Beet Rye Bread (whole grain)

Vegan whole grain beet rye bread, beet bread, vegan rye bread, whole grain rye bread

Today is Virtual Vegan Potluck, and I’m so stoked to be presenting this veggieful beet rye bread as my side dish. At the bottom of this post you’ll find more info on the potluck and buttons to navigate to the other potluck participants.

The theme of the potluck was beets, and since I’ve got about 10 pounds of them in my refrigerator right now from our CSA backlog, I was happy to oblige. The inspiration for making a bread with beet puree certainly came from my brown rice potato bread, but since potatoes are quite starchy and beets are actually not at all starchy, and rather luscious, it required a completely different game plan. But this was a smashing success! The earthiness of the beets pairs so nicely with the rye flour, and this bread absolutely kicked butt slathered with apple butter. Also, amazing sandwich bread. Vegan reuben anyone? Now, please indulge me for a few more paragraphs while I discuss the bread-making process…

I really wanted this to be a true, sour rye bread, so that means starting out with a sponge. What is a sponge? It’s a mixture of flour, yeast, and water that is prepared ahead of time. In many bread recipes, yeast is mixed with warm water and a little sugar for the yeast to feed on for about 10 minutes. With a sponge, the yeast actually breaks down and feeds on the sugars in the flour. That’s why it takes a little longer than a sugar preparation. It can really be worth it, though, when you taste the deliciously sour flavor that results. In my pizza bagels post, I went into a bit more detail about what to look for when making a sponge-based bread.

Vegan whole grain beet rye bread, beet bread, vegan rye bread, whole grain rye bread

Another thing I was adamant about was getting a killer crust on this rye bread. That’s why I used my go-to vegan egg wash substitute to brush on top of the loaf before baking, and also used a little ice cube trick to create steam in the oven toward the end of baking. However, if you’re not in the mood, the wash and the ice cube trick are optional. I’ve made this bread three times now (yes. it is that good.) and it works either way.

Even though we have a standing mixer (thank you to Mr. NINV’s grandmother!), I never use it for bread because I loooove to knead. Did that sound sarcastic? It actually wasn’t. I find it really relaxing. I kneaded this for about 15 minutes, as I’ll explain below, but you could most definitely use a standing mixer, or probably even a food processor, and cut down the mixing time to less than 10 minutes. I’d say to default to that if you’re in a hurry, but you can’t really make rye bread in a hurry to begin with…

Vegan whole grain beet rye bread, beet bread, vegan rye bread, whole grain rye bread

All of that stuff sounds a little intimidating but if you take your time and relax, making this bread is easy peasy. The beet flavor comes right through, especially if you use red or striped beets (as opposed to golden), so if you aren’t a fan of beets, I don’t think is the recipe for you. But otherwise, I have no reservations about telling everyone that this beet rye bread is healthy (whole grain, fat free, and full of beets!), toothsome, and totally worth making.

Beets, candy cane beets, sliced beets

Yeah, so using these beautiful beets in a puree kind of felt like a sin. But before cutting into them I honestly thought they were gonna be yellow inside.

The total time to make this bread is 4-5 hours, with the only really hands-on part being the 15 minutes of kneading, and peeling the beets. So save this recipe for a weekend. Alternately, let the final rise be overnight to split it into a multi-day affair.

Whole Grain Beet Rye Bread

For the sponge:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2.5 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 package)
1/2 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk, warmed (about 90 F)
1 cup water, warmed (about 90 F)

For the dough:
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tb vital wheat gluten flour
(optional) 1 tb barley malt powder (see notes)
heaping 3/4 cup pureed cooked beets (packed, see notes)
1/2 tb salt
(optional) 3-4 tb toasted caraway seeds
additional rye and whole wheat flour in roughly a 1:2 ratio

For brushing on the top of the loaf (optional):
2 tb plain unsweetened nondairy milk
1 tsp canola or other neutral oil

Prepare the sponge. Stir all sponge ingredients together in a mixing bowl, cover with a damp paper towel or damp kitchen towel, and place somewhere warm. For me this equals the inside of my (not turned on) oven. Leave undisturbed for an hour.

Rye bread sponge, yeast sponge

Here’s what the sponge itself should look like.

sponge with beet puree, yeast sponge, rye bread sponge

This is just the beet puree added to the sponge.

Prepare the dough. Add the dough ingredients (aside from the additional flour) to the mixing bowl and mix to form a dough. Get an additional flour mixture ready. I ended up adding about another 1/2 cup of rye flour and another cup of whole wheat flour, and I think this ratio is best, but the amount will depend on your kitchen and elevation.

Flour a clean surface and knead the dough on it, adding more flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the surface and to your hands. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes or until it’s smooth and is easy to pull off of the counter, and if you start to pull off a piece of dough, it stretches. Lightly grease or flour a bowl, shape the dough into a ball, and place in the bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for about another hour, or until doubled in size – for me, it took 45 minutes, as it was warm in our apartment that day.

kneaded dough, kneaded rye bread dough

Dough after kneading.

