Outstanding Bread Machine Whole Wheat Bread with No White Flour

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Preview: This 100% Bread Machine Whole Wheat Bread contains no white flour. If you want to incorporate more whole grains into your diet, this recipe could be the solution. As usual, there is an unexpected secret ingredient you don’t want to miss.

sliced whole wheat bread on cutting board with strawberries in the background

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Have you ever tried to make a 100% whole wheat loaf by substituting whole wheat flour for all of the white flour in your favorite recipe? How did it go? Most people report producing something like a brick or a doorstop.

I made my first 100% whole wheat loaf with no white flour a few weeks ago. It wasn’t much better. It came out of the oven flat on top, not beautifully rounded like I was hoping. That was my first lesson–whole wheat flour without a supporting act of white flour is more fragile.

Quick facts about whole wheat flour:

Whole wheat flour contains all three parts of the wheat berry:

  • the bran
  • the germ
  • the endosperm
  1. All-purpose flour and bread flour are both ground endosperm (the inner white portion). Bread flour is made with hard wheat while AP flour is made with both hard and soft wheat. Whole wheat flour contains all three parts of the wheat berry.
  2. The natural oils in the germ are what cause your wheat flour to go rancid quickly. Store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
  3. Hard wheat contains more protein and more gluten. Bread flour has the most protein and will rise higher than all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour.
  4. Although some people have trouble digesting the gluten in whole wheat flour, it has many health benefits, too.

“That means it contains more nutrients, fiber, and natural oils.”

The Bread Machine Magic Book of Helpful HInts by Linda Rehberg & Lois Conway

What’s different about baking with whole wheat flour as compared to making white bread?

Whole wheat flour contains less gluten than bread flour.

Think of wheat bread as a bundle of tiny balloons. The balloon skin is developed gluten. Each balloon holds carbon dioxide belched out by hungry yeasty bodies. If the balloons pop, the air escapes.

Since there is less gluten in wheat flour, the skin of the “balloons” isn’t as strong as the ones in white flour. If these fragile balloons are allowed to get too big, they will pop. When they pop, the bread falls and another brick is born.

Ingredients and substitutions:

ingredients needed for this wheat bread recipe
  • Water: Unless you have very hard water or high chlorine levels, tap water is good enough.
  • Salt: I tested the recipe with sea salt. Table salt works fine, too. If you want to use Kosher salt, add ¼ teaspoon more.
  • Oil: Avocado, coconut, canola, or vegetable oil are my choices, in that order.
  • Honey: Substitute brown sugar if you like, but reduce the amount of liquid. Start by holding out a couple of tablespoons of water. If the dough seems dry after it has been kneaded for a while, add the water back a tablespoon at a time until the dough sticks to the sides of the bread machine pan, then pulls away cleanly.
  • Sunflower seed butter or creamy peanut butter: (Optional) This is the secret ingredient. While staring at my pantry one day. I wondered what a little bit of peanut butter would do for my whole wheat loaf.

    Turns out that it makes a wonderful-tasting and slightly-softer loaf. I tried both peanut butter and sunflower seed butter. Even though the sunflower seed butter is more expensive, I like the milder flavor. It’s virtually undetectable.

    If using peanut butter, I think you can smell it if you think about it. My husband couldn’t smell or taste it, but he still loved the bread.

    If you don’t want to use either of these ingredients, leave them out and add an additional tablespoon of avocado or vegetable oil to take its place.
  • Nonfat dry milk or powdered milk: I have only tried nonfat dry milk because it’s available in my area. I assume powdered whole milk would work, too.
  • Whole wheat flour: Many readers ask me about my favorite brand of flour. During hard times, the answer is whatever you can get your hands on. I’ve tried this recipe with King Arthur flour, Target’s store brand, and Kroger’s store brand. They all make good bread. White whole wheat flour is another option.
  • Vital wheat gluten: (Not pictured above) This is another optional ingredient. I did most of my testing without it because many people don’t have it on hand. However, it does add gluten to the bread and helps the dough rise more. My husband prefers a lighter and softer bread, so I include it all the time now. Use it or not. You’re the boss.

    As you will see in the recipe, I substitute 2 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten for 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour. This results in a total of 360 grams. If you don’t use vital wheat gluten, use 360 grams of whole wheat flour. (I highly recommend using a digital scale for measuring flour in every bread recipe.)
  • Yeast: If you are making this recipe with a bread machine, try to use instant yeast (aka bread machine yeast). Active dry yeast will work if that’s all you have. See the notes at the end of the recipe.

