Flour, water, starter, salt. That’s all you really need to make a delicious loaf of sourdough bread! And while I absolutely savor a classic and simple bake, we also love to change it up and add various goodies to homemade bread too. The flexible and creative nature of making your own sourdough is one of the best things about it, if you ask me! (That, in addition to reducing plastic packaging and consuming more healthy, wholesome, fresh bread of course!) Read along for plenty of drool-worthy sourdough add-ins and topping ideas – including those you can mix into dough for bread or crackers, or right on top of sourdough focaccia before baking.
If you need a starter, feel free to snag an organic sourdough starter from our shop. It’s a foolproof way to get going! Then, please enjoy a few of our favorite sourdough bread recipes – ready and waiting for mix-ins and toppings.
- Simple No-Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe
- Whole Wheat and Herb Sourdough Crackers (gluten free version here)
- Simple Sourdough Focaccia Recipe
- Cast Iron Sourdough Pizza Crust
When should I mix add-ins to my sourdough dough?
We typically incorporate our sourdough add-ins at the first “stretch and fold” – during bulk fermentation and shortly after mixing the sourdough starter, flour, and water. That way, if you’re following our simple no-knead sourdough bread recipe, you’ll have an additional 3 rounds of stretching and folding to fully mix and evenly distribute the add-ins within the dough.
I find that adding goodies early in the process usually provides a little extra oomph to the rise as well! This is likely caused by introducing another “food” source for the bacteria and yeast to feed on during bulk fermentation. That is, unless your sourdough add-ins are too wet, which can lead to less rise instead. See the notes below to learn how to offset that.
Some sourdough add-ins can be incorporated much later too, such as coating the surface of the dough with sesame seeds – which can be done after forming your loaf (added inside the banneton during cold ferment) or right before baking.
Tips on adding toppings to sourdough focaccia
Sourdough focaccia is perhaps my all-time favorite bread to bake. It is so light, fluffy, tasty, and honestly even easier to make than a traditional loaf of sourdough bread! Most often, folks add toppings to focaccia right before baking (like a pizza) rather than mixing it within the dough – yet you can do it either way. Some clever bakers adorn their focaccia with fancy designs, such as creating floral murals out of edible toppings. If you’d like to mix goodies within the dough, follow the same tips described above (incorporate the add-ins during the stretch and fold process).
Depending on your oven, focaccia toppings may get a little crispy or even burned. Therefore, I suggest baking sourdough focaccia in the lower third of your oven. We also sometimes set an empty baking sheet on the oven rack directly over the focaccia pan to deflect some heat from the top of it. Poking the add-ins down into the dimples in the dough also helps prevent burnt toppings!
Choosing the best sourdough add-ins and combinations
The best sourdough add-ins are those that are full of flavor, and are fairly dry or low in moisture content. Wet additions can throw off the hydration ratio of your dough, and wetter doughs usually spread out more as opposed to rising nice and tall. Therefore, if you do choose to use add-ins with a higher water content (things like shredded zucchini, raw tomatoes, grated carrots, or pumpkin puree) you’ll want to slightly reduce the water added to the overall recipe. Experiment and try to get the dough to resemble the consistency you’re used to working with. No matter what happens, I’m sure it will be delicious!
To maintain a good texture and rise, your sourdough add-ins should make up no more than 20% of the total volume of your dough. Honestly though, we never measure. If I had to estimate, I would suggest a couple tablespoons of dry herbs, about a quarter cup of chopped fresh herbs, and maybe a half cup of nuts or cheese to the average loaf of sourdough. Play around and see what works for you!
Now, have fun dreaming up delectable sourdough add-in combinations from the list below. We rarely add just one thing. Most often, we combine one or two types of fresh herbs, a sprinkle of some sort of dry seasoning (like onion powder or “everything but the bagel”) and then either olives, cheese, nuts or seeds. Even amongst that base combo of ingredients, the options are endless: swapping between parmesan or cheddar, black or green olives, walnuts or pumpkin seeds… the list goes on!
