Learn how to make sourdough starter from scratch the easy way! In just 7 days, use it to make your very own sourdough bread, sourdough pizza crust, sourdough bagels, soft sourdough pretzels, sourdough tortillas and much, much more. A video is included with our simple, step-by-step instructions.
Looking for the easiest, most foolproof sourdough starter recipe? This is it!
To make a sourdough starter all you need is flour, water and 5 minutes a day for about seven days.
You’ll be elated to find out that you can make more than just bread with a sourdough starter. We have recipes for sourdough english muffins, soft sourdough dinner rolls, sourdough chocolate chip cookies and more.
Each one of our easy sourdough recipes is developed for home bakers and beginners. Our goal is to help you build confidence in the kitchen so that your sourdough journey is a success!
What is a sourdough starter?
A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that attracts wild yeast found in the air, on the surface of flour and even your hands. The starter becomes a food source for the yeast.
By giving the starter fresh flour and water once a day, these yeast began to multiply, producing more and more yeast within the starter. When enough of these yeast are present, the starter is strong enough to make bread rise.
Once mature, a portion of active sourdough starter is added to sourdough bread dough for baking. This is commonly referred to as naturally leavened bread, as there is no commercial yeast in a sourdough starter.
What you'll need
FLOUR: Unbleached, all-purpose flour along with a small amount of whole wheat flour is best for making a sourdough starter. The whole wheat flour added on the first day gives it a boost to speed up the fermentation process.
These two flours are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, keeping the cost of building your starter to a minimum.
Spelt, rye, einkorn or any wheat based flour can be used to make sourdough starter.
Once the starter is active, you can maintain it with a different type of flour if desired. Make the change gradually over a few feedings to give it a chance to adapt to its new food.
WATER: Bottled water, filtered water and most tap water are all perfectly fine to use for sourdough starters.
To remove the chlorine from tap water by evaporation, fill a bottle with tap water and let it sit uncovered for 24 hours.
CONTAINER: A clear glass jar with straight edges will allow you to monitor the starter's progress throughout the day. Keep two jars on hand so that you can switch to a clean jar when it's time to feed your starter.
Keep the jar loosely covered with a lid or a piece of fabric. Gas released during the fermentation process can build pressure inside of the jar if it's closed tightly. This can cause a big mess when you go to take the lid off!
I do a lot of water-bath canning, so I always have wide-mouth mason jars on-hand. Just set a canning lid on top of the jar to keep the starter loosely covered. I also love Weck Jars because they come with a glass lid that's very easy to clean.
SPATULA: An offset spatula makes stirring a stiff batter really easy and it's a breeze to clean. You can also use a wooden spoon or any spatula you have on hand.
MEASURING CUPS OR KITCHEN SCALE: For best results when baking sourdough bread with your starter, a kitchen scale is highly recommended for measuring ingredients. In this tutorial I am going to give you both types of measurements, volume and weight, so if you don't have a scale at this point it's not a problem!
Step by step instructions
Let's take look at the basic steps needed in order to make a strong sourdough starter.
Day 1: Mix ½ cup (60 g) whole wheat flour, ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour and ½ cup (120 g) water in a clean jar. Cover the jar loosely and leave it in a warm area, 70°F (21°C), for 24 hours.
Day 2: Stir the starter, cover the jar loosely and let it rest for 24 hours.
Days 3-7: Add 2 tablespoons (30 g) of starter from the day before to a clean jar along with ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour and ¼ cup (60 g) water. Stir until smooth, cover loosely and let rest at room temperature for 24 hours.
Repeat daily feedings until the starter is ready to bake with, 7-14 days. Colder kitchens will take longer than warmer kitchens.
How do I know when the starter is ready?
The best indicators that the starter is ready are:
- Doubles in size 4-12 hours after feeding.
- The texture looks light and fluffy.
- Plenty of bubbles on top of the surface and around the sides of the jar.
Another, but less reliable way to find out if your starter is ready, is to perform a "float test". When the starter has doubled in size, drop a tablespoon into a jar of room temperature water. If it floats, it is a good indication it is ready to bake with.
Tips for success
- Keep the starter in a warm area of your kitchen that is between 70-75°F (21-24°C).
- Place a rubber band around the jar to mark the initial level of the starter after you feed it. This will allow you to see if your starter is rising and falling after each feeding.
- Always clean the rim of the jar with a wet cloth to remove any residue after each feeding. Dried sourdough starter is extremely hard to clean off of surfaces!
- Don't stress yourself out during the next week. Feed your starter every day, keep it in a warm spot and forget about it until the next day. Trust in the process even when things don't seem like they are going right.
