How to Make Rye Bread

Earthy and malty with a touch of sharpness, the complex flavors of rye bread are surprisingly easy to capture at home. Learn how to make this flavorful bread in your kitchen with these tips and tricks, along with this sweet rye bread recipe you can make with your KitchenAid® Stand Mixer and accessories.

What Is Rye Bread?

Rye bread is a yeasted loaf made with a combination of rye grain flour and all purpose flour or bread flour. You can make it with different varieties of rye flour along with various additives for lighter or darker loaves. Rye flour has a stronger flavor and a higher fiber content than typical bread flour. The more rye used in your loaf, the denser your bread will be.

What Does Rye Bread Taste Like?

Rye bread has a deep, earthy flavor with some bittersweet nuttiness. Caraway seeds typical of American rye bread lend a sharpness with notes of licorice, while rye flour tempers the bread with a malty base. You can easily fine-tune the flavor by adjusting the amount of caraway seeds as well as using different rye flours or playing with the rye to bread flour ratios. If you prefer a bit more color and a smoky depth of flavor, you can substitute molasses for sugar. The exact ingredients often come down to personal preference, and there are many ways to customize your recipe to find your favorite type of rye bread.

Maker using knife to cut slice of rye bread on cutting board Maker using knife to cut slice of rye bread on cutting board

Types of Rye Bread

The three basic types of rye bread popular in the U.S. are light, medium and dark. The main difference comes down to the type of rye flour used. Pumpernickel is also a variety of rye bread that uses whole rye grain flour and is the strongest and densest of all the varieties. In addition, you can find marbled rye which is a combination of light and dark rye bread. American rye breads tend to be made with a mixture of wheat and rye flours.

  • Light Rye Bread: Light rye bread uses flour made from the starchy endosperm of the rye grain. Since it doesn’t contain any of the husk or bran, light rye flour lends a subtler, slightly sweeter taste along with a lighter color and texture to your bread. Light rye bread tastes similar to a loaf of wheat bread.
  • Dark Rye Bread: Made from flour that uses whole rye grain kernels, dark rye bread has the darkest color, strongest flavor and densest texture. Though not quite as strong or thick as pumpernickel, dark rye bread carries more of the characteristic malty and earthy flavors of rye. Some dark rye bread recipes call for additions like molasses, cocoa powder or even instant coffee to add coloring and depth.
  • Medium Rye Bread: A mix of the two flours, medium rye bread flour contains mostly endosperm with a bit of husk and bran. If you opt for marbled rye, the taste will be similar as it’s a mix of light and dark.

Rye Bread Benefits

A typical serving of rye bread contains more fiber than a typical serving of wheat or white breads according to the USDA FoodData Central. It is also higher in certain vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus and magnesium than white bread.

Beyond nutrition, rye bread has other benefits such as its ability to be easily transformed by the addition or omission of other ingredients. The flavors of rye pair well with both sweet  ingredients like fruit or molasses as well as savory additions like leeks and sea salt.

Maker tipping spoon full of yeast into a bread bowl Maker tipping spoon full of yeast into a bread bowl

Rye Bread Ingredients

A basic rye bread recipe can be a canvas for your imagination. Try adding sweets like chocolate and dried fruit, nuts and seeds for extra crunch or just enjoy a simple rustic loaf with a bit of butter. Here are some common ingredients you’ll want to have on hand when making basic rye bread: 

Basic Rye Bread Ingredients:

  • Yeast

  • Sugar

  • Egg

  • Butter

  • Milk

  • Salt

  • Rye Flour

  • All-purpose flour

  • Caraway seeds (optional)

  • Vegetable oil

What Kitchen Tools are Needed to Make Homemade rye bread?

If you’re making this recipe by hand, you’ll need the following kitchen tools to bake up your own version of rye bread:

Making by Hand:

  • Mixing bowl

  • Spoon or mixing accessory

  • Scale or measuring cups

  • Proofing bowl with cover

  • Parchment paper

  • Bakeware

Top view of pink KitchenAid® Stand Mixer filled with bread dough standing on counter surrounded by other baking ingredients Top view of pink KitchenAid® Stand Mixer filled with bread dough standing on counter surrounded by other baking ingredients

Recommended Kitchen Tools

Make the job even easier and a bit less messy with a stand mixer and specialized accessories. Here are some tools from KitchenAid brand that can help:

  • Sifter + Scale Attachment: This stand mixer attachment weighs and then adds dry ingredients to your mixer bowl, ensuring you get the right amounts for precise baking.

  • Bread Bowl with Baking Lid: The KitchenAid® Bread Bowl accessory pairs perfectly with select KitchenAid® tilt-head stand mixers and allows you to mix, knead, proof and even bake all in the same bowl.
Close up of water being poured into mixing bowl with dry ingredients and dough hook Close up of water being poured into mixing bowl with dry ingredients and dough hook

How to Make rye bread

To make your rye bread, start by combining yeast, sugar, melted butter, eggs and milk. The sugar acts as a catalyst for the yeast so the mixture should be left to sit for several minutes. This resting period gives the yeast a chance to bloom. Next, simply add the rest of your ingredients and mix, then knead your dough.

