Dark Rye Bread: A European Tradition

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When I make my way to any of the bakeries in my hometown, I often need a moment to decide which kind of bread I’d like to buy. This is because, in Germany, the selection is vast.

For all the artisan bread lovers out there! You need to try this recipe for our homemade German dark rye bread. We share the recipe: https://foodal.com/recipes/breads/dark-rye-bread-a-european-tradition/

We have a large number of different kinds of grains growing here that aren’t too common in other parts of the world (such as spelt) and many regions have their local bread specialties.

I particularly like a dark rye. This recipe is for a typical brown loaf, with a nice crust and hearty flavor due to the higher amount of rye in relation to wheat.

Bread recipes that use 100% rye flour are more difficult to handle, because the dough is stickier and less bouncy.

Besides, I like this recipe as it can be eaten the same day you make it, and doesn’t necessarily need to rise over night.

If you love artisan bread, try making a loaf at home, like our recipe for homemade German dark rye bread. We share the recipe: https://foodal.com/recipes/breads/dark-rye-bread-a-european-tradition/

Although there is a nice selection of bread that I can choose from at the local bakeries, I really enjoy baking at home. The smell of a freshly baked loaf coming out of the oven is just wonderful.

And even though it’s not that difficult, my guests are always pleasantly surprised that I baked it myself. From my point of view, the process is not only about the product itself, but rather about the journey.

For example, I like kneading the dough with my hands so I can feel its different textures through the whole process.

As the proteins form into gluten, this improves the texture. (That being said, if I were to bake bread every day, I’d use a stand mixer.)

Perfect slices of homemade German dark rye bread. | Foodal.com

It’s a conscious decision to produce something from scratch, which you could easily buy in almost every grocery store. If you decide to bake your own, you should take your time and not rush the process.

Is this your first homemade bread?

Then do not despair if the loaf doesn’t turn out the way you’d like it to. After a few more attempts, you’ll get a feeling for the right timing and consistency. And your reward will be a fresh and crispy loaf.

Homemade German dark rye bread is a malty bread that goes perfectly with a variety of toppings, like butter and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Make the recipe today: https://foodal.com/recipes/breads/dark-rye-bread-a-european-tradition/

As an alternative, check out my recipe for ramson pull-apart bread- it’s perfect for springtime, and fun to make!

Malt extract might be difficult to source, but it gives your bread a nice color and a full, malty flavor.

After hours of searching online, I found a product available outside of Germany that is comparable to what we have available in our local supermarkets.

Briess Liquid Malt Extract – Traditional Dark available at Amazon

Marketed for home beer makers in the US and Canada (and perhaps the UK as well?),this Briess Liquid Malt Extract is exactly the same stuff that we use for making bread (and beer) in Germany. One tip in regards to this stuff: it’s gooey.

I’d recommend placing the malt container in pot of hot water prior to using it. It will soften it up and make it a lot easier to pour or spoon out.

The loaf can be made either on a flat baking sheet or in a round Dutch oven.

Once your bread has baked and cooled, you can slice it to whatever thickness you desire with a high-quality bread knife.

Slices of freshly baked homemade dark rye bread dough. | Foodal.com

Did you love making this bread? Then you’ll also love our sourdough, brioche, enriched dough, and pumpernickel articles!

And if you’re looking for a healthier bread to make with rye flour that’s packed with plenty of nutrients and flavor, give our multigrain carrot bread a try.

The Recipe

Freshly baked dark rye malted bread loaf. | Foodal.com
Dark Malted Rye Bread
Votes: 11
Rating: 4.27
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 1 hour
Freshly baked dark rye malted bread loaf. | Foodal.com
Dark Malted Rye Bread
Votes: 11
Rating: 4.27
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 1 hour
  • 1/2 pint lukewarm water
  • 3/4 oz fresh yeast
  • 2 oz liquid malt extract
  • 12 oz rye flour
  • 5 oz all purpose wheat flour
  • 1/4 oz salt approx. 1/2 tbsp
  • 5 oz liquid sourdough starter
Servings: loaf
  1. Pour the water in a large bowl. Add the yeast and malt extract and stir to dissolve completely.
  2. Add the rye flour, wheat flour, salt, and sourdough starter to the liquid mixture. Thoroughly mix everything together.
  3. Knead by hand until smooth. Alternatively, knead in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for 3 minutes on low speed, then 4 minutes on high speed.
  4. Place the dough on a floured countertop and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, folding and kneading it every 10 minutes.
  5. Gently form the dough into a round loaf and sprinkle with some flour.
  6. With a sharp knife, cut a pattern into the surface, such as a cross, grid or square.
  7. Put the loaf on a baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
  8. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C.
  9. Once the oven reaches the right temperature, take a spray bottle of water and spray the inside walls of the oven. Keeping the loaf on the baking sheet, transfer it to the hot oven.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes, until a dark brown crust forms. Let cool before slicing and eating.

