A Tradition in Family Baking

Sourdough Starter

5.0 from 8 reviews
Sourdough Starter
Making a starter at home today is relatively easy when using active dry yeast. Plan to prepare your starter a few days before you wish to bake so that it has ample time to develop. As you will see,starters can be made with white, whole wheat, and even rye flour, each imparting its own distinct characteristics to the finished bread.
Yield: 1 sourdough starter
Ingredients
  • 2 cups water
  • 3½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package (2¼ tsp, ¼oz, 7g) RED STAR Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
Instructions
  1. In a 4-quart nonmetallic container, dissolve yeast in warm water (110º to 115º F); let stand 5 minutes. Add flour and sugar. Stir by hand until blended. The mixture will be thick; any remaining lumps will dissolve during the fermentation process. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm place for 5 days, stirring 2 to 3 times each day. The starter will rise and fall during the fermentation period; it becomes thinner as it stands. A temperature of 80º to 85º F is best for developing the sour flavor. When the starter is developed, it is bubbly and may have a yellow liquid layer on top; stir starter before using. The starter can be used for baking or placed in the refrigerator for later use.

  2. To use the starter, measure out desired amounts as specified in the recipe. Let refrigerated starter come to room temperature before using; this will take about 4 hours.

  3. After using the a portion of the starter for a recipe, replenish remaining starter with 3 parts flour to 2 parts water (example: if you use 1 cup starter, add back 1 cup flour and ⅔ cup water) and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir until blended; some lumps may remain. Cover loosely and let stand in warm place for 10 to 12 hours or overnight. The starter will rise and become bubbly. Stir and store in refrigerator. If the starter is not used every week, stir in 1 teaspoon sugar to keep it active.

  4. This recipe is featured at My Kitchen Addiction.
 

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53 Comments
  1. Hi Carol, to recap your response to keeping the starter on the counter, you state to feed it twice a day. What do I feed it with? And how often should i be using it? Thank you so much for the recipe and assistance along the way for all of us newbies!!!

    • Hi Jodi,
      If your starter is stored at room temperature, feed it with 1 tsp of sugar twice daily when you are not using it.

      Happy baking!
      Carol

      • I didnt see anything in the original post about feeding the starter with additional sugar? It’s been 3 days with my starter & just reading the comments. Am I too late?

        • Hi Brian,
          When you are starting with a new starter, it is not necessary to feed it for the first 5 days. Once it is established, follow the guidelines for feeding/replenishing.
          Happy baking!
          Carol

  2. I’ve made the sourdough starter about 2 monts ago, and have used it or fed it every week since then. About two weeks ago, I noticed that the liquid forming on top had a greenish color. Is the starter okay to use?

    • Hi Paula,
      Congratulations on starting a sourdough starter! I hope you have enjoyed good bread over the last couple months. Typically a sourdough starter has a low enough pH (acidic) to resist spoilage. However, if your starter is showing signs of mold growth, or smells decidedly putrid, throw it away and begin again. I’m not sure if the greenish color is the beginning of mold, but to be safe I would toss and start over.
      Carol

  3. Question, Made starter but the recipe I’m using is for a “mini bread maker” so will only use 4 Tblsp of starter. Do I need to “replenish ” the starter each time? Seems like it would make way too much.

    Thanks, Kerry

    • Hi Kerry,
      I would recommend replenishing it every other time if you’re making bread at least once a week. If using the starter less than weekly, it will need to be replenished – follow the directions listed in the recipe. You can always use the removed cup of starter for other recipes (like sourdough pancakes– yum!
      Happy baking!
      Carol

  4. An elderly lady gave me a reipe for sour dough bread and a starter , she said feed it every3 to 4 days with three fourth cup sugar 1 cup warm water and 3 tbsp. instant potatoes . Help please ,really want it to come out good

    • Hi Thelma,
      Sourdough starters are typically fed with flour and water, some use a scant teaspoon of sugar. I would suggest using our recommendations listed in this recipe. There’s also great info on sourdough starters from our friends at King Arthur Flour >> http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2012/04/08/maintaining-your-sourdough-starter-food-water-and-time/.

      Happy baking!
      Carol

    • This is a delicious recipe. My Aunt used it for years and I never met a person that didnt like it. I am however having a problem finding out if this type fermentation is equivalent to the flour and water one…

      • Hi Monica,
        This recipe has the addition of yeast and a bit of sugar to the flour and water. This gives a better/faster ‘start’ in the fermentation. I’m glad to hear your aunt had a lot of successful breads from her starter! I’m sure you will as well.

        Happy baking,
        Carol

    • Years ago I made great sourdough bread using this same starter recipe. It seems to have fallen from grace. All I see now are started recipes using flour.

    • Would you please share her recipe for that starter???

      Thank you! I have been searching for one that uses all those ingredients. I had a starter that you fed like that, but it died. It was the best, and I would love to replace it.

