How To Make Sourdough Starter

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If you’ve ever wondered how to make sourdough starter, this is your complete guide! Traditional 7 day sourdough starter with perfect results, every time. Just 5 minutes and you are on your way to sourdough bread, pancakes, cakes and more.

Table of Contents
  1. Does sourdough really take a week?
  2. Tools Needed to Make Sourdough Starter
  3. Two Key Ingredients for Any Sourdough Starter
  4. How To Make Sourdough Starter
  5. When is starter ready to bake with?
  6. And for fun…name your starter!
  7. What and When to Feed Sourdough Starter
  8. How much sourdough starter to keep?
  9. Books that Will Help You Learn Sourdough
  10. How to Make Sourdough Starter Recipe
  11. Sourdough Recipes We Love
  12. Sourdough Discard Recipes

What do you do when your spring isn’t turning out anything like what you thought it would be? You bake bread. Because the aroma of freshly baked bread brightens even the longest, darkest days.

For the past two years I’ve been tackling two types of sourdough. One is a sweet sourdough, the starter needed for this Amish Friendship Bread. The other sourdough is a classic sourdough that bakes up beautiful loaves of bread, biscuits, waffles, pancakes and even a chocolate cake.

sourdough starter in a pint jar

Today we’re sharing everything we’ve learned about sourdough. Although we used to make a lazy sourdough using commercial yeast, we’ve realized just how easy (and absolutely wonderful) a traditional sourdough starter with just flour and water is.

Does sourdough really take a week?

You’ll want to plan a week to get this sourdough active enough to rise a loaf of bread. Yes…a week seems like a long time, but it is 100% worth it. And once that week is done, you can easily have a loaf of homemade artisan bread anytime you want.

Tools Needed to Make Sourdough Starter

There are a few things you’ll need to have on hand if you want your bread to turn out in the best possible way.

  • kitchen scale – You can measure by volume, but for the best results, we recommend investing in a kitchen scale. It’s worth it.
  • sourdough jar – These jars hold sourdough beautifully. I love that they are glass so you can see the fermentation. They give lots of room for the starter to double. And they seal nicely when you need a break from baking bread. 

Do you absolutely need a kitchen scale? I’ve had readers tell me that in the olden days they did not have kitchen scales so measuring by volume is fine. And in theory, that is true. But when you are getting started and learning how much flour and water to add, it’s best if it is very precise. Then as you become a pro you can measure by volume if you’d like.

Did you know?

Don’t store your sourdough starter in a metal container. Not all metal is created equally and acids react to metals. Use glass for the safest results.

Two Key Ingredients for Any Sourdough Starter

It’s important to use unbleached flour and non-chlorinated water for sourdough starter. 

  • Non-Chlorinated Water. Chlorine can kill the yeast as it tries to grow. Use filtered water for best results.
  • Unbleached Flour. Bleached flour does not have as much natural yeast as unbleached flour does. Will bleached flour work? It may. But when you are beginning and want to have no issues pop up, it is best to work with unbleached flour.

How To Make Sourdough Starter

We’re going to talk about the sourdough process in days. Plan for 7 days to work with the sourdough. It won’t take long at all each day…less than 5 minutes after you get it going!

A note before you begin. Our starter begins with unbleached whole wheat flour. The only time you’ll use whole wheat flour is on day 1. After that you can use regular unbleached flour.

Day 1. 

Start with a clean glass jar. I use a pint size mason jar when I am beginning a starter, but a weck jar or other glass jar will be fine too. You’ll just want it to be able to hold about 2 cups so that it can handle the rise of the starter.

Place the jar on the kitchen scale. Turn the scale on and make sure it is reading 0 grams. If it isn’t, press the “tare” button to get the display to read zero. 

first step of making a sourdough starter

Add 60 grams of whole wheat flour and 60 grams of warm, non-chlorinated water. The mixture will be very, very think. It won’t be impressive at all to start. But just wait. 🙂

day 1 of sourdough starter

Cover the jar loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature, of in a spot where the room temperature is slightly warmer.

Day 2.

Check the starter. You’re looking for bubbles to form. If you don’t see any, it is ok because they come and go fairly quickly. Don’t mix it. Just check it, then let it sit again for another 24 hours.

day 2 of sourdough starter

Day 3. 

This is the first day you’ll feed the starter. Feed it no matter what it looks like. At this point the starter is going to be “stretchy”.

stretchy sourdough starter in a jar and on a spoon

Pull out half of the starter and throw it away. Use your kitchen scale to again add 60 grams of all purpose, white, unbleached flour (remember…you only use whole wheat that first day)  and 60 grams of warm water. 

day 3 sourdough starter

Mix it all together. It will still be really thick. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Day 4, 5, and 6. 