Nutritional Information*

Nutrition Facts
Dark Malted Rye Bread
Amount Per Serving
Calories 489 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 0.3g 2%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.3g
Sodium 700mg 29%
Potassium 477mg 14%
Total Carbohydrates 105g 35%
Dietary Fiber 14g 56%
Sugars 11g
Protein 15g 30%
Calcium 5%
Iron 17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Getting Ready

Measure all of the ingredients, so you will have everything ready when you begin making the dough.

Gathering all the ingredients to make our homemade dark rye bread. | Foodal.com

Make sure the water is lukewarm (ideally 85-95°F), so the yeast can work its magic properly.

Step 2 – Dissolve Yeast and Malt

Pour the water into a large bowl. Add the yeast and malt extract, and stir until completely dissolved into the water without any lumps.

Mixing together yeast and water to make our homemade dark rye bread. | Foodal.com

Step 3 – Combine with Other Ingredients

Add rye flour, wheat flour, salt, and the sourdough starter to the liquid mixture.

German rye bread dough, ready for the rising process to create the best taste and texture. | Foodal.com

Knead by hand until smooth, or knead with a stand mixer and dough hook according to manufacturer’s directions. I typically do this for 3 minutes on low speed followed by 4 minutes on high.

Step 4 – Rising and Folding

Place the dough onto a floured countertop, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow it to rise for 30 minutes.

During that time, carefully fold and knead the dough every ten minutes.

Here’s how:

1. Gently press down the dough until it’s flat, round, and even.

Beginning the kneading process to make dark rye bread. | Foodal.com

2. Fold one side into the middle, turn the dough clockwise, and fold again until you have folded the dough into a little package.

Folding the dough of freshly mixed dark rye bread. | Foodal.com

3. The bottom side should be tight and smooth. Turn around so that this side – not the folded one – is what appears on top.

Folding and kneading homemade dark rye bread dough. | Foodal.com

Repeat steps 1-3 two to three times during the rising period.

For more information on preparing various types of loaves, see our piece on shaping bread.

Step 5 – Decorate

After the last folding procedure is complete, form the dough into a round loaf shape and sprinkle it with some flour.

Shaping homemade dark rye bread | Foodal.com

With a sharp knife or a clean razor blade, cut a pattern into the surface, like a cross, grid, or square.

Dark rye bread dough is scored on the top to create a beautiful surface design. | Foodal.com

A Note on Scoring:

Scoring your shaped dough isn’t just for a final decorative finish!

The slashes allow the bread to continue rising and expanding after the crust forms as it bakes, and prevents the bread from bursting and cracking at the sides.

The process of scoring can be a bit tricky to accomplish the first time.

If you cut too deeply, the loaf might lose its shape. But if your cuts are too small, the pattern will vanish while baking, and your loaf may not expand properly.

Practice makes perfect!

Step 6 – Final Proof

Put the loaf on a baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for another 30 minutes.

Step 7 – Bake

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C.

Once the oven reaches the right temperature, take a spray bottle of water and spray the inside walls of the oven.

Keeping the loaf on the baking sheet, quickly place it in the hot oven and close the door. Be fast! The temperature will decrease as soon as you open the oven door.

Bake for 45 minutes until it has a wonderful brown crust on top.

If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can fill the bottom of a second baking tray with some water and put it into the oven while it’s preheating to create some steam. Once the oven reaches 425°F, very carefully take out the water-filled tray (it will be very hot!), and place the loaf in the oven to bake.

A loaf of German dark rye bread, freshly made. | Foodal.com

Enjoy This Classic German Loaf at Home

A bread like this, made with a mix of wheat and rye flour, is one of my favorites. It has a wonderful crumb inside and a crispy crust on top.

Topping off homemade dark rye bread with butter, tomatoes, and cucumbers. | Foodal.com

The sourdough starter provides a full flavor that goes great with hearty toppings like cheese, cold meat, or butter and fresh veggies.

