No-Knead Beginner Sourdough

No knead, rustic sourdough is the perfect beginner recipe for a delicious loaf of crusty sourdough bread. It will produce an addictive, crunchy crust and a yummy middle. It doesn’t take much active time, just a lot of “hands off” time and you can have a delicious loaf of bread with no commercial yeast. This bread is no-knead and even the newest bakers can make it and treat their families and loved ones to some of the best bread right out of your home oven. Basically, it’s the perfect starter recipe. I love that you can keep the dough in your fridge for up to two days before baking. Fresh-baked bread on demand?! Sign me up! If you are new to sourdough, this recipe is for you!

Sourdough Sample Schedule

I put sample schedules at the beginning of my sourdough recipes. This is not meant to be followed exactly. It is to give you an idea of how to fit a recipe into your schedule. The schedule assumes a dough temperature of 78-80ºF. I hope it’s helpful to you.

Day 1
8:00 AM – 11:00 AMMix together ripe sourdough starter, water and flour to make levain. Let rest at 78ºF until bubbly and ripe, about 3-4 hours. If you have an ripe, active starter, you can replace that with the levain if desired.
11:00 AMMix together levain, flour, water and salt.
Begin Bulk Fermentation and let rest 1 hour.
12:00 PMStretch and Fold #1
1:00 PMStretch and Fold #2
2:00 PMStretch and Fold #3
3:00 or
4:00 PM
End Bulk fermentation when the dough is ready (puffed up, doming toward the middle, pulling away from edges, a few scattered bubbles)
Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.
Day 2
AnytimePre-heat dutch oven for 30 minutes

Sourdough Basics

If you are a sourdough beginner, it’s important to understand a couple basics. People will often use different terms when talking about the rising agent in sourdough. You will see recipes on the internet or in cookbooks that talk about starter and levain (or leaven). I always use a levain method when baking with sourdough and you will see that throughout my website. A levain is an offshoot of a sourdough starter. It is a mixture of starter, flour and water that has unique characteristics. A levain is created for a specific recipe and will be used entirely in the day’s bake. Read more about levain and sourdough starter here.

Making the Levain

You have two options when it comes to making the levain for this recipe.

  • Make the levain the day you bake. This is what I have listed in the recipe. Take 90 grams of ripe sourdough starter and feed it 90 grams of flour and 90 grams of water. Cover and let sit until doubled in size, bubbly and peaks. If your starter is kept at 78 degrees, this should take 3-4 hours.
  • Make the levain the night before. For this option, take 15 grams of ripe sourdough starter. Feed it 150 grams flour and 150 grams water. Cover and let sit overnight until doubled in size, bubbly and peaks. If your starter is kept at 78 degrees, this should take about 12 hours.
  • Also Note: If your sourdough starter is very ripe, bubbly and active you can substitute it for levain in this recipe.

Whichever method you choose, make sure that you use sourdough starter that is ripe. Read this for more information about sourdough starter and it’s fermentation cycle. You will know your levain is ready to be mixed into the dough when it is also ripe, bubbly and has doubled in size.

Mixing the Dough

To a large mixing bowl, add the ripe levain, flour, water and salt. If your kitchen is cold and your ingredients are cold, use warm water. If your kitchen is warm and your ingredients are warm, you may need to use cool water. You can take the temperature of your ingredients with a thermometer to know for sure. The dough should be kept right around 78-80 degrees F for best fermentation. Read this for more information on how temperature affects sourdough. Mix together with a dough whisk or your hands until a shaggy dough forms.

Bulk Fermentation

Bulk fermentation is the time right after the dough has been mixed until it is baked. I like to split my bulk fermentation into two parts: Bulk Fermentation (at warm room temperature, 78 F) and Cold Bulk Fermentation.