  5. Carol,\
    I have sourdough starter given to me in 1982. I have always “guarded” and kept it, but not always used it very often… The woman who gave it to me got it from her grandmother, who took it over the Alaska Trail in 1898…so I want to “keep it going.” Over the years, it has lost some of its “zing” — perhaps because I didn’t use or feed it often enough. I was thinking of making a new batch of my own with active dry yeast, and then combining it with (at least half of) the old Alaska Starter — that way, I’d have some “new zing,” but still preserve the integrity of the Alaska begi9nnings…
    Will this work? Is it legitimate?
    Another idea would be simply to add some active dry yeast to (half of) the Alaska Starter as it is — what about that?
    Thanks for your advice, Carol… R/ Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,
      What a great story! I think you can still preserve the old Alaska starter. Stir the liquid (alcohol produced from fermentation) back into the starter. Discard all but one cup, and set the starter at a warm room temperature (80 degrees is ideal). Feed the starter 2/3 cup water and 1 cup flour twice a day, discarding all but 1/2 cup of the starter before each feeding. It should soon become active and you will see bubbles forming. Once it is healthy, you can store it in the refrigerator, feeding it every week or two.

      We’d love to hear if you are successful – and see what you’re baking with your starter. Please share on our social media #redstaryeast @redstaryeast.

      Happy baking!
      Carol

      • Carol — Well, thanks, by following your suggestion, I was eventually able to “recapture” my starter — though it took a long time and many cycles. I was also able eventually to recapture my other half just by continually “cycling” it (that also took a long time).
        You suggested something that I think is better than I had done before.. I had always “take a cup of the new starter out in the morning before using it,” and put it “back into the original mix.” I think your suggestion: Simply putting a new cup of flour and 2/3 cup water “back into” the original mix, is better. It’s better for two reasons: It gives me more new starter to use that morning, and introducing new flour and water into the old mixture seems to help.
        Also, I’ve noticed sometimes I have to leave it “out” to “work” for two nights, not just one — maybe cuz it’s only 70 degrees in my house, not 85 (?). Sometimes even three nights… helps even more. But I “stir it up again” each day.
        Also, I had always used milk instead of water… but, now that I’m trying both ways, I don’t think I can taste any difference (?).
        And one more thing: I’ve read that sourdough tastes different in different part of the world… this must be true, ‘cuz mine definitely don’t taste here in Michigan like they did in Hawaii or Iceland.
        Well — that’s it! Thanks, Carol, for the help… 🙂
        Hope this helps someone else…
        Bruce Pierce

        • Incidentally, I did NOT “use new yeast mixed-in with my Alaska starter”… I didn’t want to somehow “dumb it down” and make it non-historical (my starter came over the Dawson Trail in the Alaska Gold Rush in 1898). (But I DID make a separate new-yeast starter of my own, to compare it with the Alaska starter).
          I thought you’d want to know about the “purity” of the Alaska starter… at my house, at least, it is…. “STILL PURE!
          Thanks again Bruce Pierce

          • Hi Bruce,
            Great news!! I’m sure you’ll be enjoying sourdough for a long, long time!

            Happy baking!
            Carol

          • Bruce I love your story!! I would like to learn more about it and your bread recipes, if possible. I am giving you my email tgsaylors@hotmail.com idk if that’s ok on here if not I am sorry. Again great story.

  6. I keep my heat low in the winter- No higher than 60, and am wondering if I should let my starter stand longer than 5 days? Its currently in a window where it probably does get a bit warmer than 60, but definitely not 80-85.
    Thanks!

    • Hi Carrie,
      An extra day or two would be good. Once your starter shows signs of activity, let it go another day or so.

      Happy baking!
      Carol

  7. Is it really started in a 4 at container? Seems awfully large..TY

    • Dear Carrol,
      The sourdough starter can be started in any container that has the capacity for the flour and liquid, AND enough room to expand as it ferments.

      Happy baking!
      Carol

  8. Carol Stevens, you have the patience of a saint!

  9. I followed these directions, and everything was doing well, until about day 4 when the bubbles stopped completely. I ws trying to wait five days before using it, because it sounded like that would be best. What might have caused the bubbles to quit forming?

    • Hi Celia,
      Most like the yeast ran out of food (hence the lack of bubbles). Try feeding the starter with a teaspoon of sugar. It should start bubbling again.
      Happy baking!
      Carol

  10. Hello I’m thinking of starting my own starter! My first time! My question is can I use Active yeast fast rising.all purpose? And get the same results?..
    Thanks for any information you can give!

    • Hi Ellen,
      You’ll love the flavor of homemade sourdough bread. You may use Active Dry Yeast or Quick Rise (instant) Yeast in the sourdough starter.
      Happy baking!
      Carol

  11. Hi Carol,

    So I’ve got my starter smelling wonderfully and am ready to make a loaf of sourdough wheat! Is there a recipe you’d suggest now that I have the starter as I’m not sure if other recipes will take into account the size and makeup of my starter.

