Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread – Leite’s Culinaria

Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe turned traditional bread making upside down for all of us. Made with just flour, yeast, salt, and water, the bread is the fastest, easiest, and best you may ever make.

A piece of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread with three pieces of butter and a sprinkling of salt on top.

This is it, folks. Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe. The technique that incited an insurrection among bread bakers everywhere.

The recipe is ridiculously easy, even for first-time bread bakers, and will make you wonder why you ever spent all that time and effort kneading dough in the past.

The loaf is an adaptation of Lahey’s phenomenally and outrageously popular pugliese sold at Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan. And once you try it, you’re going to wonder where it’s been your entire life.

How to ensure magnificence from your loaf of no-knead bread

Baker Jim Lahey took great care, in his original recipe for this bread, to explain as many tricks as he possibly could to help ensure you have spectacularly satisfying results at home. I’ve included them in the instructions below.

Don’t rush through this recipe and skim the details. Each word, each visual cue, each explanation has meaning.

Rely on the description of how the dough should appear or feel more than the timing.

And know that conditions change from kitchen to kitchen and from day to day, depending on the exact flour you’re using and the temperature of your house and the humidity and, I suspect, the barometric pressure, the phase of the moon, and maybe even your mood.

So some days, your bread baking may seem blessed, and on others, it may feel as if you lost your baking mojo. It happens to me all the time. But remember what Lahey always says, “Even the loaves that aren’t what you’d regard as perfect are way better than fine.”

A round loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, dusted with flour on a leather chair

Plan your bread-making schedule

As easy as this recipe is, Lahey cautions that it’s not exactly an impromptu sort of thing. “This bread is incredibly simple and involves little labor, but you need to plan ahead.

Although mixing takes almost no time, the first rise requires from 12 to 18 hours. Then you’ll need to shape the dough and let it rise for another 1 to 2 hours. The longer rise tends to result in a better loaf, but you need the patience and the schedule to do it. 

After preheating the oven and the pot for half an hour, you’ve got 30 minutes of covered baking, another 15 to 30 of uncovered baking, and about an hour of cooling.

And please, don’t gulp down that first slice. Think of the first bite as you would the first taste of a glass of wine: smell it (there should be that touch of maltiness), chew it slowly to appreciate its almost meaty texture, and sense where it came from in its hint of wheat. Enjoy it. You baked it, and you did a good job.”

Why our testers loved this

The testers have been making this bread on repeat for years for several reasons. The texture and flavor of the finished bread are the best they’ve tried, and they loved the easy, hands-off method used here. Larry Noak calls it “the PERFECT bread recipe.”

Cath Ramsden joined in with her comment, “Gnarled, crunchy, bronzed crust, light and soft pillowy bread beneath—this is THE BEST BREAD I have ever made.”

Notes on ingredients

Ingredients for Jim Lahey's no-knead bread -- flour, salt, yeast, cornmeal, and water.
  • Flour–You can use all-purpose flour or bread flour, or a combination of both.
  • Instant yeast–You only need 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast for this recipe. It seems like a very small amount, but the long fermentation time means that very little yeast is needed. To check the freshness of your yeast, mix a teaspoon of yeast with 1/3 cup of warm water and a big pinch of sugar. Alive yeast will develop bubbles or foam on top of the mixture. If there are no bubbles, your yeast needs to be replaced.
  • Cornmeal–The addition of a little cornmeal helps to prevent the dough from sticking and adds a little texture to the finished loaf. You can substitute wheat bran or more flour for the cornmeal.

How to make this recipe

Bread ingredients being mixed in a glass bowl, and water being added to the mixture.
  1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Pour in the water.
Bread dough being worked in glass bowl and a person scooping bread dough onto a floured cutting board.
  1. Mix until you have a rough, shaggy dough. Cover the dough and let it rest until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.
  2. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface.
A person folding a round of bread dough.
  1. Gently lift the top of the dough and fold it over itself.
  2. Pull the bottom of the dough up and over the folded section.
  3. Grab the left side of the dough and fold it up and over.
  4. Fold the right side of the dough up and over.
A round of bread dough on a floured cutting board, and the bread dough on a towel in a proofing basket.
  1. Gently nudge the dough into a round shape. Don’t knead.
  2. Coat a cotton towel with cornmeal and place the dough, seam-side down, onto the towel in a bowl or proofing basket. Cover with a second towel and let it rise until doubled in size.
An unbaked and baked loaf of bread side by side in a red bread baker.
  1. Heat the oven to 450°F and place a heavy pot and lid in the oven to preheat. Transfer the dough to the pot, seam side up. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Uncover the pot and continue to bake until the loaf is dark brown in color. Cool completely before slicing.

Recipe FAQs

Why didn’t my bread rise?

Because the recipe calls for so little yeast, it’s important to make sure the yeast is fresh. Also, if the room is too cool (the ideal temperature is 72°F/22°C), the dough will need longer to rise.

I don’t have a Dutch oven. Can I still make the bread?

You certainly can. What’s most important is to have a tight-fitting cover. Some bakers have had success with:
— a combo oven (seen above in steps 11 and 12)
— a stainless steel pot with a lid
— an oven-safe glass (Pyrex) dish with a cover
— a clay pot with a lid
— a pizza stone with an inverted stainless steel bowl as a cover

Why are my bread loaves flat? They’re not big and round.

First, check your yeast. It could be old and expired. Keeping yeast in the freezer helps extend its life considerably. Another culprit is not letting the dough rest enough after shaping and before baking. Creating a tight skin on the surface of the dough allows it to rise to lofty heights in the oven–something called oven spring.

Helpful tips

  • The bread is best enjoyed the day that it’s made. Extra bread can be stored in a plastic bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Two slices of toasted bread on a plate with a cut apple, a knife with butter, and a dollop of jam.

More great no-knead bread recipes

☞ If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

A piece of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread with three pieces of butter and a sprinkling of salt on top.

Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe turned traditional bread making upside down for all of us. Made with just flour, yeast, salt, and water, the bread is the fastest, easiest, and best you may ever make.

Prep 30 mins

Cook 50 mins

Total 15 hrs 30 mins

  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and mix with a spoon or your hand until you have a shaggy, sticky dough. This should take roughly 30 seconds. You want it to be a little sticky. (Many people who bake this bread find the dough to be sticker than other bread doughs they’ve worked with. Even though it’s not what you’re accustomed to handling, it’s perfectly fine.)

  • Cover the bowl with a plate, towel, or plastic wrap and set it aside to rest at warm room temperature (but not in direct sunlight) for at least 12 hours and preferably about 18 hours. (Ideally, you want the room to be about 72°F. In the dead of winter, when the dough will tend to rise more slowly, as long as 24 hours may be necessary.) You’ll know the dough is properly fermented and ready because its surface will be dotted with bubbles. This long, slow fermentation is what yields the bread’s rich flavor.

  • Generously flour your work surface. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to turn the dough onto the surface in one blob. The dough will cling to the bowl in long, thread-like strands and it will be quite loose and sticky. This is exactly what you want. Do not add more flour. Instead use lightly floured hands to gently and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the center, effectively folding the dough over onto itself. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. That’s it. Don’t knead the dough.
  • Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. Place the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust the surface with a little more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover the dough with another cotton towel and let it rise for about 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be double in size and will hold the impression of your fingertip when you poke it lightly, making an indentation. If the dough readily springs back when you poke it, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

  • A half hour before the dough is done with its second rise, preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot and its lid (whether cast iron or enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.

  • When the dough is done with its second rise, carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover it. Also, uncover the dough. Lift up the dough and quickly but gently turn it over into the pot, seam side up, being very careful not to touch the pot. The blob of dough may look like a mess, but trust us, everything is O.K. Cover the pot with its lid and bake for 30 minutes.

  • Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is beautifully browned to a deep chestnut color, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack. Don’t slice or tear into it until it has cooled, which usually takes at least an hour.

  1. Room temperature–If your room is cooler than 72°F (22°C), the bread will need longer to rise.
  2. Storage–The bread is best enjoyed the day that it’s made. Extra bread can be stored in a plastic bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 85kcal (4%)Carbohydrates: 17g (6%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 1g (2%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 32mg (1%)Potassium: 25mg (1%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 4mgIron: 1mg (6%)

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Recipe © 2009 Jim Lahey. Photos © 2009 David Leite. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


Cynthia Wehner
Cynthia Wehner
Cynthia is an expert in health and wellness, beauty, consumer products and product reviews, travel, and personal finance. She has spent the last 20 years as an award-winning lifestyle writer and editor for a variety of national print and digital publications.
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