Fluffy 100% Whole Wheat Bread: It Can Be Done!!

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A few weeks ago, I pulled a cookbook off my shelf, searching for a bread recipe. I’ve been baking up bread at least once a week to feed my kiddos and the bachelor who lives downstairs.

I love bread-baking, in case I haven’t mentioned that a time or twenty. I love the smell of the yeast, the ingredients learning to cling together. The rising dough. A soft, brown crust.

I’ve mostly been making white bread lately, with a cup or two of whole-wheat flour thrown in. Even though it makes me cringe, it’s just so much easier than fussing with whole-wheat bread. The whole-wheat recipe I’d fallen back on time and time again required soaking of grains, 10-20 minutes with my mixer, and a bread that tasted like honey to me. (I’m just not a huge fan of most honeys, and although I use it I don’t want the taste to be overwhelming.)

So anyway, I made a recipe for simple bread loaves from Food That Says Welcome, a great little paperback cookbook from Barbara Smith—Michael W. Smith’s mom! It was the puffiest, softest bread I’d ever made. I lovingly called it “pillow bread” and gave the recipe a big star. But … I wanted to make it a whole-wheat bread, since white flour has basically no nutritional value.

I’ve decided the key to this puffy bread is triple rising. Yep, you heard me. Yes, that adds additional time to bread-baking, which is already a lengthy process. But it’s totally worth it. And, as this recipe shows, it can even make 100% whole wheat bread soft and puffy. I’ve NEVER had a 100% whole wheat bread that wasn’t dense.

So, whole foodies, your problems are solved. Make this bread. Listen to the rave reviews. Smile because you know the secret. And if you’re feeling generous, share the recipe.

Fluffy 100% Whole Wheat Bread Loaves

Fluffy 100% Whole Wheat Bread Loaves


  • 5 tsp. or 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 c. warm water, divided
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. sugar (I used sucanat)
  • 1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
  • 1 T salt
  • 6 c. white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur White Whole Wheat)


This recipe can be made either in a stand mixer with dough hooks or mixed by hand. Because there is not a lot of kneading, it’s not too bad to do by hand.

Pour 1/2 cup warm water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over it. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter over low heat. Add honey and sugar and stir together. Let cool slightly – it’s OK if it’s warm, but not hot.

Add butter mixture, salt, and remaining 2 cups water to the yeast and water in the bowl and stir well to combine.

One cup at a time, add in flour and stir until it’s combined. When done, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead just until all the flour is worked into the dough. [Or, use speed 2 on your mixer with dough hooks.]

Cover bowl with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and then let rise again, about another 45 minutes to an hour.

Separate dough into two equal balls. Press each ball into a rectangle with floured hands, roll up lengthwise, and then tuck ends under. Place loaves in greased loaf pans.

Cover pans and let rise again 30 minutes, until dough is to the top of the pans.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until loaves are golden brown and sound a little hollow when you tap on them. Let loaves cool completely before slicing and serving.


78 thoughts on “Fluffy 100% Whole Wheat Bread: It Can Be Done!!

  1. I have her other cookbook, Cooking with Smitty’s Mom. I really like it. I didn’t know she had another one. Do you like most of the recipes in the book you have? I might have to add it to my collection. Thanks for the tip! I definitely need to try this!
    God bless,

  2. Yum! Can’t wait to try it. Never done the triple rise before. Have you over made this recipe with less sweetener or butter?

    • I’ve made it with oils instead of butter, and definitely gone lighter on the sweeteners. But never cut back the oil or butter amount. Butter is good for you. 🙂 And it’s split between three loaves, so it doesn’t seem excessive to me.

      • Yep, I’m a big fan of healthy fats. Butter is tasty. 🙂 Just used more than more other bread recipes I’ve made. Thanks for the reply. Craving warm whole wheat bread right now.

      • Are you kidding?! Its 100% fat! Use a light version if at all and PLEZ don’t give me its the “good Fat” crap its a lot of dense calories better used elsewhere.

        • “Light” versions of foods that come from natural sources are always going to be worse for you. I lost 90 lbs by trading magarines, light sour creams, skim milk, etc for the full fat versions. Gotta say, losing weight never tasted so good.

        • Yeah you may want to do some recent research about good fats and real fat from butter etc being much better for you.

          I’ve probably had butter almost every day since I was a toddler and my good cholesterol vs bad is super good and I’m slim and healthy

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  4. This looks yummy! Do the loaves freeze well? Although I bet freshly baked bread doesn’t last long enough to freeze it.

  5. I only have one loaf pan. Is it possible to bake only one at a time? Or perhaps I could make some into free-form loaves or rolls?

    • Yes, you can bake one at a time. Leave the extra dough in the fridge while you bake. You can also do freeform loaves, rolls, or shape loaves and freeze them after two rises. Defrost in a greased pan and let it rise (this does take a while, at least for me). Then cook as instructed.

  6. Made them this afternoon and they are light and fluffy as promised. Only problem with the recipe is where you say to let them completely cool before slicing. Who could wait for that? (Not us is the answer). We sacrificed one loaf to eat warm and wonderful and immediately.

    • Ha. The reason I said that is because the one loaf I tried hot seemed a little grainy. Possibly because I used sucanat in the dough. If yours wasn’t, all the better! Slather on butter and honey and gobble it up hot.

  7. Looks Yummy! Maybe I missed it, but I can’t find in the recipe when to add the yeast mixture? I’m a bit of a beginner and don’t want to mess this up- I don’t think I could wait to have to bake another if I messed up! Thanks!

    • Elissa, I am sorry if that was unclear. You mix the yeast and water in your mixing bowl. Then you add in the other wet ingredients, then the flour. Does that make sense? I changed some wording to make it more clear in the post.

