How to Make Sourdough Starter for your Homestead Kitchen

Learn exactly how to make sourdough starter with just flour and water. This easy and from scratch recipe makes a sourdough started to be used as the base ingredient for breads, cakes, cookies, pancakes and more.

I resisted making my own sourdough starter for many years. It seemed like another thing to care for and manage on my busy homestead and I was perfectly happy making bread with yeast. After seeing so many recipes and ideas, I finally decided to try out my own sourdough a few years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s like keeping a living thing in your kitchen (and yes you should name it) that produces delicious bread, pancakes and more!

In this article I will describe exactly how to create and care for your sourdough starter with some links to some of my favorite sourdough recipes.

If you like this, you might also like: Homestead Kitchen Cooking and How to Bake Bread.

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What is Sourdough Starter?

Sourdough starter is a fermented mixture made from flour and water that grows wild yeast and beneficial bacterie. Sour dough starter can then be used as a leavening agent in sourdough bread baking.

In general, to create a sourdough starter, you mix flour and water together and allow it to sit at room temperature, where wild yeast and bacteria naturally present in the environment and on the flour colonize the mixture. Over several days of regular feedings (adding fresh flour and water), the yeast and bacteria populations grow and ferment, creating a bubbly and tangy mixture. This is the quick overview of creating a sourdough starter.

Once the sourdough starter is mature and active, it can be used to leaven bread dough. Sourdough works by providing the carbon dioxide gas needed for dough expansion during fermentation.

Many bakers maintain and propagate their sourdough starters for years, with each batch of bread contributing to the unique flavor profile of the starter. There are several sourdough starters rumored to be over 100 years old! It is possible to buy sourdough starter

What you can Make with Sourdough Starter

Before we launch into a day by day guide to making your own sourdough starter, I wanted to share a few things you can make with your sourdough. Here are some of our favorite recipes:

How to Make Sourdough Starter: Day By Day

In general it takes me about 7 days to make sourdough starter. I’ve broken up the steps for each day below.


You only need flour and water. I’ve seen lots of recipes with different types of flour, but I prefer to use unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour. Filtered or non-chlorinated water is preferable. We use our well water when making the starter.

How to Make Sourdough Starter

Day 1

  1. Mix Flour and Water: In a clean glass or plastic container, mix equal parts flour and water by weight. Start with 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water. Stir until well combined, making sure there are no dry patches of flour. Your mixture will look a bit lumpy but not dry.
  2. Cover and Rest: Cover the container loosely with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let it rest at room temperature (around 70-75°F or 21-24°C) for 24 hours. Since we keep our house cool, I will put this is a warm corner near the woodstove or a heater. I’ve also used a heat mat for seed starting as a warm spot.
how to make sourdough starter - keep it warm with your seedlings
how to make sourdough starter – keep it warm with your seedlings
Day 2 of How to Make Sourdough Starter

Day 2

For each of the coming days you will be checking and feeding your sourdough starter.

  1. Feed the Starter: Check your starter for any signs of activity. You may see some bubbles or notice a slightly sour aroma. Discard half of the starter (about half a cup) and add equal parts flour and water (50 grams each). Stir until well combined. If you find your starter looks too lumpy or liquidy, you can add a bit more water or flour.
  2. Cover and Rest: Cover the container again and let it rest at room temperature for another 24 hours.
How to Make Sourdough Starter – note the liquid (or hooch) this indicates you need to seed your sourdough

Day 3-7

  1. Daily Feeding: Repeat the feeding process once a day, discarding half of the starter and adding equal parts flour and water. As the starter becomes more active, you may start to see more bubbles and notice a tangier aroma. If you find the top of the starter drying out, cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Observe and Adjust: Pay attention to the consistency and smell of your starter. It should start to rise and fall predictably between feedings. If it seems too thick or thin, adjust the flour and water ratio accordingly. If there are any signs of mold or off-putting odors, discard the starter and start over.

Feeding your Sourdough Starter

  1. Maintenance: Once your starter is active and bubbly, you can switch to a maintenance feeding schedule. Depending on your baking frequency, you can feed your starter once a day or refrigerate it and feed it once a week. To use a refrigerated starter, simply take it out, let it come to room temperature, feed it, and allow it to become active again before using it in recipes.
  2. Enjoy Your Sourdough: Your sourdough starter is now ready to use in bread, pancakes, waffles, and other delicious recipes. Experiment with different flours and hydration levels to customize the flavor and texture of your sourdough creations.

