Polish Sourdough Rye Bread (Chleb Na Zakwas Żytni)

Polish Sourdough Rye Bread

Barbara Rolek 

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Yield: 2 loaves
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
184 Calories
2g Fat
36g Carbs
6g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 184
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 13mg 4%
Sodium 324mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 17mg 1%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 123mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The sourdough starter in this Polish rye bread recipe (loosely translated as chleb na zakwas żytni) gives it a delightful tang, but it takes two days to ripen, so plan accordingly. As an alternative, there is a shortcut you can use so you can make your dough and enjoy your loaf on the same day.

Many people are familiar with white sourdough breads but don't realize some deli ryes are made with a sourdough, too. Rye breads and wheat breads must be lightened with white flour otherwise, they would be too dense. Brushing with egg white before baking gives this bread a nice shine.


For the Sourdough Starter:

  • 4 tablespoons medium rye flour

  • 3 tablespoons warm milk

For the Bread:

  • 4 cups medium rye flour

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 (0.25-ounce) packet instant yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water

  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature, beaten

  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Steps to Make It

Make the Starter

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the 4 tablespoons rye flour and milk.

  2. Cover with plastic and set in a warm place to ripen for two days or until it smells pleasantly sour.

Make the Dough

  1. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups rye flour and the all-purpose flour, salt, yeast, butter, water, and starter. Knead 7 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand.

  2. Place the dough in a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

  3. Punch down the dough, knead it for 1 minute and divide it in half.

Shape and Bake

  1. Heat the oven to 400 F.

  2. Shape each dough half into a round on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover each round with oiled plastic and let them rise 30 minutes or until almost doubled.

  3. Brush the risen rounds with egg white and sprinkle them with caraway seeds. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until instant-read thermometer registers 190 to 195 F and bread sounds hollow when tapped.

  4. Slide the bread round off the baking pans and cool them completely on a wire rack.

  5. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

If you have leftover rye bread and it's starting to go stale, put it to use making rye croutons to enjoy on salads and soups.

Starter Shortcut Variation

Waiting two days for your starter to develop isn't always an option. Instead of making a starter, substitute 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and reduce the water in the recipe from 2 1/2 cups to 3/4 cup.

Rye Bread Is Perfect With These Recipes

  • Dried Mushroom Soup Recipe: This hearty mushroom soup is made with the prize of Polish forests—the borowiki mushroom in its dried form and reconstituted.

  • Dill Pickle Soup RecipeDespite its unusual-sounding name, dill pickle soup is a traditional offering. This recipe is authentic and comes from the village of Gwizdały in Poland.

  • Oxtail-Barley Soup RecipeOriginally made with tails from oxen, modern versions feature beef tails and is a delicious example of nose-to-tail eating so common in farming communities.