If you love a low-effort crusty bread, you won't find anything better than a no knead dutch oven bread!
Instead of kneading, a no-knead bread relies on time to develop gluten, strength, and flavor in the dough. And thanks to the hot and steamy environment inside a pre-heated Dutch oven, it bakes up with a crunchy, floury crust!
This is the base bread recipe I riffed on when making my popular no-knead cheddar jalapeno bread and crusty rosemary parmesan bread recipes! This base recipe is lower hydration to make it easier to shape and handle for beginners. I also have a mini small batch crusty bread version that uses just one cup of flour if you prefer a smaller loaf.
And just like in my overnight focaccia bread, this long resting period is a great hands-off way to develop strength and flavor in your dough quite literally in your sleep.
That lower hydration means this no-knead bread has a slightly tighter crumb that still has a gorgeous airy texture. It's perfect slathered with homemade butter, for making my chicken and prosciutto grilled cheese, fancy fried egg toasts, and so much more.
- About No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread
- A High Hydration Dough
- Ingredient Notes
- How to Make No Knead Bread
- A Long Overnight Rise
- Shaping No-Knead Bread
- How to Shape an Oval No-Knead Bread
- Scoring and Baking
- Baking in a Dutch Oven
- Using a Banneton or Brotform (Optional!)
- Equipment Notes
- Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- Storage Notes
- Recipe FAQ - Baking without a dutch oven, etc.
- TL;DR - Recipe Summary
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
About No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread
There are a lot of types of no knead breads, but usually when someone says they're making a "no knead" bread they're referring to a crusty white bread that bakes up in a dutch oven.
No-knead bread is exactly what it sounds like. Bread dough that requires no kneading to develop gluten and flavor. No periodic folding, no fancy equipment, nothing. Just stir the ingredients together to form a shaggy dough and letting it sit for a long period of time before shaping and baking.
I am far from the first person to ever develop a no-knead Dutch oven bread recipe. They've been around for a good long time, but saw a surge in popularity in 2006 when Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman published their version in the New York Times (later updated in 2021).
It's a great recipe with enduring popularity. And there have been dozens if not hundreds of recipes spun off from it (mine included).
The four basic ingredients remain the same: flour, water, salt, and yeast, but by shifting the ratios, timing, and shaping techniques, no knead bread recipes can produce a wide variety of loaves.
I've made dozens of different no-knead bread recipes over the years, but I often find them a little fussier and also bigger than I wanted.
The way I make no-knead bread is simple and straightforward. I've removed a few finicky steps from other recipes that I always find myself skipping.
I also shrunk the overall size of the loaf to something that should feel a little more manageable in a beginner bread maker's hands.
A High Hydration Dough
The hydration of a dough is calculated as is the weight of water compared to the weight of flour in a recipe, expressed as a percentage. So if your dough calls for 100 grams of flour and 50 grams of water, that's a 50% hydration dough. This type of formulation is called baker's percentage and makes scaling recipes up and down very easy.
No-knead doughs are often very high hydration recipes. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats and The Food Lab prefers a lower hydration 70% dough but gives his a long (3-day!) rise in the fridge to develop a more open crumb. Other no-knead recipes can go as high as 98% or even 100% hydration!
The thing is, the wetter a dough is, the more frustrating (read: stickier) it can be to handle.
My no knead cheddar jalapeno bread recipe is 90% hydration dough. I did that to encourage the unpredictable shaping in the way it cracks open in the oven. You can absolutely reduce the amount of water in that recipe and end up with a dough that's slightly denser, but much easier to shape.
When it comes to this base no-knead bread recipe, I wanted something a little easier to manage. This no-knead bread recipe is 80% hydration, similar to the Lahey/Bittman loaf. It has a tender crumb with a few larger air bubbles but not so many that you can't use it for grilled cheese or sandwiches.
At 80% hydration, it may still be a bit challenging to shape the first time you try it, especially if you're new to bread making. But you'll get the hang of it very quickly.