A note about the way I use a bread machine:

In case this is your first time using one of my bread machine recipes, note that I only use the DOUGH cycle of my bread machine. When the DOUGH cycle completes, I pull the dough out of the pan, shape it on the counter, let it rise one final time, then bake the loaf in my conventional oven. This is the easiest way to produce a fabulous loaf that will inspire you to share the fruits of your labor with family and friends.

If you don’t have a conventional oven available, you can try making this bread from beginning to end with the whole wheat cycle of your bread machine. However, the recipe has not been tested for this method. Because of variables like humidity, room temperature, different brands of ingredients, and other factors, your chances of ending up with a beautiful loaf are much lower than when using the DOUGH cycle.


How to make a 100% whole wheat bread with a bread machine:

assembling ingredients in the bread machine pan

Add all dough ingredients to the bread machine pan in the order listed. The liquids do not need to be warmed first.

resting dough before starting to give time for the flour to absorb water and soften

Select the DOUGH cycle and start the machine. After one minute, STOP the machine. Use a small plastic spatula to make sure all the ingredients are mixed and no dry flour is seen. Let this flour mixture sit for 30 minutes inside the bread maker before restarting the DOUGH cycle.

kneading the dough in the bread machine

This dough has been mixing for about 10 minutes. Although the dough may look too wet, don’t add flour yet. Give the machine more time to develop the gluten.

About 8 minutes before the kneading phase ends, you can see the dough is a perfect consistency–sticks to the side and pulls away cleanly. I did not need to add water or flour.

pulling dough out of the bread machine pan

Pull the dough out of the pan onto a damp surface. Don’t use flour because it can lead to tunnels in the finished loaf. If your hands stick to the dough, spray them with water, too. A bench scraper sprayed with water is helpful.

flattening dough with a covered rolling pin

Gently but firmly press the dough with your fingers to push down any bubbles and shape it into a rough rectangle. I like to use a rolling pin to be sure I get the bubbles around the edges.

using the pan to check the width

Use your empty bread pan as a guide to ensure you rolled the dough wide enough.

Roll up the dough starting with the short end closest to you. Avoid stretching or trapping any air between the layers as you roll.

pinching the seams shut

Use your fingertips to pinch the seam closed.

ends pinched and turned toward the seam

Pinch the ends and turn toward the seam.

Place the dough seam-side down into a well-greased or paper-lined 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan or a 9 x 4 x 4-inch Pullman pan. (This dough tends to stick to all but my favorite USA pans.)

laying the loaf into the pan seam-side down

Use your flat fingers to distribute the dough evenly from end to end.

Cover with a tea towel or a cheap shower cap. Place in a warm (but not too warm) place to rise.

The pan on the right is a 9 x 4 x 4-inch Pullman pan. The dough has risen almost even with the top. The pan on the left is 8½ x 4½ inches. The dough has risen one inch over the top. Both loaves are ready to bake.

Bake at 350˚F (180˚C) for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190˚F (88˚C)

unsliced bread baked in an 8½ x 4½ loaf pan

I brushed the crust with a small bit of butter.

unslice bread baked in a pullman pan

This is the loaf baked in a Pullman pan. The slices are a bit smaller because the pan is longer.


FAQ about bread machine whole wheat bread:

What can I substitute for the vital wheat gluten?

I know of no commercial substitute. You can always leave it out. Your loaf will still be tasty, just not as high. Please note that if you leave it out in my recipe, you should substitute the same amount of whole wheat flour in its place. Read the recipe carefully.

My loaf looked beautiful when I put it into the oven, but now it has a flat top. What happened?

Your loaf was probably over-proofed. In other words, it rose too much during the final rise. When the loaf hit the heat of the oven, it ran out of energy and collapsed. 100% whole wheat is vulnerable to falling because it doesn’t have as much gluten to build a strong scaffold.

Why do I need to shape the dough?

Rolling out the dough will give your bread a structure and uniform crumb pattern. Not only will your loaf be prettier, but the crumb will hold together better since it has been organized. Ever try to eat a sandwich made with crumbly bread?

Can I cut back the honey, fat, and salt to make this loaf healthier?

Less fat will leave you with a dry loaf. You could cut back on the honey if you like. (I tried it and missed it.) Regarding the salt: you can experiment with cutting back a bit, but don’t cut it out. The yeast needs it.

How do I store homemade whole wheat bread to keep it fresh as long as possible?

Double-wrap and freeze whatever you can’t eat in 2-3 days. Since this recipe has no preservatives, it will only stay fresh on the counter for a short time, especially if your kitchen is warmish. It’s best not to store bread in the refrigerator because of the humidity which encourages mold.