Discard half of the starter and feed as you did in Day 3. You’ll do the same thing each day no matter what the starter looks like. Discard half, and feed with equal amounts of flour and warm water.

day 4 sourdough starter

As these three days pass you’ll notice a natural rise and fall to the starter. This is an important process to observe because it will tell you when the starter is ready to bake with and when it is hungry. You can use a rubber band (or a piece of tape) on the jar to mark where the starter is when you feed it, then how it doubles as the starter grows. 

day 5 sourdough starter
day 6 sourdough starter

Day 7.

Your starter should be very bubbly and you are almost ready to bake! It should have a sweet and tangy aroma. It should not be a sharp or harsh smell. It should look light and airy.

If your starter does not look like this, you might want to continue the feeding process for a few more days before using it.

When your starter looks like this, it means it is ready to start baking the baking process!

top view of bubbly, active sourdough starter

When is starter ready to bake with?

Starter is ready when it is bubbly and in the “doubled” stage. If you are wanting to bake bread and the starter is “deflated”, feed the starter, wait a couple of hours and it should be doubled and ready to bake with.

Try the float test

Drop a little bit of starter into a glass jar. If the starter floats, it is ready to bake with. See the picture below.

sourdough starter in a glass jar

And for fun…name your starter!

Once you have your “sourdough baby” it’s time to name it! We named ours Clint. You know…for “Clint Yeastwood”. Because we’re corny like that! 🙂

What and When to Feed Sourdough Starter

If you are storing your starter at room temperature, you’ll need to feed it daily. Depending on how much you keep, you can discard about half the starter (use it in sourdough pancakes) and feed it equal amounts of the unbleached all-purpose flour and non-chlorinated water.

If you don’t use your sourdough often, seal it and store it in the refrigerator. Feed it weekly with equal amounts of flour and water. There will be a cloudy liquid on top of the starter. That is called “hooch” and it means your starter is hungry. Stir that liquid in, then feed. Do this weekly. I like to set a reminder on my phone to go off once a week. That way I always have starter on hand.

Once your sourdough is refrigerated, be sure to remove it from the fridge 12-24 hours before you are ready to bake. Mix it, feed it, then watch for it to bubble. If it doesn’t bubble, discard half of the starter and feed again with equal amounts of water and flour. 

You’ll learn the timing of your own starter and know how long it takes to get it bubbly and active after a few times.

sourdough starter in a sealed jar with name "clint"

How much sourdough starter to keep?

You can replenish your starter after you’ve used some up by adding 25 to 50 grams of flour and an equal weight of water to at least a ¼ cup of starter.

If you have an active starter, it’s so easy to quickly grow more sourdough if you’re needing a large amount. There is no need to keep huge amount of it in your refrigerator. 

And that’s about it! Please share your hints for making sourdough. What have you had success with? I know many of you are pros and can help me along my sourdough journey!

Books that Will Help You Learn Sourdough

Sourdough Starter in a jar with a tag
Sourdough Starter in a jar with a tag

How to Make Sourdough Starter

4.79 from 38 votes
If you've ever wondered how to make sourdough starter, this is your complete guide! Traditional 7 day sourdough starter with perfect results, every time. Just 5 minutes and you are on your way to sourdough bread, pancakes, cakes and more.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Resting Time 7 days
Total Time 5 minutes

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 60 grams unbleached whole wheat flour
  • 300 grams warm non-chlorinated water (divided)
  • 360 grams all-purpose unbleached flour (divided)

Instructions
 

Day 1.

  • Start with a clean glass jar. I use a pint size mason jar when I am beginning a starter, but a weck jar or other glass jar will be fine too. You’ll just want it to be able to hold about 2 cups so that it can handle the rise of the starter.
  • Place the jar on the kitchen scale. Turn the scale on and make sure it is reading 0 grams. If it isn’t, press the “tare” button to get the display to read zero.
  • Add 60 grams of whole wheat flour and 60 grams of warm, non-chlorinated water. The mixture will be very, very think. It won’t be impressive at all to start.
  • Cover the jar loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature, of in a spot where the room temperature is slightly warmer.

Day 2.

  • Check the starter. You’re looking for bubbles to form. If you don’t see any, it is ok because they come and go fairly quickly. Don’t mix it. Just check it, then let it sit again for another 24 hours.

Day 3.

