No Knead Bread

Jim Lahey's no knead bread is one of those recipes that makes you want to slap your head - it's so easy and the end result is so so SO beautiful.

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It’s frustrating to think that for years we believed that bread that looked this good was something you’d find only in an artisanal bakery, and definitely not something you could make at home, let alone by someone with only a 5-minute attention span. And yet, there it is – simplicity sitting right under our noses. No need for kneading.

No Knead Bread after it has finished baking in the cast iron Dutch oven.

Jim Lahey, the owner and baker of Sullivan Street Bakery, produces breads for over 300 restaurants in New York and in 2006 the New York Times first published Jim’s method of making bread without kneading it – No Knead Bread. This went against centuries of tradition where kneading the bread dough was deemed critical to developing the gluten in flour, which in turn was necessary to create a bread that would rise beautifully and hold its shape while having the loose airy crumb of artisan bread loaves. Jim figured out that a slow rise of a relatively wet dough created a more flavorful loaf – similar to those loaves he had eaten in Italy – and that the extra moisture in the dough would evaporate into steam in the oven, helping the dough to rise and the crust to crisp.

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Ingredients for no knead bread on a countertop.

The no knead bread is baked in a cast iron Dutch oven which is pre-heated for 30 minutes along with the oven to 425ºF. The cast iron holds the high heat of the oven and turns into an oven in and of itself – an oven in an oven, so to speak. Topping the Dutch oven with a lid allows the baker to trap that steam being released by the bread and helps with the rise – a more intense bake than just baking in an oven on a stone.

No knead bread dough mixed together in a bowl.

The dough after being stirred together.

Of course, this is the only tricky part of the recipe – getting the bread into the smoking hot cast iron Dutch oven without burning yourself or deflating the dough too much. One trick is to use the parchment paper that the bread is resting on as a transfer mechanism, placing it into the cast iron pot along with the bread dough. The downside of this trick is that I’ve found that the paper traps a little moisture on the bottom of the loaf, which ends up less crusty, but you can always crisp the bottom of the loaf back up in the oven after it has baked.

No Knead Bread dough after 18 hours of slow fermentation.

The dough after 18 hours of slow fermentation.

The other challenge to the recipe is handling the dough when it is so wet and sticky. The answer here is a little counter-intuitive – you want wet hands. Before you turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, wet your hands so that the dough can’t stick to you. It works every time. 

No knead bread turned out onto floured parchment paper.

Ready for the second rise, dusted with flour.

Finally, be sure to flour the surfaces of the bread well. Really well. I use a flour duster for this, which gives me an even coating of flour. The flour helps make the transfer of the dough from countertop to cast iron much easier and it creates a pretty pattern on top of the loaf. You can’t really avoid getting flour on your countertops (or floor.. or face for that matter) with this recipe, so just let it happen and clean it up later. Besides, what excellent artisanal bakery doesn’t have flour on the flour and counters? 

No Knead Bread after the first 30 minutes of baking in a cast iron pot.

After the first 30 minutes of baking.

If you like this white version of Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread, try my whole wheat version here.

A loaf of white and whole wheat no knead bread on a wooden cutting board.

White (left) and Whole Wheat (right) No Knead Bread

Watch The Recipe Video

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No Knead Bread

  • Prep Time: 5 m
  • Cook Time: 23 h
  • Total Time: 23 h 5 m
  • Servings:
    12
    1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour 360 g
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 12 ounces 1½ cups water