It’s also delicious with sweet spreads like honey or peanut butter.

The malt extract and the different types of flour give it a nice color, too. Enjoy this fantastic bread that is not only easy to make, but also looks fabulous and tastes amazing, for your next meal.

Spreading some homemade dark rye bread slices with honey for a tasty treat. | Foodal.com

If you are looking for other techniques to make delicious egg-free products like this bread, read our article on how to bake without eggs.

Interested in grinding your own flour? Check out all the different grains, rye included, that you can easily grind at home.

Looking for more flavor-packed bread recipes? We have plenty:

Have you tried to make this loaf at home? Let us know how it turned out, and what toppings you liked it with most!

Don’t forget to Pin It!

The aroma of rye bread fresh from the oven is simply marvelous. And although it’s not too complicated, my family and friends are amazed that I made it on my own. And you can easily make it from scratch, as well! My recipe for dark rye bread creates a beautiful loaf with a great crust and hearty flavor. Embrace this European tradition in your own kitchen, and get the recipe now on Foodal.

Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published March 26, 2015. Revised and updated May 6th, 2017 by Nina-Kristin Isensee.

*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Nina-Kristin Isensee

Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.

27 thoughts on “Dark Rye Bread: A European Tradition”

  1. Nice recipe! Here in Romania we have a big selection of bread, usually at most stores. I like rye a lot, though not 100%, I like a mix between it and wheat.
    Making a loaf at home seems nice, especially since I can prepare it how I want.

  2. I admire your ability to bake bread. All my attempts have failed thus far. I like rye too, and looking at your ingredients helps me understand the proper proportions to use. It is so exciting that you have so many grains and bread choices there. Spelt flour just made it to these parts a few years ago and the price is crazy and going down slowly. Rye is one of the best because of its distinct flavor.

  3. Rye bread has grown on me over time. When I was younger, my Grandmother would lightly toast two slices of to make a roast beef sandwich. She’d add a slice of jalapeno jack cheese, two tomatoes, and three or four thin slices of roast beef.

    I’d actually opt out to eat my sandwich on wheat because I thought that rye bread was just too bland. However, now that I’m an adult, I like to eat my rye toasted and spread a nice thin layer of apple butter or apple jelly on top. I guess, in my opinion, it tastes better being sweet.

    • I have to try the roast beef sandwich, that sounds tasty. But as you say, the bread goes well with sweet spread too. I like honey or some spicy plum jam with it.

  4. This is so much like the bread I had in the middle of nowhere in Iceland on a rainy day. It was really really unique. It had this very subtle sweetness and earthy flavor that gets better the more you eat it.

    It sucks that people don’t eat rye bread here where I live. I’ll have to give this recipe a try soon.

  5. Dark rye bread is becoming quite a common sight here int he UK and I think it’s delicious. I particularly likeit with cold meat and sauerkraut. In fact, rye bread is the perfect consistency to hold sauerkraut – it retains it’s firmness and does not become soggy.

    • Really? That’s cool, I’ve never thought of eating it with sauerkraut before. I wonder if you could make grilled cheeses or maybe french toast with rye bread. That’ll be interesting to try.

  6. Freshly baked bread may take longer but it’s worth it. Too many loaves contain many additives and some sugar and animal fats as well. I’d rather have a small loaf of quality rye or with some seeds than a large loaf. I like rye bread toasted with some caramelized onion hummus which is one of my healthier snacks.

  7. I don’t know if this is some sort of new health craze but I’ve always loved the darker varieties of bread. As a taste preference not so much a health benefit. It’s always nice to know something you find delicious is also nutritious. Now I just have to work on beets…

  8. I love rye bread; it’s robust and firm and plenty delicious as well. It’s a perfect compliment for breakfast meals like eggs and ham, or sausages and beans. The high grain content does make it very flavorful, which can only be considered as a plus.

  9. This sounds great. Where I am currently living I do not have a very good selection of local bakeries or breads. I have also been thinking about trying to make my own beer so maybe the malt extract can serve double duty. I think I might try to use this kind of bread to make a pizza, too, because I love pizza but always wanted something a little more substantial in the crust. I have no idea if that would work or not but I love to experiment in the kitchen.

    • I never tried to make a pizza with it so I can’t tell from personal experience but if you are going to do it, you might report back if it worked out. That would be interesting! Have fun and good luck with the beer too 🙂

  10. Yum! Thanks, Nina. I love rye bread, especially dark rye. It’s my favorite kind of bread. Of course, any kind of home baked bread tends to be better than store bought, and the aroma just can’t be beat. Who wouldn’t love to walk in and smell bread baking? Rye bread… even better if you ask me!

