How to Make Sourdough Starter
All great sourdough bread recipes begin with a sourdough starter recipe and this easy starter is no nonsense! Making your own sourdough starter is so simple and it’s almost impossible to ruin. Keep it in the fridge to use in so many classic sourdough recipes.
Easy Sourdough Starter
Everyone’s baking bread right now….and buying puppies. I guess the things that seem to take a ton of time and patience are finding their way into homes to keep us busy. My secret is, I’ve always loved baking bread and keep a Sourdough Starter in the fridge for bread emergencies.
And I bring home random animals way too often.
My family doesn’t know that this starter is what I throw into things that need a bit of tang and a quick rise when I’m out of yeast. So, the yeast shortage right now is no problem because you’re, basically, making your own yeast at home when you make a sourdough starter. And it couldn’t be easier to make.
Making sourdough starter from scratch isn’t fussy or complicated. It all begins with flour and water…..and a little bit of time. That’s it. Easy Peasy!
What is Sourdough Starter?
Before you could buy a commercial active dry yeast in a jar or packet at the store, there was wild yeast. Wild yeast can be found just about anywhere like in your flour or in the air. But it must be cultivated into a form that’s suitable for baking and to do that, you create a sourdough starter.
A sourdough starter is simply a combination of water and flour that’s been allowed to hang out for a few days on your counter or other warm place. After a day or so, bubbles will begin to form in the starter and that’s when you know the yeast is becoming active.
To keep things moving along, you feed your starter water and flour for the next several days until the mixture becomes light, bubbly and puffy. Once it reaches that stage, it’s ready to be used.
Wild yeast is finicky when it comes to storage, it likes to be kept at cooler temperatures and in an acidic environment. It’s also is much more leisurely when it comes to rise….in that it takes much longer to proof breads.
How To Make It
Although I touched on this a little bit in the last paragraph, making sourdough starter from scratch is super simple to do. The type of flour you use is going to help get things moving more quickly or slowly depending on what you choose.
Wheat flours tend to move things along at a faster pace but since specialty flours are not readily available to everyone, I’ve tested this starter recipe with just about every flour you can imagine.
My favorite sourdough starter recipe begins with a combination of 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour. Whisk the two together in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
Add 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the flour and stir until no flour is left. The dough will look thick and paste-like. Don’t worry, this is normal and it will literally transform in just one day or less.
Cover your jar or bowl and allow to sit in a warm location, ideally over 70˚F is best, covered with a towel or plastic wrap for 24 hours. (Sometimes, I’ll keep my sourdough starter on top of my dryer while it runs to help speed things along.)
The next day, check to see if your starter has bubbles and has doubled in volume. If it looks the same, cover and allow to sit for another day.
Once your starter has doubled in volume and has a lot of bubbles forming, it’s time to feed.
How To Feed Sourdough Starter
Now that the starter has created some movement and developed those happy bubbles, you have to keep it happy by feeding it.
To feed your starter, you will first remove 1/2 of the starter and discard it. Now, when I say discard it, I actually put it in another container and use it for other recipes like pancakes or waffles or muffins, crackers and biscuits. We, also, LOVE these pretzels…they’re crunchy and addicting.
So, you’re not actually throwing it away but you do need to discard half the starter in order to move forward with feeding your starter.
Once you’re removed half the starter, you can now feed it by adding 1/2 cup flour (at this point, I use all-purpose flour only) and 1/4 cup water. Stir the mixture to combine thoroughly and cover with a towel.
Allow the starter to rest another 24 hours.
Repeat this process of feeding your starter each day for 3-5 more days until the starter is super bubbly and billowy and light. At this point, it’s ready to use for a freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread!
What is the best flour?
You can use any flour for your starter that is made from a grain. So, rice flour, wheat flour, rye flours, spelt flour, barley flour, sprouted flour and bread flour will all work well. You can make gluten free starter by using a gluten free flour like rice flour.
I haven’t tested it with most of the listed flours like rice flour so you may need to do a bit of research before going down that path.
How to Maintain Your Starter
- You can safely store your starter in the refrigerator in a container.
- Pick a feeding day and stick to it.
- Remove the starter from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for a few hours before feeding it. Feed it 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. Allow to sit overnight until bubbly then return to the refrigerator.
- You can leave your starter in the refrigerator for longer periods of time but you will need to allow it to rest at room temperature for a few days to revive it. Feed as normal and you should be back in business.
- You can successfully FREEZE sourdough starter by adding twice the flour at a regular feeding and then wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw at room temperature and rest in a container for several days to wake it up. Then, feed as directed.
This easy sourdough starter recipe can be used in so many recipes and I love the easiest ever sourdough bread recipe. If you don’t want to wait for your starter to grow and you have actual yeast in your house, you may want to try this easy Brioche Bread recipe or our favorite White Bread. Both have been on repeat for the past several weeks.
