How to Make Easy + Irresistible Crusty Sourdough Rolls

Learn how to make these reader-favorite chewy and crusty sourdough rolls using a small amount of yeast and a special steam technique in your oven. Easy to make, with a great crust and soft interior. Double the recipe if you want; they freeze beautifully.

This is the most popular of all my sourdough bread recipes. They’re delicious and versatile.

Crusty Sourdough Rolls

These simple sourdough rolls are perfect for dinner or making sandwiches. If you are not ready for artisan loaves, give these a try! They freeze well too.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
rising time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 58 minutes
Serving Size 8 rolls

Ingredients 

  • 7 ounces active sourdough starter 1 ¼ cups / 200 grams
  • 13 ounces bread flour 2 ½ cups to 3 cups / 370 grams
  • 6.5 oz water ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon / 185 grams
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon yeast

Instructions 

  • Mix all ingredients except salt and yeast. Combine the starter, flour, water, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir well, using your hands if needed to incorporate all ingredients. The mixture may look dry but will feel slightly sticky to the touch. Cover and allow to rest at room temperature for thirty minutes.
    sourdough dough in mixing bowl
  • Knead in the salt and yeast. Add the salt and yeast on top of the dough, and knead until smooth, stretchy, and elastic. (If using a bread machine, set it on the dough cycle. For a stand mixer, set it on low about 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, knead for about 10 minutes.) Check the consistency of the dough after a few minutes of kneading. It may seem sticky, but should clear the sides of the bowl and should not be too difficult to work with. If it seems very wet, add more flour a few tablespoons at a time.
  • The first rise. When the dough is kneaded, cover it and put in in a warm place to rise between 60-90 minutes, until nearly doubled in size.
    dough after first rise in bread machine
  • Shape the rolls. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or a cutting board. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil and flour. Dust the top of the parchment with cornmeal. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, either by dividing into half, then quarters, then eighths, or by. using a kitchen scale. Shape the pieces into rolls by pinching the bottoms. Place on the cornmeal dusted parchment. Rub the tops with flour. Slash, if desired, using a lame or sharp knife.
  • The second rise. Cover the rolls with heavily greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, until puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place one rack in the center, and one in the lower middle area. Place an empty baking sheet on the lower rack to get hot while the oven preheats.
  • Bake with steam. When the oven has heated and the rolls have risen, pour one cup of water on the hot baking sheet to create steam. (It may buckle, this is ok.). Place the rolls inside and bake for 17-21 minutes, until browned outside. Cool rolls on wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Notes

Start with a lesser amount of flour and increase it if the dough is too wet. (If you are using all-purpose flour, you will need a greater amount of flour, or even a little more.)
Divide into 12 pieces for smaller dinner roll-sized servings. Bake for 17-19 minutes. 
 
Calories: 170kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 438mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg

It only took me a million different tries to get this recipe right. I really hope you like them.

Let’s break down some essential tools and ingredients for making this recipe:

bread flour, water, sugar, and sourdough starter on counter
  • Digital Kitchen Scale: While not strictly essential, a kitchen scale helps ensure accurate measurements, especially when working with bread dough. It takes the guesswork out of portioning the dough for evenly sized rolls.
  • Active Sourdough Starter: This is the heart of sourdough baking, providing the signature tangy flavor and airy texture. Make sure your starter is bubbly and active before using it in this recipe. If you don’t have a starter, you can find plenty of online resources for creating your own.
  • Bread Flour: Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which helps develop the gluten structure necessary for a chewy crumb and a good rise. While you can use all-purpose flour in a pinch, bread flour yields the best results.
  • Instant Yeast: A small amount of instant yeast is added to this recipe to give the dough a little boost. If you don’t have instant yeast, you can substitute active dry yeast, but be sure to activate it in warm water with a pinch of sugar before adding it to the dough.
  • Parchment Paper and Cornmeal: Parchment paper prevents the rolls from sticking to the baking sheet, while cornmeal adds a bit of texture and crunch to the bottom of the rolls. If you don’t have parchment paper, you can lightly grease the baking sheet with oil or butter

Most sourdough starter is a thick, pourable liquid with the consistency of pancake batter. If yours is thicker or thinner, you will need to adjust the amount of water, so start with a lesser amount and add more slowly if needed.

