Light & Fluffy Homemade Whole-Grain Bread

for Mini Buns, Dinner Rolls and Loaves

My new go-to recipe for homemade whole-grain bread, formed into loaves for slicing and buns for sandwiches or dinner rolls. The dough is made with healthy whole-grain wheat flours and still achieves that soft and fluffy texture so many people like and is typically accomplished only with refined white flour. If you're looking for a whole-grain roll recipe, this one belongs on your to-try list, especially for tender and delicious whole-wheat dinner rolls.

Light 'n' Fluffy Homemade Whole-Grain Bread ♥, for mini buns, sandwich rolls and loaves.

Homemade Bread, Made from Scratch with Healthy Whole-Wheat Flours. A Forgiving & Flexible Dough. Pretty Color with a Touch of Pumpkin. Budget Friendly. Potluck & Holiday & Party Friendly.

  • "...we're carboholics and LOVE this bread." ~ bugsboysandbooboos

The State of American Bread.

May it please the Court of Bread Lovers, I submit that the state of American bread is one sorry, sorry, state and hereby submit into evidence:

  • Exhibit #1: At Christmas a few years ago, my dad ran to the grocery for bread and brought home sour dough Wonder bread. We made our sandwiches, the bread went into the bread drawer. Ten months later – I know, too long – there it was, still as "fresh" (ha!) as ever, no science experiment color, no sign of mold or aging. If it weren’t so creepy, I’d "wonder" if bread might be a yeasty fountain of youth. (Photographic evidence? Scroll to the bottom of this recipe for another Whole Grain Bread from A Veggie Venture, my food blog.)

  • Exhibit #2: Last month, I bought a small loaf at the grocery, something quick for dinner. First, they fooled me. The label read wheat mini loaf versus whole wheat mini loaf so wasn’t even whole grain. How many of us make the same mistake?
    And then, the ingredient list was longer than the loaf.

    Bleached wheat flour (malted barley flour, niacin, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin), water, sugar, cracked wheat, yeast, wheat bran, salt, vegetable shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed, and/or canola oils), wheat gluten, cornstarch, soy flour, molasses, calcium stearoyl lactylate (CSL), dextrose, malt, corn flour, calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of monodiglycerides (datem), carmel color, ammonium chloride, ascorbic acid, calcium carbonate, malt barley flour, soy oil, enzyme, calcium peroxide, azodicarbonamide (ADA), lcysteine, isolated soy protein, sodium phosohare, lecithin, soybean oil, carrageenan, mixed tocopherols added to protect flavor.

    Yikes, is all that necessary, just for bread? The price? $.12 an ounce.

  • Exhibit #3: So then I bought a loaf of good bread, a so-called "Artisan Multi-Grain Flax & Honey Bread" at a brand-new high-end grocery but had to ask, special, for an ingredient label. Hmm, was it whole grain? I don’t think so, not from the label. Still, the ingredient list was shorter, just

    Water, enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, barley malt, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), whole wheat flour, rye flour, molasses, sugar, oats, sunflower seeds, millet, flax seed, contains 2% or less of: honey, salt, yeast, cracked wheat, lactic acid, sea salt, cultured wheat starch, ascorbic acid.

    YIKES. For this bread, the price was 25 cents an ounce, more than twice the cost. The taste? Okay.
    And sure, I could go to a bakery with good bread, I’m lucky to have one up the road. But it’s an extra stop and is closed after six and Sundays. Plus the bread is quite expensive, $6 a loaf.

  • Exhibit #4: During a road trip into the American West this summer, we ate three meals a day out, no fast food, local places only, some times a little upscale, mostly not. Only once was the bread was worth eating, a splurge at a pricey place with all-around fabulous food. Otherwise? White bread, soft and smudgy, tasteless and forgettable.

Your Bread Honors? I rest my case.

The American State of Bread is a sorry, sorry state.

About This Recipe

As a country, we like our bread white and soft.

So I set out to find a whole-grain bread recipe that’s not white, sorry, but a lovely pumpkin-tinged brown but whose texture has a tender satisfying texture. Plus the flavor is so good! I must say, I’m hooked on this bread.

The first year, I made bread a half dozen times in a couple of months, playing with the basic recipe. Now it's my go-to recipe for whole-grain bread, especially since it's such a forgiving bread dough.