How To Use Your Sourdough Discard
While you feed your starter, you’ll have a bit of discard to tend with. You can toss it or you can save it in a container in the refrigerator to use in recipes.
Here are a few of our favorites:
You could also use this starter as a substitute for yeast in these easy Brioche Buns to give them a tangy flavor that’s so not common in a buttery brioche.
DON’T MISS A RECIPE! Be sure to follow us over on Instagram (where I shared the behind the scenes how-to on making this easy starter recipe) and on Facebook!
Get the Recipe: How to Make Sourdough Starter
- 1/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour, or other whole grain flour
- 5 lb All Purpose Flour
- 1/4 cup water, room temperature
- In a wide mouth 4 cup jar or bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup wheat flour with 1/4 cup All Purpose flour until thoroughly combined.
- Using a fork, stir in the water until no dry flour is remaining. The mixture will resemble a thick dough or paste that's a little on the dry side.
- Cover loosely with the lid or plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot in the kitchen (ideally over 70˚F) for 24-48 hours.
- Check your starter for activity, sometimes you'll see tiny bubbles and maybe a little activity. Sometimes you won't. If you see nothing, give it a stir…cover loosely and allow it to sit for another 24 hours.
- By this time, you should see lots of bubbles and expansion of your starter. To gauge how much your starter is growing in volume, you can place a rubber band around the jar at the top of your starter to see if it doubles in size. I prefer to just eyeball it. Discard half your starter (saving the discard in a separate container for later.)
- Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the remaining starter. Stir to combine until no dry flour is visible. Cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature in a warm location for 24 hours.
- At this point, you should see your starter doubling in volume with lots of bubbles each day. Continue feeding your starter each day by discarding half the starter then feeding with 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.
- Cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature in a warm location for 24 hours. By day 7, your starter should be ready to use in your favorite recipe.
- To test if your starter is ready to use, feed the starter and time how long it takes to double in size. When your starter doubles in less than 4 hours, it's ready. Alternatively, you can do the float test. Simply fill a glass with water and place a bit of starter in the water. If it floats, it's ready to use. (I'm not a fan of the float test….just saying.)
77 Comments on “How to Make Sourdough Starter”
flour recipe calls for five pounds of white flour but I believe you meant 1/4 cup, can’t wait to try it. Love your recipes.
Hi Pat! The amount of flour is correct because you’ll need flour on the following days to actually keep feeding the yeast. Save the discard because it can be used in so many things. I’ll update the post with new recipes as I add them to my site. Thanks so much!
Help! My starter is watery and soupy- not at all the same texture as your photos. There are some bubbles but also not as many as your photos
Hi Kris! It’s ok….just be sure to remove half and feed as directed when it’s time for the next scheduled feeding. It will pull itself together. What day are you on?
I know you posted this a while ago, but I’m hoping you see this. Can you just use plain white flour? (Like all purpose flour). I’m guessing you can’t use buckwheat flour since I heard it maybe comes from rhubarb? It’s so delicious in some recipes.
I love your post and recipe format showing what to do on which days. I’m so excited.
Hi! Yes, you can use regular AP flour!
Do you put the throw out in a different container every day or put it all in 1 container.
I put it all in one container.
I forgot to ask in my comment if you have a link for a recipe or post on how to use the starter. I’d totally start it today but I probably shouldn’t since I’m having surgery tomorrow.
Here you go! https://thesuburbansoapbox.com/how-to-make-sourdough-starter/
Our tap water is chlorinated is it ok to use or should I buy some distilled water ?
It should be fine. If you’re concerned than you could just use regular bottled water or boil the water on the stove for a bit.
Hi just wondering why I need 5 pounds of flour for this starter.Is this an error
It’s five pounds today will the daily feedings. You will have more than enough but since you have to feed it regularly I like to err on the side of caution so you don’t run out.
When you take your starter out of the fridge to feed, do you discard half?
You do! You don’t have to do it every time, though.
Ok. I need a little help. I’ve started my started a week ago. On Thursday It was on the counter and almost tripled in size. I then put it in the refrigerator. This morning I took it out and disregard some and kept 113g bc thats what my recipe says. I fed it and now its on the counter again for 2-4 hours. At what point can i use it to make bread. When its doubled in size or when its compressed down. Im so confused at this part. I will be making the pretzels you suggested with by discard from today. Thank you
Hi! You use the measure out the sourdough starter before it’s fed. So, take the portion you need and then feed the remaining starter if you’re continuing to feed the starter to keep it going. Does that make sense?
