Try this beginner whole wheat sourdough bread recipe for a healthier twist on your favorite classic sourdough loaf.
Hi there! My name is Chantal, and I’m the author of this blog, Wildway Acres. I’m also a mom, personal trainer, and certified carb-o-holic.
Seriously though. I have a bit of a rant to make about health, this low-carb fad that’s happening, and everything that’s happening this year. So, if you’re just here for the recipe, go ahead and scroll down.
But I just have to warn you – making sourdough bread (especially whole wheat sourdough bread) is a process. It’s a labor of love, and I have spent my fair share of time troubleshooting the art of making sourdough.
So you might want to read some of my tips and stories about why I got into making sourdough bread, and how I make my starter, etc. If not, I won’t be offended. But really, I just want you to make the best possible whole wheat sourdough bread, so you’re missing out if you just skip ahead.
The Sourdough Bread Revival
Long ago, making sourdough bread was commonplace. Then, active yeast began to be sold commercially, and we forgot how to make bread.
Lol. That’s the short version.
Obviously, there’s more to it than that. But truly, most of us didn’t know how to make our own sourdough starter, let alone make whole wheat sourdough bread completely from scratch.
Then 2020 happened.
In this super-fun year, we saw supermarket shelves raided. Food (and toilet paper) was hoarded. And commercial active yeast was in such high demand, that it became temporarily unavailable for many of us.
So, the internet became overwhelmed with people remembering that you actually can make bread completely on your own. And you don’t have to have yeast.
At least this is what happened in my experience.
Totally, Completely Out Of Commercial Active Yeast
When we were getting ready to hunker down for the first shutdown of 2020 (Oregon shut down super early on, and went on to do so again multiple times), I sent my husband for yeast and flour like any good little homemaker.
My husband came home with two measly packets of active yeast and gluten free flour. Because that’s all that there was left.
And even though I lean on the prepper side (think doomsday, people) and am naturally interested in homesteading and self-sufficiency, I totally didn’t know how to make my own whole wheat sourdough bread.
At that point, I could actually care less about whether my bread was whole wheat or not.
The point being – I realized that though I thought I was prepared to live without the grocery store – I really, truly wasn’t.
I lacked the skills and materials to make a basic loaf of bread. And, while we typically don’t eat a ton of bread in our house, our natural inclination to stock up had us thinking about bread.
To tell the truth, I totally thought that baking bread from a starter rather than using yeast was out of my wheelhouse – and I put it off for a few months. I used up what yeast I had and didn’t attempt sourdough until we were halfway through the year.
But now I’m super glad that I learned how to make my own sourdough, and I’ve even taught my mom and mother-in-law (gasp!) how to do it. (I’m the first homemaker in the family since my grandparents.)
A Long Road To This Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe
I will say this again, to be clear – making sourdough bread isn’t necessarily harder than making yeast bread – but it IS a long process.
But I think that if you lean into it and consider it a skill and an art, you’ll actually become slightly addicted to it.
I spent several months learning how to make a basic, beginner loaf with all-purpose flour before finally putting together this here whole wheat sourdough bread recipe.
And I’m PROUD.
There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing a process through, and making things with your own hands. This whole wheat sourdough bread recipe is the perfect example. Trust me, you’ll really enjoy sourdough making – it makes you feel so accomplished.
Anyway, I will say that some troubleshooting is in your future if you’re new to making bread on your own – especially if you’re making starter from scratch.
I spent several weeks making my own starter, and I failed initially. If patience isn’t your virtue, then it’s okay to bum some starter off of someone else. You can even buy it online (slightly sketch, but whatever). Don’t worry, I’m going to give you plenty of tips, troubleshooting ideas, and a few other resources to check out.
Initially, I went with a classic, artisan-style “white” sourdough. Once I felt that I’d mastered a basic loaf, I started playing around with other things. I tried an herbal loaf, mixed with my favorite garlic-rosemary blend. (It was just okay.)
Then, I decided that if I’m going to be eating so much bread, I better figure out how to make a “healthier” version – with whole wheat.
So, I modified my favorite basic recipe from Jill Winger – and the result is this recipe you see here. (One thing I will note is that I didn’t have honey – and if I had, I wouldn’t have used sugar. So that could be an even healthier substitute – but with how little sugar is used in the whole loaf, it’s whatever.)
Is Sourdough Actually Healthier Than Regular Bread?
Well, there are two things that I want you to consider here. First of all, I would argue that all fresh, homemade bread is better than *most* store-bought bread. That is, if the bread you’re eating is highly processed and full of preservatives (most are, unless they are organic, and labeled preservative-free.)
Typically, when you buy bread from the store, it is shelf-stable for several days to weeks, even. Bread from the store typically has a lot of unnecessary ingredients. Regular bread that you make at home is usually going to have very few ingredients, and that’s how it should be.
