In Bread, Recipes, Sourdough
Gluten Free Sourdough Starter with lots of bubbles

How to Start a Sourdough Starter

Sourdough baking is just around the corner once you’ve got a healthy starter…we’ll show you how!

You’re ready for sourdough baking, but first you need to procure yourself a sourdough starter. You can get your hands on sourdough starter lots of different ways, so read through the options and decide which works best for you!

But you should start thinking about what you’ll name your starter…yes, I said “name your starter”!

We like to think of ours as our Kitchen Pet and have lovingly named it Seymour (as in, “Feed me, Seymour!”). Starter does require daily feedings, so it’s good to think of it like a pet to make sure you’re ready for the commitment.

  • However, if you’re not too keen on having a ferment that requires daily feedings, you can store it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week until ready to bake. 

Method #1 – Purchase a Sourdough Culture

Cultures for Health Sourdough Starter Image

This is probably the easiest and most reliable method, and the one I’d recommend (if you don’t already have a trusted source). Purchasing a sourdough starter (this is our favorite and the one we useis a great option and pretty much foolproof.

Take a look at the different varieties for a sourdough starter that will suit your needs. We prefer the San Francisco starter because we use ours for a slew of recipes, not just bread. This is a great option if you plan on making pancakes, muffins, pizza crust, bagels, bread and more!

  • Follow the instructions that come with your starter for how to activate it. It should also give information about which flour is best for your specific starter.

Method #2 – Get Starter from a Friend

Do you know someone who makes sourdough bread? Chances are, they’d be more than happy to share a little with you! It doesn’t take much to get a starter going, you can start with as little as a Tablespoon! Certainly no one will miss a Tablespoon of their starter!

Our Seymour is the daddy to many new sourdough starters around our town (and even in a few different states!). Sourdough bakers love sourdough bakers, and we get excited when someone else joins the club!

Gallon Storage Jar with Gluten Free Sourdough Starter
  • Be sure you know what type of flour your friend was feeding the starter…if you want to change up the flour you can, but you’ll want to do so slowly. Feeding with a mixture of the flour it’s used to and the new flour, slowly increasing the new flour over about a week.

Method #3 – Find a Local Bakery

This may as well be getting it from a friend! If you make nice with a local baker, chances are they’d be happy to sell you a small portion of starter.

Check around your town, are there any bakeries that bake authentic sourdough bread (remember, it will only have four ingredients: flour, salt, starter and water)? We have a local bakery that’ll happily sell a cup of active starter for about a buck fifty! It never hurts to ask!

Method #4 – Catching Wild Yeast and Bacteria

If you’ve hung out with us before, you may have heard my horror story of trying to start my own starter from scratch. I’ve been told this method is less reliable, but you know me, I always like a good challenge! For some reason, the wild yeast and bacteria hate me. They elude my flour/water mixture and laugh in my face as my concoction molds after 5 days of loving care and gets tossed…sigh!

BUT, a great friend of mine has had wonderful success with this method, so the choice is completely up to you!

* For a gluten-free sourdough starter recipe, click here.

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This recipe is featured in our Sourdough eBook! If you love easy and delicious sourdough recipes (including gluten-free options!)click here!

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter with lots of bubbles

How to Start a Sourdough Starter

If you're wanting to delve into the wonderful world of sourdough baking, you'll need a good, strong and healthy sourdough starter. Follow this recipe to catch the wild yeasts of the air and grow your own sourdough.
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Course: Sourdough
Prep Time: 5 hours 43 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 43 minutes
Author: Full of Days

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Mix together 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water.
  • Stir briskly to incorporate air and cover with a breathable lid.
  • Let sit in a warm spot for 12-24 hours*.
  • You may notice tiny bubbles after 24 hours, this means it’s working!
  • Repeat the feedings every 12-24 hours (keep it consistent).
  • Just before the 3rd feeding (and for all future feedings), remove half the starter and discard it before feeding again.
  • Continue this process for 5-7 days until you have an active and bubbly sourdough starter.
  • Your starter is now ready for baking!

Notes

  • It’s important to use non-reactive supplies such as glass or food grade plastic.
  • Feeding every 12 hours will speed up how quickly your starter grows, but will need to be maintained every 12 hours; feeding every 24 hours will take longer for an active starter to be ready, but will only require daily feedings from there on out.
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Showing 9 comments
  • Avatar
    ann thomason
    Reply

    I have been making sour dough bread for many years with the starter involving potato flakes, yeast ,sugar and warm water .How does this bread compare to what I make .Everyone loves my very light tasty bread .

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Hi Ann! Are you saying every time you want to bake you make a new starter with potato flakes, yeast, sugar, and water? This would be quite different from that as this is a wild yeast that’s caught from the air. You then maintain the starter (keeping it alive) by feeding it more flour and water each day and, once your starter is mature, it’s always there to bake with when you need it!

  • Avatar
    Jacquie
    Reply

    It just mentions to feed but not how or how much flour to feed with

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Hi Jacquie, sorry for the confusion! Every time you feed you’ll use the same amount (3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water). Be sure you discard half the starter so you’re still feeding the proper amount! Enjoy!

  • Avatar
    Sherry
    Reply

    Hi Kelsey: I was reading the comment above and I’m a bit confused regarding your comment on discarding half the starter at the third feeding and beyond. You mention by doing that you won’t waste as much flour. Do you not add 3/4 cup of flour and 1/2 water from third feeding on or do you reduce the amount of flour and water to half?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Hi Sherry, sorry for the delayed response! I only mean to discard half until your starter is strong enough to bake with. When you “discard” half, you can always use it to make pancakes, waffles or even our no wait sourdough muffins. But you want to build up the strength of your starter before trying to bake bread or other long fermented recipes. The basic feeding instructions are to feed equal parts starter to water to flour by weight. This would look something like 1 cup starter, 1 cup water and just under 2 cups of flour. But the easiest way is to just get a kitchen scale and a bowl, then add each ingredient and “tare” the scale between each addition to get the same amount by weight. Hopefully that makes sense! Once your starter is strong, you can then begin building up how much you have at each feeding by following this method.

  • Avatar
    Mel
    Reply

    Why do you need to discard half?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Hi Mel, discarding half the starter actually helps improve the strength. Also, while you’re building your starter up until it’s ready to be used in baking, if you continually discard half you won’t waste as much flour. But you can use this “discard” to make pancakes or waffles, or any other recipe that will use baking soda or another leavening agent.

  • Avatar
    RosanaLeite
    Reply

    Excelente, fico agradecida.
    Rosana
    Brasilia/Brasil

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