The comparison of sourdough bread vs whole wheat is pretty straightforward at first glance.
One is made with sourdough starter.
And the other is made with yeast.
One is made with all kinds of flour. We can make our starter with bread flour, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and rye flour. Of course, we can also make gluten-free sourdough breads.
The other is made with 100% whole wheat flour or a combination of white flour and whole wheat. Or we can make a rye and whole wheat bread recipe.
So, there’s even an intersection in our sourdough bread vs whole wheat comparison, in the flour that we can use for our starter.
If we want the benefits that whole wheat flour provides but we enjoy the flavor of sourdough bread, then we can solve our dilemma easily by making the starter with whole rye, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
If you need professional help, I recommend checking out a terrific cookbook: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish. The author and baker mentions that the best way to start a levain is to use whole grain flour.
When we make our sourdough, we can use the starter that was made with whole grain flour.
The rest of the ingredients can be a combination of white flour, whole wheat flour, water, and salt.
Overall, if we were to put it simply, I would say that the main difference between them is that one uses starter and the other uses yeast.
One can be made more quickly, while the other requires more planning. Although there are bread machines that nowadays have a sourdough starter cycle, it’s definitely not the same as the one we make by hand.
Sourdough Bread vs Whole Wheat Bread: Main Differences
Sourdough bread gets its name from the sourdough starter we make at home. And we’ll talk about what this starter is all about. And then you can establish if you want to make it at home or not. My recommendation is to try it at least once.
All we need to make sourdough bread is:
- sourdough starter
- and salt
That’s the basic recipe.
This basic recipe also clearly illustrates that sourdough bread is vegan.
Whole bread gets its name from the whole wheat flour we use to make it.
If we make 100% whole wheat bread, the ingredients might be:
- whole wheat flour
- sugar/honey/maple syrup
- vital wheat gluten
- unsalted butter
- active dry yeast
I took this recipe from the recipe book for a Zojirushi bread maker because I love bread machines but you’ll find plenty of recipes online.
So, we can easily notice that sourdough bread is not made with yeast while whole wheat loaves are made with yeast, the same as white breads. The rise in sourdough loaves is given by the starter.
Which tastes better?
Another distinction in our sourdough vs whole wheat comparison is in terms of flavors, how each bread tastes.
I would say that if you’re only used to white breads, both will require a bit of an adjustment in terms of flavors. You might like both, you might only like one or none. It’s definitely something that you can’t know until you’ve tried it.
I personally love sourdough bread but I will say that I’m certainly not the biggest fan of 100% whole wheat bread. It’s a bit too much for me so I always combine whole wheat mostly with all purpose flour because that’s the flour that I always make sure to have in my house in big quantities since it’s so versatile.
The best way I could describe sourdough is as having a complex taste, complex flavors.
Lactic acid and acetic acid are responsible for those complex flavors.
The lactic acid gives it a yogurt-like flavor, it’s mild and tangy.
Like you’d expect, acetic acid brings a more sharp, sour, slightly reminiscent vinegar taste.
We could say that sourdough bread has a similar taste to yeasted bread but with a hint of tanginess from those natural acids in the starter.
Whole wheat bread is dense. I guess its texture is more difficult to get used to than its actual flavor. Whole wheat and whole grain loaves feel heavier and thicker. They tend to have a grittier feeling when you chew it. We could also say that whole wheat has a slightly nutty taste and a richer flavor than white bread.
You’ll also come across people who say that whole wheat tastes really bad, a punishment for their taste buds.
What Is Sourdough Bread?
Sourdough bread gets its name from the starter we make it with. And from the way it tastes, it’s clearly named sour dough.
The starter replaces the yeast that we usually use to make bread. So, we need to make the starter at home and then we can combine it with flour, salt, and water. Thus, a bit of more planning is needed.
Also, if you want to properly bake it, I recommend checking out my recommendations for Dutch ovens for sourdough.
You can find out more about the flours you can use in my recommendations for the best flour for sourdough starter.
What Is Whole Wheat Bread?
It’s made with water, milk, honey, active dry yeast, whole wheat flour, salt, and unsalted butter.
I think this is a good recipe to try if this is the first whole wheat bread you’ll make. The instructions are easy to follow and if you bake it in a loaf pan you’ll get that perfect shape for sandwiches and toast. It’s great.
I make 100% whole wheat from time to time because my parents love it for toast and sandwiches especially. For myself, I prefer 50% whole wheat and 50% all purpose or bread flour.
Also, rye bread is another one you should absolutely bake at home, especially if you want to make the perfect Reuben sandwich at home.
So, if you don’t like 100% whole wheat, don’t be discouraged. I just think it gets a bit of time getting used to and trying various recipes until you find the best for your taste buds.
However, I should also mention that if you’re looking for the lowest calorie flour, 100% whole wheat is the perfect choice.
And I definitely think that rye bread might taste better, especially if you try it for the first time in such a delicious and decadent recipe as a Reuben sandwich. We need our brains to associate whole grain loaves with tasty, delicious things.
All in all, this sourdough bread vs whole wheat comparison revealed that is made with starter while the other is a yeasted bread but it also showed that they have things in common.