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Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread Recipe

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 Overnight 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.

One of my favorite New York style breads has always been Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread. Without access to a great deli or bakery it’s not easy to find a great pumpernickel bread. The stuff you find on the supermarket shelf usually tastes like soft rye bread with some coloring added. That’s not what I was craving.

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 peruse pumpernickel bread recipes there are many versions and many ways to get the deep dark brown color in the bread.

I was intrigued by some 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 the bread.

Creating a great Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread Recipe:

After much research into recipes by some great bread bakers, I came up with my version of Sourdough Pumpernickle Bread.

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.

I settled on a combination of coffee, barley malt syrup, cocoa and toasted old-bread crumbs to deepen the color of the loaf. These ingredients contribute a really interesting bitter/sweet flavor to the bread. Have I told you that I love bitter flavors? 

Through my research I found pumpernickel bread recipes that use anywhere from just a hint of rye flour, to all rye flour, and every combination in between. I wanted plenty of rye flavor, but needed some gluten from wheat flour.

Without the 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.

I settled on a proportion of 1/2 rye flour, and the other 1/2 is a mix of whole wheat and bread 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.

Check out the step by step process photos for making the Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread Recipe:

a mixing bowl with an active sourdough rye starter

By the next day 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 before baking.

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.
  • This dough is fairly sticky. Use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the work surface. For easy cleanup, dip your sticky hands into the flour bin, hold them over the trash can and rub them together to clean off the sticky dough.
  • 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.

Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

Yield: 1 large loaf
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 12 hours
Baking Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 13 hours 5 minutes

A dark and flavorful pumpernickel bread made with coffee, cocoa, molasses and old bread. This is a great sandwich loaf.


Rye Starter

  • 1/2 cup (about 4 oz, 113g) unfed sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz, 60 ml) warm water
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz, 50g) rye flour


  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz, 300ml) coffee room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Malted Barley Syrup (see note 2)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (5 oz, 140g) rye flour
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz, 28g) toasted bread crumbs from old bread (see note 3)
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz, 50g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (5 oz, 140g) bread flour (approximately)


Make the Rye Starter (one day before)

  1. Combine the sourdough starter, rye flour and warm water.
  2. 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

  1. In a large mixer bowl, combine the active rye starter with the coffee, barley malt syrup, cocoa, salt, rye flour, toasted bread crumbs and whole wheat flour. This dough is quite sticky and dense and I find it easier to finish by hand rather than with a dough hook in a stand mixer.
  2. Add as much of the bread flour as you can by hand then dump the dough onto a floured surface. Continue kneaing in the rest of the bread flour. Use more flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough may still be a little soft and tacky but should form into a smooth ball.
  3. 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 time 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cover the loaf and rise until almost doubled in volume (about 1 - 1.5 hours). the rising time will vary base on how active your starter was, the room temperature, etc.
  6. While the dough rises preheat the oven to 350°F. If you've got a baking stone put it in the oven to preheat. If you'd like to create steam in the oven use a pan with heated stones.
  7. When the bread is risen, use a sharp knife or blade to slash the top of the bread 4-5 times across the short side.
  8. Brush the surface of the bread with egg white and bake until the temperature reaches 190°F-200°F in the center of the loaf, or the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. About 35 minutes.


  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.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

You might also like:

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Focaccia with Pickled Grapes
a sliced loaf of Overnight Rye Bread
Overnight Rye Bread
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Rye Pretzel Rolls


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.

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.


Sunday 7th of February 2021

Hi thank you for the recipe. Ive been making sour dough for about the loaf I made tastes great but is very flat although has air holes. Just looking for any advice, as I really like it and want to try again. I know my starter is active and had a good bulk and proof rise. The dough was pretty wet. I used a clay cooker on 400. Do you have any suggestions or should I use s higher oven temp,?


Wednesday 17th of February 2021

Well I tried again used a dutch oven at 450 and added more bread dough and a little less liquid. It seemed to shape better and rose well but still poor oven spring, arg. But tastes great, I added sesame seeds in top which added a nice flavor. If anyone has advice to help oven spring with this recipe i'd appeciate it. Thanks


Tuesday 26th of January 2021

I love the dark color of your bread. Can I substitute non-diastatic malt powder? Will it lighten the color? Or should I buy syrup to ensure a dark loaf?

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 26th of January 2021

The malt syrup is for a little sweetness and color. Non-diastatic malt powder will add a nice flavor and sweetness but not the color. Even without the malt syrup you should get good color from the toasted crumbs, coffee, cocoa and rye flour. So go ahead and use a little malt powder for flavor. You could also use a combination of honey and molasses to replace the malt syrup.

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