When family is arriving from out of town, I'll mix up a batch the morning of arrival, we'll have hot soup and small rolls hot out of the oven the first night, then use larger rolls for lunch sandwiches the rest of the week.

Often there's time to make a loaf of Autumn Pumpkin Bread too, finishing off that can of pumpkin!

I've also started to "jazz up" the appearance of the bread, especially the mini dinner rolls. Pumpkin seeds work, so does pressing a tiny bit of good salt into the tops. Have another idea? Please let me know!

Light 'n' Fluffy Homemade Whole-Grain Bread ♥, for mini buns, sandwich rolls and loaves.

What's In My Whole-Grain Bread? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

Homemade bread requires no more than flour, yeast, salt and water. But this recipe incorporates some common but less-typical-for-bread ingredients. That makes the bread not only whole-grain but especially rich, soft and tender. No wonder it's such a holiday favorite!

  • Yeast Use either active-dry or instant yeast. The recipe calls for an unusually high amount of yeast, the equivalent of almost three standard-size envelopes. Do be sure your yeast is quite fresh, purchased within the last few months, say.
  • Liquids Just water plus buttermilk, adding moisture for tenderness.
  • Fat For richness and tenderness, use either olive oil or melted butter.
  • Sweetness For a slight sweetness and a nice color, use molasses or sorghum syrup.
  • "Something Plant" I settled on canned pumpkin for this recipe, it's an ingredient easily kept on hand. Plus it adds a really pretty color to the bread. But I've also tried other surprising ingredients, like sauerkraut mixed with water and carrot puréed with water. Baby food would work beautifully!
  • Egg An egg adds structure and a little protein.
  • Salt No skipping or skimping!
  • Flours For lots of detail, please see the discussion just below! But for a quick list, make this bread with (1) all whole-wheat pastry flour or (2) a mix of whole-wheat flour and white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour. For bread with a high proportion of whole-grain flour, use (1) a mix of whole-wheat flour and all-purpose or bread flour.
Light 'n' Fluffy Homemade Whole-Grain Bread ♥, for mini buns, sandwich rolls and loaves.

For 100% Whole-Grain Bread

When I first published this recipe back in 2009, I described the recipe as "whole grain". But it really wasn't.

You see, I was following the bread-baker practice of making bread that was "part" whole wheat, using 25% to 30% all-purpose flour to achieve the softness we appreciate in bread.

Astute readers rightfully called me on that and yep, they were 100% right to do so. The bread is super-good when made with up to a third all-purpose flour but then, nope, it isn't "whole grain".

Back to the drawing bread board I went!

Now I use (and happily recommend) either one of two ways to bake 100% whole-grain bread using this recipe.

  • Substitute whole-wheat pastry flour for both flours, the whole-wheat flour and the all-purpose flour. Whole-wheat pastry flour is ground more finely, the rolls turn out especially light and lovely. And yes, they're 100% whole-grain!

  • Use the specified amount of whole-wheat flour. Then substitute white whole-wheat flour for the all-purpose or bread flour. White whole-wheat is also ground finely, it also is ground from a softer wheat. So again, the bread is 100% whole-grain!
On My Mind ♥, thinking about better techniques for making bread

Which Wheat Flours Are Whole-Grain?

But let's back up a minute, shall we? That's especially if your eyes are crossing with all this talk about all these different kinds of flours. Am I right? ;-)

  • Flour is flour, right? They're all the same, so you can use whatever you have, right? Sorry, no, it doesn't work that way. There are different types of flours. Different wheats are used for different flour products and by different brands. There's even a difference between generic flours and name-brand flours like Pillsbury and General Mills plus specialty producers like King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill. When I'm baking old-fashioned cookies at Christmas, say, I make sure to buy the same flour I've been using since I started baking as a teenager, that's Pillsbury all-purpose and very specifically Pillsbury's bleached flour. If you're ever disappointed in a cookie or cake you've been baking for years and suddenly it just isn't as good, well, it could be the flour.

  • What does "whole-grain" flour mean, anyway? Whole-grain wheat flours are made by grinding 100% (that is, the "whole") of grains of wheat (called wheatberries) including the extra-nutritious bran and germ.

