It’s easy to make whole wheat bread! This no-fail homemade bread recipe bakes up golden brown into a wholesome loaf with a soft, hearty texture perfect for sandwiches.
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Best Soft Whole Wheat Bread
This whole wheat bread recipe is adapted slightly from my favorite homemade white bread, which has gotten thousands of rave reviews over the years. This whole wheat version is a tad healthier, without skimping on flavor!
I know making your own bread can seem intimidating, but just like my French bread this recipe has easy-to-follow instructions that results in delicious, flavorful whole wheat bread. It’s hard to go back to store-bought bread after trying this homemade version!
Whole Wheat Bread Ingredients
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Warm water: Warm water helps activate the yeast, aim for water that is around 105°F. If the water is too hot, it could kill the yeast.
- Yeast: I like to use active dry yeast as opposed to instant yeast as the bread develops more flavor during a slower rise.
- Sugar: This feeds the yeast and adds a small touch of sweetness. I love coconut sugar but you can substitute with white sugar or honey.
- Butter: Unsalted butter will add richness to the bread. It will need to be melted.
- Salt: Adjust salt if your butter is salted.
- Honey: Honey and whole wheat taste really great together!
- Evaporated milk: Milk helps yield a softer bread.
- Flour: I use a combination of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour for a lighter, fluffier bread. You can use all whole wheat flour or all white whole flour if preferred.
How to Make Whole Wheat Bread
- Proof the yeast. Add yeast and sugar to a small bowl, then pour warm water on top. Let sit until the mixture begins to foam and bubble, about 10 minutes.
- Liquid ingredients. Add melted butter, honey, evaporated milk and salt in a large bowl. Pour the yeast mixture once bubbly and mix.
- Measure the flour. Then add 3 cups flour (and wheat gluten if using). Knead with your hands or use a bread hook in a stand mixer. Keep adding 1 cup flour in at a time and mix. When you get to 5 cups of flour in the bowl, add flour in 1/2 cup increments until the dough no longer sticks to the sides.
- First rise. Form into a ball, coat with butter then place in a buttered bowl and cover with a warm clean kitchen towel. Set in a warm draft free area and allow it to rise until doubled.
- Knead. When the bread dough has risen over the bowl, punch it down then transfer to a floured work surface. Knead for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Shape. Cut dough into two pieces and roll both out into the shape of a rectangle. Then roll the dough up and tuck the ends under. Place into 2 greased bread pans.
- Second rise. Let rise again until both look like a good loaf size.
- Bake. Place both loaves in the oven and bake at 375°F for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden. Coat top with butter and move to a cooling rack before slicing.
- Vital wheat gluten: I have found this is the secret to amazing wheat bread! Just 3 Tablespoons added to the dough helps lighten the texture and results in a softer loaf.
- A faster rise: To help your dough rise faster, cover the bowl with a warm towel and set it by a window, on top of a heating pad or in the oven at 170°F with a small pan of water.
- Doubled in size: Make sure your dough is doubled in size before touching it after the first rise is completed.
- Vegan whole wheat bread: For a soft wheat bread that is vegan, just replace the butter 1:1 with a vegan butter substitute. Simmer dairy free milk until reduced by half or use water. Replace honey with brown sugar, agave or maple syrup.
- Soft top: After the bread is done baking, rub butter on the hot top to soften the crust.
- Practice patience. Execute some patience during bread making and also while waiting for it to cool before slicing. Don’t rush it and the results will be a beautiful loaf of homemade bread!
Depending on if you are using a mixer with a dough hook or not, the time will vary slightly. If you are using your hands to knead the dough, it will take about 10 minutes. With a dough hook and stand mixer it will take about 8 minutes.
Your dough is ready when it is smooth and elastic. A good way to test if it is ready is to perform the windowpane test! Test a small amount of dough by stretching it thin. If you can see through it, like a window, your dough is ready.
This will depend on the temperature of your home as well as the time of year could affect this as well. You will need to plan time for the bread to rise two times. The first rise should take about an hour to an hour and half. It will be doubled in size when ready. After the second rise, the bread should also be doubled in size. A good way to tell this is that it will be slightly risen above the top of the loaf pan.
I’ve found that the key to create the perfect flavor is by adding 2 cups of white flour to the whole wheat flour. For the white flour you can use either all–purpose flour or bread flour.
If you’d prefer to use all whole wheat flour – I’ve made it several times that way and it’s still delicious, just a little more dense in texture. Another option would be to use all white wheat flour.
I have made this recipe in both an 8×4 or 9×5 metal bread pan. You can also use a silicone loaf pan or a glass loaf pan. The baking time may increase or decrease depending on the type of pan used.
Bread is done baking when the bottom sounds hollow. You can also use an instant read thermometer. If the instant-read thermometer reads 190°F your bread is done.
Favorite Ways to Serve
While a simple PB&J sandwich or smear of butter and honey is a favorite, there are many ways we love to enjoy this whole wheat bread recipe!
- Spread strawberry jam on top
- Avocado toast
- Egg salad sandwich with homemade egg salad
- Chicken Salad
- Grilled cheese
- French toast
Storage and Freezing Homemade Wheat Bread
- To store: Place in a zip top bag or airtight container and store for up to 1 week. You can also wrap the loaf in foil, just make sure it’s wrapped tightly so that it doesn’t get stale.
- To freeze: Wrap in foil or plastic wrap, then place in a freezer bag. Store in freezer for up to 3 months.
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Whole Wheat Bread Recipe
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 3 Tablespoons coconut sugar , can substitute with white sugar or honey
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- ¼ cup honey
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- 3-4 cups whole wheat flour , can also use all white whole wheat flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour , can also use all white whole wheat flour
- 3 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten , optional
- 2 Tablespoons butter , melted (for topping)
- Place the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Pour the warm water (not too hot) over the yeast mixture and let it sit for about 10 minutes, or until nice and bubbly.
- Combine the melted butter, honey, evaporated milk and salt into a large mixing bowl. When your yeast mixture is ready, add them together and mix.
- If you are using a stand mixer, attach the bread hook and then pour in 3 cups of flour (and the wheat gluten if using). Stir/knead it as well. Then add in 1 cup of flour at a time and mix. When you get to 5 cups of flour in the bowl, add in 1/2 cup more of flour at a time until the dough is no longer sticking to the sides. You’ll know it’s ready when your fingers no longer stick to the dough.
- Then coat the ball of dough and sides of the bowl with butter and cover the bowl with a warm towel. Set by the window and allow it it rise (about 1-1.5 hours). When it has risen over the bowl, punch it down and place on a floured surface.
- Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.
- Cut dough into two pieces and roll both out into a rectangle. Roll the dough up and tuck the ends under. Then place into 2 greased bread pans (8×4 or 9×5 will work).
- Let the bread rise again, and when it looks like a good loaf size, place them in the oven at 375°F for 25-35 minutes. When the bread is done, it will sound hollow when tapped on. Coat the top with butter and remove onto a cooling rack.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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