Whole wheat no-knead bread: flavorful, fiber-rich, and ready when you are

OK, so you’ve made no-knead bread. Maybe you’ve taken that no-knead dough and shaped it into pizza crust; or frozen it for future use. What’s your next delicious experiment? Whole wheat no-knead bread — naturally!

Thankfully, we can go into this experiment well-armed with a thoroughly researched method and painstakingly tested recipe, thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, who literally wrote the book — make that “books” — on no-knead bread.

Hertzberg and François have penned a series of no-knead bread books, starting with Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and including Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, from which we drew inspiration for the recipe in this blog post. Experts in the genre, the authors are the go-to source for many seeking to emulate baker Jim Lahey, who premiered the concept, and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, who gave it wings by publishing his seminal no-knead recipe 10 years ago.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

This particular bread is made with three parts whole wheat flour to one part all-purpose, plus vital wheat gluten for extra strength and better “rise-ability.” The result? Whole wheat no-knead bread with plenty of lift and a nice wheaty flavor. Not only that, you’ll feel virtuous while eating it — win-win!

Just how simple is it to make crusty/chewy, flavor-packed whole wheat bread? Very. Click To Tweet

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Let’s start with some key ingredients: flour and yeast.

Our white whole wheat flour is lighter in color and milder in flavor than traditional red whole wheat flour — but make no mistake, it’s 100% whole wheat, with all of its vitamins, minerals and fiber intact.

We use Red Star Platinum or SAF instant yeast in our King Arthur test kitchen; both are reliable, strong yeasts with good staying power, perfect for no-knead bread.

Let’s go ahead and stir up this easy dough.

Mix the following together:

5 1/2 cups (22 ounces) whole wheat flour, preferably King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons, two 1/4-ounce packets) yeast, instant yeast preferred
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups (26 to 28 ounces) lukewarm water*

*If you measure flour by sprinkling it into a cup and sweeping off the excess, use 3 1/4 cups water. If you measure by dipping your measuring cup into the flour canister, tapping it to settle the flour, then leveling it off, use 3 1/2 cups water.

Timeout for baking science: dough hydration

Note: Read the following if you’re a bread science fan; it’s interesting, though not critical. The balance of water and flour is the only tricky part of this recipe; it’s important to get it just right. Nail it, and your bread will rise nicely, and have a chewy crust and moist interior. Too much water, it’ll have a very open (holey) texture and not rise well; too little water, and the bread will be dry.

The hydration (weight of water compared to flour) is 75% in this recipe for No-Knead Crusty White Bread. But since whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than all-purpose flour, we’re going to increase the hydration in this recipe to 85% to 90% or so.

Why the two options for amount of water? Use the lesser amount of water in a humid environment, or during the summer; the greater amount when it’s dry, or during the winter.

What’s the difference? Flour is like a sponge; it absorbs moisture from the air. When it’s humid out, your flour is moist; when it’s dry, so is your flour. Slight adjustments in liquid amounts in your yeast bread recipes, according to season/climate, can yield the consistent results you’re seeking.

Back to the recipe

Mix everything together until well combined. The dough will be quite sticky; it’s good we’re not going to have to knead it.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Transfer the dough to a big container

Put the sticky dough into a large bowl or dough bucket, greased or not; it’s not critical to grease the container.

Cover lightly; don’t snap the lid on the bucket.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Let the dough rise

Two hours at room temperature should do it; it’ll about double in size.

Stash the dough in the fridge

Cover the bowl or bucket so it’s airtight, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 7 days or so. The longer the dough chills, the more sourdough-like tang you’ll taste in your bread.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

When you’re ready to bake, remove the bucket from the fridge. You’ll notice the dough has collapsed a bit; this is perfectly normal.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Grab a softball-sized piece of dough

It should weigh about a pound. As you do this, you’ll see long strands of stretchy dough clinging to the sides of the container. This is evidence the dough has developed its gluten completely without kneading, simply by resting in the refrigerator. Cool, huh? (Pun intended.)

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Gently round the dough into a ball

Place it on a piece of parchment (I’m using a 9″ round here) that you’ve sprinkled with semolina, cornmeal, or flour. These will help keep the dough from sticking to the parchment.

And why place it on parchment, anyway? If you’re going to bake the bread on a pizza stone, parchment makes moving the loaf around fail-safe.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Let the loaf rise

Cover the loaf, and let it warm up and rise for 2 hours at warmish room temperature (about 75°F to 80°F is good). If your house is cold, try putting the bread in your turned-off oven with the oven light on. The light bulb will produce just enough heat to keep the loaf comfortable.

After 2 hours, your loaf should have expanded noticeably. It’ll spread more than rise upward, but that’s OK.

While the bread is rising, preheat your oven to 450°F. If you have a pizza stone, put it on a lower rack and let it heat up as the oven warms.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Spray, sprinkle, and slash

Just before baking, brush or spray the loaf with lukewarm water, and sprinkle it with seeds, if desired. I’m using our Artisan Bread Topping mix here.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Use a sharp knife or lame to give the bread three quick slashes, about 1/2″ to 3/4″ deep.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Bake until golden

Transfer the bread to the pizza stone; a giant spatula works well here.

If you’re not using a pizza stone, place the bread on a baking sheet, and put it into the oven.

