I have a plethora of whole grains (barley, rye, wheat berries, kamut, spelt) sitting around my kitchen, and I'm getting bored with soups and salads. Is it possible to use these in bread (yeast, preferably, but quick/tea breads are also okay)?

If so, what are the best approaches/ratios? Should I cook them first? Let them sprout? Pointers to recipes would be greatly appreciated.

  • 2
    I once wrote a borad answer to a similar question, maybe it will give you some ideas. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12611/…
    – rumtscho
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 16:03
  • Have you reviewed the grain addition/preparation methods in any other recipes?
    – Catija
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 0:38

3 Answers 3


I use whole grains in my bread- wheat, oats, quinoa, etc.

There are a couple considerations: 1- rehydration If the grain won't be adequately rehydrated from just sitting in water for an hour then it should be precooked. Wheat berries, for example, definitely need to be cooked. They just won't get enough water or time in the dough while it is rising.

A little experimenting may need to be done to get the water ratio right.

2- sharpness Adding hard ingredients will change the dynamic of your dough kneading. For example, if you knead in a mixer then you might have to go at a slower speed to keep from shredding the gluten.

Sprouting grains is fantastic. Sprouted grains are very nutritious and have a completely different flavor that I find very interesting. Sprouts also have a lot of sugar in them. I sometimes replace some of the sugar in my recipes with sprouted, dried, and ground wheat berries.

  • Do you have a recipe? How many cups of rehydrated grains do you add to a standard recipe per loaf of bread? Do you use the grains to replace part of the flour, or do you just add them to the regular ingredients? Thanks!
    – nerdpod
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 15:26
  • @nerdpod- I don't have a recipe because I just eyeball it. If you know what your dough is supposed to look like then you can adjust the flour/water while kneading to correct mistakes. I would guess that I add less than 1/4 of whole grain per loaf- you could add more but I just want it to add some texture without taking over. It does not replace flour because it does not add to the structure of the bread at all. Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 15:33

You may think it is as simple as just asking as a rather general, "how can I add grains?" but honestly, the right answer is a very big "it depends". However, some initial things to consider.

Not all grains, nor all grinds of grains absorb the same amount of moisture, nor do they all absorb it in the same amount of time or in the same way. For example, if you have a cup of of cake flour and a cup of whole wheat flour, and add the same amount of water to both, one would end up a dryer feeling dough than the other because they absorb water differently. This same idea extends to all the additions you might be making. If you are adding steel cut oats vs. light rye flour vs. pumpernickel flour vs. spelt vs. etc... you will need to adjust the amount of water. And the truth is, this is likely best learned through experimenting with the grains you have available to work with (due to things like storage location, humidity of the kitchen, etc... these adjustments won't always be the same for everyone, so buy a few small packages of other grains and experiment). You already have an idea of what texture of dough you're comfortable with though, so your starting point is likely to mix your ingredients together, leaving the flour and grains as the last addition and adding as much as needed to get the desired texture of the dough. Don't let the measuring cups dictate what bread you have, let the dough dictate how much you measure.

Second, as mentioned above, some grains absorb water slower than others. So, for example, if you're using whole wheat flour instead of a general all purpose white flour, it may help if you mix up all of the ingredients and then wait 10 or so minutes before kneading so you can see if its the right consistency/texture you want and adjust from there before kneading.

Additionally, some grains take so long it is better to let them fully hydrate (and potentially soften some) before mixing them to the dough at all. This is easily accomplished with what is often called a soaker, which is basically just mixing any grains with water (generally just enough water to barely cover the grains) and letting it sit for several hours to overnight. Then you'd add the soaker in as you make the dough, making sure to allow for the additional water you added via the soaker. Another option would be to cook the grain such as in the case of recipes that call for leftover oatmeal or cooked rice to be added to the dough during the initial mixing of the dough. The important thing to remember is simply, if you add a big hard seed to the dough, it will take the same things to soften the seed in a bread to an enjoyable point as it would in any other circumstance: moisture for an extended period or hot moisture for a shorter period. You'd never take raw steel cut oats, pour them in a bowl, add some cold tap water and stick a spoon it it and eat... you're going to have to soften them at some point to make them enjoyable via time or temperature.

I wish I could give you more specifics, but it depends so much on what specific grains you are wanting to add and what end result you are aiming for (ex: if you want to add more crunch or grit to the texture of your bread to make it feel heartier you'd treat it differently than if you're simply trying to hide whole grains in the loaf you're already used to).

My best suggestion would be to start with some trusted recipes for whole grain breads to get a feel for how the grains work, then you can adjust your own bread recipe and process to include grains once you know them better. If you need some sources, there are some great resources for bread recipes, including whole grains, including "The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking", http://www.thefreshloaf.com/ and http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/whole-wheat/whole-grain-


There are grain/seed mixes sold specifically for adding to bread. These come with instructions and might be a good place to start.

Alternatively there are bread flours with added grains. These are less common than mixes including the yeast but I've used them successfully.

In both these cases the added grains seem softer than similar seeds sold for other things (but most of my experience of the latter is bird food) so they're either selected or pre-softened. while some extra water is required, your measurements have to be quite precise to start with for this to be greater than the rounding error assuming a small quantity of seeds.

Another idea I've seen sold round here: make loaf as normal; roll top of loaf in porridge oats just before baking; be sure not to over-brown.

  • Note: this was originally an answer to a duplicate question worded slightly differently, which is why it only answers some of this question.
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 17:18
  • Right, @ChrisH. I wrote the supposed duplicate which you generously answered - thanks again.
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 17:19
  • @JoeBlow I just wanted to leave a little caveat to cover the gaps
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 17:46

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