Just remember: this is not meant to be a tightly controlled dough, so even if it's a little lumpy or imperfect or messy, that's absolutely okay.
As long as it tastes great, that's what really matters.
You only need four ingredients to make this no knead bread! See recipe card (at the end of the post) 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.
- Salt - Salt doesn't just add flavor to your dough, it helps control the yeast activity. I use the chef-standard Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which has larger, irregular crystals that dissolve quickly compared to other brands and styles of salt. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is also half as salty as other brands of salt by volume, so make sure you're measuring salt by weight! If you're using a different type or brand of salt and measuring by volume, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Instant Yeast - Sometimes called "rapid rise," "bread machine," or "instant dry" yeast. Store your yeast in the fridge or 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! If your kitchen is warm (70°F+) then consider cutting the amount of yeast in half. See FAQ for using active dry yeast.
- Cool Water - Cool or lukewarm to the touch. We don't want warm or hot water for this recipe.
Bonus: If you have leftover whey from making homemade goat cheese you can sub it in to this bread recipe (and most bread recipes) in place of water without making any adjustments. It gives the bread a tangy, almost sourdough like flavor — basically a more intense bread flavor and is so good!
How to Make No Knead Bread
Mix all the 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. This disperses the yeast and salt throughout the flour for more even mixing.
Your last step is to add the water. Mix the ingredients together until you have a sticky, messy, lumpy dough.
It won't look smooth at all. You're just looking for all the flour to be hydrated and all the water to be incorporated.
This is a 80% hydration dough. It's supposed to be a shaggy, messy, lumpy dough. It will 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 18-20 hours.
A Long Overnight Rise
No-knead bread relies on time to develop a gluten network — the structure that gives bread its shape and texture. The gluten network traps the gas produced by the yeast, creating air bubbles in the dough.
True to its name, there is no need to knead (and no need for speed) to develop that strength and structure in the dough.
Thanks to the long slow rise time you have a pretty big 2 hour window in which you can get to this no-knead bread dough at its peak for shaping.
Perfectly proofed no-knead bread dough will have a bubbly top that is flat or slightly domed and stretches across the mouth of the bowl.
If your dough has overproofed, it will have sunken in slightly. Slightly overproofed dough can still be shaped and baked. It will just produce a flatter loaf.
Temperature is one of the main factors in determining how quickly or slowly your no knead dough rises (proofs). This includes the temperature of ingredients in your dough, as well as the ambient temperature of the room where your dough is rising.
Depending on how cool or warm your kitchen is, your dough may rise faster or slower.
- Warmer temperatures increase yeast activity. If it's particularly warm in your kitchen (70F+), reduce the amount of yeast to 1 gram OR know your bread may be ready to shape sooner than 18 hours.
- Cooler temperatures slow yeast activity. This is why we use cold water when making this recipe. We want the a long rise time. You can also pop the dough in the fridge to slow it down if it's rising quickly and you need to buy yourself some extra time before shaping.
Make adjustments based on your kitchen environment as needed!
An even longer rise: Put this no-knead dough in the fridge immediately after mixing or after the first overnight rise. I've left it for as long as 5 days in the fridge before baking and it works just fine. As a bonus, gluten tightens up in the cold, meaning cold dough is slightly easier to shape.
Shaping No-Knead Bread
When your dough is ready to shape, turn it out onto a well floured counter. It's a sticky dough, and the flour will prevent it from sticking to the counter. Dust the top very lightly with flour too — just enough so your hands don't stick to it.
Loosely stretch the dough into a square shape. Dust any excess flour off the top of the dough.
Fold all the edges in, pressing down gently but firmly to pinch them to each other.
The dough may stick to your hands slightly, but that's okay. Don't sweat it too much. Use a light touch as you fold.
When all the edges have been tucked in, flip the dough over. You'll have a nice smooth top.
Cup your hands around the dough and gently lift and rotate it in short, quick movements to create surface tension on the top as you tuck the dough underneath.