Remember, creating a sourdough starter is a process of cultivating wild yeast and bacteria, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to develop. With patience and care, you’ll soon be enjoying homemade sourdough bread and baked goods straight from your own kitchen.

How to make sourdough starter – getting ready to use my starter

Tips for Troubleshooting your Sourdough Starter

We’ve had consistent success making sourdough starter using the simple steps above. Below are a few troubleshooting tips if things aren’t looking quite right:

Slow or No Activity: If your starter isn’t showing signs of fermentation (bubbles, rise), it may need more time to establish. Solution: Be patient and continue regular feedings. You may also try adjusting the feeding ratio (more flour or water), increasing the feeding frequency, or ensuring the right temperature (around 70-75°F or 21-24°C).

Thin or Watery Starter: A thin or watery consistency can indicate too much water or not enough flour in the starter. Solution: Adjust the feeding ratio by adding more flour to thicken the starter. Aim for a consistency similar to thick pancake batter.

Thick or Sluggish Starter: A thick or sluggish starter may be too acidic or have insufficient hydration. Solution: Increase hydration by adding more water during feedings or try feeding with a higher hydration ratio (more water). You can also discard a portion of the starter to reduce acidity and refresh it with fresh flour and water.

Unpleasant Odor: An off-putting smell, such as a strong vinegar-like odor or moldy smell, indicates that the starter may be over-fermented or contaminated. Solution: Discard the starter and start over with fresh flour and water. Ensure proper hygiene practices and use clean utensils and containers.

Mold Growth: Mold growth on the surface of the starter indicates contamination. Solution: Discard the starter immediately and thoroughly clean the container with hot, soapy water. Start over with fresh ingredients and maintain strict hygiene practices to prevent future contamination.

Erratic Fermentation: Inconsistent rise and fall of the starter may be due to fluctuating temperature or inconsistent feeding schedule. Solution: Maintain a consistent feeding schedule and temperature. Keep the starter in a warm, draft-free environment, and feed it at the same time each day.

Starter Separation: If your starter separates into layers of liquid and solids between feedings, it may be due to excess liquid or insufficient gluten development. Solution: Stir the separated starter well before feeding. Adjust the hydration ratio if needed to achieve a more stable consistency.

Starter Turns Gray or Pink: Gray or pink discoloration of the starter indicates the presence of undesirable bacteria. Solution: Discard the starter and start over with fresh ingredients. Ensure proper hygiene and sanitation practices to prevent bacterial contamination.

Starter Does Not Float: A mature starter should float when dropped into water, indicating sufficient gas production. If it sinks, it may not be fully mature or active. Solution: Continue regular feedings and observe for signs of fermentation. With time and proper care, the starter should become more buoyant.

Inconsistent Texture or Flavor: Variations in texture or flavor may be due to changes in feeding ratio, fermentation time, or temperature. Solution: Maintain a consistent feeding ratio and schedule. Experiment with different flour types, hydration levels, and fermentation times to achieve the desired texture and flavor profile.

Healthy looking sourdough starter
Healthy looking sourdough starter

Health Benefits of Sourdough

Not only is sourdough a fantastic way to create your own leavening agent, but it also has a lot of health benefits. Here are some of the health benefits:

  1. Easier Digestibility: The fermentation process breaks down gluten and phytic acid, making sourdough bread easier to digest for some individuals, particularly those with gluten sensitivities or intolerances.
  2. Improved Nutrient Absorption: Fermentation increases the bioavailability of nutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and B vitamins, making them easier for the body to absorb.
  3. Lower Glycemic Index: Sourdough bread typically has a lower glycemic index (GI) compared to bread made with commercial yeast. This means it causes a slower and more gradual increase in blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial for blood sugar control.
  4. Prebiotic and Probiotic Effects: Sourdough fermentation produces prebiotics, which are fibers that feed beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, sourdough bread may contain some beneficial bacteria and yeasts from the sourdough starter, providing potential probiotic effects for gut health.
  5. Reduced Acrylamide Formation: The longer fermentation process of sourdough bread may reduce the formation of acrylamide, a potentially harmful compound that forms during high-heat baking processes.
  6. Potential Allergen Reduction: Some individuals with wheat or gluten sensitivities report better tolerance of sourdough bread compared to other types of bread, possibly due to reduced gluten content and altered protein structure.
How to Make Sourdough

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