Difference Between Rye vs Pumpernickel

Published Categorized as Guide, Ingredients

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Bread – one of the most versatile, globally-loved, and delicious treats out there. It comes in so many shapes, textures, and tastes, and is created from so many various ingredients and processed in so many various ways. The versatility and unlimited variation are what makes bread so loved, but it can also cause confusion over what the difference is between some breads for both the eater, but even for bread bakers themselves. In particular, people are often confused over the difference between rye and pumpernickel bread, so today I am going to establish what that is and see if one is better than the other.

Table of Contents

What is rye bread?

To give a fair comparison, it is important to first understand the key factors of both types of bread. Rye bread is classically made using a combination of rye flour and rye grains. Rye flour comes from the rye kernel, which is typically more pointed and lengthier than wheat or barley. Rye bread commonly comes in two forms – light rye and dark rye. The difference between these two stems from the parts of the rye berry used to create the flour for the bread.

Light Rye Bread

Light rye bread is used with white rye flour, which is a flour made using only the endosperm of the rye berry. This means it does not use any of the bran or germ, so it is lighter in color and texture. The fluffier texture means that light rye bread has a similar consistency and flavor to wheat bread, so it is easier to enjoy and can be a popular, yet healthy, option for kids.

Dark Rye Bread

Dark rye is also made using flour milled from the rye berry, but grinds the entire berry, as opposed to only the endosperms. This means the flour contains the bran and germ of the flour too which causes it to be heavier and darker in color. The flavor is also richer with dark rye and can have an earthier, slightly sour taste to it.

Marble Rye Bread

If you are looking for that lighter loaf, that is still full of flavor and has that dense texture, marble rye is made by rolling light and dark rye dough together. The combination of both light and dark creates a really deliciously balanced loaf of bread.

Both types of rye bread are high in nutritional value. Rye berries generally have less gluten than wheat, and so the gluten levels are lower in rye bread, causing it to rise less and remain denser. However, using the bran in dark rye flour means that gluten levels can be even lower, but nutritional values will be higher, meaning that although the loaf will be richer, with less of a rise, it will be higher in protein and fibre. To find that healthy medium, you can always opt for marble rye.

Rye vs Pumpernickel_Alices Kitchen

What is pumpernickel bread?

Despite having a different name, pumpernickel bread is also derived from the rye berry. Like dark rye, pumpernickel flour is made using the entirety of the rye berry, however, it is milled more coarsely, meaning the berry is ground less finely and so the flour creates an even heavier, darker loaf that comes with an even earthier, stronger flavor. Again, it also means that the health benefits are even higher as the fiber is not broken up as much during milling, making pumpernickel one of the most fiber-rich, carb-light loaves out there! In addition, pumpernickel bread is usually steam baked, as opposed to oven baked, which is another amazing way to lock in the flavor, but also keeps in more of the nutrition that can often be destroyed when over-baked.

Rye bread vs pumpernickel bread?

So with a basic understanding of what each bread is, the time has come to compare them! I will look at some of the key factors we search for when buying the perfect loaf and see how these breads vary.


Rye, both light and dark, are used with flour made from ground rye berries – or only the endosperm in light rye. The loaf is oven baked. This means the bread is lighter in color and can have a better rise. Pumpernickel uses more coarsely ground rye berries and is steam baked, and so the loaf is a lot heavier and harder to shape, but locks in its flavor and nutrition.


Whilst darker rye offers a stronger taste than light rye, pumpernickel takes lead on the strongest flavor. This is because the more broken down the berry is in the flour, the less flavourful it remains. Dark rye and pumpernickel have a very heavy, earthy flavor and can even taste quite sour, whereas light rye does not carry these tastes due to the absence of the germ and bran parts of the berry. Overall, you’ll find a stronger flavor in pumpernickel due to the flour but also the baking method. This may work as a positive or a negative depending on the kinds of flavors you desire in your bread.


As mentioned, the coarser flour means that pumpernickel rises less, making it a lot denser and heavier than rye. However, even rye breads can alter in their texture depending on if the loaf is light or dark and if you are looking for a lighter loaf than light rye is the one for you.

Health Benefits: although both originate from the same berry, the more the berry is ground, the more the nutrition is lost. As a result, pumpernickel is the healthier alternative. The steam baked process also elevates the health benefits in pumpernickel.

Difference Between Rye vs Pumpernickel_alices kitchen


Overall, pumpernickel provides a healthier, denser, and more flavorful loaf. Despite this, light rye can be a popular option due to its similarities to wheat bread. For the middle-ground, you can always opt for dark rye or marble rye – bringing you a slightly heavier loaf than light rye, but not quite as rich as pumpernickel. Both pumpernickel and rye are full of nutrition and are denser than your usual breads, but for a more exaggerated option when it comes to health, flavor, and texture, pumpernickel would be your best bet.

Find out more about the different types of flours available, how they are milled, and how their differences can impact the final product.