  • Bulk Fermentation at warm room temperature: This should take about 4 hours total at warm room temperature (78-80ºF). During that four hours, you will perform 3 sets of “stretch and folds.” A set of “stretch and folds ” takes the place of traditional kneading and helps strengthen the gluten strands in the dough.
    • How to “stretch and fold:” Reach your hand down into the bowl. Pick up the underside of the dough. Fold it on top of itself. Turn the bowl after each fold and pick up a different section of the dough, stretching it and folding it on top of itself.” Watch video here.

Signs Dough is Ready for the Refrigerator: Dough is ready to put in the refrigerator when it has puffed up and risen 30-40%, is doming toward the middle and pulling away from the edges just a bit and has some scattered bubbles around the top. If you don’t see these signs, let the dough ferment longer.

  • Cold Bulk Fermentation in the refrigerator: After four hours at warm room temperature (78-80ºF), cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. I typically let the dough sit overnight before shaping and baking but you can leave it in the refrigerator for 48 hours if desired.

Dutch Oven For Crispy Crust

One more important note about this recipe and about artisan sourdough bread in general is that you will need a dutch oven to bake it in. A dutch oven helps trap the steam which gives your loaf of bread a beautiful “oven spring” and rise. If you don’t have a dutch oven or a bread and potato pot and want to bake sourdough, you can try using a baking stone (affiliate link). The pizza stone may not give quite the same results, but they should be good if you follow these steps: Place a pan with ice cubes on the bottom rack of your oven before transferring the dough onto the baking stone. This will generate some steam and give you some crust and rise. I do highly recommend investing in a dutch oven if you can and are planning to make sourdough bread. It is worth it. The caramelized crust and delicious flavor with a hint of sourdough are perfect when paired with some soft butter or a dollop of jam.

Baking No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Pre-heat the Dutch Oven: Put your dutch oven (top and all) into the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Allow the dutch oven to heat for about 30 minutes at 500 degrees before baking your first loaf. You are working with very high temperatures and you don’t want to burn yourself, so make sure you have some good hot pads.

Shaping the Bread: Immediately after setting the dutch oven to preheat, pull out a piece of parchment paper. Take your dough out of the fridge and shape into a round ball. Do not punch down the dough, just lightly form with the palms of your hands. It should be fairly easy to work with because it is cold. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes while the dutch oven pre-heats.

Scoring: After the dough rests for 30 minutes, smooth a little flour over the top of the cold dough (add a little extra for more contrast if desired). Use a very sharp knife or bread lame to score the dough. You can do a fancy design or a simple square. The point of scoring is to allow the steam to rise through the bread for a beautiful “oven spring”, but it also makes for a fun look!

Baking: Take the dutch oven out of the oven. Warning: This is a VERY HOT dutch oven. Keep those oven mitts on and be very careful not to burn yourself. Take the top off the dutch oven and place the dough and parchment paper into the dutch oven. Place the top back on the dutch oven and close the oven door. Decrease temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. After 25 minutes take the lid off and bake for an additional 20 minutes until crispy.

Watch No-Knead Beginner Sourdough from Start to Finish Here

No-Knead Beginner Sourdough

The perfect no knead, rustic sourdough bread for beginners! This recipe will produce a crunchy crust, yummy middle and it does all the work itself in this relatively hands-off sourdough made with no commercial yeast. It's the perfect starter recipe if you are new to sourdough.
4.73 from 11 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Resting/Rising Time 23 hours
Total Time 1 day 45 minutes
Course Bread, Sourdough
Cuisine American
Servings 1 loaf


Levain(3-4 hours until peak)

  • 85 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • 85 grams water warm or cool depending on the temperature
  • 85 grams all purpose flour

Dough (8-36 hour rise)

  • 230 grams levain about 1 cup
  • 400 grams water, room temperature about 1 3/4 cups
  • 600 grams bread flour or all purpose (see recipe note) about 4 1/2 cups
  • 12 grams salt about 2 teaspoons


Mix Levain (ready in 3-4 hours at 78-80ºF)

  • To a clear liquid measuring cup add 90 grams of starter, 90 grams of water and 90 grams of flour. Mix together. Cover and let sit at warm room temperature (78-80ºF) for about 3-4 hours until the mixture is bubbly, doubled in size and just about to fall. Once the levain has doubled in size and has reached it's peak height, it is ready to use.

