Mastering Whole-Grain Breads in Your Bread Machine

You can take it up a notch with these whole-grain recipes, but you need to respect the dynamics of baking with these grains.

Ancient Grains

The idea of whole-grain breads sounds so good. And it is. But be careful out there. Whole-grains present some unique challenges to any bread baker. Fortunately, many bread machines have a “whole wheat” setting or cycle. This is the cycle you should use for any multi-grain or whole-grain recipe.


Why Gluten is Important

The reason why the “whole wheat” cycle is so important is related to the general lack of gluten in many whole grain breads. Gluten helps bread to rise when combined with yeast. Pure bread flour has the highest concentration of gluten. All-purpose flour has less, and wheat flours and other whole-grain flours less than that. The whole wheat cycle on your bread machine will go through a more repetitive process of kneading and rising to compensate for the lack of gluten. Flours with high gluten rise higher and faster. Low gluten flours rise slower and lower.


Is Gluten Bad?

Yes and no. It all depends on you. Some people have a condition known as “celiac” disease which is an allergy, or auto-immune response to gluten. These people strive to pursue a gluten-free diet. Most people are not gluten-intolerant.


Whole Grains and Multi-Grain Strategies

The recipes we’ll explore compensate for the general lack of gluten in some whole grains. This could include the addition of more yeast, the reduction or lack of salt as an ingredient, and additional kneading and rising cycles that are customary with most whole-wheat settings on your bread machine. Exceptions occur in machines with two paddles where the kneading tends to be more thorough the first time, but repeated rising and kneading gives best results with whole grain breads.


Benefits of Whole Grain Breads

All breads that you make in your bread machine are good. Whole grain breads simply use or combine different grain varieties that offer a variety of tastes, textures and some additional nutritional aspects related to fiber and nutrient density. They also tend to have a more traditional appearance with a crispier crust.


Whole Grain Bread Tips

You may have to do a bit of exploring to find some whole grain flours in your grocery store. The whole wheat flour is usually stocked in the baking aisle with the all-purpose flour and the bread flour, but rye flours and ancient grains are usually in specialty aisles with health foods or other special types of items. 7-grain bread is actually made with a 7-grain cereal that could be in the cereal aisle or other section. Some stores also have unique sections for various grains and flours and you can even select grains and grind them yourself or have them ground for you.

Another alternative is to grind your own flour at home. There are electric models and hand-cranked versions. You buy the whole grains and grind it when you’re ready to bake. If you bake bread frequently you might want to consider this option. This also lets you adjust the grind for variations like cracked-wheat bread or other varieties that have varying degrees of granularity.

Something else to keep in mind is that many multi-grain recipes call for bread flour or whole wheat flour as a foundation ingredient. The bread has a definite whole-grain taste and texture, but the bread flour or whole wheat flour as a partial ingredient helps with the rising process and the overall texture and integrity of the loaf. This usually depends on the type of whole-grains or multi-grains you’re using.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re using fresh yeast. I keep mine in the refrigerator and prefer bread machine yeast in a jar. Whole-grain bread recipes often call for a bit more yeast than usual to compensate for the decreased gluten levels in some flour types. You could also consider omitting salt from a recipe to help the rise. Salt inhibits yeast growth to some degree.

In this article we cover four whole-grain recipes. Each is a bit unique to demonstrate approaches and techniques you might use across a range of recipes. All are intended to be baked in the bread machine, but each could also be made into a dough through the dough-cycle on your machine, and then shaped and baked in the oven. The usual oven setting is 400°F./205°C. until the loaf is browned. The time for any loaf in the oven varies depending on its size, but after about 20 to 25 minutes you should start checking for color and doneness.