  • Is there a difference between "whole-grain" and "whole wheat"? Yes. And No. The term whole-grain opens up an umbrella that includes wheat but also flours ground from non-wheat grains/plants (rye, millet, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, corn, rice, etc.) so long as the "whole" of the thing is used. The term whole wheat specifically describes wheat flour. That said, many people use the two terms interchangeably.

  • Is all-purpose flour whole grain? No. All-purpose flour is ground without the bran and germ, it's the highly processed refined "white flour" that those who strive for healthy diets eat in moderation, if at all.

  • Is bread flour whole grain? Probably not. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour. I've never seen 100% whole-wheat bread flour but read that it exists. I often interchange all-purpose and bread flour with little to no apparent difference in baked goods.

  • Is self-rising flour whole grain? No. Self-rising flour is a "convenience flour" that already includes baking powder and salt.

  • Is cake flour whole grain? No. Cake flour is the mostly finely ground flour, intended just for certain recipes.

  • Is 100% whole-wheat flour whole grain? Yes. It's also more coarsely ground which befits the rustic texture of some breads.

  • Is 100% whole-wheat pastry flour whole grain? Yes. It's more finely ground and contributes to a lighter bread texture, in part because it has less gluten than whole-wheat flour. The flour is pale brown in color.

  • Is white whole-wheat flour whole grain? Yes. Like 100% whole-wheat pastry flour, it's more finely ground. But it's ground from a variety of wheat that makes for a whole-wheat flour that's whiter in color similar to all-purpose flour.

  • Do whole-grain flours require special storage? Yes. The bran and germ are more perishable than the rest of the wheatberry. That means whole-grain flours have a shorter shelf-life than other flours and why bakers buy smaller packages of whole-wheat flour and store them in the fridge or freezer. That said, even all-purpose flour doesn't last forever; people who bake infrequently find it a good idea to buy small flour packages. How to tell if your flour needs replacing? Just give it a sniff. If it smells dusty or off in anyway, toss it and start with fresh flour.

  • Can all these flours be substituted one for the other? No. A good recipe writer will specify the type of flour. That said, if an ingredient list reads only "flour," odds are high it's calling for all-purpose flour. It's tricky to substitute one flour for another, even one brand's flour for another. The good news is that many bakers, including me, have good success with one-for-one substitutions with white whole-wheat flour and to a lesser extent, 100% whole-wheat pastry flour.

  • Are any wheat flours gluten-free? No. Wheat itself contains gluten so all wheat flours contain gluten. That said, the amount of gluten may vary from one variety of wheat flour to another, one brand of wheat flour to another.
Is a Stand Mixer Better for Kneading Bread Dough? The Case For & Against ♥

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • Can I use an electric mixer to mix and knead this dough? Yes! In fact, absolutely, yes. Although it's not required, I always make this dough with a stand mixer. You might want to Is a Stand Mixer Better for Kneading Bread Dough?, where I make the case for and against kneading with a mixer versus kneading by hand. That said, this dough isn't suited for a hand mixer, there's just too much dough and with all that whole-grain flour, so much heft.

  • So it's also okay to mix and knead this bread by hand too? Yes. So you might think this is funny, it amuses me considerably. I've never once "rented a house by the beach" but every time I write a recipe, I think about how I'd make it while cooking in a kitchen that's less equipped than my own. Clearly I need to move this idea from fantasy to reality, preferably somewhere with a big porch and beautiful sunsets.

  • What gives this bread its pretty color? The color comes from the pumpkin and the molasses.

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe flexible whole-grain bread recipe hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Light 'n' Fluffy Homemade Whole-Grain Bread ♥, for mini buns, sandwich rolls and loaves.


Hands-on time: 30 minutes to mix, 10 minutes to shape, occasional attention otherwise
Time to table: 3-1/2 – 6 hours
Makes 3-1/3 pounds of dough, enough for 2 large loaves or 1 loaf plus mini dinner rolls and sandwich buns (see TIPS). If that's too much, just cut the recipe in half.
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 312g
  • As needed, additional all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2-1/2 cups (312g) 100% white whole-wheat flour or 100% whole-wheat pastry flour
  • As needed, additional flour
  • Olive oil, for greasing the bowl
  • Egg wash (1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water, whisked until frothy), optional, for brushing the top so pumpkin seeds or salt will adhere
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds or flaky salt, optional, for the tops
  • Olive oil, for brushing the tops after baking

YEAST For active-dry yeast, proof the yeast in a medium-size bowl big enough for the yeast to dramatically expand; just stir together the yeast, sugar and water in the bowl and let rest until frothy. For instant yeast, just add the yeast, sugar and liquid into the mixing bowl, no need to proof separately.

