This Sourdough Starter is pretty darn easy to do and a great option for delicious homemade baked goods! A sourdough starter doesn’t have to be a chore, and the end result is worth the patience in the beginning. If you like homemade treats try my Sourdough Pretzels!

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Sourdough Starter in Tall Jar with Bubbles

Sourdough Starter

I have to start out by saying that this is how *I* do a starter. I have watched every expert under the sun and read every book and let me tell you something… they are all different. So I have been testing and testing and retesting and using life experience to determine what works best for me. Well, I finally decided on what worked best for me, and it could not be easier and straight forward. The ingredients are simple: flour and water. And, with just two measurements to remember, the feeding is a piece of cake (or should I say bread😉) as well!

Overhead view of the bubbles in a sourdough starter

Getting your Sourdough Starter Started

Now if you want to bring science into it, the type of flour and type of water you use are important. They can produce a better product. But I am here to tell you that you can absolutely use all-purpose bleached flour from Dollar General and it will still be ok. Make sure you have the following materials and ingredients on hand:

  • Jar & Lid – I prefer glass, you don’t want to use metal or plastic. If you don’t have a lid use a paper towel and rubber band. A good size jar to have on hand for a sourdough starter is a quart (32 ounces) or something close to that capacity.
  • Flour – I prefer organic unbleached all-purpose, but also love whole-wheat and bread flour. Or, give rye flour a try.
  • Water -Purified is best. Have chlorinated tap water (as most people do)? You can use bottled water or just set the water out uncovered for 24 hours before using it to feed your starter. This allows the chlorine to evaporate so it won’t kill the wild yeast.

That’s it for supplies! Now, let’s get to making the starter.

Close up of active sourdough started in jar on blue towel

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

Remember these amounts: 1/2 cup flour and 1/4-1/3 cup water. These are the only measurements you will need to remember throughout this entire process of creating your sourdough starter. And trust me, you will use those measurements a lot with all the ‘feeding’, going on! After all, the goal is to get those microorganisms to work for that sour and fermented flavor that sourdough is known for.

To begin, add the flour and water to a jar and stir well. Try not to use a metal spoon. After all, Grandma said she always uses the handle of her wooden spoon to stir. Now gently cover the jar (do not seal it closed) and let it sit in a warm place (70°F is best) for 24 hours. The best option for a cover is a paper towel and rubber band. Or, just remember to keep the jar lid loosely sealed. Try to keep it in an area of your house that is somewhat warm. Very cool rooms tend to slow the action of a starter. Wait 24 hours before checking the mixture.

Pouring active sourdough starter into measuring glass

‘Feeding’ the Sourdough Starter

With sourdough starters, you will hear the term ‘feeding’. This is simply adding the flour and water to the mixture to keep the microorganisms working. Remember the measurements I told you to get ingrained in your brain? The 1/2 cup flour and 1/4-1/3 cup water is all you will need throughout the ‘feeding’ process.

Day 2: After 24 hours, check the mixture for bubbles. If you see bubbles, add the flour and the water, mixing it well, and let it sit for the next 24 hours. If you don’t see bubbles, do not get discouraged! It sometimes takes a couple of days for the science of it all to work. Just wait another day (or even two) until the first feeding.

Day 3: After another 24 hours, check for bubbles. If you do see bubbles, remove half of the starter, add the 1⁄2 cup flour and 1⁄4-1/3 cup water and stir thoroughly. Let sit 24 hours. Oh, and don’t get rid of the starter you removed! I will give you some ideas on how to use this in the end.

For the third feeding, remove half of the starter (but don’t throw it out!), and feed with 1⁄2 cup and 1⁄4 cup water, stirring thoroughly. Let sit 24 hours. (And yes, you can begin a new starter with the discard! Try adding a new kind of four! Or simply use to make crackers or pancakes.)

On days 4, 5, 6 you can feed it 2 times a day with those measurements that are sure to be memorized at this point😀. Continue this routine (discarding before feeding) until the starter is consistently bubbling and doubling in size within 8 hours of each feeding.

It is now ready to use for a perfect Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Starter Jars on Different Days

How to Store a Sourdough Starter

After all the feeding and you know you have a strong, active starter, you can store the starter in the refrigerator and feed it about once per week. When you plan to use the starter, pull it out of the refrigerator 24 hours in advance to feed it and allow it to warm up and grow.

These starters get better with age, so don’t think you have to use it right away! Sourdough starters are hearty, so they last quite a while. But, like all living things, it can get ‘sick’ or go bad. If it turns pink, red, moldy, or gets a really putrid smell, throw it out. After all, you now know how to start again!

What Flours Can You Use in a Sourdough Starter?

All grain-based flours will work beautifully in a starter. A few examples are:

  • Rye
  • Bread Flour 
  • Rice
  • Whole Wheat
  • Einkorn 

Truesourdough.com has a great comprehensive guide to flours.

Vanilla and Bean has a great guide to Gluten-Free sourdough starter. 

What to do with the extra Sourdough Starter?

As I said, don’t throw out the sourdough starter that you remove each feeding time to make room for the starter to rise. Just make sure your sourdough starter is room temperature (about 70°F) before using it in baking. Here are some ideas on how to use (and enjoy) the excess sourdough starter.