Why does my whole wheat bread have tunnels?

Using too much flour or oil on your work surface and hands when shaping the dough can cause tunnels. When perfecting my bread machine sourdough recipe, I learned to spray my hands and work surface with water (but not too much) to prevent sticking. Works great with whole wheat doughs, too. A bench scraper is helpful for sticky doughs.

Other causes include not pushing all the bubbles out of the dough after the first rise and not letting the dough rise long enough before you bake the bread. (Be careful about the rising tip. Over-proofing will cause your dough to collapse in the oven because whole wheat flour is not as strong as white bread flour.)

Why the 30-minute rest period before starting the DOUGH cycle?

Whole wheat flour takes longer to absorb liquid. If you don’t give it time, you will be tempted to add too much flour when it seems impossibly sticky. Too much flour produces doorstops.

What can I do to keep the loaf from sticking to the pan?

The easiest solution is to use a parchment paper sling as pictured earlier in this post. Otherwise, a non-stick pan sprayed with something like Baker’s Secret (an aerosol mixture of flour and oil) often works. I recommend the shiny and heavy USA loaf pans. (Don’t wash your non-stick pans in a dishwasher and use a plastic knife (to avoid damage to the pan) to loosen the sides of the loaf before turning it out.


bread machine crash course sign up

Looking for other bread recipes with whole wheat flour?

If you want to make a loaf with whole wheat flour and white flour that is light and fluffy, my Honey Whole Wheat Loaf might be more your style. Here is a recipe for Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls if that’s what you need. This recipe for Sprouted Wheat Bread Machine Recipe with Honey and Seeds is especially flavorful and you can use your whole wheat flour as a substitute for sprouted wheat flour.


If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula

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slices of wheat bread next to jelly and knife

100% Bread Machine Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

This 100% whole-grain loaf is mixed and kneaded with a bread machine, then shaped by hand before baking in a conventional oven. Peanut butter or sunflower butter and vital wheat gluten are optional ingredients.
5 from 5 votes
Cook Time 35 mins
Mix and Rise Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 5 mins
Course Bread Machine
Servings 12 slices

Ingredients

  • cups water - 255 g
  • teaspoon salt - 7 g
  • 2 tablespoons avocado, canola oil, or coconut - 25 gr (add 1 more tablespoon if not using peanut butter or sunflower seed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter or sunflower seed butter - 16 g (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons honey - 63 g
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk - 21 g
  • 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten - 15 g (optional)
  • 2⅞ cups whole wheat flour - 345 g (if not using vital wheat gluten, add two additional tablespoons of whole wheat flour for 360 gr total)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast - 6 g

Instructions
 

MIXING THE DOUGH

  • Add all ingredients: 1¼ c water (255 g), 1¼ t salt (7 g), 3T honey (63 g), 2 T oil (25 gr), 1 T creamy peanut butter or sunflower seed butter (16 g), 3 T nonfat dry milk (21 g), 2 T Vital Wheat Gluten (15 g), 2⅞ c whole wheat flour (345 g), 2 t instant yeast (6 g) to the bread machine pan in the order listed.
  • Select the DOUGH cycle, then START. Let the machine run for about 1 minute, then press the DOUGH button again to stop the action. All the ingredients should be wet. Use a small spatula to clean flour from the sides of the pan and mix it into the dough so no ingredients are dry.
  • (All bread machines are different. With a Zojirushi, set the timer for 2:00. Then press START. The DOUGH cycle will automatically start in 30 minutes. With other machines, you may have to unplug the machine or restart the DOUGH cycle. If all else fails, let the dough sit in the machine and come back to manually restart it on the DOUGH cycle after 30 minutes.)
    The purpose of this rest is to let the whole wheat flour soak in the water to kickstart the gluten development and soften the flour.
  • Check the dough at least twice by lifting the lid to take a peek. Do this right after the machine starts to mix to see if the paddles are correctly engaged and the dough is starting to form a ball.
    Recheck the consistency of the dough again 15-17 minutes into the DOUGH cycle.
    If your dough is too wet, add flour one tablespoon at a time. The dough should stick to the side, then pull away cleanly. See the pictures above. Adding flour too hastily will result in dry bread.
    Conversely, if the dough is too dry (it should be tacky to touch), add one tablespoon of liquid at a time until the dough looks just right. Find out more about this surprising secret to success with a bread machine here.
  • When the rest period and the DOUGH cycle are finished, the dough should be doubled in size. If not, leave the dough in the bread machine until it is double the original size at the end of the kneading phase.
  • Spray your counter or silicone mat with a small amount of water. Remove the dough onto your damp surface. Also, spray your hands with water as opposed to using flour to keep the dough from sticking. (Using flour or oil can cause tunnels inside of the finished whole wheat bread.)

