Sandwich Rye Bread: and the secret ingredient is…


Moist, tender/chewy sandwich rye – is there a better companion to ham and Swiss?

Or, for those of you with more adventurous tastes, liverwurst and onions – with a smear of thick, dark-gold sweet/hot mustard, thank you very much.

What makes sandwich rye’s flavor so distinctive?

Caraway seeds? Pumpernickel flour? Mustard?

All of the above, plus…

Dill pickle juice!

Well, why not? A bit of sour, a hint of dill – both flavors eminently suited to rye bread.

Plus, when you get to the end of that jar of pickles, doesn’t it bug you just pouring the juice down the drain?

Heaven forbid! Save it for your next batch of Sandwich Rye.

Oh, one more thing before we get started – rye bread demands rye flour, obviously. Choose white rye or medium rye, which are both good all-purpose rye flours; or pumpernickel, pictured above, the rye equivalent of whole wheat flour.

See the flecks? Pumpernickel is a heartier rye flour than either white or medium rye.

By the way, the word “pumpernickel” has an interesting derivation. In German, “pumpern” is “intestinal wind,” while “nickel” is a demon or sprite. Let’s just leave it at that.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup to 7/8 cup lukewarm water*
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup room-temperature dill pickle juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 1/4 teaspoons dill seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds OR 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
1/4 cup potato flour or 3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/3 cups pumpernickel

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Don’t like dill? Leave out the dill seeds, and use water instead of pickle juice. Don’t like caraway? Leave it out. Don’t like mustard? Leave it out. These ingredients simply add flavor, and if you don’t like them – then of course, leave ‘em out!

Mix until clumps form; the dough may seem dry at this point. Let it rest for 20 minutes, for the flour to start to absorb the liquid.

Knead to make a stiff, but fairly smooth dough. It’ll take about 7 minutes in a stand mixer at second speed, using the dough hook. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl; if it doesn’t, sprinkle in a bit more all-purpose flour.

A bread machine is also a good choice for kneading this dough; it’ll do a thorough job. Just program for the dough cycle, and when it’s done, shape the loaf as indicated below.

We don’t recommend kneading this dough by hand, as it’s hard to develop the gluten sufficiently. If you decide to knead by hand, just be aware that the dough is going to be sticky. It’s rye; it’s supposed to be, and adding enough flour to make your hands comfortable will probably yield a leaden loaf of bread – unless you’re  REALLY expert hand kneader.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or 8-cup measure, cover the container, and let the dough rise until it’s puffy, about 1 to 2 hours.

It may or may not have doubled in bulk, but it definitely will have expanded. Actually, this is doing pretty well for rye dough.

Gently deflate the dough, and shape it into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased  9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Tent the pan with greased plastic wrap (or a clear shower cap, as I’ve done here).

Allow the loaf to rise until it’s crowned about 1″ to 1 1/2″ over the edge of the pan, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 20 minutes.

It’ll be light brown. Tent it lightly with foil, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

When done the bread will be golden brown, and its internal temperature will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven, wait 5 minutes, remove it from the pan, and allow it to cool completely on a rack before slicing.

I love it when you can see how the gluten stretched as the loaf baked…

…and I LOVE how nicely it slices.

You know how rye bread can be crumbly to slice? Not this loaf.

I was having so much fun slicing thinner and thinner slices (see the top slice on the stack in the back?), I just couldn’t stop!

And all those slices turned into some really tasty ham and Swiss sandwiches for the Sunday crew here at King Arthur’s customer service center.

Plus a liverwurst, onion, and mustard for me.

Chime in, folks – what’s your choice, ham and cheese, liverwurst and onion… or something else? Tell us about your favorite rye-bread sandwich.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Sandwich Rye Bread.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...


  1. "Dawn DeMeo"

    I’ve been making a ton of garlic dill pickles this summer. I’m bookmarking this recipe so I have a way to use up the extra brine as we work our way through the jars. Thanks!

    1. Alexa Penn

      What you described is called a Reuben in New York City and is served very warm.

      My favorite is also the Reuben but with Pastrami (very little fat) – talk about good!!! wow! :}

      Can’t wait to try this recipe (have to wait for fall when it’s cooler :}

  2. weeklypizza

    I love the same thing on rye as you do. Liverwurst, onions and Dijon Mustard make the most delicious and flavorful sandwich. I will make this loaf sometime soon, sounds delicious.