No-Knead Beginner Sourdough

  • Mix Dough: Mix 230 grams of ripe levain, room temperature water, flour and salt in a bowl using a wooden spoon or dough whisk (affiliate link). The dough will look “shaggy” (rough, craggy and a little bit lumpy) at first but mix until it forms a ball. Cover the bowl and let rest for 1 hour at 78-80ºF.
  • Stretch & Fold #1: After an hour, uncover the bowl and do a series of three "stretch and folds". To do this, pick up the underside of the dough and fold it on top of itself, turning the bowl after each fold and picking up a different section of the dough to fold and turn. An example of this folding technique is found here (halfway through the video). Cover the bowl again and let it rest for another hour, keeping the dough at 78-80ºF.
  • Stretch & Fold #2: After an hour, uncover the bowl and repeat the series of three stretch and folds. Notice how the dough is coming together. It doesn’t feel shaggy anymore and is becoming more stretchy and cohesive. Cover the bowl again and let rest at a warm temperature 78-80ºF for one hour.
  • Stretch & Fold #3: Uncover the bowl and repeat the series of three stretch and folds. This is your final set of stretch and folds. Cover the dough and let rest for another hour, keeping the dough warm 78-80ºF.
  • At this point about 4 hours should have passed from the time you initially mixed the dough. The dough should have risen 30-40%, have some scattered bubbles over the top of the dough, pull away from the sides and start to dome toward the center and feel more elastic. If it doesn't look that way, let it keep fermenting for another 30 minutes and check again. Check your dough temperature and make sure your dough is in the 78-80ºF range.
  • Cold Bulk Fermentation: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and put it in the refrigerator to rest overnight. The dough can stay in the refrigerator for 12 to 48 hours. See recipe notes for instructions on baking the same day.
  • Pre-heat the Oven: The next morning (or whenever you are ready to bake your bread), put a dutch oven into your oven with the lid on and set the oven to 500ºF. Preheat the dutch oven by leaving it in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Shaping: Immediately after setting the dutch oven to preheat, pull out a piece of parchment paper. Take your dough out of the fridge. Dump dough on the counter and use your hands to shape the dough into a round ball, gently dragging the dough on the counter as you shape it into a ball. The dough should be fairly easy to work with because it is cold. Use wet hands if the dough is sticky.
  • Scoring: When your dutch oven has preheated for 30 minutes, score the top of your bread with a bread lame (affiliate link), sharp knife or razor.
  • Bake the Bread: Take the dutch oven out of the oven. Warning: This is a VERY HOT dutch oven. Keep those oven mitts on and be very careful not to burn yourself. Take the top off the dutch oven and place the dough and parchment paper into the dutch oven. Place the top back on the dutch oven and close the oven door. Immediately decrease the baking temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, take the top off the dutch oven and continue baking for 20 more minutes. The internal temperature should be 205ºF when finished baking.
  • Pull the bread out of the oven. Wait until cool to cut into it. Enjoy!


Sourdough Starter: This recipe requires a ripe, bubbly, active sourdough starter. A levain is made from the starter to raise the bread. If you don’t want to make the levain, you can substitute ripe, active sourdough starter instead.
Bread Flour: If you don’t have bread flour on hand, you can substitute all purpose flour and vital wheat gluten. Use 600 grams of all purpose flour and add a Tablespoon vital wheat gluten. 
Instructions for Baking without Refrigerating the Dough: The sourdough flavor comes through the most and is more complex the longer you refrigerate the dough. If you want to bake the bread immediately without refrigerating, once you finish your series of stretch and folds, let the dough rest in the container a couple of hours to rise. Once it is puffed up and doubled in size, preheat the oven and pot. Gently shape the dough into a round ball, doing your best not to deflate the dough. Cover and let sit for another hour while the oven preheats. Then score and bake according to the recipe.
Dutch Oven: This is the dutch oven I have used for many years. I recently purchased this bread and potato pot and love the bake I get with it. If you don’t have a dutch oven you can also heat a baking stone preheated to 500 degrees. Once the stone is pre-heated, place a pan with about a cup of ice cubes into the hot oven on the bottom rack. Then place the bread on the pizza stone. This will mimic a dutch-oven bake.
Keyword artisan sourdough, artisan sourdough bread, beginner sourdough, easy sourdough, easy sourdough banana bread, easy sourdough bread recipe, easy sourdough recipe, fluffy sourdough bread, no knead bread, no knead sourdough, sourdough, sourdough made easy
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Recipe Rating