As I mentioned, this is how *I* make a starter. King Arthur recommends 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water and they suggest you weigh ingredients with a scale. (This is the same equivalent that I use, just doubled.) Pro Home Cooks has a great free downloadable Sourdough guide for those who really want to understand the science behind it. 

Sourdough Bread in Dutch Oven

Here is the recipe for Simple Sourdough Bread!

More Sourdough Recipes

5 from 13 votes

Sourdough Starter

Prep Time 10 mins
Feeding and resting 6 d
Total Time 6 d 10 mins
With just water and flour, you can make your own sourdough starter for all your homemade bread recipes!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup flour, whole wheat or unbleached all-purpose
  • ¼-⅓ cup water
  • 1 glass jar, or bowl (about 32 ounces)
  • 1 paper towel
  • 1 rubber band

Instructions

TO BEGIN

  • Start the process by adding ½ cup whole wheat flour and ¼ cup water to the jar. (If you need more flour to reach a pancake batter consistency, you can add up to ¼ cup more.)

THE FIRST FEEDING

  • Stir thoroughly and cover with a towel and rubber band. Let sit for 24 hours at room temperature. (Try to keep it in an area of your house that is somewhat warm. Very cool rooms tend to slow the action of a starter.)
  • After 24 hours, check the mixture for bubbles. If you see some, add ½ cup all-purpose flour and ¼-⅓cup water. If you don’t see bubbles, give it a stir and let sit 24 more hours.

THE SECOND FEEDING

  • Check for bubbles again. If you do see bubbles, remove half of the starter, add ½ cup all-purpose flour and ¼-⅓ cup water and stir thoroughly. Let sit 24 hours.

THE THIRD FEEDING

  • Remove half of the starter, and feed with ½ cup all-purpose flour and ¼ cup water, stirring thoroughly. Let sit 24 hours.

ADDITIONAL FEEDINGS

  • On days 4, 5, 6 you can feed it 2 times a day.
  • Continue this routine until the starter is consistently bubbling and doubling in size within 8 hours of each feeding.
  • From this point, you can store the starter in the refrigerator and feed it about once per week. When you plan to use the starter, pull it out of the refrigerator 24 hours in advance to feed it and allow it to warm up and grow.

Video

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You can tag me at @iamhomesteader.

Sourdough Brownies Stacked Three High

I used this starter to make seriously decadent Chocolate Sourdough Brownies!

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Reader Comments

  1. The water to flour ratio doesn’t seem right. There was way more flour than water in the mix. Ended up adding more water considering it was suppose to be like a pancake batter consistency.

  2. Hi how do I store my starter in the refrigerator? With or without a lid. And when I take it out once a week to fed it, do I discard half, fed and put it right back into the refrigerator or let it sit out for a little bit. I’m in love with the starter and can’t wait to try all different types of flour.

  3. 5 stars
    I have been inspired to make sour dough bread and just got some tools that I need delivered today. I have been looking at a variety of sour dough starter instructions and yours has given me a renewed confidence plus your tips/recipes for using discarded starter during feeding are wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to give me the knowledge and support to embark on this adventure. Your teaching is so appreciated….. this is definitely one of your strengths. Thank you so much!

  4. That was the must fun tutorial ever! Just love your energy. Will definitely be checking out your other stuff! Bless 👍

  5. Okay so question… You don’t split the mixture and discard until day 3 (48 hours in)? So day one I make the starter, sit for 24 hours, then add flour and water, sit for another 24 hours, THEN split and discard? Just making sure I don’t skip a step!

  6. Hello! This is my 2nd time doing the starter…. And doing a starter {ever} for that matter! I’m wondering if you can make a starter from the discard? Also, if I understand correctly, I can keep my discard in the fridge, is that correct? I’m trying to collect 2-3 days of discard to save up to make some of your recipes all at one time! Yum!

  7. Hey from San Antonio, Texas!

    I have tried and failed to get a good starter and I feel as though I am just wasting ingredients. I just saw your video and it answered most of my questions. A few questions that were not answered: Do you stir your starter before discarding? And, do you have to use your “discard” right away or do you just feed that and use when needed?

    Thanks!
    Lesley

    1. Hi, Baker! I work with iamhomesteader and am happy to help with questions. A good size jar to have on hand for a sourdough starter is a quart (32 ounces) or something close to that capacity. I hope this helps, and have a wonderful day!

  8. I have been making and using this starter for a few months. It is so easy to maintain and makes delicious bread. I keep mine in the refrigerator so I feed once a week. I am so happy to have some recipes to use the discard! Thank you for so many good recipes to try.

  9. I’ve been feeding my starter and have followed all of the directions but my starter is not doubling. I’m on day 6 and my kitchen is very warm. It has bubbles on top so I’m pretty confused.

  10. My jars of starter keep getting a thick film on top. I have been removing it and then bubbles are below that – but I don’t understand why it’s getting a thick film on top (like gravy does). Is it bad or should I keep trying? It’s day 7 for one and I haven’t been feeding 2x a day because there aren’t a lot of bubbles and the film keeps happening

    1. That might be “hooch”. Hooch is the liquid that collects on the top of your starter when it hasn’t been fed in awhile. This liquid is the alcohol given off as wild yeast ferments. The presence of hooch isn’t a sign that your starter is in danger. However, it does indicate that your starter is hungry and needs to be fed.

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