  3. martibeth

    PJ, what kind of oven are you using? Is that a fan I see? I know you’re not using a convection oven. I also made a lot of dill pickles earlier this summer, which my husband is going through at record speed. Glad now I have a use for the leftover brine.
    Hi Martibeth,
    In the test kitchen, we use Viking, Bosch and Frigidaire ovens. Some of them do have convection modes, but we don’t use them unless we are roasting veggies or something. ~ MaryJane

  4. editor554

    Looks gorgeous! What is your secret to slicing bread so perfectly? I use a cooled loaf, serrated knife and sawing motion, but it sure doesn’t look like yours – always crushes down some as I slice.
    Sharp blade and a steady hand does the trick, and lots of practice. Depending on the kind of bread you are cutting, we can help with some tips on the Baker’s Hotline. Give us a ring, or drop an email! ~Jessica

  5. JuliaJ

    If I don’t have enough pickle juice, what would be a good substitution? Thanks!
    PJ says in the blog to use water instead of pickle juice for the recipe. Less flavor, but it will work nonetheless! ~Jessica

    1. Dbl_Gee

      I have also liquified sauerkraut in my food processor as a pickle juice substitute and it works very well

  6. ktb

    Best rye sammich? Cold homemade meatloaf, with salt, black pepper, a touch of cayenne, and ketchup. No, wait, tuna salad with a pile of crisp iceberg lettuce. No, I mean jarlsberg or another aromatic swiss, with butter, good mayo, and a light schmear of Colman’s.

    No, I changed my mind. Deli roast beef with havarti, cream cheese, thin-sliced red onions, and thousand island dressing.

    Buggah. I’m just gonna go get my rye flour out. Thanks for the tip about the pickle juice.

  7. onyschuk123

    Could this recipe be made with a Paine De Mie pan?
    While we have not tested this recipe in a different pan, I believe this would fit in our smaller Pain de Mie. To use in the larger, basic one, you will need to increase the recipe around 30% most likely. ~Jessica

  8. taya

    I would love to try this recipe but pickles are no longer on our low sodium diet. Would it be possible to make a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar, flavor it with dill and use it in place of the pickle juice?
    PJ says in the blog: “Don’t like dill? Leave out the dill seeds, and use water instead of pickle juice.” I’m not sure about vinegar, but you give it a try if you’re comfortable with the flavor. Judge by how it smells when you do the 50/50. ~Jessica

  9. glendaembree399

    I can’t wait to try this! We love light rye. I’ll blog my results and send my readers over to see the original. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Thanks Glenda! I hope you link your blog onto the recipe page comments with the results, since we’d love to know what you think! ~Jessica

  10. waikikirie

    I have too have made this before, with and without the pickle juice. Do yourselves a favor and use the juice. It just puts the bread over the edge in terms of flavor. Summertime is when the pickles are used most, but I’m not baking so much because of the heat. Has anyone tried to freeze their saved pickle juice??? As always PJ, it’s a keeper recipe/blogg.

  11. mrsbarnes0202

    I read once the name of the bread came from France, which seems odd, since it is a distinctly German food. The story goes that the Napoleon’s horse, Nicol, didn’t like to eat raw grain, as other horses do, but preferred hearty grains baked in dark bread with molasses. In French, “bread for Nicol” is “pain por Nicol,” or pumpernickel. Or maybe it’s just a story?

  12. lindadv

    I used the pain de mie pan to make this loaf. The smaller size, without the lid. I love the straight sides and tall loaf. Tasty too! The texture is wonderful. I got carried away with adding liquid to the bread machine to smooth out the dough, really sticky but I didn’t want to go the opposite way and add too much flour. The soft dough did a beautiful rise and the bread is wonderful! Now I need to eat more pickles!

  13. nschneider09

    Adjusted this recipe and made in my Zojirushi this afternoon. Bread had a beautiful rise and is very tasty! Recipe order and adjustments follow:
    3/4 c. pickle juice
    3/4 c. water
    1T. Dijon mustard
    3.5 c. flour
    2/3 c. rye
    3/4 c. potato flakes
    2T. sugar (I used molasses)
    1/5 t. salt
    2T. butter
    2 t. regular yeast
    Bake on regular wheat cycle.

