No Fuss 100% Whole Grain Sourdough Bread

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I’ll be honest. I took quite a bit of trial and error to figure out how to make 100% whole grain sourdough bread that wasn’t a brick. The first time I tried to make whole wheat sourdough was a complete failure. I’ve learned some helpful tricks that have taken my bread game up a notch and I want to share them with you! Don’t make the mistakes I did trying to incorporate more whole grains into my family’s diet.

closeup of finished whole grain sourdough bread sitting on a cooling rack

Tips for Making 100% Whole Grain Sourdough Bread

Trying to make bread with freshly ground, 100% whole grain wheat can be tricky. Freshly ground whole wheat flour cannot be directly substituted into recipes calling for all-purpose flour, bread flour, or white flour.

Freshly ground whole wheat flour soaks up more water than store-bought flour, so the initial feel of your dough needs to be a lot stickier than you may be used to.

Soften the Bran

When you grind your own wheat, you end up with little pieces of bran in your flour. While you can sift this out, I try to leave it in as much as I can because of the health benefits. For any kind of bread, bran can be the enemy of rising. Bran has sharp edges that cut the gluten strands as they are stretching during the rise time. This causes bread to be dense and flat.

The best way to get around dense flat bread from damaged gluten strands is to soften the bran in the flour by soaking it in water. This process is often called autolyse in the bread baking world. Autolyse is simply mixing the flour and water from a bread recipe and letting it sit for some time in a large bowl. This is done before mixing in the other ingredients and kneading the dough.

Soaking the flour allows the flour to soak up the water and the bran gets softer. Softer bran means the bread can rise without breaking those gluten strands and your bread will be soft and fluffy.


Freshly Ground Whole Grain Flour: I like to use hard white wheat in this recipe. It usually takes about 3 cups of wheat berries to get 4 cups of flour. Stone-milled flour works best in this recipe.

Warm Water: Using warm water in this recipe gives the sourdough starter a head start on rising. Don’t make the water too hot though. It should be just warm to the touch.

Salt: Salt is important in this recipe for flavor! Don’t skip the salt. I like to use Redmond real salt as it contains added natural minerals.

Active Sourdough Starter: If your store your starter in the refrigerator, take it out at least 1 day before you plan to bake this bread and feed it. If you store your starter on the counter, simply make sure your starter is active and bubbly. You can use a whole wheat starter in this recipe, but you can also use a all-purpose starter. Either will work just fine!


Stand Mixer: While it isn’t necessary to have a stand mixer to made bread, the quality of my bread and especially 100% whole wheat bread, has improved dramatically when I started kneading for extended periods in a stand mixer. I don’t think I have the arm strength to vigorously knead dough for 20 minutes! Might be a great workout plan though!

Proofing Basket: For traditional round sourdough loaves, a proofing basket is really nice to have. In a pinch, you can flour a kitchen towel and place the dough on it in a regular bowl.

Dutch Oven with a Lid: Any oven-safe pot with a lid will work to bake this bread, but a cast iron or ceramic dutch oven is so nice because of the excellent heat distribution. A dutch oven will give your bread a beautiful oven spring that adds to the fluffy texture.

Cooling Rack: It is important to let your bread cool all the way before slicing. (I know it’s hard to wait!!) The bread continues to develop while it cools off and cutting it too soon with release some of the important moisture and will make your bread seem dry.

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How to Make 100% Whole Grain Sourdough Bread

Soak the Flour

Add the freshly ground flour and the water to the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir to combine with a silicone spatula. Let this mixture sit for 30 minutes.

closeup of freshly ground whole wheat flour and water mixed in a metal bowl


Add in the salt and the active starter and turn on the stand mixer to low. Scrape down the sides with your silicone spatula to make sure all ingredients are incorporated. The bread should be very sticky and wet at this stage.

Let your mixer knead the dough on low speed for 20 minutes. Check the dough after 10 minutes. Whole wheat dough should be sticky, but should be starting to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it is too wet, it won’t be starting to form a ball. Add 1 tablespoon of flour. If it isn’t sticky at all, add 1 tablespoon of warm water. We always want high hydration with freshly ground whole wheat bread recipes.