    I’ve often shied away from baking bread though, since I’ve had some not so great experiences in the past. Yet, these instructions seem manageable. Thanks for this post.

    • Thank you! I had several bad baking bread experiences too, it can be frustrating. I hope this recipe will help you to be successful so that you can enjoy the oven-fresh smell in your kitchen.

  11. Bread is the one thing I really miss from my time living and staying in Germany (and Denmark as well) and that dark rye looks fabulous. I have found memories of honey and sunflower loaves so freshly out of the oven that they could not be sliced. But I think I could struggle a touch with the temperatures. UK ovens don’t tend to go over 230C which is roughly 250F (Gas Mark 8) and I know mine is a touch under that. Will it make a huge difference please? I so fancy making it.

    • If your oven can reach 220° Celsius, I think it should be fine. I can imagine that the ten minutes at a higher temperature won’t be too much of a difference. Or you may add some more 5-10 minutes at the end of the stated baking time. I really hope it works out!

  12. Rye bread in my area costs an arm and a leg {and looks very tiny in comparison to the presentation above…no offense intended}…am glad to have stumbled upon this article, now all i need to do is buy the ingredients and bake my very own homemade rye bread 😉 ..case solved!

  13. The only thing better than ham on rye, is ham on hemadenrye. I’ve eaten homemade rye before and I loved it. This will nether first time ive tried to make it myself. When picking out bread recipes on my own I have a tendency to pick ones that taste very different than I expected. Thank you for this, and wish me luck!

  14. I absolutely adore rye bread. It’s my favorite bread, and back home in New England it is quite prevalent. Here in Texas is a different story, and i have to search it out, so, this would be a good recipe for me to try. Is liquid sourdough starter a product, or a process? If it’s a process, I can look for a recipe for it, because I’m not familiar with it, and if it’s a product, I will add it to my shopping list. The bread looks and sounds lovely, and I’m sure the house would smell divine while it’s cooking.

    • The liquid sourdough starter is a product, here in Germany you can buy small sachets of it. I hope you can find some! One can also prepare it totally from scratch but that needs lots of time and the ready-bought starter simplifies this procedure. Just make sure that there are no artificial additives in there, only the sourdough mixture.

  15. This would be fun to make from scratch. It looks a lot like banana bread too. I can’t get enough of recipes that have the most basic and short ingredient list.

  16. I also love the smell of fresh baked bread. I grew up living on bread from a bag in the grocery store and had no idea what I was missing out on. It was usually Italian or brown and never very special. I grew up and married a European (I am an American) and I started to discover the world of bread. First, I discovered that there were still people that could bake fresh bread in their home without a bread-maker. We later discovered a bakery that does fresh bread daily and rotates through a variety of dozens of different breads every month. It really opened my horizons. It was at this time that I started to really enjoy rye (and found that that rye does NOT equal caraway). One of my favourite ways to have rye is warm with butter a honey. Their is an awesome interplay of the dense flavours of the rye with the sweet buttery top. I look forward to trying this recipe soon.

    • Thank you for your comment! It’s great to hear that you had the chance to discover a new world of bread for you 🙂 Indeed, butter and honey make an awesome combination, you are right about the different flavor nuances and how they work together.
      I think what the bakery does is great – rotating with various sorts of bread. This is wonderful for customers to try out something new every month.

  17. Finding fresh yeast here in northwest Florida is proving to be difficult say the least.
    What measurement of dry yeast would one use for this recipe?

    • We’re still working on updating the nutritional info from our older recipes to Nutrifox, but you’re right- it looks like there may be some calculation errors here.

      One full loaf contains about 2200 calories, with the following breakdown of micro and macronutrients. We’ll post an update to the article ASAP!

      12% Total Fat 9.4g
      Saturated Fat 1.2g
      Trans Fat 0g
      Polyunsaturated Fat 3.5g
      0% Monounsaturated Fat 1.8g
      0% Cholesterol 0mg
      122% Sodium 2800.8mg
      170% Total Carbohydrate 467.5g
      194% Dietary Fiber 54.5g
      Sugars 44.8g
      144% Protein 72g
      0% Vitamin A 0.9µg
      0% Vitamin C 0.1mg
      13% Calcium 168mg
      107% Iron 19.2mg


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