20 Types of Bread You Should Know
Bread, glorious bread — it’s the foundation of so many of our favorite meals. With so many different types of bread to choose from, the meal possibilities are endless, from grilled cheese sandwiches and French toast, to bread pudding and game-day sliders. While you may know a good amount of different breads from memory, there are likely some varieties on this list you didn’t know about or even forgot about. Read on for our guide to 20 different types of bread and how best to bake, buy, and enjoy them.
20 Types of Bread
White Sandwich Bread
While certainly not the most complex variation in the bread family, classic white sandwich bread sometimes gets an unfairly bad rap — perhaps because there are multitudes of less-than-stellar store-bought varieties languishing on a typical grocery store shelf on any given day. To remedy this, consider learning how to make your own, homemade version of basic white sandwich bread and go forth with better grilled cheese.
Nutty, slightly sweet whole-wheat bread is one of the most popular loaves on the market and is made with — you guessed it — whole-wheat flour. This type of flour contains the bran, germ, and endosperm of the wheat kernel to give it a grainy, chewy texture. Whole-wheat bread is well-suited to everything from a classic turkey sandwich to breakfast toast, and while it’s fairly easy to make your own loaf, there are plenty of solid store-bought options.
While whole-wheat bread is made using the full kernel of wheat, whole-grain bread is made using any whole-grain flour — oat, brown rice, barley, and spelt are some of the more popular varieties available. Whole-grain bread, like whole-wheat bread, generally has a chewier texture and nuttier flavor, although the exact flavor profile will depend on the grain used. Whole-grain bread works well in both savory and sweet recipes — especially those that need a sturdy bread that won’t fall apart easily. We recommend it in this sweet potato, goat cheese, and arugula sandwich, as well as our favorite express lunch: the one-minute tomato sandwich.
Sprouted grain is another type of whole-grain bread in which the flour contains whole grains but the whole grains are soaked in water, drained, and kept moist in a jar to “sprout” them, releasing additional nutrients. Sprouted bread — whether homemade or store-bought — does not contain preservatives and will therefore mold easily. We recommend storing sprouted bread in the freezer if you’re not planning on enjoying it immediately. Sprouted-grain bread makes for a filling, tasty toast surface or a great way to liven up a classic deli sandwich.
True to its name, multigrain bread uses multiple types of grain in its flour and also has a nutty, rich, and textured taste. That said, multigrain bread isn’t necessarily fully whole-grain bread — in addition to the whole grains used, multigrain bread can contain refined (aka white) flour. If you’re interested in making sure your multigrain bread is fully whole-grain, be sure to check your ingredient list or make your own no-knead multigrain bread for a tasty base that works well for sandwiches or toast.
A much-loved slice often used in a Reuben sandwich or patty melt, rye bread is made from crushed or ground whole rye kernels and often contains caraway seeds. Light rye bread flour does not contain the outer coating of the rye berry, making it lighter in color and more savory, while dark rye bread is made using the outer endosperm of the berry or by adding instant coffee, molasses, or cocoa to achieve its rich brown color and slightly sweeter flavor. Marbled rye is made from light rye and dark rye dough that is braided together.
A close relative to traditional rye, pumpernickel bread is made using a rye sourdough starter and baked for an elongated amount of time — sometimes as long as 24 hours — at very low temperatures to caramelize its sugar and give it a deep, bittersweet flavor. If you’re short on time, you can make your own pumpernickel bread using cocoa powder and molasses to bring out the same flavor profiles. Pumpernickel bread’s earthy, rich flavor pairs well in sandwiches that have bright flavors like mustard or sharp cheddar cheese.
Sourdough is a labor-intensive loaf that uses a starter — composed of water and flour that pre-ferments for several days and collects bacteria to make a “wild yeast” — to allow it to rise. The “sour” flavor in sourdough originates from the starter’s Lactobacillus and acetobacillus bacteria that help ferment sugar in the dough. Whether you make your own sourdough or buy it from a trusted baker, the popular bread works well as a tangy base for sandwiches and toasts.