Punch down the dough (if you haven’t done this before: literally just punch it. Nothing special to it. Let out the anger you are harboring toward concerned questions about your protein intake.) Let it rise one more time (yes, I know, but it’s worth it) for at least 30 minutes, but as much as overnight.

Apply the crust wash. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (and also preheat your pizza stone or cast iron skillet, if you have one – otherwise you can use a baking sheet and should not preheat it). Shape the loaf of bread into a oblong shape or ball and place on your baking vessel (greased or lined with parchment paper, if it’s a baking sheet). Try to do it gently so that you don’t deflate the dough. If that happens, you can cover it and let it rise back up again for a little while. Vigorously whisk the crust wash ingredients together with a fork, until emulsified. Brush them onto the bread. If you’re into the artisan-looking X design, use a sharp knife to cut two deep, cris-crossed scores into the top of the loaf.

Cook. Bake the loaf of bread for about 40 minutes. This time will vary depending on various factors, so start checking it at the 30-minute mark. Using a baking sheet will require more time than using a pizza stone or cast iron pan. It will also depend on how much flour you had to add. It’s done when the crust is browned, and when rapping the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles produces a hollow sound. After taking it out of the oven, let the bread cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing into it.

Eat. Oh my gosh, this bread is SO GOOD with apple butter slathered on top. It’s also good by itself or with whatever other bread topping you usually like, and yes, it is amazing for sandwiches, and YES, it makes a weirdly delicious garlic bread. I’ve been wanting to try it with a tempeh reuben of some kind as well.

Notes: I used one bunch of beets to get this amount. I peeled them, sliced them in half (or quarters for the larger ones) and dry roasted them at 350 until they were cooked through. Also, this is the exact amount that I used, for the loaf you see pictured, but the other times I made this bread I used as little as 1/2 cup or as much as 1 and 1/4 cup of beet puree. The only change will be to the amount of additional flour that is needed (kneaded?) while kneading.

The barley malt flour helps make the bread a little softer but doesn’t fundamentally change any aspects of the recipe, so it’s completely optional. It’s probably not worth buying any unless you make bread often, but if you do, I usually get mine from Barry Farm, along with a ton of other awesome bulk stuff that they sell. Note that barley malt powder is different from diastatic malt powder.

Finally, the ice cube trick. I pre-heated a small ramekin inside the oven as the bread was baking, and when I was ready to create a bit of steam in the oven to get the crust even crustier, I opened the oven, tossed a couple of ice cubes into the hot ramekin, and quickly closed the oven again to trap the steam inside. Nothing too dramatic.

Source: my noggin/a lot of research about rye bread. Submitted to YeastSpotting, Healthy Vegan Fridays.


Okay, so, Virtual Vegan Potluck! My post is in the breads category, but throughout the potluck you’ll also find entrees, desserts, sides, soups, and more. To check out the full list of participating blogs go here. Use the buttons below to navigate to the blogs previous and subsequent to mine!

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  1. says

    This bread looks PERFECT! I have never made bread without the help of my bread machine because I’m super scared of the rising dough thingie. I would never have thought there were beets in this bread. This would be a great way to sneak some healthy stuff into people’s food that don’t normally eat beets….like kids…or my partner Neal 😛

    • says

      If you are trying to do a beet sneak attack I would definitely use golden beets so that the flavor is milder! But yes, I totally understand the fear. all I can say is that I used to be the same way and you’ve gotta just believe in yourself. Good luck feeding beets to Neal :)

  2. says

    I wish I loved kneading! I get that you find it relaxing – which probably would be a good thing for me cuz I’m hyper…But I usually use my stand mixer so I can multi-task!

    Thanks for being a part of the Potluck!!

    • says

      Yeah, the multi-tasking is a major advantage of using the mixer… I need to remember to use it if I’m actually in a crunch for time. Thanks so much for working to put the potluck together… participating and seeing the other recipes was a lot of fun :)

  3. gigiveganville says

    No no seriously you did not sound sarcastic:) I have never used a dough hook there is something gratifying about kneading (easy to play with puns with bread) the crust does look killer and it will make one helluva Reuben.

  4. acookinthemaking says

    This looks really yummy! Thanks for all the tips on sponges, crust wash, etc. You know a lot more about baking bread than I do! Always fun to learn something new :)

    P.S. – Those striped beets are unbelievably beautiful!

  5. says

    Thanks! We are such bread addicts in my household, we had to learn how to make it ourselves and stop paying a premium at the bakery :). I agree, the striped beets are so so gorgeous.

  6. says

    Does it rise to double before hitting the oven? It would be dense if it was knocked back twice and not re-proofed on the baking sheet / peel

    • says

      Hi Sarah, it’s only punched down one time. After being punched down and rising again it is gently reshaped before going into the oven.

      Now that you ask this question I realize that the instructions mare unclear about that so I’m going to update them. Thanks for asking, I appreciate it!


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