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and stir all the ingredients together. The dough should be shaggy and a little sticky - you shouldn't really be able to pick this dough up or handle it.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest in room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. The longer you let it sit, the more flavor is developed. After 18 hours, the dough should be bubbly on top and a shade darker than it was when you started.
  3. Place a piece of parchment paper on the countertop and dust very generously with flour. Wet your hands and fold the dough over on itself a few times to release the air inside the dough. (Wetting your hands will help prevent the dough from sticking to you.) Turn the dough out onto the floured parchment paper, seam side down.
  4. Dust more flour on the top of the dough and cover the dough by inverting the mixing bowl over the top. (Alternately, you could use a clean kitchen towel to cover the dough, but I find this often sticks to the dough, ruining both the appearance of the bread and the towel.) Let the dough rest like this for up to 2 hours. After the dough has rested for 1 to 1 ½ hours on the countertop, place a lidded cast iron Dutch oven into your oven and pre-heat the oven to 425ºF for 30 minutes.
  5. Then, working carefully, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and take off the lid. Remove the bowl and slide your hand underneath the dough ball. Making sure you don't touch the hot cast iron pot, invert the dough into the pot as gently as you can. Cover with the lid. If this seems too much for you, use the parchment paper to lift the dough into the pot, paper and all, and cover. Return the pot to the oven for 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the Dutch oven and let the bread continue to bake until it is nicely browned on top - about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and let the bread sit in it for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer the beautiful loaf to a cooling rack to cool. Although it is tempting to dive right in, let the bread cool for 30 minutes before enjoying.
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Comments (66)Post a Reply

  1. Hi Meredith,

    I think I missed something in the recipe for the NO Knead Bread. What size dutch oven does one use in this recipe?

    Looking forward to watching another evening class. Thank you!

    1. Hi Karen,
      I use a 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven. You could use a 4 quart instead – it will be a little tighter to get the bread into the pot, but it will have a higher rise. Anything bigger than 6 quarts will allow the bread to spread out a little too much – still delicious, but not as high a loaf.

  2. Hi Meredith
    Can another type of vessel be used,I don’t have a cast iron Dutch oven..have cooks essentials no stick pot set

    1. Hi Cathy. Cast iron is the best sort of pan for this bread because it holds the heat so well and turns into an oven inside your oven. If you don’t have cast iron, give it a try with a regular pot, but your pot will need to be oven safe to 425ºF.

    1. Hi Cathy. Cast iron is the best pot to use because it holds onto the heat and turns into a mini oven inside your oven. If you don’t have cast iron, use the heaviest pan you have that is oven-safe to 425 degrees F.

  3. Could this bread be made with less or no salt (I know taste will change 😕) but I am on a low sodium diet. Will it change it way is rises. Thanks

    1. Hi Jackie. Salt actually inhibits yeast, so leaving it out will not affect its rise. You’re right – it will affect the flavor however.

  4. Two Hints – I fold aluminum foil into a square and place in bottom of the Dutch Oven – Several layers thick – Makes the bottom of the bread less hard while baking. Also – Cut a A Square of parchment paper – wider than the base of the dough – Spray with Pam – Place the dough on top and use as a Sling to place the dough into the hot pan AND Makes for easy removal when bread is baked.

  5. Meredith,
    thank you for also making a video for the no-kneed bread ,I am going to try to make this loaf for the up & coming thanks giving dinner . I think im going to make a test batch ahead of time to get my nerves out of the picture thanks again 🙂

  6. Meredith, I plan to make both versions of the No-Knead Bread but need to make a 2-pound loaf. When I double the recipe, what size Dutch oven would be best? I have several sizes.

    Would there be any changes in the fermentation and proofing times?

    1. Hi Rita. The fermentation and proofing times should stay the same. You could make it in a 6 quart Dutch oven I think, with no trouble.
      ML

  7. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe twice now and I love the taste and texture but I have too much moisture in the dough. I weighed out the bread flour which I always do but even after using a heavily flour surface it still is extremely difficult to transfer to my cast iron pot. It’s just a flat blob. My question is should I use more flour in the recipe or less water? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Gail,
      You CAN add more flour OR less water to the recipe if it seems too sticky to you. All flours are a bit different depending on where they are from and volume water measurements can vary too, so bread-making does need a little flexibility. You’ll get used to how much water and flour to add. However, this dough is not super thick. It can be a relatively flat blob. Transferring it to the hot pan is the hardest part. If it’s really difficult, let it do it’s last rise on parchment paper and then just lift the parchment paper and put it in the pot with the dough.
      ML

  8. Hi Meredith!

    So I tried to make this bread and for some reason the bread keeps coming out dense. Am I doing something wrong? I’ve measured the exact amounts listed? The outside is beautiful but the inside is dense and not very light or airy

    Thank you

    1. Hi Tam. Have you checked your yeast? Is the dough rising before you bake it? That would be my guess. Test your yeast in a little warmish water with a little sugar. It should foam in about 5 to 10 minutes. If it doesn’t, the yeast is dead and the only thing you can do is buy a fresh pack or jar.

