Rye #1 – Rugbrød (Sourdough Rye Bread)

The New Year is here and the children’s mood swings as well as scales are a gentle (or not so gentle!) reminder that December’s sweet and indulgent time must come to an end…at least for a little while. So, with this in mind I am, over the next few weeks, in the name of health, going to share with you a series of rye flour recipes that I love and make often.

Being Danish, Rye is very much part of my every day life and I am a passionate advocate of it! I rarely eat any bread that does not contain it and try to incorporate it into cakes and pastries also. Most of the time the children do not even know they are eating it.

So what is rye and why bother? Rye is a cereal grain, known scientifically as Secale cereale, which looks like wheat but is longer and more slender. It is one of the most recently domesticated cereal crops. Unlike some other cereal grains that can be traced back to prehistoric times, rye was not cultivated until around 400 B.C. It was first grown in this manner in Germany. Rye is thought to have originated from a wild species that grew as weeds among wheat and barley fields.

Unfortunately, ever since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, this nutrient-rich grain has not been widely enjoyed. In many countries, rye seems to have been relegated to the back of the shelves – maybe out of sight out of mind? Luckily for me, in some food cultures, including my Danish one, rye is still widely used and retains an important position. Especially in Denmark, rye bread (rugbrød) holds an especially esteemed position – hence the recipe I will be posting today!

  • Rye contains high levels of proteins and fibre. It contains good amounts of iron, calcium and zinc and a whole slew of B and E vitamins
  • Rye contains a lot of soluble fibre which slows down the release of carbohydrates and sugars, so that you feel satisfied for longer after eating it compared to wheat bread – thus beneficial in controlling body weight
  • Being overweight and lacking exercise can lead to type 2 diabetes. Whole grain food, including rye bread, consumption is significantly associated with reduced risk of diabetes due to the fact that rye bread generates a lower insulin response than wheat bread does
  • Rye bread and other rye-products can improve bowel function and prevent constipation as well as colon cancer
  • If you think of carbon footprint then rye is a good way to eat as it is easier to grow than wheat in many climates and therefore requires fewer inputs
  • It tastes great!
  • In summary – by eating rye and other fibre rich produce you can lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, high blood sugar, diabetes and obesity as well as being good to the environment! Nice list isn’t it?!?

(For more information please see  www.ryenadhealth.orghttp://www.whfoods.com, http://www.greenfootsteps.com/rye-flour.html, http://commonsensehealth.com/Diet-and-Nutrition/High_Fiber_Food_Chart.shtml).

Rye flour is the key ingredient in this traditional Danish sourdough rye bread I am about to share with you! Be excited! My father is the one who inspired me on this one – he is THE rye bread maker at home!

A final few words before we get on with it though. Bread made with rye flour is more compact and dense than normal wheat bread as its gluten is less elastic than wheat’s. Therefore, do not expect a light, fluffy bread! However, as rye flour is less processed than wheat it retains a large quantity of nutrients. What I am trying to say is – it may be heavy but it’s good for you!

Sourdough Starter

100ml buttermilk
100ml water
55g rye flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp runny honey

Traditional Rye Bread from Sourdough starter

400g rye flour
100g strong white flour
250g seeds – rye, sunflower, pumpkin – any you like! Add nuts too – walnuts are lovely.
About 500 ml luke warm water
1 tsp salt
Sourdough stater (made from recipe above)

Sourdough Starter

The hardest part of making sourdough rye bread is getting the sourdough starter going. The first time you make the bread it will probably not turn out well. This is because it takes the wild yeast you are creating time to become strong. Do not let this discourage you! I had to throw away my first two loaves when I started…now however I have the most gorgeous rye bread that I, and my family, eat all the time.

Add all the sourdough starter ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine – it will look something like the above! The reason you are adding salt and sugar is that you essentially are “feeding” the mixture!

Once combined, leave it covered in a warm place for 24 hours – give it a stir and leave for another 24 hours. Have a look at it. It should start to smell sour and bubble slightly. Place in the fridge for 3 days. After this time it is ready for use but remember, the first few times you use it the bread may not turn out as well as you expect.

Traditional Rye Bread from Sourdough starter


Get a large mixing bowl and pour in 450ml luke warm water as well as the sourdough starter. Mix well.

Add both types of flour to the mixture and stir until it has the consistency of a really thick bowl of porridge! Add more water if necessary. It must not be runny though so if you add too much water stir in a bit more rye flour. You will end up with something that looks like the image here – not pretty I know!

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it rest for at least 12 hours – I usually leave it over night. Do not fill the dough more than 2/3 of the way as it will rise.

