classic sourdough starter recipe

Classic Sourdough Starter Recipe From Scratch (and How to Use It)

Sourdough bread is one of those artisan skills that lots of people enjoy the fruits of, but don’t know how to do it themselves. I highly recommend testing this classic sourdough starter recipe yourself and seeing how simple it is to make bread without yeast. It’s the perfect way to keep your breadmaking going if things are going poorly in the world.

Classic Sourdough Starter Recipe

To make sourdough starter, you just need two ingredients . . . flour and water. Nothing else, so as long as you have a good supply of flour on hand, you’ll be able to make bread anywhere, anytime.

1 cup flour
½-1 cup water

Mix the flour with enough water to give you a thick batter. It’s best to do this in a glass jar, but I’ve used plastic before, as well.

Cover with cloth or a coffee filter and rubber band it in place.

For the next two days, stir your starter twice a day and add ¾ cup flour and ½ cup water. You should be using a large jar, or you might need to remove some of the mixture (feed it to your chickens!).

After the first two days, you can add ¾ cup of flour and ½ cup of water just once a day. Keep doing this until the starter is bubbling and smells fermented, around day 5 (sometimes earlier, if you live in a warm climate).

How to Use Your Sourdough Starter

Now that you have this bubbly mixture, what do you do with it? Use it to leaven your breads, pancakes, and more.

This is the basic sourdough bread recipe that I use:

1 cup sourdough starter
6 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons oil
2 cups warm water

Mix the starter with the water, oil and sugar. Gradually mix in four cups of flour and the salt.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it, adding flour as needed. You’ll want to do this for at least 10 minutes to make sure the gluten is well developed. The bread should be elastic and smooth.

Cover the bread and let it rise for up to 6 hours or until doubled in size.

Punch down your dough and divide in half. Form loaves from each half and put into greased loaf pans. Alternatively, you can form rounds and place on a baking sheet lined with parchement paper. Let the bread rise again for another 2-4 hours, or until doubled again.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the loaves of bread for 45 minutes or until browned and hollow sounding when tapped.

I like to add chopped herbs to the mix, but for your first few loaves, it’s a good idea to get used to the sourdough texture and flavor on its own.

Sourdough Pancakes

If you’re bugging out or living simply, you won’t always have access to an oven. These stovetop pancakes are the perfect way to keep using your sourdough starter.

2 cups sourdough starter
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil
2-3 tablespoons water or milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (optional)

Beat the starter, egg, oil, sugar and baking soda together in a bowl. Add milk or water as needed to get the consistency you want.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and oil it up. Pour ¼ cup of batter into the hot pan and cook until golden. Flip and cook the other side until golden, as well.

Serve with your favorite topping.

Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter

What happens when your starter doesn’t work? It happens! I’ve had it happen to me before, so I’ve put together some of the most common issues with sourdough starters to calm your mind.

My sourdough starter has mold on it.
This does happen from time to time. You can usually prevent mold by stirring it every day and keeping the jar covered with porous material. If you do see mold, though, it’s time to toss it and start again.

There’s skin on my starter.
This means there’s too much air getting to your starter. Try using a different cover. The skin doesn’t cause damage and can be removed and discarded.

What is this dark liquid on top of my starter?
That’s hooch, a naturally occurring, alcholic byproduct of the fermentation process. It’s harmless and can just be poured off. However, it probably indicates that either your starter is growing too quickly or it requires more flour. Try moving your starter jar to a cooler space.

I forgot to feed my starter and now it’s not bubbling.
Try increasing feedings to twice a day until your starter revives. It should come back.

My sourdough starter isn’t getting bubbly and it’s already been a week.
If you aren’t seeing the progress you’d hoped for with your sourdough starter, you may need to find a warmer place for it. Try that before anything else. If it still isn’t bubbling at all, give the starter a taste and see if it has a sour flavor to it.

I don’t have wheat flour, can I use something else?
You can use other flours to make your bread and your starter. However, to keep things simple, it’s usually best to use that same flour in all your feedings.

My starter smells weird.
It’s normal for sourdough starter to smell yeasty or sour or anything in between. However, if it smells rotten or just off, you need to toss it and start again.

Have you made sourdough bread yet? Have any questions? Leave them in the comments!

make your own Sourdough starter

22 Replies to “Classic Sourdough Starter Recipe From Scratch (and How to Use It)”

  1. Dan Stevens

    Hello Genesis,

    With all the horrible stuff going on in the world in this day and age, I to try to keep things on hand to help my family survive in case of something catastrophic happens. I am very proficient at hunting with a bow and gun to be able to provide meat for the family.  This article offers the ability to make bread which is something that will help sustain the family and it seems really simple to make.  Takes a bit of time but that isn’t always a bad thing. 

