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Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

This Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread recipe makes the perfect sandwich bread. It’s a hearty loaf made with whole grain rye flour, whole wheat flour, bread flour and a couple of unusual ingredients.

two slices of sourdough pumpernickel bread with blueberry cream cheese on a white plate

As I mentioned in my Rye Bread post, I grew up in New Jersey, just outside of New York City. Being near to New York meant having access to wonderful delis and bakeries, so it was easy to find a good deli sandwich on fresh bread.

The other day I had some dried-out slices of sourdough bread left over and rather than throw them away I was inspired to make a Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread recipe.

If you don’t have one, check out my post to learn How to Make a Sourdough Starter. Then check out my system to Feed and Maintain Sourdough Starter.

What is the difference between Rye Bread and Pumpernickel Bread?

Rye Bread is made with some proportion of Rye Flour, often mixed with wheat flour for structure.

Pumpernickel bread is also made with rye flour, and it includes added ingredients to create dark brown color and complex flavor. There are different techniques and ingredients bakers can use to create the dark brown color in the bread.

In my research I found old recipes that use left over bits of bread as a basis for a new loaf of bread. Waste not, want not, right? I could see that toasted bread crumbs would add an interesting texture and deep flavor to pumpernickel bread.

I settled on a combination of coffee, barley malt syrup, cocoa and toasted bread crumbs to deepen the color of the loaf. These ingredients contribute a really interesting bitter/sweet flavor to the bread.

Sourdough pumpernickel bread recipes use anywhere from just a hint of rye flour, to all rye flour, and every combination in between.

Without gluten from wheat flour, the loaf would be too dense. There are some traditional European all-rye pumpernickel loaves that are super concentrated and very, very dense. They’re interesting in and of themselves, but that’s not the type of pumpernickel I was going for.

This recipe has a proportion of 1/2 rye flour, and 1/2 wheat flour. There’s just enough whole wheat flour to contribute to the flavor. Bread flour makes up the balance so there’s enough elasticity for a good rise on the loaf.


  • Unfed sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • Water
  • Rye flour
  • Coffee 
  • Barley malt syrup 
  • Cocoa powder
  • Table salt
  • Bread crumbs 
  • Whole wheat flour 
  • Bread flour 

How to make Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

a mixing bowl with an active sourdough rye starter
  • Combine unfed starter with rye flour and water. Several hours later the rye starter is active and ready to use.
a cup of darkly toasted bread crumbs to make sourdough pumpernickel bread recipe
  • Grind the toasted bread crumbs until they resemble coffee grounds
a loaf of dark brown pumpernickel bread ready for the oven
  • Slash the risen loaf and brush with egg white for a shiny crust. Bake until the internal temp is 200f.

Tips for making Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread:

  • Whenever you’re working with sourdough you’ve got to be flexible with the timing. The fermentation and rising times can vary based on how active your starter is, the dough temperature, the room temperature, etc.
  • After three hours of rising and folding the dough should be resilient and airy. If after 3 hours the dough still feels very dense you can give it another hour or two rising time or you can put it in the refrigerator overnight for a long, slow rise.
  • After shaping the dough you can refrigerate the loaf overnight and bake in the morning. The extra-long rise in the refrigerator will give the bread and even deeper flavor.
  • For a flavor variation, fold in 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds just before shaping the loaf.
  • This dough can also be portioned and rolled into individual balls to make rolls. Cut into 8 portion for larger sandwich rolls and 12 portions for smaller rolls.
sliced loaf of sourdough pumpernickel bread on a cutting board
two slices of pumpernickel rye bread with blueberry cream cheese in foreground, loaf in background

Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread is my favorite bread for making a tuna sandwich. It’s also great for breakfast with blueberry cream cheese or any creamy topping. This bread makes a killer grilled-cheese sandwich.

I know you hate to throw away that sourdough discard. Check out these recipes that use sourdough discard.

If you love this recipe, please consider giving it 5 stars.

Print Recipe
4.50 from 62 reviews

Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

A dark and flavorful pumpernickel bread made with coffee, cocoa, molasses and old bread. This is a great sandwich loaf.
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time35 minutes
Rising Time12 hours
Total Time13 hours 5 minutes
16 servings


Rye Starter

  • 4 ounces unfed sourdough starter (about ½ cup (100% hydration))
  • 2 ounces warm water (¼ cup)
  • 2 ½ ounces rye flour (½ cup)


  • 10 ounces coffee (1 ¼ cups, room temperature)
  • 1 ½ ounces barley malt syrup (2 tablespoons (see note 2))
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 5 ounces rye flour (1 cup)
  • 2 ounces toasted bread crumbs (½ cup (see note 3))
  • 2 ½ ounces whole wheat flour (½ cup)
  • 5 ounces bread flour (1 cup)


Make the Rye Starter (one day before)

  • Combine the sourdough starter, water and rye flour.
    4 ounces unfed sourdough starter, 2 ounces warm water, 2 ½ ounces rye flour
  • Cover the bowl and let it ferment about 6-8 hours at room temperature (you can do this the night before and continue making the dough in the morning).