Bake the bread for about 20 minutes, until it’s golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center reads at least 190°F.

Whole wheat no-knead bread via @kingarthurflour

Slice and enjoy

Remove the bread from the oven, and inhale its rich scent. Wait until the bread is completely cool before slicing; cutting into a loaf of hot bread can make it irreparably gummy.

Store completely cooled bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.

But wait, there’s more! More dough in your fridge. This recipe makes about three medium loaves plus one smaller loaf. Try baking dough that’s been refrigerated for one day, then bake some after three days, then five days — see and taste the difference. You’ll soon discover your own sweet spot for length of chill.

Again, my thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François for their relentless championing of this user-friendly bread-baking technique. And for their master recipe for whole wheat no-knead bread, which inspired this blog post. You can find our take on their recipe here, including a printable version.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Yen

    HELP, I forgot, please don’t laugh, to add gluten. My dough is resting in the fridge. Can I mix half of this dough and half of the regular no knead dough at the last step before baking?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Yen! We would suggest putting your dough back into the mixing bowl and adding your wheat gluten now. It may take a bit to get it to mix in but it would be hard to incorporate the two doughs together, especially if they are cold. Best of luck! Morgan@KAF

  2. Charlie

    Would it be okay to put a shallow pan in the bottom of the oven to fill with water to create Steam? I have read that produces a crispier crust.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Certainly, Charlie. We recommend using cast iron and preheating it with your oven. Have a pot of boiling water ready on the stove. Once you’ve popped your loaf into the oven (above the cast iron pan) carefully pour the boiling water into the pan and close the oven door to keep the steam inside. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Dottie Caul

    For the no knead white I used my mixer to blend flour mix with water and it turned out great. Just made the no knead whole wheat and again used my big mixer to blend flour and water. Mixed about 1-2 min. It seemed so easy to pull it out of the bowl turn into a large bowl to rise. The dough was sticky, now smooth and soft when I gently turned it into a ball. Should I not use the mixer and not turn it over to a ball? I am now concerned it may not rise and get bubbly and sticky like the white dough. I hope I did not mix it too much, but it seemed so easy to handle. Please suggest. Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Dottie, it sounds like you’re on the right track; it’s just fine to use your mixer to bring the dough together briefly if you prefer. Your dough may have been slightly dry with this last batch. It should be soft and slightly sticky to the touch. You can certainly shape the dough into a ball after it has risen once. Next time, try holding back the last 1/2 cup of flour and adding it only if it seems necessary. For best results, measure your flour by weight using a scale if you’re not already doing so. We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Paula

    Ready to try this version of the no-knead bread and was wondering if I can I use my covered baker for this bread (up to two pounds of dough)?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Absolutely, Paula. No-knead bread can be on the sticky side so we recommend putting parchment paper on the bottom of your baker for best results. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  5. John M.

    The dough did not turn out “sticky.” Was quite dry. I am trying it anyway, but I do not expect any rise. 3 and half cups of water to 7 and a half cups of flour? seems wrong, but I will let you know.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      John, if the dough felt heavy or dry, then unfortunately you’re probably right not to expect a full rise. The exact ratio of water:flour needed depends on a number of factors, including the humidity in your kitchen, as well as how you measure your flour. How much flour gets into one cup can vary drastically based on your technique, which is what led us to include this note: “if you measure flour by sprinkling it into a cup and sweeping off the excess, use 3 1/4 cups water. If you measure by dipping your measuring cup into the flour canister, tapping it to settle the flour, then leveling it off, use 3 1/2 cups water.” Because there are so many factors at play, in the future we’d suggest adjusting the water:flour ratio as needed to achieve the desired dough consistency (in this case “sticky”), rather than sticking strictly to the volume measurements. We’ve had much better success using this as a guidepost and suspect you will too. Mollie@KAF

  6. Costas

    I noticed several people asked about using a Dutch oven. In other recipes such as Leahy from Sullivan bakery in New York, he lets the Dutch oven get super hot (500) before he drops risen dough into it. After 1/2 hour the lid is removed for 10-15 minutes to allow the crust to darken.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing, Costas. This is indeed one of the ways in which a Dutch oven can be used, and we have another recent blog article all about this technique! We do urge some caution when pre-heating an empty Dutch oven, as not all pots stand up well to this kind of extreme heat. To be on the safe side, we suggest checking the manufacturer’s directions to see what they recommend before getting started. Mollie@KAF

  7. Rose

    I think I used too little water. Can I add it to the rest of the dough, still in the fridge 36 hours in?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This is a unique kind of dough that’s quite flexible and resilient to all sorts of things. Go ahead and add a few tablespoons of extra water if you think the dough feels dry, and mix it in as best you can. Let the dough rest for at least another 6-12 hours before shaping the dough to ensure it has a chance to absorb the liquid. Good luck and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  8. Denine

    Just made my first loaf of CrustyNo Knead white bread and am excited to try the whole wheat version but I can’t seem to find nutrition info on the whole wheat version of crusty bread. Am I missing it?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Denine, while we have included a nutritional breakdown for many of our recipes (which you can view by clicking on the “Nutrition Information” link at the bottom of the “At a Glance” box on a recipe page), we haven’t yet calculated it for this one. For recipes like this, we suggest using one of several websites that offer free nutritional analysis of recipes. We especially like SparkPeople and VeryWell. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

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