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Sourdough

20 Best Sourdough Add-Ins and Topping Ideas

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.



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.


A stainless steel 1/4 cup measuring cup is positioned over a bowl of flour and sourdough starter. The measuring cup is loaded with fresh chopped herbs which are a great sourdough add-in.
Gotta love fresh herbs!
DeannaCat is pulling a newly formed batch of dough to stretch it. There are copious amounts of pumpkin seeds, fresh herbs, and cheddar cheese throughout the dough. A white ceramic bowl in the shape of a rounded square sits below the dough.
Mixing in sage, rosemary, sharp cheddar cheese and pumpkin seeds during the first stretch and fold.


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!

Find our popular simple sourdough focaccia bread recipe here!


A baking pan full of sourdough focaccia that has been dressed with olive oil, coarse sea salt, kalamata olives, and fresh chopped rosemary which are all great sourdough add-ins. The next step is to bake it!
Kalamata olives, rosemary, and flaky sea salt focaccia


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!


A close up of sourdough add-ins that include walnuts, chopped herbs, grated cheddar cheese, and dry turmeric powder sitting atop fluffy dough.
We rarely add just one thing to our sourdough! This loaf was spiked with homegrown turmeric powder, walnuts, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, and sharp cheddar.


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. 


3) Olives 


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! 


A slice of focaccia is featured, its fluffy interior is visible with air pockets here and there. A green olive is slightly blistered and shrunken from its original size due to the baking process. A pocket of cheese is on the opposite end of the slice. Below lies the remainder of the loaf of focaccia bread on a wire cooling rack. The top of the loaf is dotted with green olives, pockets of cheese, and fresh chopped herbs. Its bubbly surface is golden brown.
Sourdough focaccia with green olives, brie cheese and assorted fresh garden herbs.
A sourdough boule loaf is sitting atop a wooden cutting board. The crust has sections of white flour adhered to the outside while the remainder of the loaf is a dark golden brown. Green olives and walnuts are bursting out from the inside of the loaf as they were the sourdough add-ins of choice.
A boule loaf with walnuts, poppy seeds and green olives.


4) Cheese 


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!


6) Garlic 


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. 


A close up of the top of a freshly baked sourdough focaccia loaf. Chopped herbs, melted cheese, and sliced artichoke hearts were the sourdough add-ins. The loaf is a mixture of golden brown crust, gooey white cheese, green artichoke hearts, and speck of chopped herbs.


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…


9) Onions 


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.


A close up of baked sourdough focaccia, with a light brown bubbly surface, flecks of little green thyme leaves, slices of round tomatoes, and black olives pressed into the dimples on top of the dough.
I call this pizza focaccia: fresh sliced tomatoes, black olives, thyme and chunks of cheese on top.
A slice of sourdough bread is featured with sun dried tomatoes and chopped rosemary. The bread is light brown in color with various holes throughout due to air pockets, dots of red and yellow with slivers of green are throughout the slice as well.
Garden red and yellow sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary


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.


12) Pesto


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.


The top of a fresh baked loaf of sourdough is featured with caramelized onions, pockets of dark green pesto, and dotted with sesame seeds. The loaf is bubbly and dark golden brown in color against the sourdough add-ins.
Pesto, caramelized onions, and black sesame seeds on focaccia.


13) Honey 


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!


14) Mushrooms 


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!


15) Zucchini 


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.


A close up of the inside of a white bowl, there is a dough ball in the very bottom with pink salt, a light greenish powder, and a darker green powder in three distinct lines across the top left half of the dough, the right half of the dough is covered equally by shredded zucchini on the bottom and sourdough starter on the upper right.
Adding grated zucchini (which has already been soaked, strained and drained) along with the sourdough starter, pink salt, onion and garlic powders.
An image of 3 slices of sourdough bread displayed showing their insides. Below the slices there is the rest of the loaf of bread. There is a nice and brown crusty crumb showing on both sides of the bread and it is also littered with air holes, walnuts, and specks of zucchini.
The finished zucchini walnut sourdough loaf


16) Jalapeños  


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


An unbaked loaf of sourdough focaccia is featured with pockets of cranberry sauce, chunks of white soft cheese, and fresh chopped rosemary set against the pillowy white dough. Into the oven it will go!
Could you BE any more festive?! Homemade cranberry sauce, rosemary and gooey fromager d’affinois cheese.


19) Chocolate


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.


A sourdough boule loaf has been cut in half on a wood cutting board. One half of the loaf has been cut into four slices revealing a beautifully stark purple color inside with pockets of walnuts. The bread has been dyed with black nebula carrots which turned the entire loaf dark purple. The other half of the loaf has streaks of purple in the top from where the loaf was scored set against a floury white crust.
Black Nebula carrots do amazing things to sourdough! Check out an Instagram video (reel) of this creation here.


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!


DeannaCat signature, keep on growing

7 Comments

  • Louise Bennington

    If I want to add evoo to a sourdough loaf, how does that affect cook temp/time? Should I just consider that a wet ingredient and add less water as suggested above? Or is oil a different ball game?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Louise, we have only added EVOO into our focaccia loaf. Experiment with adding a small amount of oil, maybe a tablespoon or so to start? Maybe add a tad less water to start but you will probably have to go by the look and feel of the dough to see if it needs more or less water. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Stephanie S

    These look delicious! I recently searched the web for sourdough add-ins and most of the search results were to add them to the top. This is just what I was looking for!

    Thank you!

  • Riley Grace

    Your focaccia recipe is THE best! So fun to get creative with the different herbs and other toppings that are in season. I’m actually making focaccia right now and will be adding sage, garlic chives, and onion flakes (may get a little more creative when the time comes for toppings). I like to make a small round in addition to the big pan to share. Everyone I have shared this with, regardless of the toppings has raved about it! It’s been so fun to share with people and the cranberry, rosemary brie one was great for the holidays! Thank you for sharing with me so I can share with so many others.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Riley, glad to hear you enjoy the focaccia and have been able to share it with so many other people! Sounds like you make up some tasty and interesting creations, thanks for tuning in and happy baking!

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