Make the Dough

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook or a large a large mixing bowl, combine the active rye starter with the coffee, barley malt syrup, cocoa, salt, rye flour, toasted bread crumbs and whole wheat flour.
    10 ounces coffee, 1 ½ ounces barley malt syrup, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, 5 ounces rye flour, 2 ounces toasted bread crumbs, 2 ½ ounces whole wheat flour
  • Add the bread flour. If working by hand, stir in as much of the flour as you can, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Knead 5 minutes. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. The dough may still be a little soft and tacky but should form into a smooth ball.
    5 ounces bread flour
  • Place the dough into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and set at room temperature for 1 hour. After an hour, working from four corners of the dough (still in the bowl) use your hand to lift the top edge of the dough over into the middle of the dough. Repeat with the other 3 sides then flip the dough over. Cover and set at room temperature for another hour. Repeat the folding procedure 2 more times so the dough rises for a total of 3 hours. By now the dough should be lively, elastic and airy. If the dough is still sluggish give it another hour or two at room temperature. After the initial fermentation the dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before baking.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and fold each of the four sides into the middle again. Flip the dough over, shape into a ball then roll the edges to form an oval shape. Transfer the loaf to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or onto a baking peel dusted with cornmeal. If you want to bake in a Dutch oven shape the dough in to a round (boule) and preheat the pan in the oven.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and rise until almost doubled in volume (about 1 – 1 ½ hours). the rising time will vary base on how active your starter was, the room temperature, etc.
  • While the dough rises preheat the oven to 375 °F. If you have a baking stone put it in the oven to preheat. When the bread is risen, use a sharp knife or blade to slash the top of the bread 4-5 times.
  • If using the Dutch oven to bake follow these directions: Remove the preheated pan from the oven and remove the lid. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf into the Dutch oven. Replace the lid on the pot and slide it into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven. The loaf should be well risen and pale in color. Continue baking another 20 minutes until the loaf is nicely browned and beginning to crisp. Remove the pan from the oven. Use the parchment to lift the loaf out of the pan.
  • If baking on a sheet pan or baking stone bake until the temperature reaches 200°F in the center of the loaf, about 35 minutes.


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  1. You can use 1 tablespoon of molasses plus 1 tablespoon of honey in place of the barley malt syrup.
  2. Grind old slices of rye, pumpernickel or sourdough bread to fine crumbs then toast in the oven until deeply browned, but not burnt. You can also use unflavored commercial bread crumbs.


Serving: 16g | Calories: 122kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 247mg | Potassium: 95mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!
Recipe Rating


Thursday 31st of March 2022

I'm a little confused. Isn't the "real" pumpernickel you seek made with pumpernickel rye flour, not with rye flour dyed with coffee? Have you tried both?

Eileen Gray

Thursday 31st of March 2022

As I discussed in the post, I wanted to make a pumpernickel bread of the type found in NY delis. Not the dense European pumpernickel bread made with rye berries and no wheat flour. "Pumpernickel" flour is rye flour. Even if you use a whole grain rye flour (which I do) labeled "pumpernickel" the resulting bread would not be dark brown without some other ingredients contributing that dark color. I use toasted bread crumbs, barley syrup, cocoa and coffee. The bread is not simply "dyed" with coffee. All those ingredients contribute flavor as well as color to the finished bread. That color and flavor is what distinguishes pumpernickel (NY style) from whole grain rye bread.


Tuesday 19th of October 2021

Can I replace the whole wheat flour with white rye or half white rye half bread flour?

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 19th of October 2021

Well, you will be reducing the gluten in the dough because Whole Wheat flour does have more gluten than rye flour. I would say you'd be better off with half white rye and half bread flour.


Wednesday 24th of March 2021

My loaf ended up flat and disappointing, though the flavor was good. When I finished mixing it, it looked great and was firm enough to hold its shape. However, the dough got softer with each rise and just didn't have enough heft to maintain its beautiful oval shape. I was so sad when I saw it after the final rise but hoped it would expand upward rather than sideways while baking. No such luck. I may (but probably not) try it again but would make the dough much stiffer.

Deby Gunter

Wednesday 1st of December 2021


The same thing happened to me! It was so beautiful before the last rise. I'm thinking that I may try it again in a loaf pan?

Connie Uhyrek

Monday 8th of March 2021

I made the sourdough pumpernickel bread, it took a couple of days but it was worth the wait. The sourdough was very active the second day and the bread really had a nice rise. Thank you for your recipe.


Monday 22nd of February 2021

I only have KA white whole wheat flour in the hose. Can I assume I could use it in place of the 1/2 cup regular whole wheat flour? It would probably make the loaf a little lighter in color than regular whole wheat?

Eileen Gray

Monday 22nd of February 2021

Yes, you can give it a try. It's a pretty dark bread anyway so I think you'll still have a nice color.