Whether you’ve tried no knead recipes or whether you’ve never baked sourdough or any bread, this article will serve as your ultimate guide to no knead sourdough.
What is it, how it works with sourdough, why people love it, the overall process, suggested tools, 7 tips, and 7 no knead sourdough bread recipes for you to get started with no knead sourdough!
What is No Knead Bread
Bread making is a time intensive process. For breads made with commercial yeast, the process takes at least 3 hours. Traditional sourdough breads take 18-24 hours from start to finish.
During these traditional processes there are many steps in between when the dough requires attention. Breads with commercial yeast need considerable kneading. Sourdough bread requires folding in addition to preparing the starter.
No knead bread does not require a long kneading or intermittent folding stage*. It is mixed in 5-15 minutes. It is left alone to ferment (first rise) for longer than traditional methods then can be shaped, left alone to proof (second rise), then baked.
The reason why no knead bread works is the long fermentation that allows the enzyme reactions between the yeast, flour, and liquid to automatically occur.
Kneading and folding dough help the gluten make the enzyme reactions needed to create a strong, elastic dough more quickly. But these reactions will naturally take place if the dough is left to ferment longer than typical yeast breads.
More information on kneading and why no knead works:
Why do People Love it?
People love no knead bread because it is easier to make, requires less hands-on time and technique and gives them more flexibility.
This is the most low maintenance way to make bread at home.
Some bakers will make a batch and store it in the fridge, taking off portions of dough to shape and bake for fresh bread on demand.
The History of No Knead Bread
No knead bread has been used for thousands of years. The discovery of sourdough by Egyptians could be argued to have been the beginning of no knead bread. And mothers and grandmothers likely used similar no knead techniques since then.
But the term “no knead” has gained popularity in the last 30 years. The first person to coin it was Suzanne Dunaway with her book No Need to Knead: Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes. She used no knead methods to make incredible breads in her famous (now closed) Los Angeles bakery.
In 2006, Jim Lahey authored My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method and was sited in a viral NY Times article and was credited with creating the no knead bread method.
The recent history is a bit controversial as this article explains. But at the end of the day, this method has been around for thousands of years, the popular phrase “no knead” is new, and it is loved for helping bakers make great bread with less effort.
Read more about No Knead Bread history here:
Terms to Know
- Fermentation: In bread making, it is the process of yeast converting the carbohydrates in flour into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
- Gluten: The protein in wheat flour that forms connections in bread making.
- Knead: To mix and work dough by stretching, folding, and pressing the dough by hand or with a dough mixing machine.
- Sourdough starter: a mixture of flour and water that is colonized by wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
More baking terms to know can be found in these resources:
The Pros and Cons of No Knead Sourdough
While the benefits of no knead sourdough far outweigh the cons, it is helpful to know about both.
- Less planning and precision to make
- gives the baker more flexibility
- simpler way to make delicious, healthy basic breads
- It gives a new sourdough baker a very easy way to get started with sourdough
- Shaping methods are usually much simpler.
- breads made with no knead sourdough will be good to very good, but it’s hard to get a “wow” sourdough bread with this method.
- Using an active sourdough starter and best sourdough practices of stretching, folding, etc. will yield the best bread loaves or other sourdough breads.
Traditional Sourdough or No Knead Sourdough method?
I think it is valuable to do both methods: traditional sourdough and no knead sourdough.
For beginners, I would suggest learning about the sourdough starter first, then doing the no knead sourdough method until you are comfortable with making it and are doing it consistently, then learn to make sourdough the traditional way.
Personally, I love the no knead sourdough method and use it throughout the week, but will use the traditional sourdough process and a dedicated recipe to make pizza or a special bread for an event or the weekend.
Sourdough baking resources:
How to make No Knead Sourdough
There are a few different recipes for no knead sourdough. I have two basic ones I use, the No-Knead Sourdough Master Recipe from my book Everyday Bread Baking and my Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough from my course. The steps below are for my No-Knead Sourdough Master Recipe.
Before you begin, you must acquire a sourdough starter from a friend, online source, or make your own. If you already have a sourdough starter and have some reserved sourdough discard, skip to step 2.
- Put a tablespoon of sourdough starter into a jar, add equal weights of water and flour (example: 60g, 1/4 c water and 60g, 7 T. all-purpose or bread flour). Mix until combined. Leave at room temperature for 18-24 hours.
- Add all the dough ingredients to a mixing bowl.
- Mix ingredients until the flour is absorbed and there is no dry flour left.
- Cover bowl and leave at room temperature to ferment for 10-12 hours.
- Prepare a proofing bowl.