SHAPING

  • Using damp hands, press the dough into a rectangle shape. A bench knife helps to keep your hands out of the sticky dough. Use a cloth-covered rolling pin, if you have one, to roll over the top of the dough to make the rectangle a uniform thickness. Press out any large bubbles on the sides of the dough with your fingers or the rolling pin.
  • Starting from the short end closest to you, begin to roll the dough to make a cylinder. Use a damp bench knife to scoot under the dough as you roll it to keep it from sticking. Avoid stretching the dough but make sure you aren't rolling big air pockets into the cylinder as you go. Pinch the seams together horizontally across the cylinder of dough. Turn the ends toward the seam and pinch them together, also.
  • Use a damp bench knife and damp fingers to pick up the dough cylinder and place it seam-side down into a greased or parchment paper-lined 4½ x 8½-inch loaf pan or a 9x4x4-inch Pullman pan. Try to press the dough into a uniform shape inside the pan so the ends of the loaf don't dry out before the middle is done. Cover with a damp tea towel or a cheap shower cap and place in a warm (but not too warm) place to rise a final time.
  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  • When the loaf has risen approximately 1-inch above the top edge of the 8½ x 4½-inch pan or approaches the top of the Pullman pan, place it onto the center rack of your hot oven for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 195˚ to 200˚F. (90-92˚C).
  • Allow the loaf to sit in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove it to a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Swipe a little soft butter over the crust to lend an appetizing shine.

Video

Notes

Directions for making bread with a stand mixer or by hand:
  • To make this recipe in a heavy-duty stand mixer:  Add ingredients to the bowl in the same order. Turn on LOW to mix until all ingredients are moistened. Then, using a dough hook, turn the speed to 2 or 3. Continue beating/kneading until dough becomes smooth and elastic (about 5-10 minutes). Cover and allow to rise in a warm place. Deflate dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
  • If making by hand: Combine all ingredients into a shaggy ball in a large bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead with your hands until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Kneading will likely take 10-20 minutes, depending on your experience. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise until double. Deflate the dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
  • Please note: If you only have active dry yeast, use 1/4 teaspoon more than called for in the recipe. It no longer needs to be dissolved first, but you can if you prefer.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
100% Bread Machine Whole Wheat Bread Recipe
Serving Size
 
1 slice
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
151
Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
3
g
5
%
Saturated Fat
 
1
g
6
%
Trans Fat
 
1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
2
g
Cholesterol
 
1
mg
0
%
Sodium
 
255
mg
11
%
Carbohydrates
 
28
g
9
%
Fiber
 
4
g
17
%
Sugar
 
5
g
6
%
Protein
 
5
g
10
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Author: Paula Rhodes
Course: Bread Machine
Cuisine: American
Keywords: 100% whole wheat, bread machine whole wheat loaf
Like this recipe? Thanks for leaving a 5-star rating inside the recipe at the top! 🤩

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15 Comments

  1. I have used my bread maker many times for the dough cycle – mine is 2 hours long. My question is – can I take the dough out after the first rise when the machine knocks it back. – it’s way before the 2 hour mark?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Good to hear from you.

      I need a few more details to give you an intelligent answer. What brand is your machine? Does your DOUGH cycle include a resting phase at the beginning of the DOUGH cycle? If so, can you shut it off? (you don’t need it). Are there rest times sporadically sprinkled throughout the kneading phase?

      In general, the two rises that most bread machines incorporate into the DOUGH cycle help to improve the texture of the finished bread. In the end, do what suits you best. You are the boss of your bread machine (not the other way around.)

  2. I have been experimenting with whole wheat flour for some time now. I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but some variations that I’ve tried include using orange juice as part of the liquid element (I’m not sure of the source of this idea). It does temper the sometimes bitter flavour of the whole wheat. Another recipe that I have calls for 2 tablespoons of molasses. Not sure why and it does give the bread a darker look. I don’t particularly like the final product with the molasses but thought I’d let you know. I also have a whole wheat challah (egg loaf) recipe although some of my friends tell me that challah “can only be made with white flour”. They’re purists!
    I’ll try this recipe next loaf! Thanks.

    1. Hey Stephen,

      I can’t wait for you to make the recipe and let me know how it turns out for you–good and/or bad. Orange juice is a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, I don’t keep orange juice in the house. Although come to think of it, I usually have 1 or 2 oranges in the fridge. I could use one of them. I agree with your purist friends about the Challah. Whole wheat flour just doesn’t seem fittin’. On the other hand, when you are making the dough, you are the boss and can do exactly as you please. Right?? Yep!!