    1. Tracy

      This recipe was my first bread. I purchased the Zojirushi. Iread review on bread mchines for 8 weeks. I read successes and failures. I then stumbled across King Arthur flour researching Zojirushi. I read from King Arthurs website. On the blog someone redesigned the recpe very well for the zojirushi. I turned back to the original recipe which reminded me to add butter and oil. I used olive oil. I also read reviews for what to eat with this bread. I chose to make chicken salad with picles from the juice I used in the bread. Using my fresh thyme and rosemary plants lemon juice and sor cream. I have not enjoed cooking in years. That bread was awesome!
      Thanks everybody.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Tracy, thanks so much for sharing your story here. I’m so glad the Zo has helped you bake bread; there’s nothing like your own fresh, warm bread, right? And chicken salad sounds like the perfect choice for a rye bread sandwich. Enjoy! PJH

  14. lishy

    I have two favorites for rye. Patty melt with lots of sauteed onions and swiss, and grilled or roasted apples with sharp cheddar and honey mustard. I also love using pickle juice in my rye bread, it makes it taste so much better. Thanks for showing me several ways to work my rye flour stash into more of my baking! Can’t wait to get baking this week!
    I’m with you Lish, love the apples and cheddar. Have a great baking week. ~ MaryJane

  15. cumin

    What adjustments to the yeast or something else would you suggest to allow the shaped loaf to proof overnight in the the fridge? I use that approach with the Vermont Sourdough recipe from the Hammelman book, and it works very well for baking during the week.

    Could using a sourdough starter instead of instant yeast slow things down enough? I am not a good enough baker to be able to calculate the right proportion of flour to use for the sourdough build to do that.

    Thank you.
    You could use sourdough starter instead of the yeast in the recipe if you are doing a longer rise. In general, you sub 1 cup of starter for 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of flour in the recipe. For the most part, we don’t adjust the instant yeast if we are going to do an overnight rise. The cool temperature is enough to slow down the fermentation so that you don’t end up with dough everywhere in the fridge. ~ MaryJane

  16. milkwithknives

    Oh, good one, Cumin! I was thinking about making the dough tomorrow night and then baking after work on Thursday, so that answers that question for me, too. I do love milder ryes without any caraway, and can’t wait to try this one with pickle juice. Any kind of rye sandwich with sauerkraut and loads of yellow mustard is just about enough to send me into the stratosphere. Heck, even a sliced hotdog is good that way. Thanks a ton for the new recipe!

  17. shofur4two

    Hi Jessica, PJ and the KA Gang. I miss you all here in California.
    This bread is Over the Top yummy and so easy to make. Great flavor and texture. A perfect sandwich bread!

  18. Tonia

    Oooh, this sounds so good — I’ll make it this weekend and buy some fresh eggs for egg salad sandwiches with some home grown tomatoes! :-)

  19. DonnaF

    Does it matter whether the pickle juice is a vinegar or a brine solution?

    No, I wouldn’t think so, Donna. Just make sure the brine solution isn’t TOO salty or, if so, cut back the salt in the recipe. PJH

  20. sallybr

    Oh, my…. I think I’ll never be able to look at a pumpernickel flour bag at the grocery store without laughing uncontrollably.. :-)

    too good!

    but, back to bread, I absolutely loved this loaf, and hopefully will have time to try it this weekend – will report back for sure.

    the crumb is lovely, I am surprised by how much development you got with this type of flour, no wonder you are a pro! Awesome!

    Between the pickle juice, the shower cap, and the “pumpern” “nickel”, we’re not surprised! Who knew baking could be so much fun?! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  21. "Burnt My Fingers"

    My go-to rye sandwich bread is Hamelman’s Caraway Rye, so I’ll try this variation next time. I see you’ve got an awful lot of yeast in the recipe… is that because the pickle juice retards the action of the yeast?
    Believe it or not, this one started out calling for even more yeast (no, not to compensate for the pickle juice) and had to be tested and tested and re-tested before it was brought down to 2 1/2 tsp which seems to work perfecty. This is one of our guaranteed recipes, I hope you enjoy it. ~Amy

  22. Litho

    I would note that Dan Lepard had a cucumber pickle rye bread in his book The Art of Handmade Bread, published about 6-7 years ago, I’ve made it many times.