Yeasted breads like homemade rye bread need to be proofed for around an hour or more. Then gently knead it one more time, shape it and place it on your bakeware and bake per your recipe instructions. If you’re making a non-traditional loaf, check your recipe instructions for the best time to add your special ingredients. Here’s an overview of a chocolate cherry rye bread recipe that’s right at home on a dessert plate This recipe uses a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer and the Bread Bowl accessory.

Step One: Prep

Before making your rye bread, gather your equipment and ingredients. Fill the KitchenAid® Bread Bowl accessory with hot water, then empty it and pat dry. This will help create a warm environment to encourage the yeast to bloom.

Step Two: Add Ingredients and Knead

Add all ingredients except the cherries and chocolate and give it a quick whisk to combine.

Set your stand mixer to speed 2 and let the mixer do the work for you. After 30 seconds, add dried cherries and chocolate and continue to knead. When the dough begins to slap the side of the bowl, it’s ready for the next step.

Rye dough proofing in bread bowl Rye dough proofing in bread bowl

Step Three: Proof the Dough

Remove the Bread Bowl accessory from the stand mixer and cover with the baking lid. It’s best to keep your dough in a warm place while it rises. Proofing should take around 1 ½ -2 hours for this type of dough. 

Step Four: Knead and Form

Gently knead the dough on a floured surface and shape into a round mound. Place the mound back into the Bread Bowl and cover it with the lid. Proof it again for another 30 minutes before baking. Now is a good time to preheat your oven per the recipe settings.

Step Five: Bake

Turn the bowl over with the loaf on Baking Lid and bake according to your recipe instructions.

Maker uncovering top of bread bowl to reveal baked rye bread loaf Maker uncovering top of bread bowl to reveal baked rye bread loaf

Rye Bread Tips

Homemade rye bread shouldn’t be intimidating, though you’ll be very busy trying out all the different types and flavor combinations. To make the best homemade rye bread, follow the tips and tricks below.

  • Weigh your flour: This is a good idea no matter what you’re baking since weighing will be more accurate than measuring volume. 

  • Don’t over-knead: Follow your recipe instructions on the kneading time and don’t overdo it. If adapting a recipe for use with a stand mixer, try kneading for 1-3 minutes or until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. 

  • Don’t overhandle the dough: If you over-knead or handle the dough too much, it can become tough and lead to dense bread. Using the KitchenAid® Bread Bowl accessory  lets you mix, knead, proof and bake in the same bowl for minimal transfer and handling.

  • Skip caraway if going sweet: To help your sweet additions stand out, you might want to skip the caraway seeds found in a typical rye bread recipe.

  • Line bakeware with parchment paper: You may want to line your bakeware with parchment paper to prevent sticking and for easier cleanup.

  • Let bread cool slightly before slicing: As your bread cools, the structure inside firms up. Let the bread set before slicing off a piece.

How to Store and Freeze Your Rye Bread

Rye bread is at its absolute best fresh out of the oven. Try to enjoy your bread the same day you make it, incorporating it into meals and snacks throughout the day. If you can’t enjoy it right away, you can store it at room temperature in a bread box or paper bag for up to a few days. If you won’t slice into it the first day, or need to make rye bread several days ahead of an event, you can freeze it in an airtight container. Revive it in the oven or a toaster to restore its crusty exterior and chewy inside.

Rye Bread Recipes to Try at Home

Rye flour can be used in a range of recipes to bulk up the fiber content and add unique flavors. Lean into rye with a homemade Pumpernickel Bread recipe that uses dark rye flour. Or, swap out light or medium rye flour in a number of other bread recipes like Sourdough Bread or Honey Wheat Bread with Oats. You can also take a sweet twist on rye bread even further with a batch of Rye Chocolate Brownies or Lemon Ricotta Rye Pancakes. When using rye in sweet creations, you may want to opt for light rye flour or fine ground dark varieties that will better incorporate into more delicate batters.

Elevate your Bread Making with a KitchenAid® Bread Bowl Accessory

If you have a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer, the KitchenAid® Bread Bowl with Baking Lid is the perfect companion for homemade bread, start to finish. Mix, knead, proof and bake all in one bowl. The accessory features a lid that traps steam when baking to create an environment similar to a traditional steam oven. The ceramic bowl design retains and delivers even heat throughout the baking process, giving your bread a crispy crust and thorough bake. Make rye bread at home along with other craft-quality breads like basic boule, brioche, cranberry oat walnut and more. Shop essential bread-making tools from KitchenAid, or explore all stand mixer attachments.