Fact Checked

What Is Black Bread?

Angela Farrer
Angela Farrer

Black bread is a type of bread that is often considered a staple of Russian cuisine. This kind of black rye bread is quite common at traditional Russian meals and is frequently seen as a symbol of health and prosperity. Black bread is also sometimes tied to the history of hardships in this country because it was usually a main food source for Russian families when other types of food were not readily available. Recipes for black bread are known for their richness and complexity, as the process of making this kind of bread from scratch can be quite involved and usually carries a learning curve for newcomers to this recipe. Many home bakers report that the results are worth the effort, and well-made black breads are a flavorful addition to a variety of meals.

Ingredients for black bread can include a mixture of rye flour and the baker's choice of bread flour. Some bread-makers also like to mix in wheat flour for additional nutrients. Different bread recipes usually have various flavoring options such as coffee grounds, espresso-flavored powder, dark brown sugar, molasses, or unsweetened baking chocolate. Some bakers also like to balance the sweeter flavors with caraway or fennel seeds, as well as salt or sometimes cider vinegar.

Black bread is a kind of rye bread common in Russia.
Black bread is a kind of rye bread common in Russia.

The correct amount of active bread yeast is an important part of making Russian black bread, just as with other bread types. Many recipes call for the baker to first combine the yeast with warm water and sometimes a small pinch of brown or white sugar. Once thoroughly mixed, the yeast and water need to be set aside to activate for about 10 minutes. Some newcomers to bread-making can make the mistake of not allowing enough time for this process. This yeast mixture is generally ready when a light foam is visible on its surface.

Black bread often contains fennel seeds.
Black bread often contains fennel seeds.

Mixing the additional dry and wet ingredients separately is frequently called for in black rye bread recipes to ensure the resulting dough is properly blended. The home baker should ideally have at least two medium-sized mixing bowls and one large bowl, as well as a medium sauce pan for these steps. Recipes that include ingredients such as butter and solid baking chocolate usually require it to be melted and mixed with the other flavorings, such as the molasses, vinegar, or espresso powder. These are then combined with the blended flour in the largest mixing bowl prior to baking.

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Discussion Comments


Most people think of Russian black bread but there are similar varieties from other countries. I have had both Irish black bread and German black bread. All of them are a take on a rye bread with a sour flavor and a hearty texture.

I think I like the German variety the best. The Germans really know how to do a rye bread. There is a little German bakery close to my house and I usually stop in for pastries but every once in a while I will get a loaf of that black bread.


I was an exchange student in Russian and I came to love black bread. My host family served it at almost every meal so it was hard to avoid trying it.

The crazy thing is I had never been a fan of rye bread before I got there. And in general I am still not a fan. But there is something about a good slice of black bread that really works for me.

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    • Black bread is a kind of rye bread common in Russia.
      By: larisabozhikova
      Black bread is a kind of rye bread common in Russia.
    • Black bread often contains fennel seeds.
      By: photocrew
      Black bread often contains fennel seeds.