How to Make the Perfect Marble Rye Bread

This marble rye bread makes for a showstopping sandwich, but it's surprisingly easy to make.

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Whether you have baked 100 loaves of bread or just a few, marble rye bread is a great way to mix up your bread baking. Our easy recipe produces a moist, two-toned loaf that makes an excellent sandwich or a great snack when smeared with our favorite butter. Follow our expert tips for a successful bake.

What Makes Rye Bread Different?

Rye bread is made from rye flour, a powder milled from whole rye berries or grains from ryegrass. Rye is a hardy grain that’s heavier and darker than other flours, producing a denser, darker bread. Because it’s so dense, it doesn’t rise as much as traditional wheat flour.

Rye bread is very popular in northern and eastern European countries, and it comes in several varieties, ranging from light to dark. Pumpernickel, the darkest rye bread, is made of coarsely ground whole rye grains.

Marbled rye bread, the recipe we’re sharing below, has a dark swirl and a light swirl. It’s a common misconception that the darker swirl is pumpernickel. It’s actually the same dough with added cocoa to give it a deeper flavor, but not enough for it to taste chocolaty.

What Does Rye Bread Taste Like?

The flavor of your rye bread depends on how light or dark it is. In general, rye bread has a strong, deep flavor, but the flavor deepens as you go from light to dark rye. Many loaves feature a nutty, earthy taste. Dense rye loaves are often chewy and can be made with seeds in the dough. Caraway, fennel or anise seeds go well with the deep rye flavors.

Tips for Buying Rye Flour

There are a variety of rye flours, so it may seem overwhelming at first. But it’s pretty simple: the darker the rye flour, the deeper the flavor.

The main difference between light, medium and dark rye flours is the amount of bran left after processing. The more bran, the darker it is. Because the bran holds most of the nutrients, the darker rye flours are naturally more nutritious.

White or light rye is the rye equivalent of all-purpose flour. It gives you the lightest rye flavor and the highest-rising bread.

Medium and dark rye has been milled closer to the bran, producing a richer flavor. Pumpernickel, the darkest rye flour, includes the entire rye berry and is rye’s equivalent to whole wheat flour.

Many recipes mix all-purpose white flour with rye flour to give you the best of both worlds: rye flavor and a higher rise. One common proportion is 25% rye flour to 75% all-purpose flour. This allows the rye flavor to come through while giving you a dough that’s easier to work with (rye dough can be tough to form into loaves).

Essential Tools You’ll Need

This recipe calls for a Pullman loaf pan, which is a long, skinny pan that gives you the ideal sandwich loaf shape. In general, rye breads are better baked in loaf pans instead of on baking sheets because the rye makes a weaker dough, which doesn’t hold its shape as well as wheat breads.

Another great tool for bread baking is a bench knife. Sometimes called a dough scraper, the bench knife helps you easily divide your dough, start to shape loaves and scrape the dough off the table. It’s especially helpful when working with the weaker rye dough.

Finally, you’ll need an instant-read thermometer for this recipe. You’ll need to check the temperature of your water to ensure the yeast activates and the internal temperature of your baked loaf to make sure it’s done.

How to Make Rye Bread

Try your hand at this striking marbled loaf with our step-by-step guide. Before you tackle this recipe, you may want to brush up on your bread baking knowledge.


  • 5 cups bread flour, divided (Learn the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour.)
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon rye flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup potato flour
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 3 teaspoons instant or quick-rise yeast
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons dark baking cocoa
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Step 1: Whisk the ingredients

In a large bowl, whisk together four cups bread flour, two cups rye flour, potato flour, milk powder, sugar, caraway seeds, yeast, onion powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the warm water and oil. Pour the liquid over the flour mixture and stir until combined. Your dough will be sticky.

Step 2: Knead the dough

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, knead the dough, incorporating the remaining 1 cup of bread flour as needed until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Here’s how to tell if you’re kneading your dough the right way.

Editor’s tip: Rye dough doesn’t get as smooth and elastic as wheat dough, so don’t worry if yours isn’t perfect.

Step 3: Divide the dough

Once you’ve kneaded it, divide the dough in half. Mix the dark cocoa powder with the remaining tablespoon of rye flour. Knead this cocoa mixture into one portion of your dough until it is fully incorporated.

Step 4: Set aside to rise

Lightly coat two large bowls with oil. Place one portion of the dough into each bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 60 to 90 minutes.

Editor’s tip: Rye bread typically rises slower than wheat bread, so be patient as you wait for it to double in size. Here’s how to tell if bread has risen enough, and what to do if it doesn’t rise at all.

Step 5: Make the swirl

Working with one portion of dough at a time, turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Roll each half into a 14×12-inch rectangle. Place the dough with the cocoa on top of the remaining rectangle of dough. Starting with the long end of the rectangle, roll the dough jelly-roll style to form a spiral, pinching the seam together to seal.

Step 5: Place into the pan

Place the rolled dough seam-side down into a greased 13×4-inch Pullman loaf pan, tucking each end under to form a smooth loaf. Loosely cover the pan with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. The dough should rise about 1/2 to 3/4-inch above the edge of the loaf pan.

Step 6: Prep for baking

Preheat your oven to 400°. Brush the loaf with an egg wash. Using a sharp knife, cut three or four deep, diagonal slashes on top of the loaf, and cover the loaf with non-stick foil.

Step 7: Bake the bread

Bake the loaf at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375° and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil covering and bake until the bread is deep golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. The bread needs to reach an internal temperature of 200° when measured with an instant-read thermometer.

Step 8: Let cool

Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

How Long Does Rye Bread Last?

When it’s properly stored, your rye loaf can last about five days at room temperature. Ensure you store it in an airtight container to help keep your bread fresh, and store it in a cool, dry place.

In the freezer, rye bread lasts about three months when stored correctly. We don’t recommend keeping it in the refrigerator as that can dry it out quicker.

Is Rye Bread Healthy?

Compared to other breads, rye bread is a healthier choice. It all has to do with how the grain is processed—it’s more difficult to separate the parts of rye grain, meaning more of the nutritional bran and endosperm end up in the final product.

Rye is higher in fiber than white flour, which feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. Rye flour, especially the whole grain or pumpernickel varieties, features anti-inflammatory properties as well.

Rye bread does have less gluten than wheat flour, but it’s not gluten-free. So while it may be a good choice if you’re looking to limit your gluten intake, it will still affect those with celiac disease.

What Goes Well with Rye Bread?

While you can’t go wrong with eating a warm slice with butter, rye bread is a versatile food. Use it to make the perfect Reuben sandwich, or try a ham and Swiss sandwich. Slices of rye are also perfect for chicken salad and open-faced sandwiches.

The deep, hearty flavors also go well with strong cheeses and pickled vegetables, like this sandwich. Plus, rye bread makes excellent croutons, which is a great way to use up stale slices.

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Alexa Hackfort
Alexa is a writer who believes there’s always room for ice cream. Based in Milwaukee, she enjoys exploring the city, tackling new recipes and planning her next trip.