MIX In a large mixing bowl (or a standing mixer with the mixing beater), combine the buttermilk, olive oil, molasses, pumpkin, water, egg and salt. Gently blend in the yeast mixture. Add the whole-wheat flour and combine well, scraping down the bowl and beater as needed, for about 3 minutes.

KNEAD WITH MIXER If using a standing mixer, switch to the bread hook and lock the bowl in place. Add the all-purpose flour and combine well, scraping down the bowl as needed, for about 7 minutes. A large, firm dough ball should form. If it’s soft, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time; if it’s too firm, add water, a half tablespoon at a time.

~ or ~ KNEAD BY HAND If you don't have a bread hook or are using a hand mixer, sorry, you'll need to continue by hand, first working in the remaining flour, then kneading for a good ten minutes. The dough is too heavy and will gum up your mixer. Think positive: it's "a good upper-arm workout". :-)

FIRST RISE IN WARM PLACE Rub the inside of a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough ball to the bowl, rubbing it against the sides of the bowl to coat the entire ball. Cover loosely with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 1 – 2 hours. With a fist, gently press into the dough two or three times to deflate.

~ or ~ FIRST RISE in the REFRIGERATOR A slower rise encourages flavor development so I some times mix the dough one evening, let it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight, then bake in the morning. The second rise will take longer than usual, however, since the dough starts off refrigerator-cold.

SHAPE & SECOND RISE Rub the baking dishes with olive oil. Form two loaves or one loaf and medium-size (about 75g) or small (about 50g) buns. To form a bun, cut off a small piece of dough, wrap it around itself so that the top side is smooth, the bottom side is the crease; place crease-side down on the dish, leaving space between.

If topping with pumpkin seeds or salt, whisk together an egg wash with egg white and water and brush the top of the loaves or buns where you want the seeds or salt to adhere. Sprinkle the seeds or salt atop the egg wash.

Cover the baking dishes with a clean towel and let rise again, 1 – 2 hours.

BAKE Heat oven to 375F/190C. Bake large loaves for 25 - 30 minutes; medium buns for about 15 - 18 minutes and small buns for about 10 - 12 minutes.

BRUSH WITH OIL Remove from the oven, brush the tops lightly with olive oil, working around the pumpkin seeds or salt if need be. Let cool.

STORE Wrap the bread tightly and keep in cool spot. The bread stays fresh for four or five days. It makes excellent toast, no toaster required: just brush bread slices or halved rolls with a little olive oil or butter and warm and brown cut-side down in a hot skillet. We call it Fried Bread!

ALANNA’s TIPS Some times I cut the dough in half and make one loaf and 16 medium-size buns. Other times, I cut the dough in thirds and make one loaf (good for Fried Bread) or bread and cheese; 8 medium-size buns (good for sandwiches); and 16 three-bite mini slider-size buns (great for serving alongside a salad or a cup of soup). The choice is yours! This recipe calls for a lot of yeast, 7 teaspoons, that's 2 tablespoons plus an extra teaspoon and almost 3 packages of yeast. FYI, a yeast packet contains 7 grams of yeast. But the extra leavening is truly needed, in part because this is a large batch of dough but also to lighten and loosen a fully whole-grain bread. I settled on pumpkin for the "plant life" that gives this bread a special moisture and "alive" taste. But the original recipe called for a carrot ground in a blender with a cup of water, it's great. So was a batch made with sauerkraut blended with water. If you keep baby food on hand, it would be especially convenient. Just be sure to keep the total liquid volume close to what's specified. Ask your local bakery about its whole-wheat flour. I buy ground-today flour from Great Harvest, other franchise locations may sell it too. It keeps in the freezer for several months. For another way to make 100% whole-grain bread, use all 100% whole-wheat pastry flour, it makes especially light and tender rolls.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per slice, assumes 32: 133 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 7mg Cholesterol; 235mg Sodium; 22g Carb; 2g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 4 & Freestyle 4 & myWW green 4 & blue 4 & purple 4
Adapted from New Frontiers in Western Cooking (affiliate link) by Greg Patent, a roadtrip gift from my now husband. I turn to it surprisingly often! My Disclosure Promise

Hello, Bread Bakers

~ homemade bread recipes ~
Homemade Bread recipes ♥, yeast breads to flat breads, quick breads to crackers, biscuits to muffins.