    • Genesis

      Hunting is an excellent skill to have (and also takes time, heh). With the ability to provide meat and bread, you just need some basic foraging skills and you have it made, no matter what happens.

  2. Victor

    I’ve never made any kind of bread before, I’ve made pie crust from scratch but I don’t think that counts lol. I love that you included everything in this post: the ingredients, directions for making the sourdough, and then how to fix problems that may occur. I may five this a try. I’ve never tasted sourdough before, or at least I don’t think so. 

    • Genesis

      It’s surprisingly easy to make bread! I’d definitely suggest trying some sourdough before you go through the process of making it, since it does have a different taste that you might not enjoy.

  3. Alenka

    Brilliant! I love this recipe and shall be trying to do it as of tomorrow. Wish me luck!I

    I really like sourdough but where I live now, we don’t have that type of bread. When I used to live in the U.K. this was always my bread of choice and since it was easily available to get in the shops I eat it every day.

    Now I miss it, and this recipe has really cheered me up! 

    Hope my children like it too. 

    Would it go well with some sunflower or poppy seeds on top or in it? 

    Thank you!

    • Genesis

      Hi, Alenka, Sourdough bread is so good! My kids love it, so hopefully yours will, too. 
      I think it would be amazing with some seeds on top. You could add slivered almonds or sesame seeds, too.

  4. Michel

    This is great information. At least we know we can’t starve anytime soon, as long as we have flour and water available. 

    I used to make ginger beer in this fashion, letting it become fermented over time and sometimes the bottles would pop and leave sticky goo all over my kitchen. I hope this doesn’t happen with the sour dough.

    When you say it’s a taste you need to get used to, is the taste bad or  just an acquired taste. I quite like the ideas you give that you can use the dough to make pancakes or herb bread.

    • Genesis

      Heh, I’ve had sourdough starter overflow the container before! Just make sure it is in a much larger container than you think you need and it’s all good. 

      The taste is a bit sour, which is why I say it takes getting used to. It’s certainly not bad and most people enjoy it, but if you’re used to regular bread, it can be a bit different. I’d suggest trying some from a bakery before you make your own.

  5. cpascal

    It’s good to know how to make bread from scratch, especially without yeast or baking powder. It has only been fairly recently that grocery stores have offered the chance to conveniently get fresh bread or even the ingredients. In the past, people often lived on isolated homesteads and had no contact with the outside world for months. They must have used this or a similar technique to make baked goods during that time, and we never know when we might all have to revert to these methods. 

    • Genesis

      They did use this back in the day. It was called friendship bread, because you shared your starter with new arrivals. It’s a good skill to have. 

  6. Rob Cassie

    As an avid bread fan I love sourdough bread, in fact I’m a lover of all types of bread, at weekends the kitchen is often filled with the aroma of some type of special bread that has been created. Bread is so easy to make and its a basic thing that should be taught to all generations. The only problem I have sometimes when I’ve made the bread is wondering what to put on it once its been made? although a cream cheese on a chilli bread is still one of my favorites.

  7. Daniel

    I found this article very helpful for me. I must say that I enjoy in making dough especially for some types of celebrations but sour dough is my favorite one because I never know the real recipe. I am often on diet and I know that this will help me a lot especially when I am using integral flour.

  8. Darren

    I’ve been in the look out for sourdough bread after I had it with my breakfast when eating out a few weeks back. This would be a great way of spending some time with the kids and getting them involved. I’ve saved your page and I’m going to give this a go! 

  9. Kara

    Genesis,

    This was such a wonderful and informative article!  It brought back memories of my grandmother making sourdough bread in her kitchen.  I have a sourdough starter packet that I bought awhile ago but have never used.  I had no idea it was so simple to make (I probably spent too much money on the starter!).  Thank you for this great article and the memories.

    KARA

    • Genesis

      The thing about starters is that you get the yeasts from another place, so if you make sourdouogh from that and then do your own starter, they will actually taste different. Cool, huh?

  10. Jurgen

    I love sourdough bread, but unfortunately I’m not good at making my own, so mostly I buy it at my local bakery.

    I’ve only tried it a few times, but always gave up because it didn’t get bubble and started to smell really bad. Thanks to your tips, I think I’m gonna try it once again and hopefully I can bring this to a good end. Thanks! 

  11. Netta

    Oh, yum, Genesis!  Thank you!  

    This sourdough starter recipe seems particularly easy and is most tempting to try.  I do appreciate your trouble-shooting guide as well.  I have a fondness for breads of all kinds, but I do tend to be more of an appreciator than a doer when it comes to baking.  (I am not particularly patient with the process.)

    • Genesis

      Bread definitely requires patience. I find it’s handy to do something else while you are making it, so you don’t sit staring and checking if it’s risen.

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