  8. My husband was just put on a low sodium diet. I was wondering what your thoughts are about using unsalted butter in this recipe? This looks wonderful !

  9. I prefer not to add any sugar to my bread. Do you think I would get the same results if I just increased the honey a little?

      • Thanks for your quick response! I don’t mind the honey taste, so I’ll give it a try. I was just worried that adding more liquid would screw up the recipe.

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  11. Hi,this recipe had sounded delicious as well as easy. I am going to bake my first ever bread using your recipe. I hope it turns out as it sounds.

  12. I have made this recipe twice now. We love it! I have a problem getting it to rise the third time. I let it rise for an hour the third time and it still ends up kind of short. Should I try just making 2 loaves instead of 3 or am I doing something wrong?

    • I’ve seen people on Pinterest who say it only makes 2 loaves. My kitchen is REALLY warm (or the one where I wrote this recipe was) so that may account for the super-rising of my bread. Try 2 and see what happens!

  13. I tried it twice and all I can say is THANK YOU. I used just honey and olive oil instead of the butter since I am on a healthy diet to loose 90 pounds. That was what drove me to your blog since I want to know exactly what I’m consuming. My husband just can’t have enough. The first time I’ve ever baked in my life and it came out fluffy and yummy. Thanks.

  14. Can I use Bread Flour instead of regular flour? Just bought some and from what I read online, I think its ok but it was all alittle confusing!

  15. I love this recipe! Thank you! I do use regular whole wheat flour instead of white and molasses instead of honey. Delicious! A favorite in this house!! All of our friends like come to visit on “bread making day”!

  16. basically I have made bread in the past and can never get it rise enough for me -.- no matter how closely I followed the recipe.
    So I started using a bread machine and have tried a couple different recipes and they always come out to dense, nice when their fresh but as soon as they cool they suck and I have a hard time getting my kids to eat them.

    So I googled fluffy 100% whole what and the first site on the list it came up with was this one! SO I imagine it must be some yummy bread. I like the idea of making more then one load at a time so this works well for me!

    I am making our first batch now and am really excited. They seem to be rising with ease… I’m waiting the last 30 minutes before I pop them into the oven.
    Thanks, Ill let you know how it turned out!

    • I let the bread rise for the last 30 minutes after separating them into individual loaves , They didn’t rise enough :/ I must be doing something wrong!?

    • OK it makes me kind of nervous that someone I “know” is making this. I should tell you if your house isn’t insanely warm (as mine was when I made it and took pictures), the recipe makes three SMALL loaves or two sandwich-sized ones. Looking forward to hearing your review … which I hope will be positive!

  17. Maybe this is a silly question, but what size of bread pan do you use? I think mine are 9 x 5 or somewhere around there, and they are glass. Do I need to get a smaller size or would they work?

    • I use a combination of 9×5 and 8×5 because it’s what I have. I would say if you’re going to make two bigger loaves, use the 9×5 pans if possible. It doesn’t matter too much. 🙂

    • I don’t know too much about the science of baking, but I really don’t knead this at all, just combine the ingredients. And then yes, it’s a lot of rising! Make sure your yeast is nice and fresh, too.

  18. I made this a few weeks ago. It is the best bread I have ever made! I’m wondering if anyone has tried a gluten-free version of this. I want to make some for my gluten sensitive friend. What do you think? Any suggestions? I will let you know how it comes out.

    • Things baked with regular whole wheat flour tend to be heavier – the gluten content is different. You could try, but you might want to use a couple cups of regular white flour to balance it.

  19. My dough starts to clump up and almost fall apart, and it seems like the flour wont mix. Should I add more water? Or, is this normal? I am also using a standing mixer.

    • Clay, I am so sorry I just saw your comment. (Can I blame it on having a baby? Or just e-mails from WordPress not coming through?)

      I would say yes, you need more liquid. Try adding just a little more water until all of your flour will incorporate.

  20. If I knew you in person I’d be giving you the biggest hug right now! I just finished making this a little while ago (after 11pm) and it is delicious!! I’ve been trying for YEARS to get a fluffy whole grain bread. I’ve even done a triple rise before (but with a different recipe) and this is the first time I’ve been happy. It was so good, I made two sandwich loaves (which I brushed with butter during cooking) and one french loaf (which I spritzed with water during cooking) the french loaf is almost gone already because it is so amazing! FLUFFY and whole grain, perfection. Thank you!! I feel I should mention for others I was worried because my dough was VERY wet. I didn’t knead by hand I just turned up the level on the hand mixer (with dough hooks) and let it rise in the bowl I made it in (I maybe added an additional 1/8 cup of flour) but it came out wonderfully. I used the King Arthur whole wheat white flour too.

  21. This recipe is great! My bread was just OK until I started using this recipe now I feel like a pro. The bread comes out perfect every time, thanks for sharing!

  22. This recipe is the best, so easy and simple!! I added vital gluten to improve the rising and use stevia instead of sugar. works great. I’ve done it many times, adding rosemary thyme oregano garlic etc, also with flax and sesame seeds. i’ve even done a sweet version adding cinnamon and bit more honey… Thank you very much!

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  24. Hello! i just tried this recipe and it did turn out light and fluffy but it has a strong sour after-taste. Any idea why?
    Thank you!

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  26. What size pans do you use? Also the last few times I’ve made this my dough has been so runny and soupy and I hate to add too much flour. Any thoughts?

  27. I agree with a triple rise for whole wheat. I found that instead of “punching” down the dough I had a fluffier end product if I followed the approach of professional bread baker Ciril Hirz and do a gentle degas, fold & stretch after the first rise then follow his shaping techniques for the final rise. He’s got some great videos on YouTube on shaping loaves and I got two books & a DVD from my library of him sharing his techniques.

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