Fact Checked

What Is Rye Meal?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

Rye meal is a coarse whole-grain rye flour made from whole rye that has been coarsely ground. It is most commonly found in pumpernickel bread. The rye meal used in pumpernickel bread is sometimes so exceptionally coarse that it is often called chopped rye. Depending on the type of rye used in the rye meal, it can be tan to light green in color.

This grain is more nutritious than other bread grains because it contains the whole rye grain. Most rye flour is made only from the endosperm of the rye berry, omitting the bran and germ. Since it contains the nutritious bran and germ of the rye berry, it is more nutritious than breads made with wheat or even rye flour.

Smoked salmon sandwiches are served on pumpernickel made from rye meal.
Smoked salmon sandwiches are served on pumpernickel made from rye meal.

A food with a distinctly spicy flavor, rye is a grassy grain related to wheat and barley. As a wheat relative, rye has gluten in it, making it unsuitable for gluten-free recipes. In addition to its use as a grain crop for rye meal and flour, rye grasses can also be used for livestock foraging. Whole rye is used to make the mash that ferments into a variety of whiskey called rye whiskey. A type of rye called winter rye is a common crop planted to protect and use the ground during the cold winter months when grains like wheat will not grow.

Organic rye meal is grown without using chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
Organic rye meal is grown without using chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Pumpernickel bread is a lightly sweet and spicy leavened bread made with ingredients like rye, molasses, and cocoa powder. Wheat flour, salt, and oil are also included in pumpernickel bread. Though rye is the dominant flavor in pumpernickel bread, wheat flour is often included to add a traditional bread-like texture and temper the strong spicy flavor of the rye.

A Reuben sandwich may include Swiss cheese.
A Reuben sandwich may include Swiss cheese.

Many delis serve sandwiches on pumpernickel bread with sandwich ingredients including roast beef, smoked salmon, and turkey. One of the most popular ways to eat pumpernickel is in the famous Reuben sandwich, which generally includes corned beef or pastrami, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on pumpernickel bread. It is also served alongside other types of bread and rolls in bread baskets served at many restaurants.

Varieties of rye used in rye meal can vary, and may affect the color of the ground rye. The most common varieties of rye planted to make rye meal are rymin, muskateer and hancock rye. Some bread makers only use organic rye to make their rye bread meals. Organic rye meal is meal grown using organic farming methods, meaning no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used.

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Discussion Comments


I never realized that pumpernickel and rye bread were essentially the same thing. I have bought a marble rye bread before which is a nice combination. Something a little bit different that is not too strong.

When my sister had to go on a gluten free diet, she could no longer eat rye. There were a lot of foods she had to give up that she really liked, and this was one of them.

It's funny how people have such different tastes. If I had to give up rye I wouldn't have a problem with it because I can take it or leave it, and have never really gone out of my way to buy it.


About the only time I eat rye bread is when I have a Reuben sandwich. My husband doesn't like sauerkraut, so he will never eat them. I order them when we go out to eat, or when he is out of town.

He will eat the rye bread in the morning for toast though. This is nice, because the only way I really like the rye bread is with the Reuben, and you can only eat so many of them in a short period of time.

This way the bread does not go to waste and it gives him something different to eat than the traditional whole grain wheat he usually eats.


I don't mind a light rye bread, but don't care for a strong, dark rye bread. I like eating rye bread even better if it is mixed in with some whole wheat flour.

The wheat flour helps balance out the strong taste of the rye. This way you still get some of the good nutrition of the rye, but not such a strong taste. This is the only way my kids will eat rye bread.

If I make a sandwich with a dark rye that doesn't have any other kind of grain mixed in with it, they won't eat it. I think eating bread made only with rye meal takes some getting used to.


@Kristee – I imagine that she uses dark rye flour, right? I know several purists who insist that this is the best kind to use.