  1. My dough seems way too wet and just collapses to flat when I take it out the fridge. Could I be adding to much water? I do weigh it as per your recipe.

    1. What kind of flour are you using? Is it bread flour? If you aren’t using a bread flour (12.5% or higher protein content), then you will need to reduce the water in the recipe. If it is not a flour issue, then it’s possible it could be over-proofing (how warm is the dough during bulk fermentation?).

      1. Hi Amy. So I used a mixture of strong white and wholegrain bread flour. Wholegrain is 14% and white is 12.5%. I have it on heat mat and must admit that I don’t know the temperature of the actual dough, but assumed it was good cos I used it to make the starter which was rising and falling predictably within a week. Maybe the mat does get too hot?!? It was a fermentation heat mat I bought for kombucha ages ago. X

      2. I don’t think it’s a flour issue then. The mat could get too hot depending on the temperature or just speed up your fermentation making it overproof – which can result in a sticker dough. Glad the loaf still turned out for you!

  2. My dough is always pretty wet right before baking. I’m not sure what’s going on….any tips? My first couple loafs were great but recently they are wet and don’t bake up quite right!

    1. Have you changed the flour in the recipe? Anything else changed? I would probably decrease the water a little bit if you are consistently having that issue so it’s easier to handle. You can also try mixing the dough a little bit more by hand when you incorporate everything.

  3. 5 stars
    Hi Amy! I’ve tried a few sourdough starter recipes, but I have found yours to be the most helpful! One quick question – my dough, when I turned it out onto the parchment this morning, stuck! I pulled it off, floured a new parchment sheet, and put the formed ball on there and it STILL stuck to the parchment in the oven! What am I doing wrong??

    1. What kind of parchment paper are you using? I’ve found that not all parchment paper is created equal. I love the parchment paper from Costco (doesn’t stick). You can also try a silicone bread mat.

      1. Oh, interesting. I did not know that. I don’t have a Costco membership but I can try a different brand. I’m currently using the Sprouts parchment pre-cut sheets. Thanks for the tip,

      2. Yes, I would try a different brand and see if it works better. Or use a silicone liner.

  4. 5 stars
    This is the the only recipe I use! My bread comes out perfect every time! Thank you for sharing this and all of your recipes!

  5. What is your guidance if your house is not 78-80 degrees? I see the timing and temperature recommendations consistent with that but don’t know anyone who keeps their house they warm so my recipe timing always seems WAYYY off due to slow rise time. I’d appreciate any insight.

    1. Your house doesn’t have to be that warm (mine is NOT), but the dough should be near that for optimal fermentation. I now use a bread proofer or dough mat, but before I bought them, for many years I used my oven with the light on (had to turn it off sometimes or it got too hot). Or on top of a warm appliance, covered. I also sometimes put boiling water in the microwave and stored the dough in there. Anything to keep my dough temperature up just a little bit. If your dough isn’t that warm it’s going to take much longer to ferment and is harder for me to predict the timeline. You will want to watch for your dough to get airy, almost doubled in size and have bubbles all around the top before placing in the fridge (for colder dough).

    1. What kind of flour are you using? Have you made a sourdough loaf before? This is a more wet/sticky dough. If you aren’t comfortable with the stickiness, you can reduce the water a little bit if you make it again to make it easier to handle.