Kefir Bread Recipe

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I love the way Twitter works. In particular how ideas get propagated: across the world in an instant and inspiring new networks of enthusiastic people. And also how physical things are shared too.

This kefir bread is the result of both such things. My apologies for the pics – they’re taken quickly on an iPhone and the bread didn’t last long enough for me to take anything posher for you.

I sent Joanna at Zeb Bakes in England some kefir. As part of her experiements, Joanna (a great baker) decided to make kefir leavened bread blogged by her friend Cecilia. Joanna has written a very instructive blog post about her experience. And Cecilia is a Kiwi (New Zealander) living in mid-west USA.

So, with all this helpful stuff to read, I had to have a go at this.

As you can see from the pictures, the loaf turned out very well indeed. It was a soft bread (apart from the crisp crust), slightly sweet with a background tang. It makes lovely sandwiches and toasts well (browns very quickly). We had it au naturel, with marmalade and toasted with cheese and it went well with all of them.

You need to think a couple of days ahead as you need live kefir milk to start fermenting a flour ‘sponge’. You then add this sponge to a bigger quantity of flour to ferment the final loaf.

I’ve tweaked the recipes that preceded this to use a higher amount of kefir in the sponge and reduced the water to match. To see my recipe, please read on…

Kefir bread recipe



300g of drained kefir milk (no kefir grains left in)
150g strong white bread flour
100g warm water
30g honey


300g strong white bread flour
300g plain or all purpose flour
50g of olive oil or similar
12g fine sea salt
(100g warm water may be needed)


Combine the sponge ingredients in a bowl with room for things to expand. Cover with a plastic bag, cling film or a shower cap and put in a warm place for 12-18 hours. At the end of this time, it should be bubbling and nicely active. If you want to bake during the day, you are best to do this step the afternoon or evening before. I’ll let you do the maths.

Then combine all the sponge with the dough ingredients except the 100g of water. Give them a good mix and only add as much water as you need to give a sticky dough. If it’s not a bit sticky, it’s not wet enough.

Update – May 2013
I’ve amended the way I make this bread after playing with things a little.

Once I’ve mixed the dough I leave it in bulk and fold it twice at 45 minute intervals and allow it to prove for 45 minutes after the second fold. To see how to fold watch the video on my How to make Sourdough Simply post. So it’s mix, leave 45 minutes, fold twice as per the video, leave 45 minutes, fold twice, leave 45 minutes. Then continue as below…

Shape your dough into one or more pieces. I created a very big batard and popped it in a long banneton, you could put the dough in a couple of oiled & floured bread tins, make it into rolls etc as you please.

Cover lightly and leave in a warm place until the dough has about doubled. This took a couple of hours for me, but the precise temperature of your room and the nature of your ingredients may affect your time.

Pre-heat your oven to 230C. Pop the bread in for about 15 minutes at this temperature. For loaves turn the temperature down to 190C and bake for about another 25-35 minutes until you have the crust and sound you want out of the loaf. Rolls will take about 20-25 minutes in total to bake depending on their size.

And here’s my loaf cut. The inside colour is partly due to the palm oil I used instead of olive oil.

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20 responses to “Kefir Bread Recipe”

  1. kathy Avatar

    I am surprised at the addition of honey in the starter phase. I have read before not to use honey for water kefir as it will kill the grains?

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Kathy

      I’ve not used water kefir, so I don’t know how they behave.

      In this milk kefir, the sugars in the honey give the yeasts in the kefir SCOBY something to feed on quickly. The honey also provides a slight sweetness to the dough and makes it brown quicker & more deeply.

      Loads of us have used milk kefor with honey with no ill effects at all.

      Hope that helps


  2. Arlyne Bischof Avatar
    Arlyne Bischof

    Would you be so kind as to give me the recipe in cups, teaspoons, tablespoons etc., as I live in the USA and we don’t know how to do grams very well in recipes. Thanks for your kindness. Arlyne

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Arlyne

      The conversions are approximate, as you’ll appreciate flour settles. I’m sure you are used to this. It’s for this reason I always use grams etc for accuracy in bread recipes. However, if you’ve made bread before, you’ll be used to the textures and feel required. So here goes 🙂

      1 1/4 cups of drained kefir milk (no kefir grains left in)
      1 1/5 cups strong white bread flour
      Scant 7 tbsp warm water
      Scant 3 tbsp honey

      2 1/3 strong white bread flour
      2 1/2 plain or all purpose flour
      3 tbsp of olive oil or similar
      1 tbsp fine sea salt
      (scant 7 tbsp warm water may be needed)

      230 Celcius is about 450 Fahrenheit
      190 Celcius is about 375 Fahrenheit

      Hope that helps. Please let me know how you get on and send me some pictures if you can 🙂

      Good luck

      1. Arlyne Bischof Avatar
        Arlyne Bischof

        Thank you so much! I will give this a whirl!!!

  3. Joyce Taylor Avatar

    Is it possible to make kefir bread in a breadmaker?

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Joyce

      I think yes, but the result won’t be quite the same. Let me explain.

      The recipe on here relies on a slow fermentation over hours using the kefir as a starter to give the bread it’s strength & to create the lift. I don’t use a machine, but I don’t think long fermentthis is possible.