Day 2

Once risen, your dough should look like the above image! It will be spongy when you touch it.

Add the seeds or nuts/rye – my seed mixture (cracked rye and wheat and others) needs to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes before being added, as below, but if you just use nuts and seeds you can add them as they are.

Give the mixture a good stir and add 1tsp of salt – you can add more or less salt if you wish – taste it and see what you think. The dough should feel soft to stir but not be watery. If it is too hard you may add a little bit of luke warm water – not more than 30dl though – which probably is equivalent to a few tablespoons. If you make it too watery the bread will come out sticky.

Once you are happy with the consistency of your batter, take a good couple of spoonfulls out of the bowl and put in a glass – as below. This will be the sourdough starter for your next bread!

Put a few tsp sea salt on top of the sourdough and close the jar with a lid. Again, only fill the jar about 2/3 of the way as it will rise. Place it in the fridge until you need it! Leave at least 3 days before you use it though as the wild yeast needs time to develop.

The image below shows how the sourdough ferments after a few days – notice the air bubbles – this is how you know it is a good sourdough. It took me 3 loaves of bread, and sourdough, before mine was really good.

Take your batter and pour into a greased bread tin – you will need a rather large, rectangular one or two smaller ones. I often make mini loaves for the children – they are really sweet! You could use silicone cupcake cases for this if you do not have actual miniature tins.

Once in the greased tin, let the dough rise for two hours under a tea towel before you place it in the warm oven.

The bread will need 1.5 hours at 100C. After this time, turn the oven up to 200C and give it another 1 hour – if you feel it is going too dark simply place some aluminium foil over the top.

When the 2.5 hours are up – turn it out of the tin and listen to it “talking” to you! Don’t laugh…it really does! You know that the bread is good if it crackles and hisses when you listen to the bottom of it.

The smell in your kitchen will be phenomenal at this point and you will, no doubt, be tempted to slice it open, butter it and eat it all! DON’T! As with any fresh bread, it needs time to sit and collect itself before you slice it.

Wrap a damp tea towel around it and put it back in the oven, now turned off but still warm, with its top down. Let it stay in there like this until the oven is cold, then transfer to a plastic ziplock bag – to retain the moisture in the bread – and place in the fridge. It will be ready for you to eat the next morning – or a good half day after being put in the fridge.

I know it sounds awfully complicated and labour filled – the first time you make it, it is! But once you get into the rhythm it takes no time at all and you fit it into your day.

Stunning fresh rye bread!

These are some ways I LOVE to eat mine. I always toast it on high to make it nice and crisp and then…

 Pan fried cod roe with lemon…heaven!

Avocado, pepper and sea salt…a fibre health bomb of deliciousness! 

The children’s favourite…cheddar and jam! 

My, sometimes, mid-morning snack! Cheddar and orange/elderflower marmelade…doesn’t get much better! 

So there you have it – Danish Rugbrød! Very much a part of my food culture and filled with goodness. Serve it for breakfast with cheese – fibre and calcium covered! For lunch with pate and cucumber, cheese and a slice of red pepper (vitamin C), hummus and ham (protein)…so many options! For dinner it is great served with an omelette…

It freezes well so make a double portion and freeze one loaf – pre-sliced maybe – then all you have to do is pop a few slices in the toaster and you are off to a great meal or snack!

46 thoughts on “Rye #1 – Rugbrød (Sourdough Rye Bread)

      • Marco says:

        Thanks so much for posting this! I baked a loaf of this yesterday, and I was curious… how sour is it supposed to be? I’ve never actually had this type of bread before, so I really don’t know how close I got. I used a sourdough starter that I already had (have used it for pancakes mostly), and I left the dough to rise over night. It certainly rose just fine, but it was really sour! Is it supposed to be really sour, or more of a subtle sour?

        The bread came out a bit gummy. When I cut it with my bread knife, some of it sticks to the knife. I assume this means the dough needs less water. However, it might also be the type of flour I’m using. I’m grinding the rye berries fresh right before I make the dough. Anyway, I’ll just have to play around with that. Any thoughts on that?

        Thanks again for sharing this!

