This easy-to-make cheddar jalapeño no-knead bread relies on time to develop gluten, strength, and flavor. It bakes up with a crunchy, floury crust that cracks open unpredictably inside of a Dutch oven.
About This Recipe
When I have minimal time to invest in hands-on baking but want a delicious loaf of airy, moist bread with a nice crunchy crust, I turn to my favorite no-knead recipes. Yes, that's right: NO-KNEAD.
No-knead bread is exactly what it sounds like. Bread dough that requires no kneading to develop gluten and flavor. No folding, no punching down, nothing. Just stir the ingredients together to form a shaggy dough and let it sit at room temp for 18 hours.
Once it rises, you dump it out onto a lightly floured surface, shape it into a rough oval as best you can, and bake it in a Dutch oven.
This recipe came about because I was desperate to find new ways to use up some of the four-dozen-plus jalapeños we grew last year.
I also took inspiration from a cheesy, green pepper-y bread I had at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, which was amaaaaazing slathered in butter.
I don't usually like hot peppers, but removing the seeds and ribs and baking them in bread dough mellows the heat dramatically, leaving behind just a nice mild heat and strong, fresh jalapeño flavor.
No-knead doughs can be very high hydration recipes; some as high as 98%! Hydration is the weight of water compared to the amount of flour in a recipe, expressed as a percentage.
The wetter a dough is, the more complicated (read: stickier) it can be to handle.
Because the cheese and the peppers add liquid to this dough, this is a 90% hydration dough, so it's not completely impossible to work with. (You're welcome).
That said, this will likely still be a bit of a challenge the first few times you try it. BUT!!! This is not meant to be a tightly controlled dough, so that looseness and stickiness is actually just fine.
A little bit of variety is what will make your cheddar jalapeño no-knead bread crack open in so many delightful and unpredictable ways while it bakes.
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this no knead bread! See recipe card for quantities.
- All-Purpose Flour - I use King Arthur Baking Company's all purpose flour which has a higher protein content (closer to bread flour) than other brands of flour. If you're using a grocery store brand of flour, you may get better results using their bread flour.
- Cheddar Cheese - I like a sharp cheddar cheese for this bread, but you can use a mild or medium cheddar too. You can use pre-shredded cheese if you need to, but I recommend using a brick of cheddar cheese so you can cube some of it and shred some of it.
- Jalapeño - How many jalapeños you need will depend on the size of the jalapeño you have. You want about a quarter cup of diced jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed. If you want this to be a very spicy bread, leave some of the seeds in.
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which half as salty as other brands. If measuring by weight, it doesn't matter what brand of salt you use. But if you're measuring by volume and using a different brand of salt, even a different brand of kosher salt, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Instant Yeast - Sometimes called "rapid rise" or "bread machine" yeast. If using active dry yeast, multiply the amount of yeast by 1.25. Store your yeast in the freezer to be sure it stays good! If you're not sure your yeast is good, add it to the warm water. If it bubbles after a few minutes, it's good!
- Lukewarm Water - Lukewarm to the touch. Not hot. If you want to be precise, it should be between 100-110F.
How to Make No Knead Bread
Mix all your ingredients together in a bowl. That's it. You're basically done.
Of course, there are a few things you can do to make it just a little easier on yourself. Mix your dry ingredients together first: Flour, salt, and yeast. Then, add your cheese and peppers and and toss them in the dry ingredients before you add the water.
Look, I don't know if it actually makes a difference, but I know when you make cakes you can toss berries in flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom, so I like to do this here too, just to help them mix in more evenly.
Your last step is to add the water. Use a silicone spatula, dough whisk, or a plastic bowl scraper to mix the dough together until all the flour and water are incorporated.
Remember, this is a 90% hydration dough. It's supposed to be a shaggy, messy dough. It should be sticky to the touch and impossible to knead (because it doesn't need kneading).
Cover the bowl and let it rise at room temperature for 18 hours.
