Easy Sourdough Starter Recipe

Sharing is caring!

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links, at no extra cost to you. Also as an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you so much for shopping my links and just know I'll never share anything I don't love.

Have you always wanted to make a sourdough starter from scratch? Then this sourdough starter recipe is for you! From frequently asked questions to a full feeding schedule this post covers it. All you need to get started is flour, water, a kitchen scale and a little patience. If you follow these steps then you are sure to be making delicious sourdough bread in no time.

sourdough discard in a jar with a cream tea towel, dehydrated sourdough starter, and a jar of flour

What is sourdough starter?

To put it simply sourdough starter is a wild yeast that replaces commercial yeast in a recipe. It is a live fermented culture of flour and water. To keep sourdough starter alive it needs to be fed flour and water. When the starter is fed it activates the good bacteria and wild yeast. The microorganisms in the starter eat the flour and release carbon dioxide which produces bubbles. When the starter has doubled in size and is bubbly it is considered active and can be used to leaven a recipe.

Tools to get started

  • Kitchen Scale– While you can use cups if you really have to, I highly recommend a kitchen scale to ensure accurate measurements. If you use cups you need to use half the amount of water as flour to compensate for the differences in weight.
  • Glass Jar– I prefer wide mouth jars. A pint or quart size will work. 
  • Jar Cover- I like to use these silicone lids (you can get them at Ikea too) but you can also use the canning jar lid, plastic wrap, foil, or something else that keeps the moisture in. Avoid using paper towels or cloth as that can dry out the top of the starter. Just make sure whatever you use is not airtight.
  • Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour– I’ve never been brand specific here, anything works.
  • Rye Flour or Whole Wheat Flour– While you can make a starter without one of these I highly recommend it as it does help speed up process. 
  • Water- Tap water works just fine in most areas. If you know your water has a lot of chlorine it may be best to use filtered but I’ve fed my starter in several states with no issues.

Why do I have to discard some of the sourdough starter each time?

When you are first making a sourdough starter I recommend throwing away a little more than half the starter that is in the jar before feeding again. If you do not throw any of it away you will have to feed the starter more flour and water the next time. After several feedings you will be left with a plethora of sourdough starter which is unnecessary and wastes a lot of flour. You only need a tiny amount to keep a sourdough starter going, so more isn’t necessarily better. 

Once you have an established starter you can start saving discard for other recipes like these chocolate chip cookies or banana muffins, but while you are establishing it you will want to just throw the discard into the trash. It’s not ready to be used in discard recipes. To learn more about sourdough discard you can check out this blog post.

How temperature impacts sourdough starter

Sourdough starter is happiest around 77-85F.

If your house runs cooler you will want to try and find a warmer spot. The cooler your house is the longer it will take to double and vice versa, so keep that in mind. 

I wrapped my sourdough starter in a seedling heat mat. I wrapped the mat loosely around the jar, not actually touching it, and it kept my starter warm without cooking it. However since these are not temperature regulated keep an eye on it the first day or two to ensure it’s not getting too warm. 

Another option is to use a proofing mat (use code country10 for 10% off) . This can be used for the starter and dough. Keep the temperature between 75-85F and place the starter jar directly onto the mat with a towel overtop. 

You can always try to warm up your starter by using warmer (not hot) water and putting the starter in the oven with the light on for an hour or two. Don’t leave it in the oven for too long with the light on though as it can cook your starter if it gets too warm. You can also try placing the jar in a bowl of warm water or microwaving a cup of water and then place the starter into the microwave.

If your house is too warm that can also impact fermentation. When your house is warmer fermentation speeds up so you may need to start feeding your starter 2x day sooner. If it is really hot in your house use cool water to feed the starter and put it in a cooler part of the house.

sourdough starter making & caring for your starter guide in an ipad

Grab my freebie

Making & Caring for a Sourdough Starter

All my best tips and tricks for keeping a healthy starter.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long is my starter going to take? It’s hard to say how long it will take to start doubling consistently. It is a living culture and timing will vary house to house. In most instances it should be ready within two weeks. If it is not keep going and be sure the starter is warm enough. Temperature is key!

2. My starter was doubling at the beginning and is no longer. What did I do wrong? Nothing! It’s common for the starter to have a false start. So just keep going it will come back!

3. Why does my starter have a liquid on the top? If your starter is only a couple days old it is most likely just water separation. Whereas a bubbly starter that is growing with each feeding is most likely hooch. Hooch is a natural byproduct and fermentation and is an indicator your starter is hungry. If your starter develops hooch bump up to feeding twice a day.

4. Can I overfeed my starter? Yes feeding your starter too often can dilute the good bacteria in the starter. So if your starter does not have many bubbles and is not growing in size within 12 hours I would continue to let your starter sit for the full 24 hours.

5. I see fuzz or pink streaks in my starter. Is that mold? Unfortunately yes. Any type of fuzz, pink or blue/green colors are a good indicator of mold. There is sadly nothing you can do once the starter molds. You need to toss the starter and begin again.

To be sure a starter does not mold in the first 24 hours make sure the temperature is in the 77-85F range and that the flour you are using is fresh.

To avoid mold, be sure to keep an eye on your starter. If your starter gets too hungry it is more susceptible to mold. For that reason, if you are seeing these signs at the 24 hour mark bump up to feeding 2x a day. Here’s a few signs your starter is starving:

  • acetone smell
  • no bubbles left by next feeding (completely flat)
  • develops liquid on the surface (hooch)

6. Why isn’t my starter getting bubbly and doubling? It can take time. Continue to feed your starter and have patience. It will get there. If it has been at least 2 weeks with little to no activity double check your starter is warm enough. That is typically the biggest issue. You can also switch to filtered water and see if that helps.