Transfer the dough onto a crumpled piece of parchment paper for its final rise.
Crumbling the parchment paper softens it so that it fits neatly into the round space of a Dutch oven without digging into your dough.
Here's how to do it right: Crumple the paper up, unfurl it. Crumple it, then unfurl it again. Now it's ready for your dough.
Dust the top of the no-knead dough with flour, then cover it with a clean kitchen towel while you preheat the Dutch oven for 30 minutes.
How to Shape an Oval No-Knead Bread
In bread making lingo, an oval or football shaped loaf of bread is called a bâtard. There are a lot of different methods for shaping a bâtard, but with a loose, sticky dough like this, I find simple is best.
Stretch the dough into a loose square shape. Fold the top two corners in to make a point, then loosely roll the pointed end toward your body.
Apply very little pressure - you don't want to create too much tension here.
Keep rolling until the seam is against the counter and the smooth side is facing up. Gently tuck the ends under.
Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written!
Scoring and Baking
Scoring bread isn't just decorative; it creates a vent through which steam can escape. Without scoring, your bread will crack and tear open in the oven unpredictably and might even blow out at the bottom.
To get an "ear" (the dramatic, crisp flap of bread that runs the length of the scoring mark) hold the blade at a 45° angle when you make the slash.
Immediately before baking, take a sharp knife or lame and slash the top of the loaf.
You can even cut designs into your loaf if you want to. You do want at least one big, deep slash.
Carefully lift the dough in the parchment paper sling and transfer it into the preheated Dutch oven.
Try to push the paper so it's hanging over the edges of the pot. Be careful not to burn yourself!
Baking in a Dutch Oven
The confined space of a pre-heated Dutch oven traps the steam released by the dough as it bakes, creating a nice moist environment which results in a super crunchy crust.
"Steam [...] helps produce a really crisp crust. When the surface of the dough reaches 180°F, the starches in the slowly forming crust start absorbing moisture. They eventually become so saturated that they burst and liquefy. As the bread continues to cook, this starch gel turns into a brittle and glossy shell. The more moisture there is on the surface of the dough, the more abundant the starch gel, and the crisper and more crackly the eventual crust."Slate, "Why Does Steam Make Bread Light and Crusty?"
Cover the bread in the Dutch oven and place it in the oven. Bake it covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
When you first take the lid off, your loaf will look quite pale. That's normal. The final 10-15 minute uncovered bake time is when the top will take on that gorgeous brown color.
You're looking for an internal temperature of at least 200°-210°F for doneness.
Carefully remove the baked loaf from the Dutch oven to a cooling rack. If you listen closely you'll be able to hear the crust cracking as the inside of the loaf contracts as it begins to cool!
Let the no-knead bread cool completely before slicing it. If you slice it before it has cooled, the steam still trapped in the bread will turn the starches to mush.
Using a Banneton or Brotform (Optional!)
Using a banneton or brotform proofing basket is optional here, but gives your bread a gorgeous floury spiral pattern and helps support the dough as it rises. It will add more time to the overall process, making this more of a 48 hour recipe than a 24 hour recipe.
Here's how to use a banneton or brotform:
- Dust the basket generously with rice flour, then shape the bread as instructed.
- With the smooth top of the shaped boule facing up, slide a bench scraper under and invert it into the basket. The smooth top side will be against the bottom of the basket. The seam side will be facing up.
- Dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, flip the shaped loaf out of the basket and onto the twice crumpled parchment paper, score it, and bake according to the recipe!
Letting the shaped no-knead dough rise in the fridge will give you a more flavorful loaf of bread with a slightly airier crumb.
Using a banneton or brotform is ideal if you plan on doing any intricate scoring designs.
Not only do they help support the bread so it holds its shape, the bread dough will also be colder when you score it, giving you more time to work before it needs to go into the oven.
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:
- 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.
