Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

January is a time for new beginnings, right?

While I could probably stand to eat fewer cookies and work out more, this post isn’t about resolutions to lose weight and eat great. Instead, I’m talking about new beginnings for bread baking this year!

In all of the craziness at my place over the summer, I seriously neglected my sourdough starter. It got kind of fuzzy and turned all sorts of fun colors. Interesting for a science experiment, but not so good for baking bread!

Since I have great plans of doing lots of bread baking this year (that’s a resolution I can actually keep!), I decided it was about time that I remedy the sourdough situation.

In the spirit of new beginnings, I decided to start a new batch of sourdough starter… Last time around, I ordered my starter from King Arthur Flour, but this time I decided to try making a batch of my own from some active dry yeast.  It was fast and easy, and, considering my history for killing off sourdough starter, it saved me some money, too!

I’ll be posting a great recipe for sourdough bread next week, so consider this recipe a bit of a prerequisite.  If you get started now (and, it’s so easy that there’s no reason not to!), you’ll be ready to bake right along with me!

It works for me, and I’m hoping it will work for you too!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Homemade Sourdough Starter
(Adapted from Red Star Yeast)

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

In a non-reactive bowl (i.e. avoid metal!), combine the lukewarm water and the packet of yeast.  Stir to dissolve and let the mixture sit for a few minutes.

Add the bread flour and sugar, and stir to combine all of the ingredients. The mixture may be a bit lumpy and sticky, but that’s fine!

Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Don’t cover tightly, since some fresh air is necessary for the whole sourdough process. Leave the mixture at room temperature for about 5 days, stirring once or twice a day.  The mixture will rise and bubble and may develop a layer of liquid on top.  That’s all good!

At this point, you are ready to use your sourdough starter. Or, it can be kept in the refrigerator.  Simply stir in a teaspoon of sugar each week to keep the starter going.

When you are going to bake with your starter, be sure to stir it down before measuring, and let the measured starter come to room temperature before baking. I usually like to pull mine out of the fridge the night before!

To replenish your starter, simply stir in 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water before returning it to the fridge!

My Kitchen Addiction Disclosure – While I do have a standing relationship with Red Star Yeast, this blog post was not sponsored by them. I am just posting about a recipe I love. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

52 Responses to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

  1. I can’t tell you how much I love sourdough bread but I’ve never made my own. Today I am doing this starter! I’m really looking forward to your post next week with the recipe for the bread.

  2. I made a sourdough starter back in October, but still haven’t baked my bread. I think the starter is still alive, so I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. Thanks for the reminder :)

  3. Have only made bread using my bread machine. Getting ingredients today to make the starter…looking forward to the recipe. Thanks!

  4. Really, really need to push myself to make and use my own sourdough starter. Looking forward to seeing recipes as your starter grows and matures.

  5. Can I use this starter for sour dough pancakes too. My dad used to make the best and I miss him so whenever I see the word sour dough, thanks for psting Jen, am looking forward to this as soon as I can get some bread flour, I suppose regular or unbleached flour will not work.

    • Ellen – Yes, the starter would be great for sourdough pancakes. They are one of my favorites! And, while bread flour is probably best, I think unbleached all purpose flour would work for the starter and baking the bread. It may rise a bit differently since all purpose flour doesn’t contain as much gluten as bread flour, but I think it would be alright.

  6. Ok…went to try your starter and the measurements must be off. There is too much flour to liquid ratio, I had dough on my hands! Did I read wrong?

    • Ashley… The measurements are right. And, yes, the mixture does have somewhat of a doughy consistency. Don’t stir too much, and just let it sit out at room temperature loosely covered. It will rise and fall and loosen up quite a bit.

      • Ok…I made another batch and it hasn’t done anything yet…Maybe my house is too cold, I will try to put it in the oven with the light on and see if that helps. Thanks!!

  7. Hi Jen, great website! I’ve just started my 2nd batch with this recipe… the first seemed like it was going to be ok based on your descriptions above, but when I made the bread (after 5 days), it didn’t really taste “sour”. Any idea what I may have done wrong? Thanks!

    • Hi, Janet – I’m sorry to hear that your bread didn’t turn out quite the way you expected! The sour flavor can take some time to develop. Are you keeping it in a warm place during the 5 days when it is sitting at room temperature? The Red Star Yeast site says 80 – 85 degrees F is best to develop sour flavor. Keeping the starter loosely covered (i.e. that it still gets some airflow) is also key in developing the flavor of the starter. If all else fails, I’d let it sit out a bit longer before using it in the recipes. If you’ve had it in the fridge, try feeding it (1 c flour, 1/2 water) the night before and letting it sit in a warm place overnight before baking.

      Hope that helps… Let me know how it’s going!

  8. Today I used the starter to make a loaf of bread. I added the flour, sugar and water to the starter to replenish. My question is, do you have to wait a week to bake the sourdough bread again or how soon can you bake again? I have a friend requesting me bake her a loaf of bread.

    • Hi, Edie – Great question! As long as you didn’t use all of the starter (i.e. there was some left to add the flour, sugar, and water to), I think you could use it in a day or two. My advice is to leave the starter out at room temperature overnight after replenishing it. It should start to bubble up again, and will have a sour smell (as you would expect from the sourdough starter). Then, use the room temperature starter in your recipe and replenish again before putting in the fridge. If the flavor of the bread isn’t quite sour enough after one day, I’d try 2 days next time. However, I think you will get a great tasting loaf of bread after one overnight at room temperature!