Crusty Sourdough Rolls Tips

  • Always shape rolls by pinching the bottoms: Smashing them down will make them dense and ugly.
  • Don’t skip the steam: It’s the magic that makes these so good!
  • Using a Razor Blade for Slashing: For a clean, precise cut on top of the rolls, use a razor blade instead of a knife. This helps control the expansion during baking and gives your rolls a professional look.
  • Incorporating Olive Oil: For a slightly different texture and flavor, you can add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dough during mixing. This will make the rolls softer and add a subtle richness.
  • Dealing with a Cold Kitchen: If your kitchen is cold, the dough may take longer to rise. Try placing the covered bowl in the oven with just the light on to create a slightly warmer environment.
  • Using Whole Wheat Flour: You can substitute part of the bread flour with whole wheat flour for a more wholesome roll. Start by substituting 25% of the bread flour and see how you like the texture.
  • Phytic Acid Reduction: Letting the dough rest for a minute before kneading helps reduce phytic acid, making the bread easier to digest and nutrients more absorbable.

Kneading Options

To knead by hand

Fold the dough in half, then punch it down. Stretch it out again, fold, and punch. Repeat this process for at least five minutes, until the dough is stretchy and smooth. You should be able to pull it flat without tearing it.

Kneading with a stand mixer

Place the dough in your mixer bowl with the dough hook and let it run on low for five to ten minutes.

Bread machine method

Simply add everything to the bucket and select the dough cycle. When the machine beeps, you’ll have a risen dough that’s ready to shape. I use this method the most.

Baking With Steam

This is one of the keys to a great oven spring. Don’t be afraid of this process.

Set up your oven like this, with a metal-rimmed baking sheet on a lower rack. (Do not use glass, or it will shatter!)

Let the oven preheat with the baking sheet on the lower rack. You’ll pour water on just before you place the rolls inside, which will create steam. This will make the rolls rise nicely and high with a beautiful crust.

Storage Instructions

This recipe will keep well at room temperature for three days, tightly wrapped and just hanging out on the counter.

They also freeze very well. After they’ve cooled to room temperature, pack them up in a freezer bag and they will keep fine for at least a month.

To reheat rolls without drying them out, defrost for a minute or so in the microwave at the defrost setting. Then wrap them in foil and place them in a warm (not hot!) oven for 5-10 minutes.

Once the rolls have cooled to room temperature, store them in beeswax wraps or a freezer bag. They will stay fresh for up to a month.

To enjoy your fresh bread again, defrost it in the microwave at the defrost setting for a minute. Then wrap them in foil and place them in a warm (not hot) oven for 5-10 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

These are great with Sunday dinner. Try these too: cast iron skillet roasted chicken with butter and herbs, cheddar scalloped potatoes, broccoli salad, brown sugar apple pie.

FAQs

Can I make these without yeast?

Yes! I rarely do, because I find they’re a little fluffier with it. But it will work perfectly fine. Your rising times will be more like 4 hours each.

What if I don’t have bread flour?

You can reduce the water a bit and use all-purpose. They won’t be as chewy though.

Why does my dough look so wet?

You probably used a different brand of flour or measured it differently. Add some more flour.

Can I use my own sourdough starter?

Yes, using your own active starter is a great way to ensure the best flavor and rise. Just make sure it is bubbly and recently fed.

What if I want to make sourdough sandwich rolls?

To make sourdough sandwich rolls, shape the dough into larger rolls and flatten them slightly. Bake for the same time as specified, and you’ll have perfect rolls for sandwiches.

How does the fermentation process affect the flavor?

The longer fermentation process with natural yeast gives sourdough its unique tangy flavor and chewy texture. Allowing the dough to rise overnight or for a bulk fermentation period enhances these qualities.

Why should I use a baking stone?