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven - Any 4+ quart cast iron dutch oven will work here. In these photos I'm using the round 5 quart Milo Dutch oven from Kana Goods (disclaimer: it was gifted to me by the brand). An oval Dutch oven will also work, you can either squish a round loaf in it or shape the loaf into an oval instead. I also like using the Challenger Bread Pan for no-knead breads because it has an inverted design so you don't risk burning your arms trying to get the bread dough inside.
- Parchment Paper - I've been using these pre-cut parchment sheets lately and can usually get 2-3 uses out of them!
- 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.
- Lame - A lame (prounounced "lahm") is a sharp razor blade with a handle used for scoring bread dough. Use the corner of the blade at an angle for slashing. A sharp knife will also work. I used my Wire Monkey UFO-style lame (disclosure: it was gifted to me by the brand) for these photos.
- Bowl Scraper - A plastic bowl scraper makes removing the dough from your mixing bowl easy.
- Bench Scraper - A metal bench scraper provides broad support when lifting and flipping the dough. You can also use it to help create tension while shaping.
- Flour Duster - I always keep flour in a flour duster handy so I can easily dust my counter and bread with flour without it being clumpy or uneven.
Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- Use lightly floured hands when shaping the dough. 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.
- If floured hands don't seem to be working for you, try using lightly damp or lightly oiled hands when handling and shaping the dough instead.
- Be gentle and use very light pressure during the shaping steps to leave as much air inside the dough as possible.
- This is a great base recipe for adding lots of fun spices, herbs, cheese, seeds, and more. Just remember if you add anything wet like peppers, raw onions, olives, etc. it will add moisture to the dough. And if you add too many dry ingredients, it also can affect the dough's hydration. I recommend adding no more than 78 grams of additional flavorings/ingredients/mixins to this dough. That's about 20% by baker's percentage (20% of the total weight of the flour).
- You should absolutely feel free to experiment with adjusting the hydration levels of this recipe to find your perfect version! Keeping everything else the same, you can go as low as 70% hydration or as high as 90% hydration and see how it changes the outcome! Less water means a tighter crumb. More water means an airier, more open crumb.
This no knead bread is best eaten with in the first 3-4 days after baking. You can store it at room temperature for 5-7 days. Storing it in an airtight container like a large resealable bag works well, though the crust will soften due to trapped moisture.
A cloth bag, brown paper bag, or a bread box with a controlled air vent will help the bread retain moisture while preserving the crunchy crust.
Do not refrigerate bread; the fridge temperature will make it go stale even faster.
To freeze this no knead bread, slice it first. Store it in an airtight plastic bag in the freezer with as much air pressed out of the bag as possible. Reheat from frozen in a toaster.
Recipe FAQ - Baking without a dutch oven, etc.
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. Depending on how much you pack the flour in and what brand of measuring cups you’re using, you may be off by 30-50 grams of flour per cup which can make a huge difference in how your bread comes out.
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!
Basically, if you convert this recipe to cup measurements it will have a higher rate of failure. I don’t recommend it!
I tested this on a sheet pan in a 450°F oven with an ice cube on the sheet pan to create steam and it does work, but the crust isn't quite as nice and I find the open space of the oven results in more bread blowouts on the bottom even when you properly vent the top. The confined space of the Dutch oven really will give you the best results. The Kitchn has a good blog post with alternatives to Dutch ovens, but I haven't personally tested them and can't speak to how they would change the bake time for this recipe.
Yes! Active dry yeast is basically instant yeast with a little shell around each granule. That shell needs to dissolve before it starts working. If you want to be precise and you're using active dry yeast, increase the amount of yeast the recipe calls for by 25% (this would be about 3 grams of active dry yeast in a cold kitchen, 1.5 grams in a warm kitchen).
However, because the long rise time on this dough gives that active dry yeast shell plenty of time to dissolve, and because measuring 1.5 grams of yeast is impossible without a jeweler's scale, you actually don't need to make any adjustments to the yeast quantity. You can simply use 2 grams in a cold kitchen or 1 gram in a warm kitchen, the same as you would if using instant yeast.
