggested by Jack. What are the adjusted baking times?? Again.. Thank you both for you help.. Dorothy

  36. Jack

    Hi Dorthy,
    I had the same problem and finally figured out that the heating element on the bottom portion of the oven returning the heat to 500 degrees after adding the dough was the cause . Now I preheat to 500 , add the dough as fast as possible, drop temp to 450 which keeps the element from coming back on so soon, bake, remove top and lower temp to 400 for browning . You might give it a try if you have an electric oven.

  37. Carolyn F.

    Dorothy,
    I would check the accuracy of your oven temp. Some ovens can be way off. I assume your setting the kettle in the middle of your oven?

    Carolyn F.

  38. Dorothy

    Hi.. Have made this bread three tiimes; each time the bottom was black. I tried dropping the temp by 50 degrees, to no avail. I use parchment paper in my dutch oven. Any suggestions.?? Thanks…

  39. Cathie

    Ooo lah lah… so very good. I made two loaves for my son’s school bake sale and both were sold within a minute of setting them out (at a $2.75 profit per loaf I might add)! I guess no-one can resist a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread. My son thought they were so great that he joked he had just heard on the news that our favorite bakery in town had reported a sourdough bread theft in the vicinity. Obviously he was proud of his mom. I have to say that I was feeling a little proud too!

  40. Margie

    hi- use the oven liners you can cut one in half to line your dutch ovens-
    I think Bed, Bath & Beyond sells them- just saw them ( I got mine at Ross of all places- cheaper)
    unlike my silicon liners they can take the 500 degree temps without cracking
    plus after I take lid off of dutch oven I place an empty cookie sheet on the rack, under the rack with the dutch ovens – works like a CHARM!!! = )
    Margie

  41. Carolyn F.

    Les V,
    A lot of us have had that problem in the beginning. Quite often the solution has been to drop the oven temp. about 25 degrees. If you try it, let us know how it works. It’s all about sharing our experience, good or bad.

    Carolyn F.

  42. les v……….maybe you could try two pieces of parchment.

  43. Les V

    It could be as simple as taking it out a bit sooner, my internal temp is always over 200F. Sandy if I don’t get it with timing I’ll try the silicone mat trick, thanks.

  44. Les V

    sandy,
    Yes, I do use parchment paper, it still burns sometimes.

  45. les v. ………I cut out a round of my silicone and placed in the bottom of my black iron dutch oven. worked great. on your pizza stone, couldn’t you just use a small piece of parchment on the stone to prevent black bottoms. I don’t like black bottoms either. good luck.

  46. Les V

    I have been making the NK sourdough bread here for a while now, getting used to how it works. So far I have used 100% white bread flour and results have been great. This week I used Rhine Meyering’s 2 day refrigerated ferment for the first time. Wow, great flavor! It really boosts the sourness. I’ll be using this method from now on. I did notice at the end of the 18 hour room temp ferment that the bottom of the dough was pretty wet. I folded it an extra time or two to work the moisture back into the dough, seemed to work fine.
    I hope to migrate into whole grains as soon as I get a replacement set of grinding stones for my mill (broke mine several months ago). I think store bought “whole wheat flour” is missing a few marbles somewhere.
    I started out using a cast iron dutch oven for baking and this worked great. After a while I migrated back to my good old pizza stone, using a stainless steel mixing bowl over the bread, and still get nice crisp crust. Sometimes the bottom crust burns though. Had this problem in the dutch oven too. My wife doesn’t mind, but I don’t like brunt crust. I read that someone suggested using a silicone baking sheet to prevent this, but isn’t that defeating the purpose of the stone?

  47. Kim

    Thanks Carolyn. Really good information…I will not be deterred! My rye came out flat with a tough crust, but very tasty. I’m totally hooked on the whole grain sourdoughs. I’ve got the starter out and will feed it a least three times before I use it. Though, I suspect the overnight proofing also. I think I’ll mix up the next loaf, a whole spelt sourdough, early Wednesday morning and just watch it all day. When it doubles in size I’ll move on to the final proof rather than wait for the 10-12hr time frame. I’ve had great results with the instant yeast…maybe 1 bad loaf out of dozens. The sourdough is clearly graduate level! I’ll let you know what happens! Kim

  48. Carolyn F.

    Hi Kim,
    I had similar problems for a while. Two things seemed at the root. 1) My sourdough starter sat too long in the fridge and wasn’t quite robust enough. Through feeding and setting multiple times it got strong and made a big difference. 2) Over-proofing on the overnight rise. Now I use a giant 8-cup measuring cup/bowl so I can see exactly how much it has risen. I had to adjust my time to keep it at or less than the actual doubling amount.

    Maybe one of these will work for you. Keep trying and sharing.

    Carolyn F.

  49. Kim

    Hi again..I just cut into the white sourdough that came out 10 min ago. The poor thing wanted to work. There are some great holes but in dense dough, no rise, almost uncooked after 45 min. I’m baking at 450. Have a thermometer and preheated for at least 30 min. I have a rye sourdough in right now, and fear the same thing!

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