Russian Rye Bread

This Russian Rye Bread recipe uses dark rye flour, molasses, and caraway and fennel seeds to create its dense, chewy texture and classic taste. Cocoa powder deepens the color, or you can use the black cocoa variation and call it a Russian black bread.

Read on to get the scoop about rye flour, the differences between rye and pumpernickel, and the detailed step-by-step in how to make a Russian rye sandwich bread. Or hit that jump to recipe button, grab your apron, and let’s make Russian rye bread!

sliced loaf of black russian rye bread on a cutting board.
Jump to:


bag of dark rye flour.

Rye flour is a strongly-flavored flour made from milling whole rye grain. It’s categorized into light, medium, and dark rye, depending on the amount of bran and germ retained in the milling process. Pumpernickel is just a rye flour made from the whole grain.

Rye flour has gluten and isn’t a substitute for folks with celiac disease. Also like with wheat flour, pumpernickel and dark rye breads tend to be denser and less airy. That’s why this Russian rye bread uses wheat flour to improve the dark rye bread’s rise and texture while still maintaining the distinctive rye flavor. If you love dense breads, try making Borodinsky bread – it’s a dense sourdough made with 100% pumpernickel rye flour!

Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.

Recipe tips and tricks

This recipe shares similarities with my sweet brown molasses bread. Both are colored with cocoa and coffee. Both have a bit of sweetness added. Both have oil or butter to add softness.

But that’s where the similarities end. While that loaf is soft and light, this 50% rye sandwich bread is denser and fragrant with fennel and caraway seeds.

Step by step

Instructions for this rye bread are the same whether you are making the recipe with standard cocoa or a Russian black bread with black cocoa.

Step 1: Make the sponge. Combine dark rye or pumpernickel flour mixed with yeast, coffee, and cocoa in your mixing bowl (Panel #1). Add the water and molasses and whisk them together (Panel #2).

four panels showing three steps to make the bread and a black cocoa comparison.

Step 2: Cover the sponge with additional flour and yeast, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours until it starts to bubble through (Panel #3). Panel #4 is a sponge made using black cocoa. Check out that color!

Step 3: Mix and knead in the rest of the ingredients, adding a bit more water if your dough is dry or more bread flour if your dough is wet. The rye bread dough will be tacky to touch.

Step 4: Form a ball, and let your rye dough rise in a medium bowl covered with plastic wrap until it has doubled in size.

the Russian rye sandwich bread recipe before and after its first rise.

Tip from the wise quacker: The best ambient temperature for making bread is in the high 70s. If your home is cool, you can create a warm, place in two ways: 1) Turn on your oven (use the proofing function if it has one) and turn it off when it reaches 80 degrees or 2) Heat a microwave-safe cup of water in your microwave for a minute or two. Remove the water and quickly add your bread dough.

Step 5: Shape the dough into a sandwich loaf, place it seam side down into a greased loaf pan, and again cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise until it has risen to about one inch over the side of the loaf pan.

the russian rye sandwich bread before and after its second rise in the loaf pan.

Step 6: Bake your for about 40 to 45 minutes until the internal temperature is about 190 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove it from the pan immediately, and please let your Russian rye bread cool for at least one hour before cutting!

a slice of Russian black bread and rye sandwich bread on a plate

How to serve Russian rye bread

  • Make a dreamy Reuben with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese.
  • Slice it thinly and toast it for breakfast smeared with some cream cheese.
  • Dip into a hearty soup like this garbanzo bean soup.
loaf of black russian rye bread being sliced into slices.

Recipe FAQs

Where did you buy black cocoa powder?

I was able to find it online on Amazon.

How should I store Russian rye bread?

Most bread can be kept at room temperature in an air-tight container for three to five days. Don’t store bread in the refrigerator, or it will dry out.

Can I freeze this bread?

Yes. Bread freezes very well. Just slice it, place the slices in a freezer bag, and squeeze out all of the air. Bread will keep in the freezer for three to six months.

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.


Russian Rye Bread

5 from 1 vote
Category: Bread
Cuisine: Russian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Rising times: 9 hours
Total Time: 10 hours
Servings: 16
Calories: 129kcal
This Russian rye bread makes a dense and chewy rye sandwich loaf that is fragrant with fennel and caraway seeds.
Print Recipe


  • 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan



  • 1 cup (120 grams or 4.2 ounces) dark rye or pumpernickel flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1⅛ cup (255 mL or 9 ounces) warm water plus more as necessary
  • 2 tablespoons molasses

Russian rye bread

  • 2 cups (250 grams or 4.4 ounces) bread flour plus more as needed
  • 1 cup (120 grams or 4.2 ounces) dark rye or pumpernickel flour
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral vegetable oil
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds


  • Make the sponge by whisking together all of the ingredients (rye flour, cocoa, coffee, yeast, water, and molasses) in the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium to large sized mixing bowl.
    1 cup (120 grams or 4.2 ounces) dark rye or pumpernickel flour, 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1 tablespoon instant coffee, ½ teaspoon instant yeast, 1⅛ cup (255 mL or 9 ounces) warm water, 2 tablespoons molasses
  • On top of the sponge, add the bread flour, additional cup of rye flour, and additional yeast.
    2 cups (250 grams or 4.4 ounces) bread flour, 1 cup (120 grams or 4.2 ounces) dark rye or pumpernickel flour, ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it set at warm room temperature until the sponge is bubbling through, about 1 to 3 hours.
  • Mix the sponge and flours together, then add the vinegar, oil, and salt. Mix until the dough starts to come together, adding more bread flour or water as necessary to get a slightly sticky dough. Switch to the dough hook in your mixer once the dough comes together.
    2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral vegetable oil, 1½ teaspoons salt
  • Knead for 5 to 6 minutes, add the caraway and fennel seeds, and knead for another 2 to 3 minutes until the dough is soft and stretchable.
    1 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Form the dough into a boule, place it back in your mixing bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise at warm room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 2-3 hours.
  • Grease a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan, shape your dough into a loaf, and place it seam down into the pan. Let it rise at warm room temperature until it has risen to about one inch about the sides of the loaf pan.
  • Meanwhile preheat your oven to 375°F.
  • Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the bread is 190 to 195°F.
  • Unmold immediately and let cool on a baking rack.


Feel free to substitute other rye flours for the dark or pumpernickel rye flour in this Russian rye bread. You can also make this as a pure rye bread, but it will be much denser.
Use black cocoa in this recipe if you want a Russian black bread.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 129kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 220mg | Potassium: 128mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg
Love this recipe?Mention @Uglyducklingbakery or tag #uglyducklingbakery!

This Russian rye bread recipe was originally created for the reddit 52 weeks of baking challenge, week 49: Russia.

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Previous challenges
Week 1: New Year new recipe – blueberry galette
Week 2: seasonal – Smitten Kitchen’s grapefruit pound cake
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Week 20: plating – mini chocolate chip cookies
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Next week: Yeast

sliced loaf of Russian rye sandwich bread and knife on a cutting board.

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