      • Appetite 4 Life says:

        Hi Marco,
        So – it is not really supposed to taste that sour. Sure, a hint of it – but that is more in the scent rather than the smell. I would not say mine tastes sour – but maybe I have just gotten used to it! 🙂 Maybe you used too much? I use 1 jam jar, as in picture, to about 500-700grams of flour.
        If it is gummy and sticks – too wet. Yes. You guessed that right. When you leave it to rise you want the dough really quite heavy to stir. When you then transfer it into the moulds you almost have to scoop it in – it should not pour.
        Also, try leaving it in the warm oven once it has cooked for the full time – wrapped in a tea towel – until the oven is cold. The place it in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge until the next day.
        If the flavour is good and it is a little bit wet – simply toast it on high – don’t bin it. It tastes great toasted.
        Let me know how you go – but it definitely takes a few times to get the hang of it.
        Good luck!

  1. rachelle says:

    Hey, I am so happy to have found your blog. I live in Lund, Sweden (but am originally from Canada) and I’m happy that your recipes almost always have ingredients I can actually buy here. I have made my starter now and just mixed it with the flours and luke warm water, and now I have to wait patiently again. I’m thinking of greasing the pan and putting some toasted sesame before I pour the batter in so it will coat the bottom. I’m not too sure it will turn out this time but I’m hoping after a couple of trys it will be right, then I will no longer need to buy bread from the store. We love buying special rye breads from denmark! (though they have them here too, but when we’re in copenhagen we always pick up some there). Anyways, thanks again! I also made your rye muffins with berries and quinoa in them. I made 24 and brought them to the office here and they were such a hit… people didn’t feel as guilty eating them as when I bring my normal cupcakes in, so I was happy for that!

    Tusen tack!

    • Appetite 4 Life says:

      Hi Rachelle!
      I am so happy you are enjoying the blog and that the recipes are coming out well! It makes it all worth it to get comments like yours. Thank you.
      Please let me know how your bread turns out – cute idea with the seeds – should look lovely and taste great too I imagine. You may want to sprinkle the seeds on top though as usually the bread is widest at the top due to it rising. See how you go.
      Don’t forget to take out some dough for the next batch! 🙂

      • rachelle says:

        Hey again! So as you may have read on my other 2 comments tonight, I realized I haven’t been using a true rye flour. Anyways, the bread tasted awesome but didn’t rise as desired. But I think that will come with time. The sesame seeds were a great addition actually… but they are a bit messy when cutting so I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend it. I have had my dough for the next batch sitting in the fridge for a long time, do you know how long it should hold for? Did you know that in Sweden they have shops that will “babysit” your sourdough for you if you’re on vacation? Crazy! Well have a great day!

      • Appetite 4 Life says:

        Dough babysitting….huh! Madness! 🙂 But I guess if you are serious about your dough then why not!

        It will rise more in time – as I mentioned in the blog it took my sourdough starter about 4 loaves to become really efficient.

        You say you have the dough in the fridge – you mean the pot of sourdough right? This can hold for a long time – I make a new loaf or two every 10ish days and it easily lasts this long. I would probably say that it will hold for up to 3 weeks.

        Happy baking!

  2. bigkid says:

    I’m raising my sourdough according to your method. One question though, when you are putting the sourdough starter into a jar, are you sure to “Put a few tsp sea salt on top of the sourdough”? Why salt instead of sugar? If the purpose is to feed the yeast, isn’t sugar what they feed on?

    • Appetite 4 Life says:

      Cool – let me know how your bread turns out!

      I actually put the salt in the jar in order to avoid adding salt at a later date – not necessarily to feed the yeast. The yeast is fed every time I make another loaf – when it rises over night.

      Were you to leave the starter in the fridge for a long time without using it, yes, you would have to take it out and feed it both sweet and savoury (I prefer honey to sugar).

      There are so many ways to do it…

      All the best and thanks for stopping by!


      • bigkid says:

        Duh~ I made a brick literally. When I cut it open, it looks like a handmade soap with a lot of small bubbles inside, and the rye seeds are too hard to chew too.

        I guess a few things went wrong:
        I left it for too long for the first round of rise, about 24 hours. The yeast might have run out of its strength already. Then too much water in the mix. And then the rye seeds haven’t been boiled enough, I boiled it for around 1 minute. Maybe 5 or 10 minutes is better? How to tell if the seeds have had a good boil? And, is it a good idea to cheat a little bit by adding instant dry yeast?

        I’ll try again when I finish eating this brick. That’s right, I made it and I have to eat it. I’ll let you know if I survive….

      • Appetite 4 Life says:

        Sorry it did not come out as expected! Let me try and address some of your issues:

        – Was it the first time you used the home grown sourdough starter? If so, that is the main reason your bead will not have risen. It took me four loaves of bread before I got the right rising power out of mine. Do not despair…keep going! I promise it will get there.