Hi Kellie, I have a question for you! I have not started this recipe, just doing a little research beforehand. I really want to give sourdough bread a try. What is the purpose for discarding half of the starter, and what is the purpose for keeping it in a separate container? Thank you in advance!
Well, you don’t have to save the discard in a separate container, you can toss it in the trash if you prefer. The reason for discarding half is because, as you feed it, the volume increases exponentially….often yielding much more than is practical for any baker. You don’t HAVE to do it but it helps keep your sourdough starter from taking over your kitchen.
I looking to try this next week. I got rye flour as i was told it has the best qualities for sourdough starter. Can i do half rye flour and half all purpose white?
You sure can! The rye flour will definitely help things move a little faster, as well.
Hi! I’m on day 4 of my starter and it smells a little stinky…it’s growing and bubbling but I’m not sure if it’s ok. do I need to try again?? Thanks!
If will definitely have a bit of an odor….no need to start again.
Hi, I have a question, just to verify my understanding….after I go through the first seven days, then the half I remove is ready to make sourdough bread. My question is, after this, then I only feed once a week, right? I remove half of the starter to use or discard and then feed the other half, but just weekly?
If my sourdough starter is ready (Doubled in less than 4 hours) but I can’t cook it yet, can I put it in the refrigerator and take it out the next day to cook it?
Yes, you can do that. I, frequently, store my sourdough in the fridge when I want it to take a nap for a bit. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this recipe.
You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy playing with your starter. 🙂
Hi! I am in day two. It not doubled but has bubbles. Do I weight longer? I have it up on top of my kitchen cabinet. It’s winter so it’s not exactly 70’ in here. Is that why?
Sorry for the typos!
Hi! So, sometimes I’ll put it on top of my dishwasher or dryer….it does take longer if it’s cold so just hang tight and give it time to wake up.
Thanks! There is a darker layer on top of it. Is that normal too?? I would like to not poison my family. LOL! Thanks!
My starter was made 13 days ago, but it hasn’t doubled at all and there is only a small amount of bubbling happening. I used plain flour for the starter. What is going wrong?.
It may be too cool where you’re storing it…..I did find if I put it on the dryer while it’s running, it helps move it along a bit.
Hi, Kellie! I’m on day 2 of making my sourdough starter. I feed it at night time. Yesterday when I woke up it had doubled in size (maybe even a bit more). Over the course of the day it gradually went down. Last night I did a discard, fed it, but when I woke up this morning it has not grown at all. (Still has some bubbles.) Is this normal? Do I just keep feeding it once every 24 hours and hopefully it will grow again like it did? Or do I need to maybe feed it more often?
Hi! Your comment was in my spam but I’m going to respond just in can you want to give it another go. So, the starter is not dead but you may need to put it in a warmer location. Sometimes when my starter stalls out I’ll put it in the laundry room or on top of the dishwasher (on the counter but it still gets warmer above the dishwasher) to warm it up. When it’s a little chilly, the starter will take much longer to move along. Don’t do a discard/feed until it’s doubled in size.
I have what may sound like a dumb question, I’ve seen other starter’s but they’ve called for instant potato’s and I also noticed that your recipe didn’t use any yeast and I thought that was what fed it or what was usually in a lot of sourdough breads.
No need for instant potatoes. The yeast feeds off the new flour that’s being added.
I was wondering what is done with the discarded starter to be used later I think you said. I’m not one to throw things out if they have a purpose.
Hi Karen! I store it in a container in the refrigerator and use it for pretzels, crackers or pancakes. At times, I do have to throw some away because it can kind of take over.
Can I use only whole wheat flour instead of half whole wheat and half white flour?
Yes! You can definitely use all whole wheat flour.
Can i just use flour…..and a maybe dumb question…how about self-rising flour? (Can you tell i’ve never been much of a cook?….but can follow instructions!
Hi! No dumb questions here. You can use regular all purpose flour but not self rising flour. That could be a disaster. Plus, it’s more expensive. Self Rising flour already has baking powder and some salt added and is usually made with a softer, lower protein all purpose flour. You definitely need the higher protein flour.
I think I need help too. I’m on day 7 and it has not been bubbly over the past few days and I don’t think it’s totally doubled either. I put it in a warm location- usually keep it by the stove when I cook and then leave it on there to sit as it’s normally warm by the stove. I wonder if I need to start over 🙁
So is my only indicator of its ready is if it doubles in size within 4 hours?
Sometimes mine takes a full day to double in size and I have just move forward with feeding it again when it seems to be lazy. It really needs to be cozy and warm with no draft as the started can be finicky when the weather starts to get cooler. Also, humidity can play a factor, as well.
I see that there is no listing for yeast in the ingredients. Do you not use yeast in this recipe?
Nope! No yeast needed as the flour will start it’s own fermentation which is all the yeast you need.
