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Sourdough Rye Bread

This hearty, European style rye bread is a signature offering at Esalen. If you've visited us you've seen it at the bread bar, and likely you've enjoyed a slice of it — toasted or untoasted — perhaps topped with butter, jam or a nut or seed butter.

Yields 4 loaves


For the bread:

  • 3 1/4 cups rye berries, cooked
  • 3 1/4 cups sunflower seeds
  • 2 1/2 cups rye flakes
  • 10 cups rye flour
  • 3 oz sesame seeds
  • 3 oz caraway seeds
  • 2 1/2 oz salt
  • 3 cups sourdough starter
  • 5 cups Water
  • 4 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil

For the rye sourdough starter:

  • 3 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups of warm water
  • 3 cups of rye flour

Method for Rye Sourdough Starter

  1. Combine the yeast, warm water, and flour in a glass, plastic or ceramic bowl using a wooden spoon (don't use metal).
  2. Cover the bowl with a plate and allow leave it at room temperature for 4 days or until small bubbles appear on the surface.

Method for the Bread

  1. Cook the rye berries in a steamer or saucepan with 6 cups of water, until the water has evaporated and the berries are soft. Pour off any remaining liquid and allow them to cool before mixing.
  2. Thoroughly mix the sunflower seeds, rye flakes, flour, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, salt, sourdough starter, 5 cups of water and the cooked rye berries.
  3. Cover the dough with a towel and leave it at room temperature overnight.
  4. Divide the dough and place it into oiled bread pans, smoothing the top with a spatula. Drizzle 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil over each loaf.
  5. Cover and set in a warm, draft-free area and allow to rise for another hour.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then another hour at 300 degrees or until the internal temperature of the loaves reads 210 degrees.
  7. Allow the loaves to cool slightly before attempting to remove onto a wire rack.


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