Sourdough starter is the fun process of creating your bubbly sourdough base for all your tart and tangy sourdough recipes!
Making a sourdough starter might seem intimidating but don’t be afraid! We have it all laid out step by step so you can start baking that delicious homemade sourdough bread in no time. While you’re getting it ready, use the sourdough discard to make delicious sourdough pancakes!
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Why you’ll love this recipe!
📌 Sourdough starters can last 3 months or longer!
📌 One starter can be used to create many different baked goods.
📌 Creates the spongy texture and tangy flavor for the perfect home baked sourdough bread!
Sourdough Starter Ingredients
- Wheat flour – This is your best option for starting your sourdough starter.
- All-purpose flour – Unbleached. Used for feeding your starter.
- Water – Warm, filtered.
How do you make sourdough starter? (step-by-step directions)
⭐ Days 1 & 2: Mix together the wheat flour and water in a glass jar. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm spot for 2 days. You may start to see bubbles forming on day 2 but if you don’t see a lot of action, that’s okay.
⭐ Day 3: Pour off any dark liquid (the hooch) and stir the starter. Using a spoon, remove half of the starter and discard. Add the flour, water and remaining starter to a bowl and mix. Return to a clean jar and cover with a clean towel and return to the warm spot for another day.
⭐ Days 4+: Repeat the process from day 3 each day going forward. If the top “skin” dries out, remove and discard and also remove any hooch each day. Continue until your starter doubles in size within a 4 hour time frame and it can pass the float test (see below).
What is the float test for sourdough?
Place a teaspoon of the starter in a cup of water. If the sourdough starter floats, it is ready to use!
Scroll down to the printable recipe card toward the bottom of this article for ingredient measurements and detailed cooking instructions.
How does a sourdough starter get yeast?
Believe it or not, there is natural yeast all around us. The magic of a sourdough starter is the collection of all the natural yeast that is allowed to grow and culture in your flour and water mixture. It’s actually a bit of a science experiment that hopefully ends in a deliciously warm loaf of sourdough bread!
Do I need to use wheat flour to start?
Wheat flour is the best way to begin your sourdough starter process because it gives the process a bit of a jumpstart. However, if you don’t have that on hand, you can also use all-purpose flour. The process might take a few days longer but should still give you a great sourdough starter.
How do I know my starter is ready?
Place a rubber band around your jar to mark where the starter begins each day. When your starter doubles in size, that is a good indicator that it is ready.
The float test is another great way to tell if a sourdough starter is ready. Place a teaspoon of the starter in a cup of water. If the sourdough starter floats, it is ready to use.
The last main indicator that your sourdough starter is ready to use is the smell. It should smell sweet, tangy and yeasty. If it still smells sour or like vinegar or rubbing alcohol, it isn’t quite ready.
How long does a sourdough starter take?
This process takes anywhere from 7-14 days. Don’t feel discouraged if on day 7 your starter isn’t quite ready to use. It could take a few days longer to reach readiness.
What if I miss or forget to do a feeding?
That’s okay! Your starter will most likely be fine. Although it might look rough and it probably smells terrible, with a few regular feedings, your starter should get back on track.
What can I do with the daily discard?
You can add sourdough discard to many baking recipes, our personal favorite is sourdough pancakes.
What do I do once my starter is ready?
The last step is to transfer your sourdough starter to a clean jar and give it a name!
How long does a sourdough starter last?
This is completely up to you! If you continue to feed your sourdough starter, it can last a very long time. If you don’t plan to use your starter every day, give it a good feed, let it sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours and then refrigerate until you are ready to use again. A sourdough starter can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks without feeding.
Can I store my sourdough starter at room temperature?
Yes! As long as you are feeding it once a day, your sourdough starter can be kept at room temperature.
Can I freeze a sourdough starter?
Yes! You can place your sourdough starter in the freezer for up to 2 months. Some of the yeast will die off, but once thawed, as long as you begin to feed your starter regularly, the yeast will replenish and you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off.
Tips and tricks
✅ Use a rubber band, masking tape or a dry erase marker to mark the jar in order to see the rise and fall of the starter each day.
✅ Sourdough starters go by weight, that’s why the recipes are labeled in grams instead of the usual measuring cup measurements. It’s best to have a kitchen scale in order to correctly feed and grow your starter.
✅ A sourdough starter must be maintained. Give your starter regular feedings and make sure to feed it before using it in your baking.
✅ Use unbleached flour for the best results! Sometimes bleached flour can mess with the chemistry and your starter won’t rise like it is supposed to.
✅ Try to feed your sourdough starter at the same time each day.
✅ The best time to use your starter to bake is when it is at its peak height.
What to make with your sourdough starter
Homemade sourdough bread is one of our favorite things, this starter is something we try to keep on hand as often as possible! Make some bread dipping oil to serve with your sourdough loaf or dip it in some delicious soup like chicken tortilla soup, dill pickle soup, or beer cheese soup.
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Tools we love
- Spoons – Are you a large spoon or small spoon person? My husband teases me because I use a teaspoon for everything.
- Kitchen scale – This is your best option for feeding and growing that beautiful sourdough starter!
How to Make Sourdough Starter
- 60 g wheat flour (about ½ cup)
- 60 g water (about ¼ cup)
- 60 g starter
- 60 g all-purpose flour (about ½ cup)
- 60 g water (about ¼ cup)
- Mix together the flour and water. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm spot (75-80°F) for 48 hours. After 48 hours you may not see much happening.
- Do nothing (you may start seeing bubbles on this day).
- You should start seeing bubbles around day 2, but if you don’t see a lot of action, don’t worry. On day 3, pour off any of the dark liquid (hooch.) Stir the starter. Remove 60 g, and discard the rest.
- Mix together the removed starter, flour, and water, and return to a clean bowl or jar. Cover with a clean towel and let it sit in a warm spot for another 24 hours.
- If the top “skin” is dried out, remove the skin and discard first, then repeat the process from day 3. It is helpful to mark the top of the starter on outside of the bowl or jar with a wet erase marker or rubber band so you can see how much the starter rises throughout the day.
- Continue daily for 7 to 14 days. You will know your starter is ready to be used when it doubles in size within 4 hours and can pass a float test. (Place a teaspoon of starter in a cup of water. The starter should float if it’s ready to use.)
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