Whole Wheat No Knead Bread

This recipe for whole wheat no knead bread takes my recipe for regular no knead bread, slightly adapted from Jim Lahey and adds whole wheat flour to the mix.

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The beauty of No Knead Bread is that once you’ve made it a couple of times, you can start tweaking it to suit your needs – add some nuts, raisins, olives, herbs, or substitute in some ingredients like whole wheat flour. Anyone who has ever baked before will know that you can’t just blindly substitute whole wheat flour for regular flour, however. Whole wheat flour, because it contains the whole grain (bran, germ and endosperm) has a smaller percentage of gluten than white flour. Consequently, if you substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in a 1:1 ratio, you end up with a flat little, tough disk. You can, however, replace ¼ to ½ of the quantity of white flour with whole wheat flour and have success.

Ingredients for whole wheat no knead bread in a stainless steel bowl on a scale with measuring cups and spoons.

 It has a darker, earthier appearance and taste, but still gives you that light airy crumb that you are looking for and is just as easy to make. 

Whole wheat no knead bread ingredients mixed together.

Once the dough ingredients are mixed together.

You will need to plan ahead, of course, when making this dough. The slow fermentation (rise) of the dough is what gives it its great flavor and allows the gluten to develop without kneading. That slow rise will take at least 12 hours, but is better if you let it take 18 hours or even longer. The second rise should be 1 to 2 hours long as well, so obviously you need to make this bread today and expect to eat it tomorrow. 

Whole wheat no knead bread dough after 18 hours of slow fermentation.

After 18 hours of slow fermentation.

Once you’ve done your planning – calculating 18 to 24 hours backwards from when you want to enjoy the bread – the rest is really very simple. There are only 5 ingredients in this whole wheat no knead bread. Mixing them together takes just about 5 minutes of your time. The rest of the process is just “loafing around”. (couldn’t help myself!)

Whole wheat no knead bread being dusted with flour on floured parchment paper.

Turned out onto floured parchment, ready for 2nd rise.

Be generous with the flour when you turn the bread out – it will save you a lot of frustration. It’s not a disaster if the bread sticks to the parchment paper, but it will tear the dough and it won’t be quite as pretty a loaf of bread as it could be. I use a manual flour dusting wand to give me the most even coating of flour.

Whole Wheat No Knead Bread after being transferred to cast iron pot.

After transferring the dough to the hot cast iron pot.

A cast iron pot is important to the recipe, although you could also use a heavy metal pot. Cast iron holds heat much better than aluminum or stainless steel, and it’s that intense heat that gives the bread a head start and helps it rise. The lid on the cast iron pot turns the pot into a tiny oven of its own and traps the steam that is released by the dough. That’s important for the crust. So, if you can, go with cast iron.  

Whole wheat no knead bread after 30 minutes of baking in a cast iron pot.

After 30 minutes of baking in the cast iron pot.

Once the bread is in the pot, there’s really no concern about it sticking at all. The bread will pop right out hen it has finished cooking. It will look as spectacular as the one below, the pot will need an easy rinse and you’ll look like a rock star baker.

Whole wheat no knead bread finished in a cast iron pot.

Finished!

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

Whole Wheat No Knead Bread

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

Ingredients

  • cups bread flour 325 g
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour 100 g
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 12 ounces 1½ cups water

Instructions

  1. Combine the flours, 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 (11)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    I did it and it’s perfect and wonderful! The directions were spot on and everything went like clockwork. I love your recipes and also enjoyed your shows on QVC. Your success is much deserved. Many thanks

  2. Meredith,
    Greetings from Toronto from a fan that used to enjoy your demos on QVC.
    When making thus whole wheat recipe may I:
    1. Add a little honey or maple syrup to assist with the rise;
    2. Use a 7 quart enameled Dutch Oven or is that too big? Note: I love crusty bread;
    3. Use a Lodge cast iron non-enameled Dutch Oven?
    Regards.

    1. Hi Glenn in Toronto! 🙂 You can certainly add a little honey or maple syrup to the dough for flavor if you want to, but it won’t need any help with the rise. A 7-qt. Dutch oven will be fine. The bread might bake out a little instead of up, but it will be fine. And, yes, you can use a Lodge non-enameled Dutch oven. It might be prudent to let the dough rise for the last time on a piece of parchment paper and then just lift it up and put the bread, parchment and all, into the non-enameled Dutch oven. That will be easier to transfer and will ensure it won’t stick. Have fun!

  3. Is there a recipe for whole wheat bread that calls for using more whole wheat flour? Most recipes I’ve seen only use a small amount. Is there a reason for that?

    1. Whole wheat flour uses the whole grain and as a result does not have as high a percentage of gluten as all purpose flour. It’s the gluten that creates a lighter crumb, rather than a dense crumb. So, by combining the flours, you can end up with a bread that is not overly dense.

  4. 5 stars
    I made the whole wheat version of this recipe. It was the easiest and best bread recipe I’ve ever made. My family loved it and I will continue to make this bread. I’m teaching my son to make it now. Thank you again BJC for another family recipe.

    1. Hi Diane,
      I would use lukewarm water and try to dissolve 1-2 Tbsp honey in the water. Then, pour the water into the flours and go from there.

  5. 5 stars
    I have now made the whole wheat and regular versions of this bread and they are both delicious and beautiful. I feel like a professional baker!! Thank you Blue Jean Chef!

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