I love adding coffee to my rye bread recipe. I think that it results in an even darker, richer flavor. It also makes the bread even more delicious when washed down with a cup of coffee on the side.

I love smearing a milk chocolate spread on top of my dark rye bread. The combination of the sweet chocolate with the bitter coffee and bread is bliss to my taste buds.


My cousin is emphatic about making pumpernickel bread the authentic way. She says that adding anything like coffee or molasses cheapens it, but I think it tastes great either way.

She also says that you have to do it like the Germans and bake it for sixteen hours. I can't imagine leaving anything in the oven for that long, but she adheres to an old-fashioned process.

She uses some whole rye berries, along with rye meal. I don't know all the ingredients that she uses, but I know that these are some of the most important.

She does make some delicious pumpernickel bread, but I like the kind from the supermarket just as much. I will never tell her that, though.


I used to eat whole wheat bread all the time, but once I discovered whole grain rye bread, I fell in love with it. It has a much richer, deeper flavor than wheat bread.

Turkey and roast beef taste so much better when they are sandwiched between two slices of rye bread. I like that I can see the big chunks of meal in the finished bread. This lets me know I'm getting something nutritious.

I've come a long way from the days when I used to eat nothing but white bread. I progressed to wheat and then to rye, and I think I feel healthier now than ever before.


My sister-in-law used to bake rye bread for her family all the time. However, she recently discovered that she has a gluten allergy, so she had to stop making it.

It's funny how you can suddenly develop an allergy to something that you have eaten all your life. She decided to give her rye bread recipe to me, since she could no longer have the bread in her house.

I have only made it once, but it was great. However, it did make my stomach hurt a little. I don't have an allergy or anything, but I do have trouble digesting rye meal.


@burcidi-- It's normal for rye meal from different brands to look different. But they're usually labeled as "light," "medium," or "dark" and that can give you an idea of how coarse it is. Darker rye meals tend to be a lot coarser than light rye meals.

Are you planning on making pumpernickel bread? If so, you can also look for rye meal that is labeled as "pumpernickel rye meal." This is what I use and I always get really good results. The one I buy is a dark, pretty coarse rye meal.

Rye meal isn't the best choice for people who like light, very fluffy bread. Depending on what other flours you add, rye meal brad can be made slightly fluffy but it will usually be heavy. I personally like heavy, textured breads. Dark rye bread is the most satisfying bread in my opinion.


@burcidi-- From my experience, you won't see any coarse pieces of rye in rye flour. It will just be flour, very fine and basically homogeneous in look and color. If you see any coarse pieces in there, I believe then, it has to be called rye meal, not rye flour.

Of course, when rye is being milled, it can be made into meal with varying degree of coarseness. Which type you select, depends on your personal preference and what you're planning to make with it. I, for example, prefer it very coarse. I use this coarse rye meal by itself for cookies. When I'm making bread or muffins though, I add some white rye flour or wheat flour so that the bread comes out softer and easier to digest.


I get a little confused telling apart rye meal vs rye flour sometimes because some brands of rye flour look very coarse and appear to contain more than just the endosperm.

Does anyone else have this issue? How do you tell apart rye meal and rye flour? And which type of rye meal do you prefer?

I don't like extremely coarse rye meal or finely ground rye flour. I prefer rye meal that is in between these two because it makes the best bread and you don't have to worry about adding other flours to it. Aside from the right coarseness and the freshness of the product, I don't pay attention to much else. That's probably why I don't know all the differences between rye meal and flour.

If anyone has any tips they can share for selecting the right type of rye meal, that would be great.

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    • Smoked salmon sandwiches are served on pumpernickel made from rye meal.
      By: PhotoEd
      Smoked salmon sandwiches are served on pumpernickel made from rye meal.
    • Organic rye meal is grown without using chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
      By: sauletas
      Organic rye meal is grown without using chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
    • A Reuben sandwich may include Swiss cheese.
      By: atm2003
      A Reuben sandwich may include Swiss cheese.