Caraway Rye Bread Recipe:

(Makes a 2 pound loaf)

Rye bread is an ancient recipe and was especially popular in eastern Europe where rye grasses thrived. It’s a firm, dark colored loaf. The addition of caraway seeds is a standard flavoring. Caraway has a subtle, licorice taste. Be careful with the amount of caraway that you add. If you exceed the recipe amount you may find that the bread is too gritty. If you don’t like caraway seeds you can omit them from the recipe. You’ll also notice in this recipe that rye flour is used in addition to both bread flour and whole wheat flour. Here again, this is an effort to compensate for the general lack of gluten in rye flour. You can experiment with proportions if you want a “ryer” bread, but if you do you don’t want to exceed the total volume of flour, and you might want to omit the salt and add a pinch more yeast.



  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (100 degrees F/38 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast


Place all ingredients in the bread pan in the order indicated and set to whole wheat cycle for 2.0 pound loaf and medium crust. When bread is done, cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, slice and serve.


Barley Bread Recipe:

(Makes a 2 pound loaf)

Barley is not referred to as an ancient grain like amaranth and quinoa, but it should be. Its history and tradition go back to the Sumerians and it was the staple grain for most breads in medieval Europe. Barley also has a fairly high level of gluten so it often holds its own during a bread kneading and rising cycle. However, the gluten level is still less than bread flour so we’re going to add bread flour as a primary ingredient in this recipe. You can experiment with proportions as you go, but the proportion in this recipe will give you a good result. The addition of brown sugar in this recipe not only adds color and flavor, but helps to fuel yeast growth during the rising and baking process.

  • 1 1⁄2 cups water (100 degrees F/38 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup barley flour
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast


Add all ingredients to the bread in the order indicated and select the whole wheat cycle, 2 pound loaf and medium crust. When done, cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, slice and serve.


Seven Grain Bread Recipe:

(Makes a 1.5 pound loaf)

IMGP2326 IMGP2321

This is a great tasting, rustic bread and it’s not as hard to make as it sounds. The seven grains can actually be bought at most grocery stores pre-packaged as a 7-Grain cereal. You may have to ask or hunt it down, but it’s the standard ingredient in seven grain bread recipes. If you have your own flour mill you can improvise or even make eight or nine grain breads. For this foundation recipe we’ll stick with the seven grains in the package.

The seven grains sometimes include red and white hard wheat’s, oats, white soft wheat, rye, triticale, and barley. These can vary but this is the general blend. Some people prefer this style of bread due to its nutrient density and complexity. It also has a distinctive nut-like taste, and a rustic texture.



  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons dry milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 3/4 cup 7-grain cereal
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or bread machine yeast


Add ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated and select whole wheat cycle, 1.5 pound loaf and medium crust.

IMGP2329 IMGP2335


Ancient Grains Bread Recipe:

(Makes a 2 pound loaf)

I’ve been experimenting with Ancient grains lately. They’re various grains from little known plants that were often a part of our distant ancestor’s diet. They include quinoa, amaranth, Kamut, flaxseed and spelt. They have a nutty, flavorful taste. More importantly, they’re packed with proteins, amino acids, thiamin, niacin, vitamins E, A and D and have both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Better yet, they’re easy to grow and most of them are gluten-free.

Amaranth grows like a weed. It’s a tall, leafy plant on a fibrous stalk and the seeds hang down from the crown like dreadlocks. I have them planted along fences and in the back yard next to the shed.

Quinoa is similar in appearance and both amaranth and quinoa come in a variety of colors from a light, golden color to a deep burgundy. The seeds dry on the vine or stalks although you may have to battle the birds as they mature and dry out.

If you’d like to plant your own, just buy some at the store (most large grocery chains carry them in the organic, cereal or rice aisles) and sprinkle where you’d like them to grown. They grow like weeds and will spread from season to season.

Spelt is a grass and its seeds look much like wheat at the end of a stalk. Flaxseed is actually a flowering plant and the seeds are harvested from the seed buds within the flowertops. They’re a little harder to harvest than quinoa or amaranth, but they grow just as easily and spread just as fast so be careful where you plant them.

Whether you buy your ancient grains or grow them yourself, they will keep well in a sealed container for months if you keep them dry and store them in a cool, dark place like a cabinet or pantry.