  9. 4 stars
    Made this and the whole wheat version several times now – needs more flour. Haven’t figured out yet how much. With the current version, it’s more like a sponge than a dough. Thanks – trying to add seeds to it to make it even more artisan.

    I’m using a 12″ old style dutch oven – the crust is unbelievable.

    1. Hi Janet. Yes, you can use AP flour instead if that is what you have. The crumb will be a little different. If you want to add walnuts and cranberries – go for it!

  10. If I want to add seeds, do I just add it when I’m mixing the yeast/flour/salt and sugar or wait until after the 12-18 hours mark? Thank you.

    1. Hi Rita. It will be easier to add the seeds when you’re doing the initial mixing together. The dough is very wet and soft after the 12-18 hour mark and getting the seeds to distribute evenly would be a challenge.

  11. Hi Meredith,
    I want to make this bread and only have Rapid Rise Yeast and Bread Machine Yeast. Will it work with any of those or should I get the regular yeast?

    1. Hi Adel. For this recipe, you should use regular yeast, I’m afraid. You need the dough to rise slowly over time in order for the dough structure to form without requiring kneading.

    1. You can use AP flour in a pinch. The difference is that you might need to use a little less water. Bread flour is high protein and as a result absorbs more water. Leave a couple tablespoons of water out and only add it if you need it.

    1. Hi Connie. The water should be room temperature-ish. It doesn’t have to be warm because the dough rises very slowly over a long period of time. Having the water around 80ºF, however, does help give the yeast a head start.

  12. 5 stars
    I absolutely love this bread! It is crusty, dense and delicious! I have made it several times and I need to make it again soon.

  13. I would like to make this bread, however, Ian gluten free. Can I make it with gluten-free flour. I’d love to have a recipe for gluten-free bread since all the gluten-free bread I buy, the slices are quite tiny.

    1. Hi Maxine. I haven’t tried this bread with gluten-free flour, so I’m afraid I don’t have a definitive answer for you, but I have seen that people have made gluten-free no knead bread. Expect it to not rise quite as high and to have a slightly different flavor, but it can be done.

  14. Looking forward to making this bread. Think it would work okay if I exchanged the yeast for 1 cup of sour dough starter?
    Thank you much

  15. 5 stars
    So good! Thank you for posting! My daughter has 5 food allergies and we can’t find bread in the store she can eat with the virus causing shortages. It turned out perfect on the first try! Appreciate any more recipes that don’t contain dairy, egg, peanut, treenut or sesame.

  16. 5 stars
    Just made this & it is spectacular!!! Had to MacGyver my 11 qt copper chef dutch oven, because it was too large. Covered half of the inside with a small metal bowl & put tinfoil around it to make the pot smaller. The bread came out fantastic!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! Will definitely be making this again!!! As the saying goes, you can make something small in a large pot, but you cannot make something large in a small pot.

  17. Made the bread. Waiting patiently for the 30 minutes to relapse before slathering butter on it! Easiest recipe ever, and smells divine. Thank you, Blue Jean Chef! I love your recipes!

  18. Is this a tough, chewy bread? I’ve found that often with artisan breads I have to chew every bite too long. Also, do you know what makes a bread chewy instead of tender?

    1. Hi Lisa. I wouldn’t call the bread “chewy”, but it’s not like a store-bought sliced white bread loaf. If you want to minimize the “chewiness” of the bread, try using all purpose flour instead of bread flour.

  19. Every time I make this my bottom crust comes out too dark for our taste. Any suggestions please??
    Other than that this recipe is delicious indeed. Thank you

    1. Try to make sure the rack you are using is as high as it can go while still allowing the Dutch oven to fit inside the oven.

  20. I just am wondering why you use 425° to bake. The original Jim Lahey recipe is 450°. Also, if I manage to get bread I to pot without parchment, Will it stick to the pot? Thanks.

    1. Hi Carolyn. If you get the bread into the pot without the parchment, it will be fine – it won’t stick. Once it bakes and forms a crust, it should release from the pot perfectly. I used 425ºF in the oven because I found that some of my loaves were getting a little too dark for my liking. It’s all a matter of personal preference. You could absolutely use 450ºF and end up with delicious bread.

