It seems impossible, right?

Whole wheat bread is supposed to be tough, grainy, and perhaps a little dry.  Kids turn their noses up at the thought of whole wheat and reach for the white.  It’s an acquired taste that you get used to when trying to eat a healthy diet with more whole grains.

Bread is normally full of carbohydrates and usually a bit skimpy on protein.  And the good stuff made with only whole ingredients costs upwards of $5 a loaf in the store.

So what if I told you I created a recipe for whole wheat bread that is not only healthy, but soft, delicious, full of protein and about $1 a loaf to make?

It’s true!

The secret is vital wheat gluten.  Now before you crinkle your eyebrows at what has become almost an evil word these days, remember that gluten is the protein that makes stretchy wheat bread possible.  It traps the air inside the loaf creating the webbing of air pockets that is essential to the delicious texture of bread.  If you are lucky enough to be gluten tolerant (the vast majority of us are), then it can become an important part of a healthy diet, especially for vegans.

Stretchy strands of gluten developing

The reason that white bread is so soft is because the bran from the wheat has been stripped away, leaving more gluten in the flour per cup.  If you try to make a loaf of whole wheat bread without adding vital wheat gluten, it will be dense and heavy simply because by volume there is a lot less protein creating the air pockets.

By replacing about a quarter of the whole wheat flour in my normal recipe with VWG, I created billowy loaves that have more than 10 grams of protein in each 129 calorie serving!  Just amazing.

Fresh out of the oven

I like to use long, skinny silicone loaf pans to get small sandwich slices.  I get about 20 slices per loaf and each serving is two slices.

My favorite method of baking bread is to create a sponge.  This simply means a wet flour mix with yeast and/or sourdough that is allowed to develop before adding the rest of the dry ingredients.  You mix up the sponge, let it sit for an hour (or overnight with all sourdough) then work in the second half of the flour and the salt.  I prefer this method because there is no double-rising of the dough and it seems to take less time.

I prefer to weigh my ingredients in grams so that I can get exact measurements each time.  Once you get used to weighing, you’ll never go back to using volume again.

This has become my absolute favorite loaf of bread.  I typically sneak a little sourdough starter in with the sponge to get all that fermented goodness, but I still rely on some yeast because I get impatient.  The recipe below skips the sourdough.


Soft, High Protein Whole Wheat Bread

Claire Bartholic
Soft, billowy, high protein whole wheat sandwich bread.
Prep Time 3 hrs
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 35 mins
Cuisine Whole Wheat Bread
Servings 40 small slices


  • Sponge:

3 1/3 cups of whole wheat flour (403 grams)

    1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp instant yeast

      2 1/4 cups warm water (532 grams)

        1 tbsp molasses

        • Dough:

        1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (222 grams)

          1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten (180 grams)

            2 tsp salt


              • For the sponge, mix all of the sponge ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium until well mixed, about five minutes.
              • Remove whisk attachment, cover bowl, and let rest for an hour until very bubbly.
              • Add the dough ingredients and with the dough hook attachment, mix at low speed until no dry flour remains.
              • Mix on medium speed for about ten minutes until dough is smooth.
              • Divide into to equal halves and shape into rounds.
              • Cover with parchment paper and let rest 15 minutes.
              • Shape into logs and place into floured bread pans.
              • Let rise covered with parchment and a towel in a warm place 60-90 minutes or until risen over the sides of the pans.
              • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
              • Bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown.
              • Let rest in pans for 10 minutes before removing them.
              • Cool completely before slicing.


              129 calories, 21.5 grams carbs, 0.6 grams fat, 10 grams of protein



              About Claire

              Coach Claire has helped hundreds of runners chase their dreams and conquer big goals. Her coaching philosophy combines science-based training, plant-based nutrition, and mindset techniques to unlock every runner's true potential. She's an ASFA certified running coach, sports nutrition specialist, a 2:58 marathoner, mom, and borderline obsessive plant lover.

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            • I just stumbled upon this blog searching for recipes. Where is the wheat gluten in the recipe?

              • Thank you for catching that! It’s the most important ingredient! I have edited it. It’s 1.5 cups added to the dough.

              • I have been doing sourdough–letting the dough rise for a few hours and then refrigerating for 72 or more hours until I am ready to bake. I am wondering if this recipe, with the 2 steps, would translate to my process? I.e. Letting it bubble, adding the flour, letting it rise, then refrigerating and letting it sour?

                • I have made this recipe with sourdough, but not with 72 hour refrigeration. I hope you try it and let me know how it goes!

                    • Hi Christina, I don’t make true sourdough with it. I use 100g of starter (replacing 100g of flour), but I still add the yeast.

              • Hi Henry!

                The vital wheat gluten makes the dough stiffer and very elastic, so it will be quite a workout to do it by hand. But it can be done! Let me know if you try it!

            • Hello :0) I don’t know what happened lol! I followed the instructions. I just looked in the oven, with ten minutes left to bake and the entire oven is bread! The loaves easily tripled in size and then some. I hope they will be delicious!

            • This bread has changed my life. I have a good high protein option in the morning! Just a few questions—I try to follow the instructions exactly, and the sponge always rises perfectly, but then the second rise fails. Any idea why this could happen?

            • I’ve done this recipe 2x and both times I have had to either not add some of the WW flour or add nearly 1 cup of water.

              Are you sure about those quantities?

              • Hi Angelo, I’ve made this recipe about once a week for years and it’s what has worked for me. Ambient humidity makes a huge difference in bread making, so perhaps your kitchen is drier than mine?

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