With a crisp, crackly crust and an airy, chewy crumb, this no-knead sourdough bread is a favorite in our household. We bake a few loaves each week because its simple, no-fuss process means just a little bit of effort yields marvelous results. Unlike sourdough bagels, which require extensive kneading, this bread is about as hands-off as you can get.
What is no-knead sourdough?
Sourdough bread is leavened with a sourdough starter rather than with commercial bakers yeast. And unlike bread with a tight crumb, which relies on kneading, no-knead bread has an airier quality, a more open crumb, and an artisan feel.
They also tend to take less effort than loaves of bread that you knead by hand. And you can make them easily overnight because they need less tending overall.
No-knead bread, and sourdough bread in particular, also have the benefit of being generally more nutritious and easier to digest. That's because the slow fermentation process releases enzymes that make minerals more bio-available (1) while also increasing beta-glucans in the bread, which is a long-chain carbohydrate that supports gut health and immune system function.
What do you need to make it?
At its simplest, a no-knead sourdough requires four ingredients: sourdough starter, water, flour, and sea salt. When you're so familiar with the recipe and process that it becomes second nature, you can start to adapt the recipe and begin to include other ingredients, too, like fresh or dried herbs and spices.
- Starter. Sourdough starter gives this bread flavor and makes it rise. Starters are described according to bakers percentages, that is how much water and flour used to make this. This recipe calls for a 100% hydration starter, meaning you use equal amounts of water and flour in your starter culture.
You can make your own starter from scratch easily in about a week. It is particularly helpful to use an heirloom starter if you're new to sourdough baking.
- Water. Filtered warm water works best for sourdough breads, because the chlorine in tap water can inhibit the microbes in the starter culture, slowing down the process. Warm water at about 100 F works particularly well, too.
- Flour. A mix of organic bread flour and whole-grain flour works well as a starting off point for beginning bakers. This combination gives the bread good flavor, while also being easier to work with than using 100% whole grain flours.
- Salt. Salt gives the bread flavor and improves its structure. Minimally processed fine sea salt gives the best results, because iodized sea salt can give bread a slight metallic flavor.
While making no-knead sourdough bread is fairly straight forward, you'll need a few kitchen tools to make this recipe. Some, like a Dutch oven and digital scale, are essential while others are less necessary but still helpful.
- Digital Scale. Baking requires precision, and while you can bake good bread using only volume measurements, a digital scale provides consistency and precision to your baking. That translates to better bread.
- Dutch oven. A cast iron or enameled cast iron Dutch oven helps capture steam, which gives your bread crisper crust.
- Banneton. A banneton, or proofing basket, gives your bread a place to rise so it doesn't lose its shape before baking. This is important for bread with high water content, like this no-knead sourdough recipe.
- Lame. A bread lame helps you score bread. If you're baking bread regularly, it's great to have on hand. But you can also use a sharp serrated knife or a razor blade, too.
- Dough whisk. This recipe makes a shaggy, wet dough and a dough whisk helps mix the water and flour together more efficiently than a spoon and with less mess than your hands.
- Glass mixing bowls with lids. You'll need a large bowl to mix the ingredients together and to let the dough rise, and you want to cover that bowl to keep the dough moist while it rises. You can use plastic wrap, but lidded glass bowls work best.
Tips for making no-knead sourdough
Before you bake, you'll want to pay attention to a few key points to make sure your bread comes out right every time.
- Weigh your ingredients carefully. While the recipe is wonderfully forgiving, weighing your ingredients with precision ensures consistently good results from loaf to loaf.
- Use warm water. Warm water (about 100 F) helps activate the starter and speed the process along.
- Refrigerate the dough while your oven heats up. Chilling the dough in the fridge after the second rise, but before you bake it, makes scoring it easier.
- Temperature affects rising times. Your dough will rise more rapidly in a warm kitchen and will rise more slowly in a cool one.
- Score the dough for even oven spring, and to prevent tearing.
Good companions for sourdough bread
A sweeter option includes roasted grapes touched with olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary.
Part of the beauty of this basic, no-knead sourdough is that it's simple. That simplicity allows you to develop nearly infinite variations depending on what you have in your kitchen and which flavors you like. Once you have the basic recipe down, and working it into your weekly routine feels natural, you can start to adjust the recipe.
While you'll want to keep the basic proportions of flour and water the same, you can start to work with other flours or add herbs, spices, and other add-ins to make the recipe truly your own.
Here's some of our favorite versions:
Rosemary Garlic Bread. Stir 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary and ¼ cup sous vide garlic confit into the flour and water mixture.
No-knead Einkorn Bread. Cut the water down to 280 grams, and use 500 grams all-purpose einkorn flour.
Miso Sesame Bread. Whisk 2 tablespoons miso paste into the warm water, and then add 3 tablespoons sesame seeds to the flour.