      However, you could approximate the bread and get the kefir flavour using the bread machine.

      Replace the liquid your machine recipe gives you with strained live kefir and add the normal amount of yeast your machine recipe calls for. Then carry on as normal. You should end up with a bread that has the taste and some of the texture of the bread here.

      If you try it, do let me know. I’ll be very interested to hear your result.


  4. […] Carl Legge  and ofbreadandquinces both of whom have good experiences with doing this and I suspect there are many other quiet kefir bakers around the world. Real bread – but made a different way from the normal sourdough. […]

  5. michaelawah Avatar

    I used your post to make a kefir bread, you can view it here if you like:

    btw, i am similarly fascinated by smen. I’ve wanted to try making it since the day I read about it. But I didn’t know it was flavoured. Always thought it was kept plain. And yes, i think using milk kefir would be a good way to get a head start in the fermentation, so to speak.

    1. Carl Avatar

      Great post Michael, thanks for the link too.

      Re the Smen, I did a lot of research and all of the recipes I came across used salt and some form of herb flavouring. It’s doing very well in all sorts of dishes, I’m not sure any will achieve any sort of advanced age though 😉

  6. […] All this was put on the back burner until i saw Joanna’s post. She also pointed me to Carl’s attempt. I decided it was time to reactivate my poor milk kefir grains that mostly languish in their pool […]

  7. Alan Avatar

    I note your comment about palm oil. I use Carotino oil to give my bread a nice warm color. it’s available in the US and UK.

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Alan – thanks for this. As it happens, it was Carotino that I used 🙂 It’s a lovely deep coloured oil.

  8. Dutchie Avatar

    Hi Carl,

    Nice recipe,especially when you don’t have the time&patience to go through the sourdough process. Does the kefir sponge also neutralize the negative effects of phytic acid&gluten?

    This recipe kinda reminds me of Irish Soda Bread since it also uses no yeast and a probiotic kinda drink,though that one is with buttermilk and quicker to make.
    I was wondering however a couple of things:

    – Can you substitute the ‘strong white bread flour’ with Spelt flour?

    – Can I substitute the all-purpose flour for baking soda as it has the acidic medium to make the bread rise?….and if so,how much baking soda would I need to use and how much Spelt flour add extra?as I’ll miss a lot of flour due to leaving out the all-purpose flour….or isn’t it a problem,it’ll make just for a smaller bread? (probably not since the sponge isn’t adjusted)

    – Are the honey(or other sweetener?) and the oil/fat in there for taste or do they need to be in there for a reason? (as I don’t tolerate honey well and prefer to slab my fat(s) on there when preparing a sandwich. Though I do wonder how it tastes with red palm oil as I’ve never tasted that oil but heard it has a very distinctive kinda spicy taste?)

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Dutchie, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ll answer the points I can.

      Not sure what you mean by the ‘negative effects of phytic acid & gluten’. If someone is gluten intolerant then I don’t thiink the kefir will help. The gluten in this bread is there to hold the bubbles of carbon dioxide the kefir fermentation produces in order to raise the loaf.

      Spelt can be substituted for the strong white AND the all purpose flour with no ill effects I think.

      If you substitute in to this recipe baking soda then the kefir is not the leaven. Not sure why you’d want to do this. If you want to make soda bread and just use the kefir as the acidic liquid, go ahead. I have a soda bread recipe here

      The honey provides some ‘food’ for the kefir. The oil affects the texture of the loaf. Leaving them out would not be fatal to the recipe, it would just be a different taste & texture. I don’t find the red palm oil that spicy, I just used it because I quite liked the idea of the colour propagating through the loaf.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Dutchie Avatar

        Thanx 4 the answers Carl:)
        What i mean with the harm is that gluten are better absorbed+metabolized such as in sourdpugh.

        Would i need to take the entire amount of both flours and substitute it entirely with speltflour?

        Ive made sodabread b4 but wanted something different but allpurpose over here is made from wheat and i dont tolerate wheat/rye&yeast well,so thats why i asked. I dont mean to insert it with the sponge but just rigth b4 nbaking but that still wouldnt work?
        If the honey/sugar feeds the yeast its ok then to use. Other sugar too,but isnt the carb from the flour in the sponge enough to feed it?as i like to put things on the bread instead of in it;)

        I cant get red palm oil certified organic,would that be a problem as to nutrition/toxinwise?sorry 4 all my qs,im just a noob/newbie at all this homeprocessing stuff and need to learn a lot,but am also quite overwhelmed&intimidated by all this homeprepping practically&timewise

  9. lindasgarden Avatar

    awesome post as always Carl I have never heard of this milk until just now by reading your post i’m just starting out on sourdough and the German friendship one called Herman:)

    1. Carl Avatar

      Thanks very much Linda and good luck with your Herman 🙂

  10. Joanna Avatar

    Looks mighty fine to me, thanks for the mention and many many thanks once again for giving me the kefir grains. I am thinking kefir cheese scones might be good for a quicker alternative?

    1. Carl Avatar

      You are welcome Joanna 🙂

      Good point. The kefir could be used in scones, soda bread or anywhere that a slightly acidic liquid is required to help get baking powder/bicarb going 😀 A whole new baking horizon opens up> And also what could we do with different types of ‘milk’. Bruno is going to use coconut milk…