Danish Rye Bread (rugbrød)

Finished rugbroed

Living in the US, one of thing that is hard to get is Danish rye bread, or rugbrød. Sometimes you can get something like it in Whole Foods or specialty stores, but in any case it definitely tastes better homemade.

As mentioned in the Wikipedia article, Danish rye bread is a very dense sourdough bread. It is unlike any type of bread you get in the US, or France or Italy for that matter. It is the opposite of white, fluffy bread, very hearty and full of fiber. As far as I recall, Holland and Germany has something similar.

I found a wonderful blog post by a Danish family who had been experimenting with baking their own rugbrød and it was very helpful.

I did my own sourdough starter, and ended up doing like this:


  • 3 dl (300 ml) sourdough starter
  • 1 l water
  • 600 g rye flour
  • 600 g all purpose flour
  • 30 g salt
  • 400 g rye berries (kernels)
  • 100 g flaxseed
  • 150 g raw sunflower seeds*
  • 100 g raw pumpkin seeds*
  • 1 tbsp syrup
  • 15 g roasted barley malt flour**

* you can use any combination of seeds, about 250 g total.
** optional. I could not find this anywhere in the US, and omitted it the first time I made these. Here is a British website selling it, and explaining it a bit.


Day 1:

Mix the sourdough starter with 1 l of water, and add the salt and the 2 flours. If you have a high wattage mixer with dough hooks, you can use that.



The dough will be a little more sticky than regular, you don’t have to knead it a lot.

ready for rest

Ready for resting

Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a moist tea-towel and leave in the fridge for 8-12 hours or more.

Soak the rye berries in water and leave overnight.

Day 2:

1. take out as much dough as you took from your starter and put back, mix well.

2. Add a little water to the dough if it feels dry, mix in the syrup

Adding syrup

Adding syrup

3. Drain the rye berries (don’t worry of some of them look a little green – this is the natural color, they are not bad) and mix them and all the other ingredients in.

All the seeds

All the seeds

Drain the berries

Drain the berries

The dough will be ‘wetter’ than dough for white bread.

The finished dough

finished dough

4. Distribute the dough in 2 loaf tins, brush them with melted butter or canola oil if they are not non-stick. Even if you have non-stick tins they probably benefit from a bit of grease.

5. Put a little water on top of the breads and press some pumpkin or sunflower seeds into the top

In the tins

In the tins

6. leave to rise for about 1 hour. They will not rise that much.

7. bake at 180 C for 1 1/2 hours. They should rise and be firm, brown and sound hollow when done.

8. Shortly after they are out of the oven, remove them from the tins and leave to cool completely on a rack. It is important that you don’t wait too long as the breads release a lot of moisture and will go mushy if left to cool completely in the tins.

Here you can see the unique 'crumb' of the rye bread.

Here you can see the unique ‘crumb’ of the rye bread.

The first time I made this it turned out really well and very delicious. Our 1 1/2 year old loved it! Since we don’t bring our food at work and daycare, we don’t eat it that fast, but it freezes well. I cut each loaf in half and froze them separately.

The second time I made this I had to redo my starter, since I had let it die, but it is really simple to make.

I had a friend send me some roasted malt flour, and the addition tasted great, however it was a little hard to incorporate in the dough on day 2. I will probably add the malt flour to the loaf on day 1 next time.

Sour dough starter

I wanted to make Danish rye bread, which is a sour dough bread. I thought I would give making my own non-yeast starter a try, referencing the recipe for a chef starter in On Baking (a pastry textbook), as well as Camilla Plum’s (Danish TV chef – link is in Danish).In the end it turned out really well, and it was not difficult at all. It just requires a little time.


  • 300 ml spring or filtered water
  • handful of organic blueberries or grapes
  • 150 g wheat flour
  • 150 g dark rye flour
  • 1 tsp honey

The On Baking recipe called for organic grapes, to help create the fermentation, but since I had none, I used organic blue berries; they worked well.

Camilla Plum’s version had honey/syrup and/or yogurt, I tried adding a little honey to help with fermentation too.

Since I wanted to make rye bread, I wanted to use half rye flour, but you can make it with any flour containing gluten.

Since tap water as chlorine in it which will kill the very small amount of yeast you will start with, it is recommended to use spring or filtered water. I suppose you could also have the water standing in the open a day or two – aeration will break down the chlorine.


Day 1:

Mix 50 g wheat flour, 50 g rye flour, 100 ml of water, the berries and honey in a small bowl. Cover tightly and keep a room temperature

Day 2:

Pick out the berries, and add another 50 g of each flour and 100 ml water. Mix vigoursly. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature

Day 3:

After 12-24 hours the mixture should be bubbly and smell sourly. Mix the last flour and water in.

After another 6-24 hours the mixture should be ready to use, all bubbly again.  I didn’t wait more than half a day, but ideally you should wait 24 hours I suppose.

Either use right away, or keep in a tightly locked container in the fridge.

When using the starter, always leave a little in your container, and add as much of your mixed, risen dough back to the starter as you took out.

Every 4 to 5 days, feed the starter a bit of flour and water and leave it at room temperature for 5-6 hours. This will keep the sour dough going until next time you bake.

Watch out – you now have something alive in your fridge!