A baking stone helps distribute heat evenly and retain a high temperature, leading to a better rise and a crispier crust. If you don’t have one, a hot Dutch oven also works well.

Can I prepare the dough the night before?

Yes, an overnight rise in the refrigerator is a perfect way to manage your time and improve the flavor of the rolls. Just shape them the next day, let them rise again, and bake.

Suggestions and Substitutions

  • Warm Water vs. Cold Water: Using warm water can help kickstart the fermentation process, especially in a cold kitchen. If the water is too hot, it might kill the yeast, so aim for slightly warm to the touch.
  • Using Rice Flour: For a gluten-free option, substitute part of the bread flour with rice flour. Note that the texture will be different, but it can be a good alternative for those with gluten sensitivities.
  • Adding Whole Wheat Flour: To add more fiber and nutrients, substitute up to half of the bread flour with whole wheat flour. The rolls will be denser and more flavorful.
  • Different Rising Techniques: If you’re in a hurry, using commercial yeast in addition to the sourdough starter can speed up the rising times. This doesn’t affect the flavor much but helps the dough rise faster.

Enjoy!

These sourdough rolls might seem like a simple recipe, but they’re a delicious testament to the magic of sourdough baking. With a little patience and practice, you’ll be rewarded with soft, airy rolls that are perfect for any meal. So, dust off your kitchen scale, feed your starter, and give this recipe a try.

sourdough rolls on checkered cloth
How to Make Easy + Irresistible Crusty Sourdough Rolls
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Recipe Rating




258 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Katie! Still making this recipe and loving it! Has it ever been tried to make this recipe into a loaf? I wonder if it would work out?

  2. 5 stars
    This is a terrific recipe for sourdough rolls. If you are a bit uncertain about the liveliness of your starter, that little bit of yeast helps to achieve a good rise. Although I am very confident of my vigorous starter, this recipe is my go-to for everyday rolls that are great for lunches or snacks, and come together very quickly. I use the dough cycle of the bread maker, and do a few stretch and folds before shaping. These rolls keep well for up to 5 days, and have a good sour tang and robust flavour. I score my risen rolls just before putting them in the oven for a bit of a pronounced ear. The steam step is so easy and ensures a blistered and crispy crust every time.

  3. 5 stars
    I made these rolls and they came out exactly how they said they would come out. soft in the inside and crusty on the outside. Perfect!!!!

  4. 5 stars
    I was looking for a crusty roll recipe for Thanksgiving and kept seeing a lot of soft rolls and finally stumbled upon this one. I made it for the first time yesterday and they were perfect! Family approved. Thank you for the very easy to follow instructions.

  5. Hi! I would love to print this recipe out and use it but the print button does not work! Can you add a printable recipe?

    1. hi lynn it is working on my end. try refreshing and giving it a second to load. it opens in another window so if your browser blocks pop ups sometimes that will cause trouble.

  6. 5 stars
    I used these to make sourdough pizza dough and it worked like a charm! It was a little more dense than standard pizza dough but my family loved it!

  7. 5 stars
    Nice recipe.
    I can not find Active Sourdough Starter – Can you recommend a brand of Active Sourdough Starter to use in your recipe?

    1. hey tom, look on etsy for a san francisco starter. king arthur flour has a nice one as well. you’ll need to feed it 1-2 times and you’ll be up and running 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Made these tonight and they turned out fabulous! What a quick easy way to get that sourdough flavor without all the fuss and time! Great directions, easy to follow, thank you!

  9. I can’t stand your site because of the intrusive google ads! And I don’t even use google as my search engine. I give up.

  10. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! I make them weekly. 😉 My dad is the baker of the fam and he is so picky. I had him try these. He ate half the batch in less then 24 hours. His approval is tough to get. He told me he won’t be able to button his pants if I keep baking them for him.

  11. 5 stars
    I made as directed first time. Great!
    The second time, I used a food processor for mix and first rise, then divided the dough in half and formed baguettes. Also great!
    The third time I added dried herbs to the mix and made herbed baguettes. Awesome. These I’ve sliced diagonally and toasted for crostini base.
    Now one of my favorite recipes.