    Thanks much,

    Kurt

  12. 3rd day my starter is not doing anything no bubbles when I mix it it has bubbles then they go away did my starter die

    • Hi Jerry,
      Where are you storing the starter? If you are seeing bubbles then the starter should be ok. After the first 5 days, feed it a teaspoon of sugar. If you are not seeing bubbles after that, try letting it sit on the counter for a day. If no bubbles appear, you may want to start over.
      Let us know how things go!
      Happy baking!
      Carol

  13. Hi,I’m new at baking. I was just wondering why would I want to replenish my starter? Wouldn’t I just want to use it up & make new starter? I don’t know? By the way I love learning from you. 🙂

    • Hi Georgia,
      As your starter ages, the flavor profile develops. The older the starter, the ‘better’ flavor it brings to your recipe!

      I hope you will find this information helpful.
      Happy baking!
      Carol

  14. Question, if I do not refrigerate the starter and leave it out on the counter, what if anything do I need to change. I might (hopefully) be using it on a regular basis, I just need to know the feeding method if I don’t store it in the fridge. Thank you and I really enjoy your webpage.

    • Hi Mike,
      If you’re keeping the starter at room temperature, it’s recommended to feed it twice daily.

      We’d love if you send us photos of your sourdough baking adventures on facebook or instagram! (Links to our social media is at the bottom of this page.)

      Happy baking!
      Carol

  15. The sourdough starter I’ve made in the past is more liquidy than this starter turned out. This (at least within the first hour, where I am) looks to mimick the actual sourdough dough that I make with the starter than the starters I’ve made in the past. Is this correct? I know it says above that the starter will thin out as it stands; but there is virtually nothing liquid about this right now…should I toss it and start over or give it time?

    • Hi Julia,
      If you’re sure that you used the correct ingredient amounts, I would give it some time. Let us know what you make with the starter!

      Happy baking!
      Carol

  16. Question, do I need to feed and discard during the 5 days? Do I need to add any sugar? Thanks!

    • Hi Johnna,
      (Also responded via facebook to your question. 🙂 ) The only thing to do during the first 5 days is to stir it 2 to 3 times per day. Replenish it after you use a portion. If you’re not using it weekly, then feed it by stirring in 1 tsp. of sugar once every week or two.

      Happy baking!
      Carol

  17. Hi! How frequent do i need to feed the starter with sugar? I keep mine in the refrigerator. Thanks

  18. This recipe really kickstarts the starter compared to most traditional ones you see out there. Sure, technically you only need flour and water, and in a couple weeks wild yeasts will do their thing, but adding yeast and a bit of sugar kicks everything into turbo. Fermentation was well underway after only about two days at 72F (you can really smell the alcohol, which is one of the main byproducts of yeast — don’t worry, it cooks off 100%, and storing it in the fridge after it matures retards alcohol production) I made this about a week ago, and just finished a loaf of sourdough bread. It’s damn near perfect! Give it another couple weeks to really mature, and I expect the sourdough flavor to only intensify.

    I like the results so much, I’m also going to brew some sourdough beer with it, too. Thanks, Red Star!

  19. Does this have more of a yeast flavor rather than regular sour dough? I’m trying to duplicate the flavor of yeast cakes that used to be available

    • Vickie – The difference with this sourdough starter is that you don’t have to wait for the ‘wild yeast’ start fermenting. The added yeast in this recipe gives the sourdough starter a faster start. You will get the same great flavor that you get with a starter that uses just flour and water (and wild yeast).

      Happy baking!
      Carol

  20. I have used just the sourdough starter before when I’ve been reviving an old starter rather than throwing it out. It’s perfectly fine. The pancakes will be thicker and if you like them thin add milk to the batter.

  21. Hi I have three questions. In your sourdough starter mix it mentions replenishing remaining starter with 3 parts flour to 2 parts water, how much is a part? My second question is should you feed starter in those 5 days it’s fermenting? My last question I have a recipe that calls for 2 cups sourdough starter 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 egg, 4 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda and no flour. Does this sound safe to eat? Thank you for your time I will appreciate your comments Michael Filippini

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your questions. The ‘replenish’ depends on how much starter you use for a recipe. Example, if you use 1 cup of starter for a recipe, then you replace it with 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. The flour amount is the same amount as starter that you removed; the water is 2/3 of the flour amount. Once it’s been replenished, allow it to sit at RT for about 12 hours for the yeast to become active again before it’s refrigerated again.

      The starter does not need feeding during the first 5 days, then it is refrigerated. Generally, if it is used at least every 2 weeks and replenished, it does not require additional feeding. If not, it can be fed with 1 teaspoon of sugar every week or two.

      As far as your recipe, it’s probably safe to eat, but typically the starter is only a portion of the bulk and additional flour is always added. I’m not sure if your recipe will actually make a dough.

      Happy baking!

      Carol Stevens @RSY

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