Learn how to make your very own sourdough starter with this easy and beginner friendly sourdough starter recipe. You’ll be making delicious, artisan, sourdough bread (and lots of other recipes) in no time!
Have you heard the buzz around sourdough? Are you fascinated?! I was, and still am. I’ve had my homemade starter for about three years now. I remember the struggle when I first made mine… it actually took two attempts! BUT its alive and well and I’ve been baking with it ever since.
I’m no sourdough baking expert. I don’t spend my days perfecting artisan, sourdough loafs and feeding my starter perfect ratios of flour and water. I’m probably just like you!
I decided one day that I wanted to jump in to the world of sourdough (because its so old-fashioned amiright?!) So through some trial and error I made my starter and have worked hard to keep it alive ever since. I make sourdough pancakes on the weekends, and a sourdough loaf for friends and family here and there.
And occasionally, I’ll try a brand new recipe that sounds yummy!
I’m sharing this with you so that you can feel a little more confident getting started with sourdough yourself. You don’t have to be some kind of expert! You just have to give it a try and stick with it. Sourdough can be intimidating at first, but you will get the hang of it, I promise.
If you’ve been wanting to make your sourdough starter but you have no idea where to start, you’re in the right place! Let’s get started, but first:
What is a Sourdough Starter?
A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that’s left out at room temperature to ferment. Over time the starter is discarded and fed (don’t worry we’ll go over this more!) until its very mature.
A mature sourdough starter can be used in place of yeast in bread recipes. Think of it as an all-natural, homemade yeast! As the flour and water ferments, it cultivates wild yeast and good bacteria.
When you feed the starter, you’re actually feeding the wild yeast and bacteria, making them stronger and also causing them to release gases. This gassy air is what makes your bread rise!
Sourdough starter has been around for thousands and thousands of years. Just think, it wasn’t until recently, like in the last couple of centuries, that packaged yeast became a thing.
Up until then, families maintained their own sourdough starters, and even passed them down from generation to generation. So amazing!
All that being said, sourdough is the bees knees 😉 lets get down to business with making your own starter that maybe you can pass down to your kiddos!
Easy Sourdough Starter Recipe
This is a recipe for a sourdough starter with all-purpose flour. There are TONS of different starter recipes AND methods, some using whole wheat flour, some with rye flour, etc.
It was intimidating enough for me to figure out sourdough as a beginner, so I wanted to keep things VERY simple. Maybe you feel the same?!
No need to mix different kinds of flour for this recipe, or to use flour you might not have in your pantry. All you need is all-purpose flour, water, and a quart sized mason jar with a lid. That’s it!
- all-purpose flour
- water (preferably filtered)
- quart sized mason jar with lid or medium sized glass bowl (not metal)
- optional: kitchen scale
***a quick note on the kitchen scale. I DIDN’T use a kitchen scale when I first made my starter, or for about the first year of having it. BUT I did get one eventually, and I love it and will never go back. It makes feeding the starter a breeze and its handy to have for recipes that only give measurements in grams or ounces. That being said, you do you! Don’t feel like you need to have one to get started, but if you want to make the investment, I don’t think you’ll regret it 🙂 THIS is the kitchen scale I have, obviously not a super big investment 😉 small, lightweight, easy to store, totally does the trick!
Start by placing 1/2 cup water and a heaping 3/4 cups of flour in your mason jar. Stir it with your wooden spoon (or the handle on your spoon). If you’re using your kitchen scale, do 4oz of water and 4oz of flour. Cover it loosely (just put the cap of the mason jar back on but you don’t need to tighten it) and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
After 24 hours, add 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup of water. Stir vigorously until its all combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar as needed. If you’re using your kitchen scale again, just do equal parts water and flour (2oz each). Cover it like you did last time and let it sit for another 24 hours. Do you see any bubbles yet?! You may seem some but if not, just keep going.
After the second 24 hours you’re going to do a discard, which means you’ll get rid of or throw away half of the starter before feeding it. So discard half, and then feed it again with 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water (or 2oz each). Let sit again for another 24 hours. Repeat this step for 2-3 more days.
Keep an eye out for when your starter is doubling in size within 12 hours. As your starter develops over these days, it will get more and more bubbly after feedings, and it will take on a pungent, sour smell. This is GOOD! It will also get more sticky and stretchy in texture after the feedings.