20 Sourdough Additions and Topping Ideas
1) Fresh Herbs (or dry)
With our herb garden just outside the front door, fresh herbs are a go-to sourdough addition. Sage, thyme, oregano, and rosemary are my favorites. Sometimes we add just one, sometimes a couple, other times all four! Basil is also excellent in sourdough, along with dill, marjoram or tarragon. Herbs pair exceptionally well with cheese and garlic. We add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to a quarter cup of fresh herbs per loaf of bread (chopped). If you opt for dry herbs instead, you can use less since dry herbs have more concentrated flavor. The general rule of thumb is to use about one-third less dry herbs than the amount you’d use fresh.
2) Dry Seasonings
Calling all seasoning powders! Onion powder, garlic powder, lemon pepper, turmeric powder, leek powder, black pepper… heck, even a little chili powder, if that’s your thang! (We grow and make a ton of our own seasonings – click on any of the highlighted ones for a tutorial). Use 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp of dry seasonings, depending on the seasoning, how strong it is, and your desired result. And let’s not forget: “everything but the bagel” seasoning! That stuff is ridiculously good on it’s own, but toss in a little herb, cheese, garlic, or olives with that sinful stuff? Fugghedaboutit.
Green, black, kalamata, whole, sliced… baker’s choice! I’m not sure what more I can say here. Olives are the bomb! We bake with them all the time. Be sure to eat a few off your fingertips for me while you’re at it!
Vegans, look away – or skip to the next sourdough add-in idea below! Everyone else: go crazy here. Play around with adding various types of cheeses to your bread: parmesan, sharp cheddar, brie, feta, gouda, havarti, blue cheese, goat cheese, whatever tickles your fancy. Add grated cheese for a subtle and even distribution, or leave it in chunks or cubes for a nice gooey bite.
5) Nutritional Yeast
If you’re looking for a little “cheesy” flair but sans dairy, this is it! Add a tablespoon or two of vegan-friendly nutritional yeast to your sourdough to mimic creamy, cheesy flavor notes. We’ve made some killer bread with nooch (nutritional yeast), roasted garlic, and walnuts!
The best way to add garlic to your sourdough is either thinly sliced or diced (raw), in powder form, or by adding whole roasted cloves (roasted in advance and then added to the dough). Unless you really love garlic, I find adding whole raw cloves inside dough doesn’t allow them to cook quite as much as I’d like. Dreaming of garden-to-table meals? Learn how to grow your own garlic here!
7) Artichoke Hearts
Artichoke hearts typically come one of two ways: marinated in oil, or plain in water. Both are fantastic, IMHO! Yet either way, they’re a tad on the wet side as a sourdough add-in, especially so if you leave them whole. Therefore, I suggest letting them sit out in a colander or on a paper towel to drain and reduce excess liquid before adding them to your dough. We usually use artichoke hearts on top of focaccia rather than inside the bread dough. I cut them into smaller pieces than how they come in the jar too.
8) Roasted red bell peppers
Treat and use marinated roasted red bell peppers similar to artichoke hearts, explained above. A handful of roasted red bells (or even thinly-sliced fresh bell pepper) are especially welcome on top of focaccia. Yum! We’re not even halfway through this list but I’m ready to stop writing and go bake myself some bread instead…
There are many ways to add onions to sourdough! One especially tasty way is to caramelize onions in a pan (we keep ours al dente) on the stovetop and then incorporate them. It’s worth the extra step, I promise! We use homemade onion powder quite often. You can also chop chives or green onions to mix in your dough, sprinkle over focaccia, or use long green onions to create “stems” on artful focaccia designs. Thinly-sliced raw sweet, red, or yellow onions also make great focaccia toppings, though I don’t personally like adding raw onions to a regular loaf of dough.
10) Tomatoes: sun-dried or fresh
Given their lower moisture content, sun-dried tomatoes are the best choice to mix in bread dough or sourdough crackers. (We sometimes like to re-hydrate our homemade sun-dried tomatoes by soaking them in oil or water for a bit before adding them to dough.) On the other hand, fresh cherry tomatoes or large fresh tomato slices are wonderful on top of sourdough focaccia. Staying on top, some of their moisture is allowed to evaporate and therefore not make the bread soggy. Tomatoes, herbs, olives and cheese quickly turn sourdough focaccia into mouth watering pizza-style bread! Another option is to incorporate tomato powder into your dough.
11) Nuts and Seeds
Hellooo crunch and protein! Herbs aside, nuts or seeds are our second most common sourdough add-in. Choose between walnuts, raw or toasted pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, slivered almonds, shelled pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or hemp seeds – you can’t go wrong! Nuts and seeds pair particularly well with dried fruit, cheese, or herbs.