Kneading the dough for 20 minutes might seem like a long time, but this is one of the tricks I have found to make a huge difference with 100% whole grain sourdough bread. This long knead time activates the gluten in the freshly ground flour and softens the bran. This combination will make your bread so fluffy and delicious. Trust me it works!

a white Kitchen Aide stand mixer with a silver metal bowl

Form the Loaf

After kneading for 20 minutes, remove the dough from the bowl of the stand mixer onto a floured work surface. Gently form the dough into a loaf by pulling on each side and folding it over to the middle of the top of the dough to form a round dough ball. Since the dough should still be quite sticky, you can use wet hands prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. Place the dough in a floured proofing basket and cover with plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag.

closeup of whole grain sourdough bread dough in a proofing basket

Rise and Bulk Fermentation

Rise time is often the trickiest part of sourdough baking. Because all sourdough starters are different, the time it will take your bread to rise can be quite variable. Rise time is also affected by the temperature in your house.

It can take anywhere from 3 to 10 hours for your bread to rise to double the size. After you have tried this recipe a few times, you will become more acquainted with the typical rise time for your starter and house condition.

Place your covered proofing basket in a warm place and let the dough rise until doubled in size or until the basket is full.

At this point you can bake the bread right away, or you can place the dough in the refrigerator and bake it the next morning.

Score and Bake

After your dough has doubled in size, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Turn the bread dough upside down onto a piece of parchment paper. You can score the top of the loaf with a knife or a bread lame (fancy razor blade for scoring bread) if desired. Grab the edges of the parchment paper and gently place the parchment paper and the dough into a dutch oven and put the lid on.

Place the bread in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees F.

whole grain sourdough bread dough right before baking


Remove the bread from the oven. Pull up on the sides of the parchment paper to lift the bread from the dutch oven onto a cooling rack. It is best to let the bread cool completely before slicing. Slicing too early will allow internal moisture to escape and your bread will be drier than desired.

closeup of finished whole grain sourdough bread sitting on a cooling rack


This bread can be stored in an airtight container like a plastic bag at room temperature for 4-5 days. This bread also freezes well. Wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap and then tin foil and place in the freezer for 2-3 months. Leave the bread wrapped up when thawing at room temperature.

This whole wheat sourdough bread recipe is sure to become a staple at your house! The rich flavor and hearty texture is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.

More Sourdough Recipes

4 Ingredient Basic White Sourdough Bread

Waffle Recipe Without Milk: Crispy, Fluffy, and Easy

Easy Cast Iron Sourdough Cheddar Chive Biscuits

Pin for Later

whole grain sourdough bread dough right before baking

No Fuss 100% Whole Grain Sourdough Bread

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 50 minutes

100% whole grain sourdough bread doesn't need to be intimidating. A few helpful tips will give you fluffy, delicious, healthy bread.


  • 1 3/4 cup warm water
  • 4 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup active sourdough starter


  1. Mix flour and water in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Let flour and water mixture sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Add sourdough and salt.
  4. Turn mixer to low speed and knead dough for 20 minutes. ***
  5. After kneading, remove dough from the stand mixer onto a floured surface.
  6. Form loaf and place in a floured bread basket.
  7. Let loaf rise for 3 hours or until doubled in bulk. This step may take much longer depending on the temperature in your house. Anywhere from 3-8 hours is possible.
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  9. Invert the bread basket onto a piece of parchment paper and score top of the loaf.
  10. Place parchment paper and bread dough into a dutch oven and put the lid on.
  11. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes with the lid on.
  12. Remove the lid and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees F.


*** The dough should feel quite sticky when it is kneading. After kneading, it should still feel a little bit sticky. Freshly ground 100% whole grain sourdough bread needs this additional moisture to soften the bran.

Don't add flour until the dough isn't sticky anymore! This will result in a very dense loaf.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 174Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 320mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 5gSugar: 0gProtein: 7g

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  1. I needed this recipe! I have so may lbs of wheat berries that I need to grind and make into whole wheat bread. Love the health benefits of whole wheat and sourdough together. Thank you!

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