Why Use Sugar In Bread Dough?

sugar in bread dough
My mum's bread recipe contained sugar. Therefore, for a long time, all my recipes contained sugar. Whenever I created a new type of bread, sugar was automatically included.

Only recently, I have decided that sugar may not be necessary.

This article is about the role of sugar in bread, and  whether you should leave it out.

What does sugar do?

Firstly. let's look at why we might want to put sugar into our bread dough mixture.

It's primarily a food for the yeast.

Bread yeast breaks down starches and sugars found in flour or other ingredients. The products of this breakdown included carbon dioxide: the gas which makes the bread rise.

Now, it can take a while for yeast to wake up and get going. If it has to gain its food source only from flour, it first has to break down the flour-starch into sugar. If you feed the yeast sugar, directly, it can become more active, more quickly.

Thus, adding sugar to the dough mixture can speed up the action of the yeast.

So, why would I want to omit the sugar?

The fact is, yeast works perfectly well without sugar. In other words, the sugar turns out to be plain old unnecessary.

French bread is, I am told, made without sugar and that is delicious, is it not?

I am starting to create bread recipes without sugar, simply because I can. Why add an extra ingredient if you don't need to?

[Edit: I have now edited the unnecessary sugar out of my earlier recipes]

What about the flavour?

Some people have suggested that sugar adds to the flavour of the finished loaf.

I doubt it.

If the sugar is used to feed the yeast then it will be broken down by the fermentation process until little - if any - of the sugary flavour remains.

The flavour of bread comes from the alcohol made in the fermentation process.

The jury's out as to whether bread tastes better made slowly, but if you let the dough ferment for a long time, or several times, more alcohol can be produced, giving the bread a stronger, sourer flavour.

I prefer a less sour taste to my bread but that's purely personal preference.

So, can I just miss out the sugar?


In any of my basic bread recipes, you can choose to include or omit the sugar at will.

Using sugar is likely to increase the activity of the yeast, helping the dough to rise faster, initially, but if you're prepared to wait a little longer, the sugar is surplus to requirements.

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  1. Great! I've begun making enough bread dough to make 3 or 4 loaves throughout the week. But then I really enjoy a soft pretzel - especially for company coming over for the big game or whatever - but my pretzel recipes always include sugar. A small amount, but sugar nonetheless. I'm so glad to hear it likely doesn't matter - I'll be using bread dough for soft pretzels tonight!

    1. I've never made pretzels and they are on my 'to do' list, to try sometime. I'll be very interested to hear how you get on without the sugar. If you have time, please report back!

  2. So glad you don't need sugar because I forgot to put it in my bread dough and it's half way through rising phew!

    1. Helen how did the bread turn out? I bet it was delicious :)