        – It is Ok to leave for 24 hours. That sometimes happens to me too – life is busy! It will not affect it if the yeast is strong enough
        – Too much water will definitely make the bread heavier. You have to find the batter quite hard to stir, sticky and heavy. Try adding less water to start and then gently add tiny bits as you go until you have a very sticky porridge like consistency.
        – Rye seeds and boiling – as they are quite hard they will need longer. I would saok overnight and then boil for probably 30 minutes. Here is a link to a good page that explains! http://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t–1368/cooking-rye.asp. I have started using seeds I do not need to boil. Sesame, hemp, sunflower and pumpking are all great. I also add rye flakes and sometimes rolled oats. Much easier as no boiling involved.
        – If you add dry yeast that is cheating! 🙂 I know some people do, but then you will never get your yeast to be where you want it the home grown way…Patience is required….

        Great morals though – I binned my first 4 attempts…Hope the flavour is OK!!

        Let me know how you get on!

        All the best,

      • bilejones says:

        Like bigkid, I was baffled, salt kills yeast.
        I got my Rye starter by converting some regular (wheat) starter: I cup regular sourdough starter (Mine is now several years old and, when I don’t make sourdough for a while, is happy to sit in the fridge unfed for a couple of months) One cup lukewarm water, one of Rye flour. Leave out for two days, discard two thirds add 1 c Rye and Water and the next day you’re ready to go.

        I’ll give your recipe a try mañana. It does look good but the 3.5 hours baking time threw me. I’ll let you know.

      • Appetite 4 Life says:

        Hi there,

        I must admit that as I have continued to bake this bread (and I make a portion about once a week at the moment) I have refined my methods.

        The timings and ingredients vary and therefore the 3.5hrs is a maximum time it should take – and usually it would only take that long if the dough was quite wet. You sort of have to play with it and the first loaf you bake may therefore not be as perfect as the second or third.

        At the moment I am baking mine for 1 hour at 100 degrees and then another hour at 200 degrees and that is enough. I have started using less liquid to reduce the time in the oven as, like you, it felt too long.

        Regarding the salt – you are right and wrong. I spent some time reading up on it today to ensure I gave you as informed an answer as possible.

        Salt, and sugar for that matter, both affect the activity of yeast. If you added no salt, for example, the yeast would act very quickly but it would also stop being effective very quickly. I.e. its rising agents would die quickly. Too much salt slows down and stops the yeast activity so would, eventually, and depending on the amount, kill the yeast also.

        The answer therefore is that you need to use the right amount in comparison to your sour dough starter. Salt is necessary in order to flavour and give structure to the dough – i.e. control the yeast growth. Have you ever baked a loaf of bread that was full of holes for example? That is often associated with too little salt where the yeast then lacks presence in the baking process.

        Let me know how you get on! Hope the bread is a success.

        All the best,

  3. bigkid says:

    Hi! Very helpful tips you gave the other day Thanks! I’ve been making a new dough with improved techniques. And I’ve been developing my sourdough starter with Darwin’s law, that is, discarding most of the starter leaving only a small blob, add a few spoons of rye flour and water, stir well, sit back for 4~6 hours, and repeat the cycle over again and again. After two days I’ve got a good strong sourdough in my growing cup.

    My dough went into the tin about 1 hour ago, and it’s slowly filling up that tin. I’ll show you what I get in a few hours….

    • Appetite 4 Life says:

      Great – how did it turn out then??

      Something else to consider is the oven and heat. As every batter will be slightly different, try and reduce your oven time.
      Say 1 hour at 100C and then 1 hour at 200C followed by wrapping in cloth and in a bag – sometimes that is enough for my bread (if it is not too wet)

      All the best,

      • bigkid says:

        It’s much better than last time I tried. But still not rise enough after pouring in the mold, so it’s too dense. Guess I need to adjust the time next time. And my local Ikea is out of stock for their rye bread mix, so without a reference sample, I’m flying blind. Hopefully the next time it’ll come up better.

      • Appetite 4 Life says:

        It will keep getting better! Promise. Patience is a virtue.

        Can you not find regular rye flour at your local supermarket? I can see that makes it all a bit more difficult!

        All the best and keep updating me – enjoy your updates! 🙂

  4. David Kennedy says:


    I’m in the midst of this at the moment and my batter didn’t seem to rise at all during the first overnight, I’m wondering if it’s something to do with the starter as you say later in the post…

    “Add all the sourdough starter ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine – it will look something like the above! The reason you are adding salt and sugar is that you essentially are “feeding” the mixture!”

    But prior to that in the starter ingredients list and the starter instructions, there is no mention of sugar, am I missing something?