A Long Rise Time
No-knead bread relies on time to develop a gluten network — the structure that gives bread its shape and texture. True to the name, there is no need to knead (lol) to develop that strength and structure in the dough.
Most no-knead recipes say you can shape and bake the dough anywhere from 12 to 18 hours after you mix it. (Some recipes are designed to be fine in the fridge for up to 7 days!)
In my experience, at 12 hours, the gluten hasn't developed enough strength for you to effectively shape the dough. It'll be a loose, wet, sticky pile that's nearly impossible to handle.
If you wait the full 18 hours it will still feel like a loose wet pile, but it'll be so much easier to work with. Note that I did not say easy to work with. Just easier.
But again, the dough isn't meant to be easy to handle — that looseness and stickiness is part of what makes it crack open beautifully in the oven.
This is a very slow rising bread dough, so don't stress too much about getting to it right at 18 hours. If you're an hour early or an hour late, it will be fine.
Using Other Cheeses & Peppers
Okay, you caught me. Even though this is a cheddar jalapeño no-knead bread, you can use any pepper or cheese combination you want. Green pepper, red pepper, purple pepper, yellow pepper, hot pepper, mild pepper. Any pepper will work.
I almost always have some sort of hot pepper in the kitchen so I usually just grab whatever I have.
When it comes to cheese, I've done this with thin-sliced muenster cheese from the deli, rough-torn chunks of fresh mozzarella, finely grated asiago, shredded parmesan, cubed cotswold, and more.
Try to stick to hard cheeses (cheddar, parmesan, asiago, swiss, etc.) rather than soft cheeses (brie, goat cheese, etc.) so that the cheese doesn't add too much liquid to the dough when it melts during baking.
As for cheddar, I recommend sticking to sweet, mild, or medium sharpness. If you go sharp or extra sharp, the cheddar flavor will overpower every bite.
You don't need to use all of the same equipment I use to make this bread, but here are the tools I used and recommend:
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven - Any 4+ quart cast iron dutch oven will work here. I used the Challenger Bread Pan (full disclosure: it was gifted to me by the brand and I'm a Challenger Breadware affiliate, but I wouldn't use or recommend it if I didn't like it!) to make this bread because I love the inverted design with the shallow bottom and domed top and how roomy it is inside. No risking burning my arms trying to get the bread dough into a deep Dutch oven!
- Dough Whisk - The sturdy wire coil of a dough whisk is designed for mixing wet and sticky doughs — the wire cuts through any sneaky clumps of flour easily! There's a reason a dough whisk is one of my favorite whisks.
- Bowl Scraper - A plastic bowl scraper makes removing the dough from your mixing bowl easy.
- Kitchen Scale - You'll need a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients for this bread recipe. You'll get the best results from pretty much any baking recipe if you measure ingredients by weight.
Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- Use wet hands and wet your bowl scraper to gently transfer the risen dough to a floured sheet of parchment paper before shaping it. If you use flour on your hands the dough will stick to the flour.
- If you have an oval dutch oven: arrange the parchment paper so its in a diamond shape, with a corner of the paper towards your body. The oval shape of the dough should end up with the long side facing you, parallel to the edge of the counter. If you have a round dutch oven, crumple the parchment paper into a ball, smooth it out, and repeat before you put the dough on it. This will allow the paper to be just a little more flexible when you put it it into the dutch oven.
- To shape the dough you can use floured hands OR slightly wet hands. Both will help keep the dough from sticking to you. Feel out the dough and try one method. If it doesn't work, try the other. Figure out what approach works best for you. Too much flour will prevent the dough from sticking to itself as you fold, which will make it harder to shape. So don't go overboard with the flour here. That said, you may need to use the bowl scraper to push flour under the edges of the dough to make it easier to lift off the paper.
- The cheddar and jalapeno pieces will try to push themselves out of the dough as you fold it. Just push them back in. If they fall out completely, you can put them in the center of the dough and fold more dough over them. But it's okay if some pieces are hanging out of the dough. Don't sweat it.