  • This is the first day you’ll feed the starter. Feed it no matter what it looks like. At this point the starter is going to be “stretchy”. Pull out half of the starter and throw it away. Use your kitchen scale to again add 60 grams of all-purpose unbleached flour and 60 grams of warm water.
  • Mix it all together. It will still be really thick. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Day 4, 5, and 6.

  • Discard half of the starter and feed as you did in Day 3. You’ll do the same thing each day no matter what the starter looks like. Discard half, and feed with equal amounts of flour and warm water.
  • As these three days pass you’ll notice a natural rise and fall to the starter. This is an important process to observe because it will tell you when the starter is ready to bake with and when it is hungry. You can use a rubber band (or a piece of tape) on the jar to mark where the starter is when you feed it, then how it doubles as the starter grows.

Day 7.

  • Your starter should be very bubbly and you are almost ready to bake! It should have a sweet and tangy aroma. It should not be a sharp or harsh smell. It should look light and airy.
  • If your starter does not look like this, continue the feeding process for a few more days before using it.
  • Once your starter is light and airy, it's time to bake with it! Place the active starter in a clean jar that it will continue to live in as you feed it.
  • Click here to make our favorite artisan sourdough bread recipe.
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Keyword bread, comfort food

Sourdough Recipes We Love

We’ve had so much fun working with sourdough and creating all the things! Try one of our favorite recipes, both with discard and active starter.

Sourdough Discard Recipes

Still have discard? You’ll love these recipes!

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Kathy
4 years ago

5 stars
I removed the plastic wrap from my starter which I started today, because the bowl I used was too small.not sure if I messed up the fermentation process.?? The starter had quite a few bubbles at the top.i put it back in my oven with the light on. Should I continue to watch it for 48 hours or start over. I would appreciate your response.and thank you so much for the. Recipe.

Shane
4 years ago

5 stars
When I take 1/2 cup out of the starter to make a loaf of bread do I need to let the dough sit in a bread pan for a couple of hours so it can rise and then bake it? Thanks.

Rachel
4 years ago

Can I make this using whole wheat flour?

Krista
4 years ago

Hi thanks for the recipe, it’s fermenting on my counter now. wondering, can I make pizza crust with this, and if so, how? Thanks

Kathy
4 years ago

I made the sour dough starter.i placed it in the refrigerator for about 10 days because I have not had a chance to bake.i also have not added more flour and water.is my starter still good to use for baking? Thank you for your response.

Jocelyne Surdin
4 years ago

My starter got a little bubbly the first day now the second day it’s runny???? it is in a glass bowl loosely covered in the oven with the light on.I did stir it a couple times a day. Is it dead? What happened? Thank you. I’m about to give up as I am starting to believe baking bread is my kryptonite ????
Help, in California ????

Matt
4 years ago

HI Julie,

How about the timing and temp to cook the bread?
Do I oil the pan or butter it?

In thanks,
Matt

Christine
4 years ago

HOw. LOng will the starter stay fresh in the fridge if I have not used it.

Susan Lyle
4 years ago

Hi Julie I have been experimenting with sourdough for a couple of years. I am anxious to try your fluffy sourdough pancake recipe and switch it for the one that I had been using called flat and thin pancakes. LOL. There are a couple of things that I have learned and wanted to pass on, one is the thin fermented liquid that sometimes forms on your starter is called hooch and it is telling you that your starter is hungry and needs to be fed. The other thing that I just discovered was one way to see if your starter… Read more »

Jeff Williams
4 years ago

First time doing this! I placed it in the oven like recommended – great idea. The next morning the mix was on the bottom of the oven…too much activity overnight I guess. Do I need to start over or can I continue with what is remaining? I placed the mixture in a 2.5 qt glass mixing bowl. About 1/2 to 3/4 cup was on the bottom of the oven.

Darla
4 years ago

Can you use rapid rise yeast

Diana L Schmidt
4 years ago

My sour dough starter is watery

Rick
4 years ago

How much yeast is in a “packet”? All I have is yeast in a jar.

Baker
4 years ago

For everyone having problems with this recipe, this is WAY too much yeast and WAY too much water. In truth, you actually don’t need any yeast for a starter as there is enough natural bacteria in our air to activate this starter. But most importantly, never use warm water for a starter. Between the amount and yeast and amount of warm water in this recipe, this will no doubt turn into a volcano-like science experiment. Use half of the water, make sure it’s room temp (not warm), and use half (or less) yeast. Stir every 2-3 hours, keep it at… Read more »

Diane
4 years ago

I have gone over 5 days with my starter but it is not bubbly it is smooth. Should I start over!