Our Daily Bread: My Easy Everyday Bread Recipe ♥, the one I make again and again, every few days. It's an easy bread to make often, to fit into small spaces of your cooking life.

Soft Sandwich Rolls (NOLA-Style French Rolls) ♥, soft insides with crispy crust perfect for sandwiches of all shapes and sizes, even from the same batch.

How to Make Swedish Rye Bread in a Bread Machine or By Hand ♥, the traditional recipe, slightly sweet, bright with orange, anise and caraway. Recipes, many insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2009, 2014 & 2021

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Wow yucko on the wonderbread, but the rolls look beautiful! I just made whole grain rolls the other day too; so rewarding!

  2. Oh, wow—those rolls look beautiful. I'm passing this along to my niece in Utah who's just getting into bread baking; thank you Alanna!

  3. I'm going to have to try this one. My husband is one of those prefers soft white bread so getting a whole grained bread that he likes is tough but this one looks wonderfully light and fluffy! Thanks!

  4. This looks wonderful and I have just the right amount of pumpkin puree in the fridge! Thanks, I'll be making this today.

  5. kirsten11/10/2009

    I know this is not your style of foodblogging, but next time you make it could you take a photo of the dough as it's ready for the first rise?

    I've been trying to compare my multigrain dough to the pictures in my red-checkered cookbook and all I can compare with is white bread.

    I love the idea of buttermilk and look forward to trying this once we eat the bread that's rising as I type! Next time I'll read my email *before* starting to make some bread!

  6. If I'm not using a stand mixer, can I still skip kneading? If so, WOW! Love that idea. There really is nothing like the smell and taste of fresh-baked bread.

  7. Dawn ~ Hmm, what makes you think that the bread dough isn't kneaded? It is, for a long while, 8 minutes with a standing mixer. It's a really important step, sorry, it can't be skipped, not to get the right texture.

    So, push up your sleeves and prepare for an upper arm workout!

  8. I am definitely going to try this recipe, it looks fantastic!

    I think that whole grains are a very important thing to have in your routine diet.

  9. Anonymous11/14/2009

    This isn't "whole grain". At best it is at best 60% whole wheat.

  10. Anonymous ~ You know, you're right. I was so taken away with the lightness even with a high 'proportion' of whole wheat flour that I lost sight of the fact that it wasn't 100% whole grain. I like the idea of using whole wheat pastry flour to substitute for the all-purpose flour, let me try that and get back to everyone. In the mean time, I do still think that this is the lightest 'most' whole-grain roll out there, at least in my experience.

  11. Hi, have you tried this in a bread machine? Do you think it would work?

  12. Hi Tessa ~ No I've not tried this in a bread machine, I gave my dad's back to him after he let me test with it for the winter a few years back, but can't think of why it wouldn't work.

  13. I jus tried to make this recipe by hand but when I combined the amount of flour that was stated it was basically a batter, no where close to dough. Granted I was using whole wheat pastry flour. I did pretty much have to keep pouring flour in by the half cup till it thickened, along with adding some starch and xantham gum. The dough is rising now, but its super heavy. Wasnt sure if the yeast alone was going to be enough, had to add some refined bread flour just in case along with vinegar.

    Im not sure if it makes a difference mixing and kneeding it by hand as opposed to a mixer but every ingredient aside from the yeast water was cold when I added it in. 2 and 2/3 cups of liquid seemed like quite a lot to add in.

  14. I don't own a mixer, so I used my bread machine to knead the dough. The machine wouldn't accomodate the full amount of dough, so I did the first rising in a bowl and not in the bread machine.
    I've made the rolls/bread a few times over the past couple of years...we're carboholics and LOVE this bread. I also use raw milk with some lemon juice or vinegar added since I never have buttermilk on hand.


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna