Assorted Sourdough Breads

There are so many types of delicious, life-sustaining, tradition-imbued bread that make meals a happier occasion. Our taste testers believe that good bread is basically the best food on earth and that a humble meal of a perfectly baked loaf plus some salted butter is, all by itself, a meal fit for royalty. Actually, if the bread is good enough, you may not even need the butter … and if the bread is sourdough, the chances are even higher that you’ve got all you need to get by in the world.

The origins of sourdough bread first developed in San Francisco during the age of gold miners and manifest destiny, with a unique backstory and an odd scientific breakdown. The sophisticated flavor and distinct texture are the results of bacteria and yeast, a marriage that sounds like it shouldn’t work but somehow is actually a pretty healthy relationship. We all seem to know sourdough as the great pandemic baking project, but if you don’t have a starter lying around at all times, you may be in the market for great store-bought options. Sourdough is terrific for toasts of all sorts, whether simply with butter or served along with the chicest cheese on the charcuterie board. To help you pick out the best one of all, we tasted and ranked the best sourdough bread brands widely available. Enjoy the feast!

14. 365 by Whole Foods

Whole Foods Sourdough Bread

365 by Whole Foods Market products can be entirely convenient and sometimes a grand slam of flavor. But sadly, the Organic Sourdough Sandwich Bread by Whole Foods was surprisingly disappointing. The slices were more taupe in color than white, which was odd since this isn’t wheat or grain-filled bread. It was crumbling and shedding all over the place, a bad sign for the purpose of making neat and tidy sandwiches for on-the-go, as per the bag’s suggestion. When we tasted it, we all agreed that it simply wasn’t very good. The bread is dry, as hinted at by the crumbliness, and sort of stale when it really should not have been.

Whole Foods’ bread also didn’t have much flavor, meaning we struggled to get much "sour" in the dough. Unfortunately, this sourdough bread tasted more like dry cardboard than all of the others and would probably become even more papery when toasted. Maybe, if you happen to pick it up, use it to make a dish greater than the sum of its parts, like sourdough sausage stuffing recipe that’ll be fit for your Thanksgiving menu? But in terms of the best bread, we’re back to the drawing board!

13. Great Value

Great Value Sourdough Bread

Hello, Walmart, are you there? Is this white bread? Did we buy the wrong loaf? Nope, as it turns out, it’s not us; it’s you. We felt confused upon tasting Great Value’s sourdough loaf. We slowly began getting some flavor, but only after a few too many chews and at the very end of the eating experience. It’s not too crumbly, not too soft, not too chewy, not too flavorful, and less sour than any other bread we tried.

It’s a great value, naturally, but the truth is that this bread feels like white bread in sourdough clothing. We don’t like to be duped, and we suspect you don’t either. Still, it’s actually fairly fine in a pinch, and we’d definitely consider it as a more substantial alternative for French toast or a nice, sturdy bookend for piles of ham and cheese. We truly, always, appreciate Walmart for providing us with accessible options that aren’t too expensive, but the quality just isn’t there this time, whether or not it was truly "baked with love." If you find your own reaction to Walmart’s sourdough as lackluster as ours, you might also find that your bread gets stale before you can finish eating it. Don’t worry! There are lots of creative and delicious things you do with stale bread to give it new life.

12. Arnold

Arnold Sourdough Bread

Arnold bread has a funny name, doesn’t it? It’s so plain and simple, like some dude named Arnold couldn’t be bothered brainstorming his brand, so he just decided to stick his first name on the packaging. It could have just as easily been Brad or Jeff or Thomas (no, wait, that’s taken by the bagel and English muffins guy. Maybe they’re related?) Anyway, the somewhat stodgy-looking bread never seemed to pop off the shelves into our shopping carts, so we were intrigued to toss this loaf of Country Style Sourdough into our mix.

Arnold gives us an extremely tight crumb with minimal air pockets and a, well, stodgy density that could ably support a thick stack of lunchmeat. When we tasted it, we noted the chewiness and firmness before any particular flavor. This bread will make you work that jaw of yours more than some of the softer options like Pepperidge Farm or Nature’s Own, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s more about personal preference, though it’s likely Arnold’s bread will turn rubbery and stale a bit quicker. There isn’t much to say about the flavor once we got around to it, which was deflating. Not too pungent but also not buttery, we felt that this is a bread better suited for utilitarian purposes than standalone merits. The crust has a nice heartiness, though.

11. Nature’s Own

Nature's Own Sourdough Bread

Nature’s Own is a recognizable bread for super basic, classic, budget-conscious sandwiches with peanut butter, cold cuts, or some Kraft Singles American cheese. But that iteration is more likely basic white or feel-good whole wheat, not this more recent, more "artisan" addition to the lineup. How would a generic and unassuming, almost nostalgic, loaf of Perfectly Crafted Thick Sliced Sourdough bread from Nature’s Own compare to fancier Rustik Ovens and or the store-brands like Great Value?

We noticed that it looked and felt a lot like regular white bread when getting squished around in its bag. The texture is pretty squishy, that funny mix of moist and chewy, "perfectly crafted" to some and off-putting to others (ever had those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that stick to the roof of your mouth as a kid?). As predicted, it’s a very mild sourdough without a challenging flavor or texture. Softer and sweeter than the others on the list, this is a tangy spin on your basic white bread sandwich but doesn’t seem to count as sourdough exactly. According to BBC Travel, the creation of sourdough is a mind-numbingly detailed process that goes into deep dark science. At the same time, this one felt as high-maintenance as a simple one-bowl banana bread recipe you’ve had memorized since seventh grade. It’s very kid-friendly, at least!

10. Pepperidge Farm

Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Sourdough Bread

A few members of our tasting team had a soft spot for Pepperidge Farm bread. Have you ever tried anything from the super fun Pepperidge Farm Very Thin menu? Pro tip: use them for a triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with one layer housing just the peanut butter and one with just the jelly. You’ll feel your inner child having a ball, and it’s the best reason to absolutely play with your food. The brand really hits the nail on the head with high-quality but still hardy pantry-ready breads, but we hadn’t yet its sourdough as part of the Farmhouse collection.

The texture is light and fairly fluffy, with loose air pockets and feathery crumb that bounces back. It’s got that amazing Pepperidge Farm freshly made factor and melted pleasantly in our mouths. It’s not sweet but very demure. We didn’t get much sourness until it left a bit of that acidic aftertaste. So while it’s a beautifully delicious bread and wonderfully pillowy, it’s not the sourdough we need when looking for a blast of zesty flavor. We so wanted this one to be better than it was, but "Fresh from the Oven Taste" was more theory than reality.

9. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe's Sourdough Boule Bread

By this point, you’ve probably been living under a rock if you are yet unaware of the cult following that Trader Joe’s has amassed over time. If you like its fun spins on foods you already know and love, particularly where bread is concerned, be sure to try the Everything But the Bagel Crackers or Garlic Bread Cheese! We went straight for the basic bread aisle this time, though, to find Trader Joe’s Sourdough Boule Bread. It’s apparently "stone hearth oven-baked," which certainly sounds promising, doesn’t it? The mottled bronze crust looked promising, too, and a slice flexed a crusty chew that was a textural marvel.

Once we got past the appearance and texture to dig into the taste, the appeal dwindled slightly. This sourdough bread was deceptively dry. The interior crumb was also lacking in strong sour or rich flavor. So overall, we loved certain elements of the bread, but our recommendation is that Trader Joe’s sourdough boule would make great toasted slices for dipping into something creamy like a nicely baked brie. Basically, any combo that would highlight the crisp and toothsome exterior while drawing attention away from the ever-so-slightly bland center will be a good pairing.

8. Favorite Day

Favorite Day Bakery Sourdough Bread

Favorite Day Bakery Sliced Sourdough Bread is Target’s addition to the sourdough competition. In general, we found that buying our sourdough loaves unsliced was the better option. Sliced varieties tend more towards the dry or tasteless end of the spectrum. We’re all busy, though, so our team will be the first to acknowledge that pre-sliced bread is wildly convenient on the craziest days when you just want a sandwich fast, but you’d love it if the bread were more substantial than plain white. That being said, Favorite Day isn’t the most flavorful of the entire array, but it was one of the more solid sliced ones.

Target packaged up a very balanced bread for its devoted fans. Not outstanding, but not disappointing either. The hints of yeasty-ness (not a word, but sourdough shows off the yeast much more than basic breads thanks to the fermentation and time-lapse) played well off the hints of nostalgic fluffy sandwich bread. It’s soft and pliable, ready for anything you need some bread to help with. Unfortunately, with a lack of defining flavor or intense chew, Favorite Day won’t turn your basic buttered toast into a bougie sourdough experience.

7. Rudi’s

Rudi's Sourdough Bread

Rudi’s Rocky Mountain Bakery was another of the brands on our list that we had not yet tried. Established in Boulder, CO, in 1976, its products are full of homegrown goodness and suitably organic. Rudi’s (Rocky Mountain) sourdough bread ferments even longer than the bread from Rustik Oven’s, stewing in the microbes for a full 24-hour day. With that in mind, we expected a significant dose of complex and absorbing flavor. Unfortunately, the tasting proved us wrong.

Slightly on the drier end and chewier, the flavor of Rudi’s didn’t light up our taste buds right at the start. But in all fairness, it did slowly creep up on us. The bread is not sweet at all, quite sour indeed, and a little bit funky — as all sourdough should be. There were sporadic small air holes that were never entirely see-through, so at least we knew that no cheese would fall through the open bread windowpane. We found some nice springiness at the center of the loaf. However, all of these positive factors were more pronounced in higher-rated options on this list. Rudi’s isn’t the best of the bunch, but it does have that authentic flair that generic store brands lack.

6. Signature Select

Signature Select Sourdough Bread

If you didn’t already know, this tasting team loves a nice trip to Aldi. There’s something about the limited aisles and items, rotating selection of seasonal and multicultural finds, and, of course, the relief we feel whenever we find a new favorite food for a few fewer dollars and cents than we’d find anywhere else. The bread section is particularly budget-friendly.

Specially Selected from Aldi was so sour that we felt a strong need for a sip of water after just a small bite. That sourness came out front and center, sitting right on our tongues for a long time and smothering other potential wheaty flavors. The pre-sliced bread did feel a little more texturally akin to regular white sandwich bread recipes than something you’d pick up at a local bakery, and the difference between crumb and crust was less pronounced. If the acidic, fermented sensation is what you’re after in a loaf of sourdough bread, you’ll be seriously impressed by Aldi’s Specially Selected. But we can’t imagine that kids would want this over mild-mannered white bread, and we don’t think it would make great French toast or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Toasted, topped with melted cheese, and dunked in a sweeter soup like Butternut Squash? Absolutely. We had no idea Aldi would bring the sour pucker, but boy, oh boy, did it ever!

5. Wegmans

Wegmans Organic White Sourdough Bread

Wegmans Organic White Sourdough is one of the many store-brand bread options available on the shelves of this impressive destination. For us, Wegmans is a favorite store to simply wander and see what we’ll discover. The cheese section? Folks, it’s a work of art. We really wanted to grab some to stack on slices of sourdough bread, but for the most candid reaction, we had to eat the bread by itself. Thankfully, that wasn’t a thankless task this time around. Beyond the welcoming appearance (the crust looks like it was dusted sweetly in powdered sugar, but of course, it’s just flour), we found the overall taste quite good.

Of course, we liked that this option is organic, but that doesn’t necessarily translate directly to deliciousness. Also, we were surprised to see that Wegmans sourdough claims to serve as an "excellent source of vitamin D." Nice! This one’s a very sturdy sandwich bread, and the wide slices would support some serious fillings. It’s got the chew; it’s got the tang; it’s got the floof. We didn’t find it quite as sour as Signature Selection, or quite as hearty as Rustik Oven, or quite as plush as Nature’s Promise — but Wegmans eeks its way into the top five thanks to its many complementary elements contributing to an overall great bread.

4. La Brea Bakery

La Brea Bakery Sourdough Bread

La Brea Bakery sells its wares at the grocery store Harris Teeter. This is another of those grocery store chains, like Publix and Wegmans, that our team loves to frequent. Not as cozy and niche as a Trader Joe’s or discounted as an Aldi, but with way more products than either; not as humongous and multi-purpose as Target or Walmart; Harris Teeter is usually nicely laid out and well-stocked with plenty of upscale items interspersed with routine staples and cutting-edge finds, like an un-meat tuna making its grocery store debut. It makes sense that La Brea would choose to send its artisan, San Francisco-inspired bread here. We could tell by the middle-grade price point ($4.59) and pretty cross-hatch crust that this would likely be steps above some others.