  23. sallybr

    Just made it! Of course, I had a “small issue”. Found every single spice you can imagine (fennel pollen? yeah…. za’tar? sure!) but NO caraway seeds! (sigh)

    the story of my life!

    anyway, my dough did not rise as much as yours, but the bread turned out great, smells terrific, I can hardly wait to cut through and devour, sorry… enjoy my first slice!


  24. pjmaas

    Holy Moly! This is an awesome recipe! I’ve made this two weeks in a row now, with fabulous success. Today’s effort came out slightly better than the first, as I added a tad more flour to the dough and let the second rise go a bit longer than one hour. I know the recipe says the dough should not be sticky, but mine was both times I’ve tried this. But the bread baked up perfectly, so I am assuming that the ‘stickiness’ is a relative thing. My first loaf disappeared last week in just a few days, manifesting itself as a melt in the mouth component of terrific Reuben sandwiches. I expect this week’s loaf will vanish in a similar manner. This is a great recipe!

  25. Panasonic sd yd250 bread maker

    Wonderful recipe, tried it with my oven and the bread came out splendid. I’m trying to figure out a way to translate the recipe to my breadmaker

    webmaster of Panasonic SD YD250 Bread Maker
    If the machine has a dough cycle, you can! Just get the yeast and liquid going in your machine’s pan, and add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Rye is a good dough to make in a bread machine, because it’s going to be sticky, and mixing in the machine is a good way to keep from adding more flour than you should. Susan

  26. Swathi

    I tried this recipe, I made some substitutions as I don’t have pumpernickel flour and potato flour in hand. I used rye flour, white whole wheat, and bread flour along with mashed potato. Even my 2 year old loved it. Here is the link
    Wow, your bread is picture perfect and I am so impressed by how thinly you are able to slice it! Great work! ~Amy

  27. wendyb964

    Sounds delicious! I am a novice at bread-baking, however what I call “true Jewish rye” which is a seeded bread reminiscent of delis in NYC as a child. While there is a commercial dill rye bread it is nothing like a homemade bread would be. I can’t wait to read the recipe, make sure I have all the ingredients, and test it out. BTW, never throw dill pickle juice away: add other ingredients and you have wonderfully-different “pickles.”

  28. Kay Cinotto

    I have been experimenting with baking my own rye breads, and I have to tell you that this is by far, the BEST recipe I have ever made! It has so much flavor, and is light. This is a keeper for me! Thank you for sharing. (I could not find pumpernickel flour, nor potato flour locally, so I used the potato flakes and regular rye flour). Also I used 2 t yellow mustard seed, and 1 tsp brown mustard seed…Fabulous recipe!! A big hit!

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      So good to hear this was a hit for you, Kay. I’m with you; I like a recipe for soft, light, “supermarket-style” rye bread to go along with the more traditional heavy rye bread recipes you often find. Hope you’re looking forward to enjoying a Reuben, or pastrami or (my fave) liverwurst and onion sandwich soon! PJH

  29. Paul

    I don’t want to use vegetable/canola/corn oil, what oil can I use as a substitute? Olive? Rice bran? Can I use melted lard?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Olive oil would be fine and so would melted lard (yum!). Happy baking. Jon@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s a wonderful alternative remedy! Thanks so much for sharing so now you can not only have a happy tummy, but happy legs too! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  30. Jerry LaCasse

    Another option for this or pump rye bread is sauerkraut. Simply strain off part of the liquid, but not all of it and add the moist cabbage to the other ingredients. You may need to experiment to find YOUR best taste. Enjoy.

  31. sfreshwater

    I love this recipe and came to see if there were any new reviews to try. I spotted the sauerkraut and will have to try it. I use a couple or three tablespoons of rinsed sauerkraut in chocolate cake to give it more moisture. Coca cola does the same thing. I see I need to order some pumpernickel flour too. My mouth is watering as I read. Happens every time.

  32. Tracy Pori

    I made this recipe and it is amazing! So much so that now I pour leftover pickle juice in a freezer bag and save it for the winter baking months!


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