Q & A: Sourdough Vs. Yeasted Bread

I got an email question in regard to sourdough and yeasted bread from Karen.

I just made the sourdough starter and then made the sourdough bread (from Nourishing Traditions). It was a bit dense and chewy. It reminded me of European breads but lacked a bit of their flavor. I was wondering if you have a recipe for sourdough bread that is your “standby” which your family enjoys. I have made my bread with fresh ground whole wheat but used Saf yeast to make the bread. I did let the bread sponge or rise three times but I guess that is not as good as sourdough. My family wants the “old way” of bread making back.

Thanks, Karen, for bringing up this important topic. It has been one that I have been studying about recently. I have heard that many people have not had the greatest results with Nourishing Tradition’s recipe for sourdough bread. It is more dense, perhaps because it uses rye.
My experience

I personally have two sourdough starters (using whole wheat). One was given to me from a friend who made the starter herself (made with no yeast at all). It has been amazing. I have been able to to make everything from well risen bread loafs, to.. get this… whole wheat sourdough danish pastries that turned out great! Regardless, it has been an super riser, and I haven’t even missed my yeasted bread. The other sourdough starter I have, I purchased from Fermented Treasures (their New England one). I have also been very happy with this starter. It isn’t very sour at all, rises extremely well, and is easy to maintain. So don’t give up! It can be done. I used to make yeasted bread every week (or more). I have always enjoyed making bread, so it has been wonderful to have an opportunity to continue to make it with sourdough.

While I am sure that Karen already knows the pro and cons of yeasted and sourdough bread, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with everyone else what I have learned about it. If anyone wants to put there two cents in on this topic, please do so! Just leave a comment on this post.

Point one to consider: Phytates

Can you reduce the anti-nutritional phytates in a normal “yeasted” bread? The answer is yes and no. If you 1-grind your own flour 2-keep the temperature at 113 degrees 3-do several rises and 4-keep the ph level acidic , you will reduce a lot of the phytates.

Amanda Rose, at Rebuild from Depression has an excellent free course on phytates that shares her research on this topic. It included this quote about yeasted bread.

“But a study of phytates in recipes used typically by home bread bakers found a much less satisfying result for phytate loss: whole wheat breads lost only 22-58% of their phytic acid from the start of the bread making process to the completed loaf (McKenzie-Parnell and Davies 1986). In fact, studies of phytate loss in wheat breads vary quite a bit.”

On the other hand, making a yeastless sourdough will combine all of the needed elements to reducing the phytates in your flour dramatically. Sourdough naturally has lactic acid in it, which breaks down phytic acid for you. This has been exciting news to me! I have been using it in a delicious pancake recipes, and look forward to trying new baked good recipes, allowing the sourdough starter to break down the phytic acid instead of buttermilk (which I can’t have).

But I would be remiss to not point out that you can make a yeasted bread that is soaked. This method has you soak the flour with buttermilk (in Nourishing Tradition’s recipe) to remove the phytates and then make into a yeasted bread. This, Sally Fallon considers is a bit of a compromise, but is definitely better than a typical method of making yeasted bread.
Sue Gregg also uses the same method, which she calls the two stage process which uses vinegar in water to soak. Download her recipe here.

Which brings us to ……

Point two to consider: Commercial yeast Vs. Sourdough yeast

Here are two quotes to consider from Nourishing Traditions

“The history of bread making is a good example of the industrialization and standardization of a technique that was formely empiric….It was simpler to replace natural leaven with brewer’s yeast. There are numerous practical advantages: the fermentation is more regular, more rapid, and the bread rises better. But the fermentation becomes mainly an alcoholic fermenation and the acidification is greatly lessened. The bread is less digestible, less tasty and spoils more easily” Claude Aubert Les Aliments Fermentes Traditionnels

“Baking with natural leaven is in harmony with nature and maintains the integrity and nutrition of the cereal grains used… The process helps to increase and reinforce our body’s absorption of the cereal’s nutrients. Unlike yeasted bread that diminished, even destroy’smoisutre much longer. a Lot of that information was known pragmatically for centuries; and thus when yeast was first introduced in France at the court of Louis XIV in March 1668, because at that time the scientists already knew that the use of yeast would imperil the people’s health, it was strongly rejected. Today, yeast is used almost universally, without any testing; and the recent scientific evidence and clinical findings are confirming that ancient taboos with biochemical and bioelectronic valid proofs that wholly support that age-old common sense decision”. Jacques DeLangre

I also thought that this quote from Classic Sourdoughs, by Ed Wood was enlightening.

“It is important to understand the basic differences between the wile yeast of sourdough and the commercial baker’s yeast in most other breads. First sourdough yeast grow best in acidic doughs, while baker’s yeast does better in neutral or slightly alkaline doughs [Remember that, for reducing phytate content, acidic condition are important, if not the vital part to the equation]. Baker’s yeast is a single species, with hundreds of strains and varieties, while sourdoughs are usually leavened by one or more species in the same dough, none of which is baker’s yeast. Bakery’s yeast is a highly uniform product that produces an equally uniform texture in bread dough. The wild yeast are anything but uniform, and they vary from country to country. But the most impressive difference between the two yeast types is that a single package of instant dried yeast produces just one batch of bread, while the same amount of wild sourdough culture produces loaf after loaf for the lifetimes of many bakers. “

Point Three to Consider: Other Benefits

Health issues aside, here are a few other advantages I have learned to enjoy with sourdough.

Better taste

While some may have to adjust their palate a little to the sourness and depth of sourdough bread, I love it! Perhaps it was easier for me, because I grew up eating sourdough bread. You can also control the sourness in your bread, to some degree. I have friends who purposely make their sourdough not sour. While my family makes their extra sour! But sourness aside, sourdough has a depth of flavor that is truly gourmet.

Better keeping properties

Sourdough, like stated in one of the quotes above, keeps much better than yeasted bread. It stays a lot more moist, and won’t grow stale, unless you leave it unwrapped. These is a huge plus for me!


Not only do you not have to buy yeast, but my “daily” bread does not even contain oil (oil is used not just for flavor, but to keep bread moist, something sourdough doesn’t need) or honey. In it is the sourdough starter, salt, flour, and water. That’s it! It is very frugal, but has a full flavor. While my yeasted whole wheat bread needed oil and sweetener to taste good, sourdough’s fuller flavor doesn’t always need those add ins (though they can be nice in certain breads).

All to say, I make sourdough bread for my family for the many, many reasons above and we love it!

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!


  1. Larissa says

    I am wondering if you can explain why natural leavened bread keeps so much longer than yeasted bread. I appreciate your thoughts on this.

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