We were right! That pattern carved into the loaf helps create some visual appeal but also some crags and hard lines that become fantastic trivets for butter or sharp crostini toppings. The bread has an even texture, so you won’t find massive air pockets stealing the goods. Flavor-wise, it could be more pronounced but still sour enough for anyone looking for that catalyst. We’d happily eat a slice of this every morning alongside over-easy eggs, using those ingenious crusts for scooping up runny yolks.

3. Nature’s Promise

Nature's Promise Sourdough Bread

Nature’s Promise was a last-minute addition to the ranking, slipping into our carts just in the nick of time. We’re so glad it did, though, because the flavor was astonishingly delicious. Let’s back up for a minute: this is one of the unsliced loaves, which, as previously stated, we usually found claimed advantage over the pre-sliced loaves. This artisan bake loaf has an unassuming, honestly rather uninviting, pale hue that only becomes golden-brown on the highest peak of the crust. And here lies the biggest strike against Nature’s Promise: it’s not a tremendously brittle, chewy crust at all. The differentiation between exterior and interior is minimal.

How, then, did this particular loaf rise through the ranks to this high spot on the list? (Rise … ha. Bread rises when it proofs and bakes, get it?) Well, it’s all thanks to two factors: the interior texture and the gosh darn taste. We loved the effervescent, spongey, springy interior of Nature’s Promise, a reward we weren’t expecting beneath the dull outside. We also loved the somewhat sweet, yeast-scented, subtle flavor of that interior. Nature’s Promise was sour, naturally, but sour with the complexity of fermentation that we aspire to in a sourdough creation. Don’t sleep on this sneaky one!

2. The Rustik Oven

The Rustik Oven Sourdough Bread

This gorgeous, impressive-looking loaf was clearly a cut above at first glance. That flour dusting atop the craggy crust ridges really got to us! The new-to-us brand Rustik Oven cultivates its signature artisan bread by fermenting it for at least 14 hours and baking the loaves slowly to deliver an above-average bite. We loved the commitment and the look, so our anticipation was high.

It was a distinctly dense, bendable but not breakable bread, with a hefty chewy yet soft interior. At first, it wasn’t that sour, but then the fermented flavor swept upon our unsuspecting palettes and blew us away. There’s a bold tang that’s followed by a softer, nuttier, almost carbonated taste that dances in our mouths long after swallowing. Rustik is a nice name and fits the bill from the appearance to the texture to the taste. We’d believe it if a friend brought this over to a party and said it came out of the local bakery’s oven just a few hours ago. This nuanced and complex loaf is a strong contender for the best sourdough bread.

1. Panera Bread

Panera Bread Sourdough Bread

Would the queen of every kind of bread, madam Panera herself, come through with a classic loaf of sourdough? Now full of winning soup and salad combos, warm bowls of gooey mac and cheese, and even signature chicken sandwiches to rival Popeyes and KFC, Panera has been shooting for the moon across all food genres. But there is no denying that she started with bread — it’s even in the name! And once you rifle through the sweet pastries and kitchen sink cookies, you might find that the best-baked item is a big loaf of sourdough.

We had to admit that the initial impression wasn’t striking. It seemed like a pretty, basic loaf, nothing too special or particularly appetizing. But as soon as we took out the bread knife and freed a few slices, Panera was back in business. A yielding and springy bake, the crust has a definite chew, but the center is tender as can be. Most importantly, the flavor is out of this world. You get that tangy, eyebrow-raising sensation you crave in a perfect sourdough. You get that fluffy, mild interior. You get a slice you can sink your teeth into and one that tears well into pieces for dipping. We agreed unanimously that this was the best sourdough, even above the more impressive-sounding, flashier options. If you don’t yet have a favorite local hole-in-the-wall or can’t get your starter to settle down (an often-made mistake with sourdough), pick up a loaf of Panera Bread.