This recipe calls for the direct addition of grains that have not been ground or crushed. It uses bread flour as a foundation ingredient because most ancient grains are either low in gluten or gluten free. We’ve developed recipes for gluten free bread which you can explore if you want to go that route, but for the sake of this recipe we’re going to keep the bread flour as an ingredient. You can blend as many ancient grains as you want into this recipe, just don’t exceed the total amount of ancient grains indicated in the recipe. The husks surrounding ancient grains can add a note of bitterness if over-used, but they’re a great source of fiber and contain many of the micro nutrients we mentioned.

You can also buy an ancient grains flour blend in the specialty or health food aisles in your grocery store. This recipe offers you the option of using that type of flour. It also calls for a cup of vital wheat gluten. You can skip that ingredient if you can’t find it but it helps with the general lack of gluten in the ancient grains.



  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) ancient grains flour (or whole ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth, and spelt).
  • 2 1/4 cups (10 1/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast


  1. Add the ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated in the recipe and select whole wheat cycle, 1.5 pound loaf and medium crust. When done cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, slice and serve.
  2. Like always, you should watch the consistency of your dough during the early dough cycle. If it’s too dry add a tablespoon of warm water at a time to get the consistency right. If it’s too wet or has a batter-like consistency add a tablespoon of bread flour at a time to thicken it up.



These recipes have been tested so you should have good success and will have mastered the art of baking whole grain breads in your bread machine.

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  1. Reply
    Jane December 9, 2019 at 4:24 am


    I’m seeking clarification on your Ancient Grains Bread recipe. At the top of this recipe it states a two-pound loaf. In step one of the directions, it states to use the 1.5 pound setting. Which is correct?

    Thank you.

  2. Reply
    Cathy January 4, 2019 at 9:40 pm


    Just a correction to your Seven Grain Bread Recipe: it says 1 tablespoon dry yeast. It’s too much. Was it a typo and should have read 1 teaspoon?

    Thank you,

    • Reply
      linda December 14, 2019 at 8:40 am

      what happened with 1T of yeast

    • Reply
      Steve Nubie January 13, 2019 at 9:15 am

      Hi Cathy,

      There are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon. As the article explains, many ancient grains are low in gluten. Bread flour can compensate but many of the recipes indicate yeast up to 2 ½ teaspoons. If you felt your effort with the recipe rose to high, let us know. We kitchen test every recipe and this one worked in our kitchen at 1 tablespoon of yeast.

  3. Reply
    Michael August 12, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    What would you suggest to use as a substitute for dry milk powder for those of us who are lactose intolerant? I understand that milk powder is used to somehow make the bread dough smoother, or to create a brown crust with caramelization. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.

    • Reply
      Admin October 17, 2018 at 7:17 am

      Hi Michael,

      Just skip it. The bread will be fine.

  4. Reply
    Reed June 16, 2018 at 12:28 am

    Do you have any recipes for a good whole wheat grain bread with seeds and grains using whole wheat flour, not unbleached whole wheat flour, in your recipes?

  5. Reply
    Amy February 18, 2018 at 2:32 am

    Hi Steve,

    In the ancient grains recipe you mentioned that you could leave out the vital wheat gluten, but is useful to compensate for the lack of gluten in ancient grains. However, the recipe calls for over 2 cups of bread flour, which you mentioned earlier, that contains the highest levels of gluten. So why the vital wheat gluten as an ingrédient?

    • Reply
      Admin February 18, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      Hi Amy,

      Even with the gluten from the bread flour the lack of gluten in the ancient grains could need to be compensated for with the addition of the vital wheat gluten. You can try it without the vital wheat gluten if it’s hard to find but you might get a smaller rise from the dough. Another way to compensate for a shortage of gluten in any recipe is to omit any salt from the ingredients or add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of yeast and another half teaspoon of sugar or honey.

      hope this helps 🙂

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