How To Do Estonian Black Bread. Leib

Estonian Black Bread is fermented Rye Bread.
For this bread, we have even the own word: LEIB.
“white wheat bread” we call “Sai”.

Estonian Black Rye Bread. Leib

Of course, shops are full of different loaves of bread, even with nuts and chocolate.
But some years ago, our first lady Evelin Ilves promoted the homemade bread. So, today, I believe, all Estonian woman has their own home-made bread recipe.

Each Estonian eat ca 10 kg white wheat bread and 30 kg black rye bread per year, so Rye bread is very popular and I can say, that this is something very “Estonian”.

24th February is Estonian Independence Day,Β  our republic become 99 years old πŸ™‚
so this is the best day to bake the Estonian traditional rye Leib.

Estonian Black Bread. Leib

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Estonian Black Bread is fermented Rye bread. My Sister s recipe

Estonian Black Rye Bread. Leib.


  • 1,5-litre lukewarm water
  • 0,5-litre leavening*
  • 1, 5 kg rye flour (best is whole grain and/or milled flour. For better colour add some handful rye malt flour)
  • ca 10-11 teaspoon salt, ca 3-4 dl sugar, coriander
  • 2-3 dl oat brans
  • caraway seeds, (flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • * Leavening The easiest way is probably to find local Estonian and ask her. Second option: Take 5 dl kefir, buttermilk (NB! NOT UHT or ESL, you need living bacteria) or natural apple juice. Add 3-4 slices regular fermented rye bread (best is 100% rye flour) or ca 100-120 gΒ  rye flour. Leave the mixture in a covered bowl to ferment into the warm room 25-27CΒ  at least forΒ  2-5 days. The perfect leavening surface is foamy. Leavening is ready if you feel fermentation odour and on top is froth. The leavening agent may be stored in the fridge for one week; it may be left in a freezer for a longer time.

    And yes. The perfect power leavening reaches 4-5 times. So, be ready, that may be first times your bread is not perfect.


  1. Mix together leavening, lukewarm water and half of the flour. And leave for 24 hours to ferment in the warm place. Cover with towel.
  2. Add other flour and seasoning.
  3. Take few decilitre doughs for next leavening and keep this leavening in the fridge. When you baking next time bread, use this as leavening.
  4. Add seeds, Knead rye flour into the dough until it is tough and solid. The dough is ready when it is no longer sticks to your hands.
  5. Pour pastry into the butter greased form or form a loaf. And leave ca 6 hours into the warm place under a towel to rise. Well risen dough is spongy and has doubled in size.
  6. Put into the oven bottom bowl with the water, to keep moisture.
  7. Bake it in a pre-heated oven at 230 C for 15 minutes so that the crust becomes crisp and then 40-50 minutes 200 C. But follow, because ovens are different!

    When the bread is ready, cover it with a wet towel, to keep moisture. Let it cool down for an hour before cutting. Warm bread is soggy.

    Head isu!

Reading suggestion Andrus KivirΓ€hk ” The Man Who Spoke Snakish”. The best example of Estonian humour and all, what to must know about black bread πŸ™‚

Soundtrack TΓ΅nis MΓ€gi Palve


Did you make this recipe?

Be sure to follow estoniancuisine on Instagram and tag #estoniancuisine. You can also post a photo of your recipe to the estoniancuisine facebook page.

I appreciate you so much!








53 thoughts on “How To Do Estonian Black Bread. Leib

      1. Yes! I want to make it as traditional as possible but I don’t have kefir so I put 100 gr of rye flour in 500 ml natural apple juice to make the leavening. This is what you suggested right? I hope I didn’t misunderstood.. :/ My question is do I have to add new flour to this every day or do I have to leave it like this for 2-5 days?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ye. mix 100 g rye flour and 500 g natural juice. And leave it for 2-4 days πŸ™‚
        So, everything together.
        (And when leavening is ready(foamy and right odor) add other flour, spices and so one.)
        I hope you manage πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi, I am an American trying to get the units right. By “ca 10-11 teaspoon salt, ………” do you mean 10 to 11 teaspoons of salt?


  2. Hi! I’m trying to make the leavening using buttermilk and rye flour, is it normal that it will separate? Am I doing anything wrong?


    1. Separate? No. Maybe your mixture is too liquid? In Estonia we compare conistence with sour cream. Sour cream consistence is like liquid , running porridge. Running from spoon.
      I hope you will succeed. Because the most important is fermenting processe. If your mixture is fermenting, I believe this is not affect to the result


  3. I just got back from Estonia and became absolutely hooked on leib. It is amazing. Thank you so much for this recipe.


  4. I’ve been making this recipe for a few months now, I just made, I think, my 5th batch and now that I think of it that is a lot of bread. Anyway, it’s fantastic and I always have fresh rye bread around now. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello! So, I just tried this recipe. I must say 1,5 kg is a lot for us, so I tried with 0,5 kg rye flour. But I have a few questions:
    How much malt and when do I add it? How much caraway? They seem to have a strong flavor…
    And more important, is it normal that whem kneading I have to add near the same amount of flour as in the begining of the recipe to make the dough not sticky?
    Thanks a lot for your help and recipe!!


    1. Thank you for feedback. Maltose and cumin are for seasoning, so about a teaspoon is enough. And yes, they have a strong taste. Add them after you have taken the amount of dough for the next leaven.

      The finished dough does not have to be very thick, but porridge-like, a little flowing.
      Liquid dough creates airiness.

      this is difficult to explain. This true cognition comes from experience. I hope you succeed. (And better every next time :))


  6. I was desperately looking for a recipe for must leib as I happened to taste it when I was in Estonia and couldn’t get it in Germany where I come from. I somehow feel I got addicted to that taste, especially toasted with butter and garlic…. πŸ™‚ So thanks a lot for sharing! I have just one maybe stupid question: I measure my leavening in gramme, not in litre. The volume of the leavening changes during fermentation process. Could you say how much leavening you need in gramme for 0,5 l? Maybe it is a stupid question – sorry for that. I’m a beginner in making sourdough bread and still have to learn a lot….
    Thanks a lot for recipe and answer!


    1. Very good question πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ And I would think that the specific weight of the starter is relatively the same density, so that 0.5 liters is of about 500 g (or little bit less)


  7. Hello! We just returned from Estonia and I’m excited to try making this bread! Do you have any issues with getting mold on your leavening? It’s been 3 days and I have a little spot of fuzzy mold. If I scrap it off do you think it will be fine or should I start over? I used kefir and dark rye flour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mold should definitely not occur! Consequently, the acidity is not sufficient. I recommend sterilizing this container (with boiling water) and starting over.


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