Speaking of popular Italian breads, Focaccia ranks high with carb fans for its buttery taste and soft, pillowy texture that makes for an excellent sandwich base or pizza crust. While there are many methods for making focaccia, our favorite recipe from Samin Nosrat involves a long dough fermentation period and saltwater brine proof for a perfectly savory, buoyant dough.
The longer, thinner cousin of a French bread loaf, the baguette is a chewy bread with a thick crust that’s traditionally made solely from water, yeast, white flour, and salt. While the history of the baguette is largely debated, its origins do trace back to France where the bread remains one of the country’s most celebrated culinary exports. Make your own baguette or purchase one from a trusted baker to enjoy for your next crostini or ham and cheese sandwich.
Brioche is another French bread that’s known for its slightly sweet, buttery taste and soft, pillowy texture, thanks to its high butter-to-flour ratio and thrice-kneaded dough. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it was actually brioche that Marie Antoinette infamously suggested her subjects consume, uttering “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” — which is commonly translated as “Let them eat cake.” If you’d like to take Marie’s suggestion, we suggest making your own brioche and enjoying it as your next burger bun or French toast base.
Also known as Japanese Hokkaido or shokupan milk bread, this loaf that’s popular in several different Asian cuisines features a soft, “cloud-like” texture and a mild, buttery, and sweet flavor. Milk bread’s enviable consistency is achieved through the tangzhong method, in which bakers start their dough by cooking water and flour together until it becomes a thick and roux-like paste. The soft loaves work well for pull-apart dinner rolls, katsu sandwiches, and mini-sandwich buns.
An egg bread traditionally prepared by Ashkenazi Jews to enjoy on the Sabbath and other religious holidays, challah is known for its super-soft, airy texture and smooth, shiny exterior, thanks to the addition of an egg wash brushed on top. Containing neither dairy nor meat, challah is also kosher. Challah is almost always braided and works well eaten by itself or used to make French toast.
Matzo is an unleavened bread traditionally prepared by Jews during the holiday of Passover. Its unleavened nature stems from the story of the holiday itself — in which, needing to escape Egypt, the Jewish people did not have time to ferment their dough before leaving. Matzo tastes like and is best employed as one would a large cracker — making it the ideal base for toffee bark, matzo brei, and, of course, as the building block of matzo ball soup.
Yes, potato bread does actually contain potatoes, although the amount and style will vary from recipe to recipe. Known for its soft texture and slightly sweet taste, the incorporation of potatoes — whether mashed or flaked into the dough — increases the bread’s water retention and results in a soft loaf that doesn’t become stale as quickly as other varieties of bread. Potato bread makes for excellent burger buns and pull-apart dinner rolls.
Despite their name, Hawaiian rolls are actually another version of the popular Portuguese sweet bread — a loaf whose signature ingredients include milk and sugar to achieve its soft texture and sweet taste. It was due to Robert R. Taira, the founder of King’s Hawaiian rolls, that the bread became associated with the archipelago, after Taira began baking a version of the sweet roll in the 1950s that would eventually become the popular brand enjoyed today. Hawaiian rolls work well as slider buns or even as French toast.
Soft-but-chewy pita is an ancient Mediterranean flatbread that’s made by rolling out thin spheres of dough, which puff up during baking to create air in between the bread that forms pita’s signature pocket. While readily available at grocery stores, pita is one of the easiest breads to make from scratch. Enjoy it with falafel, tabbouleh, and other easily portable fillings.
Another flatbread originating from the Mediterranean, lavash is a thin, soft bread popular in Turkish, Iranian, and Armenian cuisine that can be both leavened and unleavened. Unlike pita, lavash remains flat and pocket-free after baking and works well as a wrap.
Naan is a traditional South Asian flatbread known for its soft, chewy texture. Named for the Persian word for bread, naan is usually prepared with yogurt, giving it a rich, slightly tangy flavor, and baked in a clay or tandoor oven. Naan is traditionally enjoyed alongside Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala or less traditionally as a flatbread pizza.
Special thanks to Tom Cat Bakery for providing so many delicious loaves of bread for our studio shoot!