- Turn the dough out of the bowl or container, shape into a smooth ball.
- Place the ball of dough into the prepared proofing bowl.
- Proof the dough for 1 to 2 hours until it is 1 ½ to 2 times larger in volume.
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a large dutch oven inside or a metal pan filled with an inch of water on a bottom rack.
- Turn the proofed dough out onto a sheet of parchment and cut a line across the top of the dough about ¼-1/2-inch deep to score.
- Carefully place the scored dough into the hot dutch oven, close the dutch oven, and place it into the oven.
- Reduce oven temperature to 460 and bake the bread for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the bread from the dutch oven (or take out the pan of water).
- Bake 20 more minutes.
- Transfer the baked bread to a cooling rack to cool for at least 1 hour.
Find the formula and more detailed steps in the full recipe here.
How to resources for no knead sourdough:
Tools to make No Knead Sourdough
Here are the basic tools needed to get started for making a no knead sourdough country loaf:
- Food scale (some recipes have instructions for American measurements, but a food scale will give you the most accurate results)
- Large mixing bowl
- Stiff curved spatula or rounded dough scraper
- Bowl cover or plastic wrap
- Proofing basket (can be substituted with a colander lined with a kitchen towel)
- Large Dutch oven (can be substituted with a pan of water for manual steaming, see this post)
- Razor in a bread lame or sharp bread knife
More useful bread baking tools:
7 Tips and Reminders for No Knead Sourdough
- Get prepared. Make sure to have a healthy sourdough starter and the basic tools for making bread. (see section above)
- Don’t rush the process. The long fermentation might be intimidating, but it is necessary to create a strong dough that will taste delicious!
- Take care of your sourdough starter. Even if you don’t make bread every week, you should care for your starter every week. Please see this post for how to properly care for your starter by refreshing, not just feeding!
- Use good ingredients. Since the ingredients in no knead sourdough are few and basic, choose good quality flour and salt.
- This is a no knead method to make easy and delicious basic sourdough. If you want more “wow” results you can add in a series of stretch and folds during the early part of the fermentation and use more advanced bread shaping techniques.
- Find a recipe that works for you. There are many online with varying degrees of difficulty.
- You will get better at this! Many bakers have an ugly bread for their first bake, but each bake teaches you something and will get you more comfortable with the process. The goal is to find a recipe and method for sourdough that becomes so second nature that you know it by heart.
Analyzing No Knead Sourdough recipes
The whole goal of no knead sourdough is to simplify the process of making sourdough bread for any bakers who are new to sourdough, overwhelmed, or just busy. But there are many recipes that are called “no knead” but are just as complicated as traditional sourdough.
Stretching and folding dough is essentially the same thing as kneading. So recipes that call themselves no knead but include instructions for stretching and folding are not truly “no knead”.
Maybe we should call “no knead” recipes in the sourdough world, “no fold” for better clarity.
When you look at recipes for no knead sourdough, look for ones that don’t overwhelm you. Find one that works with your schedule and life. See the list of 7 recipes below.
7 Examples of No Knead Sourdough Bread recipes
Below I have linked 7 different no knead sourdough recipes, including my own, for you to check out and try.
- How to make No Knead Sourdough, the easy way, Living Bread Baker
- Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough, Living Bread Baker
- King Arthur No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe
- Food 52 No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe
- Baker Bettie No Knead Sourdough
- Feasting at Home No Knead Sourdough Bread
- The Perfect Loaf Easy No Knead Sourdough
Resources for No Knead Sourdough
I hope you have the confidence to try making no knead sourdough! There are many recipes out there that will give you fabulous results.
This method has been such a time saver in our kitchen with our busy schedules and four kids. Nearly every day I’m baking some form of no knead sourdough bread!
My recipes are clear, easy to follow, and give bakers great results. Pick one to try based on your preferences:
- No-Knead Sourdough Master Recipe from Everyday Bread Baking creates a more traditional san francisco style sour, sourdough bread and is ready to bake in less than 24 hours.
- Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough is very flexible, adaptable, and the most easily digested. The traditional fermentation is 72 hours in the fridge, but can be done in a shorter timeframe.
Get started with No Knead (& No Fold) Sourdough
If you are ready to learn how to care for a starter, make no knead sourdough bread, and learn multiple ways to use the dough to create delicious sourdough breads from english muffins to pizza to sandwich loaves to country loaves, I would love to guide you!
My Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course is available here. This online course has videos with demonstrations and lots of tips for successful baking. This system for sourdough will give you bread all week long from just 15 minutes of mixing time! It is the bread I make all week long for my family.
I also sell the course workbook on its own here.