Frequently asked questions
Starter that is fed with equal weights of flour and water is referred to as a 100% hydration starter.
Make sure the flour you are using is unbleached, the water is chlorine free and the temperature where you keep the starter is warm.
Place the starter in your oven, shut the door and turn the oven light on. The heat from the lightbulb will create a warm environment inside the oven. Check on it after an hour or two to make sure it isn't too hot inside. (Do NOT turn the oven on.)
Hooch is the liquid that forms on top of the sourdough starter when it is hungry. This usually means you've skipped a feeding or the temperature of your kitchen is too warm.
You can pour the liquid off the top or stir it right back into the starter before you feed it. Incorporating the hooch will produce a more sour flavor in the starter.
Store your flour and water in the fridge to keep them cold. When you feed your starter, the colder temperatures will help slow down fermentation.
There are many variables that can contribute to a starter not taking hold in the first 7 days. We have found that the best course of action is to feed the starter twice daily with a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flour, 12 hours apart and make sure your kitchen is warm.
The following method has worked for many people, so give it a try if you are struggling to get your starter to take hold.
1. Mix 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 3 cups of all-purpose flour in a container with a lid. This is what you will feed your starter with until it is ready.
2. Every day discard all but 2 tablespoons of starter from the previous day and feed it with ½ cup of the flour mixture and ¼ cup of water. 12 hours later stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 teaspoons of water to help give it more food to eat until the next feeding.
You will do this every day until your starter is ready to bake with. Whole wheat flour will give it the boost it needs to flourish. You should notice a difference in about 2 days.
Sourdough starter should have a "yeasty" smell, like bread. If the starter starts to smell like alcohol or nail polish remover, it's a sign that it needs some help. To help remedy this, add an extra feeding every day until the smell goes back to normal. If the starter has an "off" smell or you see mold growing on top, the best thing is to throw it out and start over again.
If you keep feeding the starter every day without discarding a portion of it, you'll have more starter than you'll know what to do with!
If you are concerned about food waste, collect the discard in a separate container and store it in the fridge until there is enough to make a sourdough discard recipe with.
Turn it into something delicious such as sourdough pancakes or waffles, sourdough blueberry muffins or even sourdough crepes.
Check out our guide on how to feed, store and backup sourdough starter for more details.
Recommended kitchen tools
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more recommended kitchen tools, check out my kitchen essentials page.
- 19.5 oz. weck jars (affiliate link)
- ball jars (affiliate link)
- bakers scale (affiliate link)
- thermometer (affiliate link)
- offset spatula (affiliate link)
- stiff spatula (affiliate link)
Keeping a sourdough starter is a rewarding process that will allow you to make healthy, delicious bread and other baked goods for years to come!
Sourdough Starter Recipe
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- Wide Mouth Mason Jar with Lid
- Offset Spatula
- Baker's Scale
- 6 cups (720 g) all-purpose flour (unbleached)
- ½ cup (60 g) whole wheat flour (see notes)
- Day 1: Mix ½ cup (60 g) whole wheat flour, ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour and ½ cup (120 g) water in a clean jar. Cover the jar loosely and leave it in a warm area, 70°F (21°C), for 24 hours.
- Day 2: Stir the starter, cover the jar loosely and let it rest for 24 hours.
- Days 3-7: Add 2 tablespoons (30 g) of starter from the day before to a clean jar along with ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour and ¼ cup (60 g) water. Stir until smooth, cover loosely and let rest at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Repeat daily feedings until the starter is ready to bake with. You'll know it's ready when it doubles in size within 4-12 hours after feeding it, the texture looks light and fluffy with plenty of bubbles on the surface and around the sides of the jar. Colder kitchens will take longer than warmer kitchens.
- Most importantly, try not to stress yourself out while you build your first starter. Feed your starter every day, keep it in a warm spot and forget about it until the next day!
- Another way to find out if your starter is ready, is to perform a "float test". When the starter has doubled in size, drop a tablespoon into a jar of room temperature water. If it floats, it a good indication it is ready to bake with. If it drops to the bottom keep feeding and try again.
- If you are struggling to get your starter to take hold, try the following method until your starter is ready.
- Mix 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 3 cups of all-purpose flour in a container with a lid. This is what you will feed your starter with until it is ready.
- Each day discard all but 2 tablespoons of starter from the previous day and feed it with ½ cup of the flour mixture and ¼ cup of water. 12 hours later stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 teaspoons of water to help give it more food to eat until the next feeding.
This recipe is from Little Spoon Farm. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images or republish this recipe without prior permission. Thank you.
This post was originally posted in January 2020 and updated in January 2021 with updated recipe instructions, photos, tips and tricks.