You’ve probably considered dabbing some pesto on top of your finished bread, but how about right in the dough? Pesto is an absolutely delicious sourdough add-in, drizzled over the top of focaccia before baking, or as the sauce on your homemade sourdough pizza. We recently made focaccia with our ‘besto pesto’ (see that recipe here), caramelized onions and black sesame seeds – a delectable sourdough combination! Since it’s a tad on the wet side, you may want to withhold just a splash of water from your recipe if you mix a few spoonfuls of pesto into your dough. Watch my Instagram Reel of dressing pesto focaccia.
To use honey, add it to your sourdough early on – when you’re mixing your starter with the rest of the dough. Using a couple tablespoons of honey as a sourdough add-in will offer your bread a note of sweetness, and pairs perfectly with walnuts, caramelized onions, garlic, or dried fruit. Our sourdough cornbread recipe calls for honey too!
Shrooms’ are awesome, but they do release a lot of water while they cook. Because of that, it’s best to cook mushrooms in a pan on the stove to let them dry and shrivel a bit before adding them to your bread dough. Yet if you’re working with focaccia, simply slice them thin and lay them on top – just like you’d dress a pizza. White and brown (crimini) mushrooms are the easiest to find, but I personally love sautéed wild chanterelles or shiitakes most!
Nothing like sneaking some extra veggies into a meal, am I right? Because grated zucchini also contains a ton of moisture, it takes a little more tweaking of your standard recipe than most sourdough add-ins. Before mixing it in the dough, we grate, lightly salt, wring out, and drain the shredded zucchini – much like you would when baking other types of zucchini bread. Check out our zucchini and walnut sourdough recipe here for more detailed instructions.
Cheddar and jalapeño sourdough anyone? Enough said. Use either thinly sliced fresh jalapeños, or the ones you can get in a jar.
17) Dried Fruit
Feeling fruity? Consider adding raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, pieces of dried apricot or apple, or similar dried fruit to your sourdough loaf. If you incorporate dry apples or raisins, don’t forget a dash of cinnamon – and maybe a touch of honey too!
18) Cranberry sauce
This may sound like an odd sourdough add-in, but don’t knock it until you try it! Around the winter holiday season, we always make several large batches of homemade fresh cranberry sauce. It’s stellar with plain yogurt and granola, on vanilla coconut ice cream, with cheese and crackers, and more. Well, one year I decided to drizzle some of our chunky cranberry sauce over sourdough focaccia along with chunks of Fromager d’Affinois (similar to brie cheese, but better) and a sprinkle of fresh rosemary. Not only was it delicious, it looked absolutely gorgeous too! Check out our fresh cranberry sauce recipe here. It’s freezer-friendly, and also stellar on top of sourdough pancakes.
Calling all chocolate lovers! In case you need to hear this: chocolate is a perfectly acceptable sourdough addition. Incorporate chocolate chips or chunks along with nuts, cinnamon, and even dried fruit to create a sweet and savory dessert-like bread. Clearly your final loaf won’t pair with as many meals as some other flavor combinations, but is divine toasted with a little butter or cream cheese on top. You could also add a handful of chocolate chips to our zucchini walnut sourdough bread recipe!
20) A pop of color
Last but not least, think about fun ways to make your dough POP with color! For example, we grow ‘Black Nebula’ carrots that can turn sourdough dark purple! To do so, we grated a couple carrots, reserved and added a portion of the recipe’s called-for water into a bowl with the carrots to let them “bleed” into the liquid, and then added that wet combination to our slightly drier-than-usual autolyse. You could experiment doing the same with beets, though the color of beet fades more during baking. I know other bakers use blue butterfly pea powder to naturally dye their sourdough tones of blue and purple. Turmeric powder will make your loaf a sunny yellow to orange.
How’s that for sourdough add-in ideas?
If you aren’t thoroughly hungry at this point, I’m not sure we can stay friends. I hope you gleaned plenty of fun and flavorful ideas to elevate your sourdough baking to a whole new level! Did I miss any of your go-to goodies or combinations for sourdough add-ins? Please let us know in the comments below. Also feel free to share or pin this article if you enjoyed it. Happy baking, and thank you for tuning in!