  21. Hi Meredith
    I live in Sweden and I don’t see anything in the store that indicates its bread flour. What I have found is of course the normal AP flour, but in addition there is a flour called flour special – it says on the package that it is used for all sorts of bread and that it contains more protein that the usual AP. Then the other one was Manitoba Cream (sifted bageri flour) – ideal for bread and that it is based on proteinrich spring wheat. Because of its high protein content the flour has a unik rising power and takes up a lot of fluid which makes the bread light, airy. Rough translations. I am thinking this last one is more like bread flour you have in the US, but would like your opinion.
    Thank you for your input

    1. Hi Linda. Bread flour is high protein flour, usually made from winter wheat. The Manitoba Cream is a high protein flour as well. So, short story is both will work. All flours have different protein levels and consequently absorb water differently. You could use any flour for this recipe (including all -purpose) and just adjust the water a little if it seems too dry. I think you’ll be fine with whichever flour you choose, but if you have a choice, I’d go for one of the two bread flours – the “flour special” or the “Manitoba Cream”.
      ML

  22. Hi, Meredith! I really want to try this bread – because of COVID-19, dry active yeast is basically non-existent. I can get fresh yeast – what would be the measurement for fresh yeast as opposed to dry yeast? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Annie. Here are the rules to convert from fresh yeast:
      To convert from fresh yeast to active dry yeast, multiply the fresh quantity by 0.4.
      To convert from fresh yeast to instant dry yeast, multiply the fresh quantity by 0.33.
      TO convert from active dry yeast to fresh yeast, divide the active dry quantity by 0.4.
      To convert from instant dry yeast to fresh yeast, divide the instant quantity by 0.33.
      Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in water first, but either instant or active dry can be used in this recipe.
      ML

  23. 5 stars
    I’m a hesitant baker but this recipe makes me feel like a pro. I don’t want to tell anyone how easy it is!

  24. I made this and it is a winner in our home. It is soft and chewy on the inside and hard crusty on the outside. I followed The instructions and it is perfect. Thank you so much for a delicious bread.

  25. Meredith, I remember buy a similar artisan bread with chopped apples and walnuts. Do you think it would work in this recipe?

  26. 5 stars
    I have made it several times. It’s so good and easy to make. I was afraid with so little salt it might not have good flavor, but it’s perfect. The wet hands is a super tip and works so much better than floured hands would with such a sticky dough

  27. This recipe turned out Amazing! Absolutely the taste and the crunch I had been looking for months. Thank you so much. I tried a dozen recipe before and I was almost losing hope when I tried this one. This will be my only artisan bread recipe. I will try making it in the evening and let it sit for 12 hours and bake it in the morning because with butter it will be make my day. As soon as the bread warmed up, I sliced it and put some of it into the freezer. The bread was soft even days after. I cannot express my appreciation and gratitude enough because I am a bread lover:)

  28. 5 stars
    This is similar to a no-knead recipe I’ve been using for years but uses AP flour and beer. Tried your version but added 1-1/2 cups freshly grated parm, about a tsp dried dill and 2/3 cuos sun-dried tomatoes. My other recipe called for starting covered in a cold oven. I followed your instructions to preheat dutch oven first. Also used my usual method of using parchment for lifting in and out of vessel. No longer have my 6qt so used a 3.5qt. The rise was higher which I preferred and smaller. Turned out beautifully. I will next make a seeded rye bread.

  29. The printed recipe says “instant yeast” but in the comments section you say regular. I don’t use instant yeast so am glad I scrolled thru the comments! Now I can make this!

    1. Hi there. There are different types of yeast out there – fresh, instant, active, quick-acting… Most of the time I use Instant yeast. It is very similar to active dry yeast, except that it doesn’t need to be mixed with liquid first. Active yeast needs to be added to liquid and then that liquid added to the dry ingredients. You can substitute each for the other in a 1:1 ration unless you are doing big quantities. In that case, you should add 1.25 teaspoons of active dry yeast for every 1 teaspoon of instant yeast. For this recipe, however, a 1:1 ratio is fine.

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