However, bread that you make at home isn’t going to last but a few days on the counter. That’s because there aren’t a bunch of additives (that in my opinion, we weren’t even meant to eat.) Some bread freezes well, and some doesn’t. I have yet to try freezing this bread, but it’s best fresh out of the oven anyway, so I’m happy to make it.
So there’s that – no preservatives/additives = healthier.
Secondly, there’s the fact that sourdough is technically fermented and made with wild cultures. Fermented food is good for your gut, and supposedly, some people with gluten sensitivities are able to eat sourdough.
I won’t pretend to know a lot about the science behind fermented foods, but think about probiotics and gut health. We know that fermented foods promote a healthy gut, which can improve digestion, help with hormones, and more.
If you want to get into the prebiotic/probiotic details of it all, this is a good article that I found!
Now, know that varying levels of fermentation can be had loaf-to-loaf, so it’s hard to know exactly how beneficial each loaf of sourdough is over “regular” yeast breads, but it is definitely said to be better overall.
So – when you look at it as a skill, art, and in the light of health – sourdough is definitely a worthwhile skill to learn.
Taking Care Of Sourdough Starter & Sourdough Tips For Beginners
If you’re completely new to sourdough and want to make your own starter, I recommend venturing over to Pinterest for that process. That info would take a whole different blog post. You can come back to this recipe in about two weeks if you aren’t started yet. 😉
But here are a few resources if you’re in that boat:
- How to Make Sourdough Starter From Scratch – From Farmhouse on Boone
- Sourdough 101 – From Bob’s Red Mill, which BTW is here in Oregon 🙂
- Step-by-Step Sourdough Starter – From Amy in the Kitchen
What I like to do is read a bunch of different blog posts and tutorials on basically everything before going forth with my own projects and recipes – and that’s what I did here. From that, I’m able to take advice and tips from many experienced bloggers and forge my own path accordingly. 🙂
Anyway, I do have some tips specifically for those of you who are new to baking sourdough.
- Use new-ish flour. Don’t use flour that has sat in your pantry for 9 months. It might be “dead.” This happened with my first starter – I used old flour and it never bubbled or became active. Use fresh stuff!
- Start your loaf first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Not enough time rising is the #1 cause of sad, pitiful loaves. They really need 6-10 hours to do their thing. I either start first thing, let rise all day and bake for dinner, or I start before bed then bake first thing in the morning.
- If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can use a roasting pan with a lid. Sourdough typically needs to steam and continue to rise in the oven!
- You don’t need fancy tools or even parchment paper, but they do help. I use a LAME (pronounced lohm) to score my bread for fun, plus a dutch oven and parchment paper. I don’t have proofing baskets!
- Master the basic loaf several times before you get wild with it! The skills you learn in the first few loaves will carry over to most other loaves you try.
As For Your Starter & Troubleshooting
Okay, I get it – this is getting long. But who would I be if I didn’t share all of my knowledge with you? I want you to have warm, fresh bread any time you want it – that’s all.
Anyway, one of my biggest tips as far as your starter is to never assume that it’s fully “dead.” My MIL texted me the other day saying she killed Gladys (she named her starter), and I was like, “WAIT! HOLD THE PHONE!”
You can usually “fix” your starter, and you can even revive it from just a tiny bit of “good” starter. The other day, my husband just dropped my glass starter jar and it spilled all over the streets. It was horrifying. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. It would have been wayyy more horrifying had I not just separated a little bit of my started into another jar for insurance.
The point is – you can start with just a tiny bit of starter, and you can almost always revive inactive starter.
Just learn how to troubleshoot!
Sometimes all you need is warmer water, newer flour, and a little love!
I’m not going to pretend I know everything about troubleshooting, but I’m also not one to give up super easily on these types of things. So – I’m going to send you over to my personal sourdough hero, Jill Winger, to “fix” any sourdough problems you might have. She has a great podcast and blog post about troubleshooting sourdough issues. Read it before you give up on your beloved bread!
Onto the recipe!
Beginner Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe
- Dutch oven or roasting pan with lid (for best results).
- Proofing basket (optional).
- 1/2 cup active sourdough starter
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- In a large bowl, mix together active starter and warm water. (Not hot!)
- Stir in the sugar.
- Slowly add flour, blending with a spoon.
- Mix in salt as you form the dough into a rough ball.
- Cover and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Use a bench scraper or your hand to fold the dough.
- Work back into a ball, then place in a lightly greased bowl or proofing basket to rise.
- Cover and let rise for 2-3 hours.
- Uncover and use your hand to fold the dough over itself several times.
- Cover and let rise 6-8 hours or overnight.
- Carefully transfer dough to your roasting pan or Dutch oven, reshaping if necessary.
- Score and bake on parchment paper (or cornmeal) at 450° with a lid for 20 minutes.
- Remove lid and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.
Thank you for reading – I hope you enjoy my whole wheat sourdough bread recipe!