So do I have to discard half of the starter like ever? Could I take the discarded starter and make a new batch? The discarding part has always confused me. Thanks
Yes, so a discard is meant to be discarded but I save mine in the refrigerator for recipes that call for sourdough discard like my Everything Crackers. You can also use it for a new batch or to give it away to a friend.
The discarding process is confusing to me. So, once you are feeding weekly… do you discard every time? What if you’re taking out starter to bake bread in between feedings? What is the minimum amount of starter you should always keep to feed?
I discard every time I feed it but I don’t discard any when taking starter to bake bread. That’s your “discard”.
Can you make it is a storage or freezer bag?
You can but double bag in case of leaks. And I would prop it up in a bowl or a glass.
Help! My starter is ready to go but I don’t know what to do at this point. Someone else asked this question but were led back to how to start a sourdough starter. Is there a recipe for preparing the starter to be baked?
Yes, there are several recipes on here….this is a great starter bread and in the body of the article I included links to other recipes for the discard. https://thesuburbansoapbox.com/easy-no-knead-sourdough-bread-recipe/
I can’t wait to start mine! Thank you for sharing! Quick question… with the 1st discard (1/2), can that not be placed in another jar and continue with the same directions that were given for what was kept in the original container? So you’d end up with 2 starters, split from the original. If that makes any sense!? Thank you!
Yes, that’s correct….you can keep the discard and start a second starter to have two going at once. But, be careful because you may end up with a bunch of starters taking over your kitchen at some point. 🙂
Hi there! thanks for the recipe! I am hoping this is the starter that will finally work for me! Just a question about day two – I have not gotten there yet, but what if there is a lot of activity, do you discard half and feed? Leave it for the next day? feed it without discarding?
Yes, if it takes off a bit faster than you’re ready for just do the discard a little earlier. If my house is warm, sometimes I have to discard more frequently but during the winter it’s usually slow. If your discard is slow moving then just wait an extra day, discard per instructions and it should start going. It helps to put it somewhere warm like on top of the counter above a dishwasher if it’s running or on your dryer while it’s running. (We did this a lot before we had an upstairs laundry room.)
What kind of container do I use to keep it in the fridge? I’m a beginner this will be my first time
For the discard, I just use a jar with a tight fitting lid or a storage container.
As someone who has made their own starter, more than once, I’d like to offer some tips. If your house is coolish in winter, put the container of starter on a pan (to catch any overflow), in your oven with the light on. Sometimes overnight in the oven with the light on is too warm, so I have turned it off and left it in there. Make sure you don’t preheat the oven with the starter still in it.
I also found that stirring the starter a couple of times during the day at the very beginning, helped get things moving.
I have never used my starter before day 15 to make bread. As well waited till day 7 to start collecting the discard in a jar.
Making your own starter from just water & flour is so satisfying and the resulting bread you bake with it is even more satisfying.
Thank you so much for your helpful tips! I’m sure others will appreciate them, as well.
Its on day two and mine hasn’t doubled in size and no bubbles it has some wet areas. But still looks like it did when I started it. Used whole wheat flour, white flour, and well water.
Hi Stacy, Sometimes your starter may be a little lazy. To help wake it up, you can do a few things….put it in a much warmer location such as next to a heating vent (unless you’re running the air conditioning), on top of a dryer that you just ran or in a slightly sunny spot. Sometimes I’ll put mine in the oven (on a baking sheet in case it wakes up very quickly) on the proof setting or that I had on the warm setting for a little but be sure to turn it off. The residual heat should help things get moving. I have had starter that’s taken up to 4 days to get itself going and I also have well water so that shouldn’t be an issue at all.
Ok thank u I will try my proof setting on oven. I have been putting it in the sun when it’s out. But it’s been really cloudy and cool temps here.
This looks really good please send me the website thank you
Do you have to do anything different at high altitude?
Hi Gail! That’s a great question and I’m happy to tell you that your sourdough starter does not need any altering at a higher altitude. That will be a concern when you’re ready to bake. Just let me know if you have further questions. Thank you!
Question- I’ve heard that depending on different regions, the sourdough will take on slightly different tastes…such as San Francisco, because of the salt in the air.
If I boil salt water on the stove a couple of times during the process, could it take on the San Francisco sourdough taste?
Hi Diane, I can’t answer the question about boiling water to change the flavor. But it is true that sourdough will take on a different flavor depending on where it’s being grown.
In your discussion, you speak of using 1/4 cup all purpose flour. But un the recipe, you call for 5 lbs. of all purpose flour. This looks like an error.
It’s not an error but it’s the amount you’ll need to have on hand to feed your starter. If I only say 1/4 cup of flour then you won’t have extra to feed it each day.