Signs the sourdough starter is ready to use

sourdough starter clinging to side of the jar Sourdough starter at peak with bubbles to the top of the mason jar
Once active, within 4-12 hours of feeding the starter you should be seeing these signs:

  • Sweet, yeast smell- A healthy sourdough starter will have a pleasant yeast smell. Whereas, acetone or vinegar smells are sign the starter is not fully developed or is hungry and needs fed.
  • Bubbly on side and top- Sourdough starter should have visible bubbles all over the sides and a mix of large and small bubbles on the surface.
  • Doubles- The starter should be doubling in size or more. Placing a rubber band around the jar, marking where it is at after feeding it, can help you visually see when it doubles.
  • Clings to jar- When tilted on the side the starter should cling to the side of the jar instead of immediately moving away from the side. See picture above for an example.
  • Thick- Consistency should be thick not runny. If it is dripping out when poured, it’s too runny.
  • Float test- One last check to ensure your starter is ready to use is to see if the starter floats in water. When poured into water it should float to the surface.

What do I do with my sourdough starter once it’s ready?

Take My Online Class

Ready to start making sourdough bread? My online class will teach you everything you need to know to make delicious artisan bread from home on any schedule and at any skill level. Set yourself up for success with clear, concise explanations, easy to follow recipes, and a few extra bonuses. Plus, get access to my private mentoring group, my eBook All Roads Lead to Sourdough, and some of my 100+ year old dehydrated sourdough starter (if you live in the USA).

Enroll in the class ->

Congratulations you have successfully made a sourdough starter! Now what?

Once your sourdough starter is successfully activated you can wean the starter off the whole wheat or rye flour. To do this replace 5 grams of the whole wheat or rye with your regular flour the first time. Then the next time replace 10 grams and so on. If the starter gets sluggish you can continue to add in 5 grams of whole wheat or so. 
 
Now your sourdough starter is ready to make bread. Now that it’s ready you need to bulk up your starter. To do this you can begin to feed it more flour and water to get the desired amount for a loaf. Be sure to save some so you can continue to keep it going. Find my sourdough starter feeding schedule here.

Now you’re ready to start making bread. Check out this beginner’s sourdough bread recipe.

Pin it for later:

bubbly sourdough starter


bubbly sourdough starter with a jar of flour and dehydrated starter in the background

Sourdough Starter

Yield: 1 sourdough starter
Days: 10 days
Total Time: 10 days

Make a sourdough starter from scratch in as little as two weeks. All you need is flour, water, and a kitchen scale.

Ingredients

  • 1 5 lb bag of unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 5 lb bag of whole wheat flour or rye flour
  • Water - tap or filtered

Instructions

  1. Day 1- Weigh the bottom of a clean jar and write the weight in marker on the bottom of the jar. Add 10 grams of all purpose or bread flour and 10 grams of whole wheat or rye flour to a jar and 25 grams of water. Mix it up until the flour is fully incorporated and use a spatula to clean the sides of the jar. Cover loosely with something that holds the moisture in like the jar lid, silicone lid, or foil. Let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. Try to keep the temperature around 77-85F.
  2. Day 2- Day 4- Each day trash the majority of the sourdough starter leaving about 10 grams of starter left in the jar. Add 10 grams of all purpose or bread flour and 10 grams of whole wheat or rye to the jar and 20 grams of water. Mix it up and cover loosely. Let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. Your starter may be bubbly or double on day 2 or 3 but then stop doubling for a few days. Don’t panic that’s normal. Swap to a clean jar every 3 or 4 days.
  3. Day 5-Day 14 (or until starter is active)- By the 24 hour mark, if your starter is smelling strongly of acetone, foaming, and/or has a clear/black or gray liquid on the top, it is getting hungry in between feedings and it’s ready to go to feeding twice a day. The reason we bump up feedings is to ensure the starter doesn’t get too hungry that it becomes susceptible to mold. If it only has a couple bubbles, continue feeding at the 24 hour mark like on days 3 and 4. When feeding twice a day, continue to remove all but 10 grams of starter from the jar. Feed 10 grams of all purpose or bread flour, 10 grams of whole wheat or rye flour and 20 grams of water. Mix and cover. Repeat the same thing 12 hours later. Continue to swap out the jar every couple of days or as needed when the jar gets crusty or dirty.

Notes

  • The starter will typically be ready within 10-14 days. The starter is ready when it doubles or more in size with each feeding of flour and water. It also will try to cling to the sides of the jar and will be bubbly on the sides and top. See the images on page 12 at peak to see what the starter should look like when it is ready.
  • Once the starter is consistently doubling, you can wean the starter off of whole wheat or rye flour. To do this, bump down the whole wheat or rye flour by 5 grams each feeding and replace it with more all purpose or bread flour. Once completely removed, if the starter is sluggish, give it a couple days of feedings. If it does not perk up, add in 5-10 grams of whole wheat or rye for a few more days to continue strengthening it. Once weaned, you can give the starter a large feeding to have enough to make a loaf of bread.
  • I recommend continuing to feed the starter daily for at least one more week after to ensure the starter is strong and healthy before placing in the fridge if desired.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to hear what you think! Drop a comment below or share it on Instagram and tag me @countryroadssourdough.