      • Thanks Jen, I have already made bread twice with your recipe and both turned out great. This is the easiest starter and bread recipe I have ever had. Will be my go to from now on. In fact some of my Facebook friends have already ask me where to find your recipe.

  9. I have a friend whose sourdough starter is about 100 yeas old, his came from the mother starter from is great grandparents. He takes his jar out the night before and lets it sit overnight, then he takes what he needs and adds flour to it and sugar, and I have gotten the best sourdough pancakes for breakfast. My question is, do you add flour and sugar to the main starter, as well as to the batch your going to use for pancakes? I really didn’t watch what he did. I haven’t seen him in years to ask. I would like to start my own sourdough legacy.
    Thank you
    Lisa

    • Lisa – You don’t want to add eggs/flour/other ingredients to the main starter. You just want to feed your starter (after using some of it) with flour and water each time you want to use some of it. To make the pancakes, my guess is that you’ll want to measure out the starter that you’ll use for the pancakes and put that in a mixing bowl. Then, feed the remaining starter (1 c flour, 1/2 water) and return it to the fridge. For the starter that you measured out, add the overnight ingredients (most likely some flour, sugar, milk) and let it rest overnight. Then, the next morning, you’ll add your eggs and the other remaining ingredients to the pancakes and cook them as normal.

      You don’t want eggs sitting out overnight (for obvious reasons), so don’t add them the night before, and also don’t add them to your starter since they would eventually go bad and probably ruin the starter.

      For a better overview of the process, check out this recipe from King Arthur Flour. Hopefully that will help! Let me know how the pancakes turn out! :)

  10. When I fed my starter after using it (thank you so much for recipe, it is rising as I type..having it with a beautiful steak dinner for family gathering) I placed back in fridge in mason jar and it exploded due to pressure. What should I be storing the starter in?

  11. I’m trying this out! Put together the starter today… right now it’s trying to crawl out of the bowl, so I’m thinking I may have to put it in a bigger container! Do I not need to feed it anything for the 5 days that it takes to turn into sourdough starter?

    And when maintaining it — adding just the sugar — does it eat all the sugar, or does that make the starter sweeter? Probably a stupid question, but I’m a newbie :)

    • Hi, Traci – Those are great questions! Nope, you don’t need to feed it anything during the 5 days that it is turning into starter. And, my understanding is that the sugar is “eaten” by the yeast, so it doesn’t make the starter sweet. I rarely end up adding sugar because I tend to use mine frequently. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks so much! It helps a lot :). Going into day two… my starter is still pretty thick and more like dough, but I’m assuming it gets a bit looser as it goes along. It smells *amazing*, though! Can’t wait ’til I can use it!

  12. I love your blog!!!
    Am definitely going to try this with my new San Francisco sourdough starter : ) Just ordered it from Sourdough’s International! Love their products.

  13. I am so thankful for this recipe, I just made this starter last night (this was my new year resolution from about 2013) but the starter I made is not liquidy at all like the photos suggest. Also, I just want to make sure that this is considered a fed starter and is ready to bake with after sitting for 5 days and doesn’t need parts discarded or anything. It’s just add sugar once a week and add flour / water when bits are taken for baking, correct? Thank you so much for your help, I am so excited to try this and bake at least one of your sourdough recipes this weekend!

    • Virginia – Yes, see my comment below regarding the “fed” starter. You can add sugar to keep it going from week to week, but I find that mine needs to be “fed” – adding 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water and discarding 1 cup (or using it in a recipe) – every few weeks to keep it from getting too sour. You can play around with it to see what your preference is.

  14. Hello! I just made the starter last night and I cannot wait for his weekend so I can start on a few recipes for the Superbowl. I am curious though, is this starter considered fed already or do bits need to be discarded? Is the only maintenance the weekly spoonful of sugar and replenishing when bits are taken? I appreciate any guidance you can provide. Thank you so much!

    • Hi, Virginia – After you have finished all of the steps in the recipe, you can consider it “fed”… Just don’t put it in the fridge. Once you put it in the fridge, you’ll need to discard 1 cup and “feed” it with an additional cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water and let it sit at room temperature again for recipes calling for a “fed” starter. Hope that helps. Happy baking!

  15. Hi
    I am trying this recipe out! I am on day 2, and this is definitely thinning out and beginning to smell like something fermenting :). My question was whether I could use this before day 5, for example tomorrow, for something like sourdough rolls or pancakes? What exactly does the 5 day process do? (I ask only because this process is SO different from other starter recipes i’ve seen!)
    Thanks!

  16. I just love sourdough bread, but never got the whole starter thing. Most directions were very labor intensive. I am out at different intervals that may be a day or two in length. My husband is usually quite dependable, but my starters bit the dust, for whatever reason. He will be able to stir it once a day, at least. Thank you so much.

  17. I was wondering If I want to make a recipe that calls for more than the starter I have how do I get more starter its all new to me since this is my first time doing a starter….Thanks in Advance.

    • Hi, Jennifer – To get more starter, you can simply skip the step of discarding 1 cup of starter. Then, double the amount that you feed the starter (1 cup water, 2 cups flour). That should basically double your amount of starter. Hope that helps!