The long rise time also means you can use active dry yeast just like the instant yeast, mixed into the dry ingredients without blooming it in water first. For this particular recipe, the only reason to bloom your active dry yeast in water first is if you're not sure it's still good.
Getting a nice tall loaf of bread depends on proper proofing, your shaping technique, and can be affected by the size of your Dutch oven. I got the best results baking this in a 5.5 quart Dutch oven. If you used a bigger (7+ quart) Dutch oven, if your dough was overproofed at all, or if you didn't create enough gentle surface tension when you shaped the dough, these are all things that can cause a loaf to bake up with a flatter shape.
TL;DR - Recipe Summary
- Mix the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water and mix into a sticky dough.
- Cover and rise for 18-20 hours at room temperature.
- Turn the dough onto a well floured surface. Dust lightly with flour.
- Tuck the edges of the dough up to form a ball. Flip so the seam side is down. Transfer to a crumpled and flattened sheet of parchment paper.
- Dust the top with flour, cover and rest 30 minutes while the Dutch oven preheats at 450°F.
- Score the top of the dough. Then place the dough in the Dutch oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes covered, then 10-15 minutes uncovered.
- Let cool completely before slicing.
No Knead Dutch Oven Bread
- Mix your dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast) together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients for the water.
- Pour the water into the middle of the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. It will be shaggy and messy. That's okay. Cover the bowl and set it aside at room temp to rest for 18-20 hours (or in the fridge for up to 7 days). You're looking for the dough to double or triple in size with a flat, bubbly top. Depending on the ambient temperature in your kitchen, the dough may be ready a little before the 18 hour mark, or be fine slightly past the 20 hour mark. You have a pretty big window of time to work with here!
- During the final hour of the rise time, preheat oven to 450°F. When the oven reaches temperature, place a Dutch oven inside, covered, and let preheat for 30 minutes at 450°F. Crumple a piece of parchment paper into a ball. Flatten it out, then crumple and flatten it out again.
- While Dutch oven preheats, generously flour a clean countertop. Gently release the dough from the sides of the bowl and turn it out onto the counter. Dust the top lightly with flour, just enough so your hands don't stick.
- Gently stretch the dough into a loose square. Dust any excess flour off the top. Fold the corners of the dough across itself to pull it into a round shape with the edges pinched together on top. Flip the loaf over so the seam side is underneath. Cup your hands around it and lightly lift and rotate the ball of dough against the counter, tucking the dough underneath itself as you go to create surface tension on top.
- Use the bench scraper to lift the ball of dough onto the flattened piece of crumpled parchment paper. Dust the surface of the dough lightly with flour, cover it with a clean dish towel, and let it sit until the Dutch oven finishes preheating.
- Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Take the lid off and set it aside. Score the top of the loaf to create a vent for steam to escape. Gather the corners of the parchment paper together, pick the dough up and place it inside the Dutch oven. Put the lid back on the Dutch oven.
- Bake with the lid on for 30 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 completely before slicing.
- Gluten firms up in the fridge; if you find the sticky dough is too hard to handle at room temperature, you can pop it in the fridge for up to 2 days prior to baking. It will be much easier to shape while it's cold. Let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour after shaping and before baking.
- To freeze: Slice the baked bread, then place in an airtight bag in the freezer with as much air pressed out as possible. Reheat from frozen in a toaster for 2-3 minutes.
- If using a banneton or brotform, dust the basket well with rice flour, then transfer the shaped loaf of dough smooth side down into the basket. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Then proceed with the recipe as written!
- For a long, cold rise, refrigerate the dough immediately after mixing or after at least 12 hours at room temperature. It will be fine in the fridge for up to 5 days!
- Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is half as salty as other brands of salt by volume, so make sure you're measuring salt by weight! If you're using a different type or brand of salt and measuring by volume, cut the amount of salt in half.