- Baking the bread covered in a Dutch oven traps steam inside the confined space which helps give this cheddar jalapeño bread its signature crusty crust.
A kitchen scale is more accurate than cup measurements and will give you the right ratio of water, yeast, salt, and flour so that your bread dough behaves the way you want it to. I tested and developed this recipe using weight measurements. If I were to convert it to cups, I would be using Google — just like you would. And since there's no set standard for what "1 cup" of flour weighs, different online converters use different amounts, which means I wouldn't be able to promise you'd get the same delicious results!
I haven't tested it with other methods, but The Kitchn has a good blog post with alternatives to Dutch ovens. I can't speak to how those methods would change the bake time. You'll want to cover it for the beginning portion of the bake time, and then uncover it for the final 10-15 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer, you can check the bread to see when it's done. When it reaches 190-200F, and is as browned on top as you want it, it's done.
Yes! You'll want 4 grams of active dry yeast instead. You can use it just like the instant yeast mixed right into the dry ingredients, no need to bloom it in water first. The only reason to bloom it in water is if you're not sure it's good. If that's the case, measure out the warm water for the recipe, stir the yeast into it and let it sit for 1-3 minutes. If it starts to look foamy, you can go ahead and use it!
Cheddar Jalapeño No-Knead Bread
- 390 grams all-purpose flour (3¼ scant cups)
- 10 grams diamond crystal kosher salt (~1 tablespoon)
- 3 grams instant yeast (1 teaspoon)
- 340 grams lukewarm water (1½ cups)
- 1 medium jalapeño (seeds and ribs removed)
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese (half shredded, half cubed)
- Dice cheddar cheese into ¼" cubes or smaller, and/or grate with a cheese grater on the side with the larger holes.
- Remove seeds and ribs from jalapeño, then chop into pieces as big or small as you want. You can even do half the jalapeño in a fine dice and half in thin slices or a larger dice if you want some variety. Add to dry ingredients.
- Mix your dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast) in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Add the cheddar and jalapeño pieces and mix well.
- Add lukewarm water and stir until combined. If the dough seems really dry, add a tablespoon of water and keep stirring. When you have a shaggy, sticky dough, cover the bowl and set it aside at room temp to rest for 12-18 hours (I recommend going the full 18 hours if you can).
- At the end of the 18 hours the dough should have doubled or tripled in size and have a flat, bubbly top.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a Dutch oven inside, covered, and let preheat for 30 minutes at 450°F.
- While Dutch oven preheats, generously flour a piece of parchment paper on your counter and use a plastic bowl scraper to release the dough from the sides of the bowl and onto the center of the paper.
- Use floured or slightly wet hands to fold the edges of across the center of the dough to gently pull it into an oval or circle shape. This stage is messy and imprecise, that's okay. Sometimes you can fold the whole side of the dough in one move. Other times you end up zig-zagging smaller sections across the center.
- Dust the surface of the dough with flour and let it sit until the Dutch oven finishes preheating.
- Carefully remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Gather the corners of the parchment paper together to pick the dough up and transfer it into the Dutch oven. Put the lid back on the Dutch oven.
- Bake with the lid on for 45 minutes (don't peek!), then remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes until deeply golden brown on top.
- Transfer the fully baked loaf to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.
- The cheese and pepper pieces will try to push themselves out of the dough as you shape it. Just push them back in. If they fall out completely, you can put them in the center of the dough and fold more dough over them. But it's okay if some pieces are hanging out of the dough.
- Use a wet paper towel or sponge to lightly dampen your counter before you put the parchment paper down. This will help keep it in place if it's curling up or if your dough is so sticky that it tries to pull the paper up with it as you fold.
- Keep a small measuring cup of flour on your counter as you work so you can easily grab pinches of it to dust your counter/the dough as you work.
- For more spiciness in your bread leave some or all of the ribs and seeds of the jalapeño intact.