    2. @Stephen, Made it this morning and the results are excellent. Great looking and great tasting. Didn’t use peanut butter and did add 1/4 cup orange juice + 1 cup water.

      1. I’ve gotta give the orange juice a try.

  3. 5 stars
    This was one of the easiest breads I’ve made so far!! Thank you for this recipe! I’ll be making it a lot!

    1. Glad it worked for you. Your letter makes my day!

  4. Hi Paula! I’m a longtime fan of your bread machine method recipes. I have made this loaf twice — the flavor is OUTSTANDING and I want to make this my everyday family bread; however, I’ve been having issues of 1) the loaf sticking to my USA Pans (despite being oiled thoroughly), and 2) hole/tunneling where the bread is pinched together. I’ve not used flour or oil when shaping, only water. My first loaf rose very, very quickly, so I reduced the amount of yeast and the second loaf was less precipitous. 🙂 Can you help me figure out what I’m doing wrong, please?

    1. Hi Margy,
      Glad to hear you are enjoying the wheat bread. I had issues with both of these things while testing this recipe.

      1. The loaf sticking: This can happen if you use too much water on your hands while shaping. The best solution is to make a parchment paper sling–but that could get expensive. I didn’t have any problems with sticking when I used my USA pans, but I did with other pans. By any chance, have you washed your USA pan in the dishwasher? Just curious. You may not like aerosols, but have you tried spraying your pans with Baker’s secret? That stuff works like a dream. One other tip–use a plastic knife to release the bread from the sides of the pan so you don’t damage your pan.
      2. Holes and tunnels: I think this is a common problem for bread makers because if you search around the internet for 100% whole wheat bread, you will see lots of small and large tunnels in the pictures if they show a slice. Many won’t show a cut slice (my pet peeve). Assuming you haven’t used oil or flour in the shaping, the best way to minimalize this occurrence is to be sure you gently press all the bubbles out of the dough after you have shaped it into a rectangle. I use a rolling pin and make sure I roll it firmly over the entire rectangle and don’t miss the edges. As you roll up the rectangle, be sure that the dough is snug without stretching it. Pat the seam down with your fingers to see if that will help. I’m guessing a little practice will fix the problem.

      A word about the rapid rise of the dough: You did well to decrease the yeast. That never hurts as long as you have plenty of time for the dough to rise. Unless your house is extra cold, you don’t need to set the dough in a warm place to proof. Also, there is no need to warm any of the ingredients (chop the butter). The friction caused by the kneading paddles will heat everything just fine. The longer the rise, the better the flavor.

  5. 5 stars
    Has anyone made this completely in their bread machine??

  6. 5 stars
    Been making bread for years but this has now become a family favorite. My question is can I add nuts and/or seeds? If so, what proportion would you suggest or how would you adjust the recipe?

    1. Hi Dawn,
      So glad you like the bread. I have not tried adding any nuts or seeds. If I did, I would start out with a maximum of 1/2 cup and see how that goes. Because 100˚ whole wheat bread is more fragile, it may cause the bread to be dense. Experimentation is in order. If you figure it all out, leave a note here in the comments. I’m sure other readers have had the same question.

  7. You say, “With a Zojirushi, set the timer for 2:00. Then press START. The DOUGH cycle will automatically start in 30 minutes.”

    Since you seem to want the ingredients to be mixed a bit, wet, should I just start the Zo, let it run in DOUGH cycle for 1 minute or so, THEN set the timer? Or, will just the fact that the whole wheat flour is just sitting on the water be enough?

    Thanks!
    (No oven wanted right now – was 107° in Hot Humid Houston yesterday & no break in sight!)

    1. Hi Cindi,
      I hear you about the heat. We were 106 here in the DFW area yesterday. Our swimming pool has turned into a big bathtub. So I completely understand about not using your oven. My solution is to prepare the dough. After the DOUGH cycle ends, I put the dough into the fridge overnight, then shape and bake the dough as soon as I get up the next morning before the temps get too awfully high.

      Back to your question: The flour does need to be sitting in the water. Do whatever it takes so that all the ingredients are mixed up, then just sit there for 30 minutes before the mixing and kneading starts. If you use the timer, you can set it and leave the kitchen until the DOUGH cycle completes. Or you can start the DOUGH cycle and let it run for 1 minute.Stop or unplug the machine. Come back to the machine in 30 minutes and restart the DOUGH cycle. It’s kind of hard to explain, so let me know if you still don’t understand and I’ll try again.