IF for some reason your starter isn’t doing any of these things after about 7-8 days, then you probably need to start over. Don’t worry! You’ll get it. Remember, when I first tried to make a starter it took me two attempts.
Once your starter is doubling in size after its feedings, and its getting very bubbly, then its ready to use in recipes! Keep reading to learn how to feed your starter to maintain it.
PSA: Did you know I have a FREE eBook on my 5 Secrets to SIMPLE, SEASONAL, OLD-FASHIONED, Homemaking?! Its an actionable guide that will help you to embrace this vintage lifestyle in your own home. I think you’d love it! Sign up for my email list HERE to get access to yours today!
How Do You Feed a Sourdough Starter?
We did a lot of feeding when we made the starter, but you’re not off the hook yet! You’ll actually need to feed your starter regularly for as long as you have it.
Feeding a sourdough starter is pretty simple… don’t overthink it! Just remember that your starter is alive. Its full of those good bacteria and yeasts that need food (flour and water) to survive.
How often you want to bake will determine how often you feed your starter. If your starter is left out at room temperature, it will need to be fed every 12-24 hours.
You might not want to bake every single day; if that’s the case you can stick your starter in the fridge! If its in the fridge, the rule of thumb is to pull it out about once a week and feed it.
I’ll be honest, I’ve left my starter in the fridge for almost a month at a time! After a few days of feeding it every 12 hours, it survived! This isn’t ideal, but just goes to show you that starters are resilient and you don’t need to worry too much.
Nowadays, I’ll keep my starter in the fridge for a week or two. I’ll plan a couple of days where I’m going to be doing a lot of sourdough baking. I’ll take the starter out, let it sit for an hour, feed it, and then feed it again in 12 hours. After this feeding I’ll only feed it every 24 hours while I have it out at room temperature.
Here’s how your feedings will work:
If your starter is at room temperature, you’ll feed it by measuring out a small amount, 50-100 grams or 1/4-1/2 cup into a clean mason jar. However much starter you measured out, say its 50 grams, you’ll need to add to it 50 grams of water and 50 grams of your all-purpose flour.
***IF you’re NOT using a kitchen scale, know that the flour portion will not be equal in cups because flour measures differently. A good rule of thumb you can keep is to always measure out 1/4 cup of starter and add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour. This is where a kitchen scale can be handy when you want to use random amounts of starter, or larger amounts of starter to build it up.
Mix it up with a wooden spoon (the handle of a wooden spoon works great because its nice and skinny). Place your mason jar lid on it loosely and leave it on the counter.
Its ready to use when its doubled in size and super bubbly. It can be anywhere from 2-12 hours. Take out what you need for your recipe and feed the leftovers again in 12-24 hours, or stick it in the fridge. Whatever starter you didn’t measure out for the feeding is your discard. Meaning, you can discard it (throw it away) or use it in a recipe that calls for sourdough discard.
You always want to make sure you have a small amount of starter to keep feeding, after you’ve taken away whatever you need for your recipe.
Plan ahead by knowing what you’re going to make and how much starter it calls for. If you’re making something that needs a lot, then you can measure out larger amounts to feed (like 200 grams) and discard less. OR build it up over a day or two by not discarding at all.
If your starter is cold out of the fridge, pull it out and let it sit on the counter for about an hour until it comes to room temperature. Then follow the steps above! Your starter can be placed back in the fridge a few hours after its been fed.
How to Use Sourdough Starter
Sourdough starter can be used in recipes as a natural leaven. All you do is find the sourdough recipe you want to try, and pour out the amount of starter you need either into a measuring cup or a in a bowl on your kitchen scale.
MOST sourdough recipes will need your starter to be ‘active’ like mentioned before, which just means its been fed and left to ferment for a while (2-12 hours depending on the starter and the temperature of the room) until its super bubbly and doubled in size.
A starter is most active when its risen as high as its going to rise, and is just barely starting to go down. This is the perfect time to use it in bread recipes.
There are some recipes that use discard sourdough. In this case, you can use whatever is leftover after a ‘feeding’. You don’t need to worry about whether or not its ‘active’. These recipes are great if you’re hate throwing away your discard.
Well, that’s it! You should be able to make your own bubbly and active sourdough starter in about a week. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.
I hope you are able to make your own sourdough starter, and it proves to be a staple in your kitchen for years to come!