    Am I suppose to add salt and sugar to my starter each time I take some from the mix to use next time or just salt? my starter isn’t rising at all during the three days in the fridge just!


    • Appetite 4 Life says:

      Hi David,
      I am sorry my reply is so late! Life is a bit manic at the moment – I hope you have not given up!
      If you are at the early stages it will be because of the starter – it feels like ages before it starts to really work. If you lived in the UK (do you?) I would happily send you a portion of my starter…. 😉
      Keep going – don’t stop. If the dough does not rise, still keep the starter in the fridge – only with salt on top – and keep going. After 3-4 loaves it will start to really work.
      If you find it does not, feed the starter a bit of flour, sugar and salt and luke warm water and leave for a few days on your kitchen work top. Stir every day. After 3 days, throw away 2/3 of the dough and feed again. Do this a few times and then try the starter.
      Let me know how you get on!
      All the best,

  5. Diane Stevenson says:

    I found your blog while researching Danish sourdough rye bread. We are hosting an exchange student from Denmark this year, and she is very homesick for her rye bread. So wish me luck, because having bought several pounds of rye flour, I am going to make bread!

  6. mauricio says:

    Hi there !
    I am not danish but I am living in Copenhagen at the moment and I recently fell in love with the rye bread and decided to bake it myself. I have baked around 4 or 5 batches of bread so far following a very similar recipe and I have to say that I like what I have got so far. There is only one detail I am still dealing with and this is that every time I bake my final product presents this big air bag right below the crust. I have to say that I am getting frustrated because It is not nice to slice your bread and find out an archaeological excavation below the crust ! Hehe. I have not found a useful advice so far on how to avoid this bubbles. Maybe you could help me regarding this?

    Thank you in advance !

    • Appetite 4 Life says:

      I have had that problem too – it has to do with how long you let the bread rise.
      I find, to avoid it, I leave it overnight as per the recipe but then, once I transfer the dough to the tins, I put it straight into the oven without letting it proove further.
      This has stopped the “air” hole forming.
      Good luck – I hope it works!
      Thatnks for stopping by.

      • Joanna says:

        Probably, after 3 years, the problem is solved, but… just in case… Before you put the dough into the oven cut it with a wet knife – that’s the way to avoid holes under the crust and you can be sure that the crust won’t break.
        Best regards,
        Joanna 🙂

  7. afracooking says:

    Up until now I have not had the guts to try my hand on sourdough. But your bread looks so beautiful I might just have to.Well, I have taken the first step and saved your recipe 🙂

    • Appetite 4 Life says:

      Be brave! It will require patience though as the sourdough takes a at least 3-4 goes before it is perfect (as in you need to bake with it and throw away the result…waste I know…). If you lived close by I would give you a jar of mine to use…

      Good luck!


      • afracooking says:

        Such a lovely thought that you would share your own hard work! Thank you! I;ll still need to muster up a bit more courage but I am already looking forward to the experience. I imagine that such a labout of love must feel (and taste) amazing.

  8. Chris NZ says:

    Greetings from New Zealand! I’ve become a big fan of your recipe, and after three loaves or so, it’s getting better and better, but I’m still having one problem: Still some parts of the bread are quite doughy, even after the 1.5 hrs @ 100 deg and 1 hr @ 200 deg.
    Here’s a picture: http://imgur.com/xBumITm

    Any thoughts? The crust is a nice thickness and hardness – should I bake for longer at 100 deg, or longer at 200 deg? I’ve been using a mixer to mix the dough, rather than knead it – could this be a problem?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Appetite 4 Life says:

      Hi! I am glad it is getting better – at least you are going in the right direction.
      I have had a look at your picture and I can see what you mean. I think your dough is probably too wet to start off with. Next loaf you try, add less water or more flour. You want it to be quite thick – it should not be possible to pur the dough into the tins.
      Another reason may be the seed or flour combination – it could be different to mine (most probably will be) – and therefore could keep more moisture in the bread.
      Play around with the liquids in the recipe first and see how you go….
      Fingers corssed you will get that perfect loaf soon!

  9. Jude says:

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;
    ) Cheers!

  10. Shay says:

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  11. Nora Kurittu says:

    I came across this recipe about 6 months ago and I must I simply love it!!! I have been perfecting it ever since and my english partner is a huge fan. I have been experimenting with different seeds and grains. I have now completely stopped adding any white flour at all as I am trying to get a really dark loaf!!
    The beginning was tough and it was hard to get a good starter, especially in these cold drafty homes in the UK but I eventually got there and it has been worth all the efforts

    Thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful recipe….

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