how to make your own sourdough starter

This is the EASIEST way to make a sourdough starter recipe from scratch: no measurements, no discards, no feedings. Find out how!

Have you been wondering how to make your own sourdough starter?

Maybe you have been too intimidated by how complicated it sounds. Or maybe you had some sourdough failures and haven’t tried again.

Let me tell you that it’s actually very easy to make your own sourdough starter!

Of course, you can always buy a starter and follow the instructions (you can find some great ones here).

But wouldn’t it be so much more satisfying and cheaper to make your own? You don’t even need a kitchen scale!

I will show you how simple it is!

First things first: How I learned to make a sourdough starter

I grew up eating sourdough bread. My mom learned from my grandmother (her mother-in-law) how to make it when she married my dad. In my grandmother’s family, they had been baking sourdough bread for generations.

I would watch my mom grind the grains in the morning and add her sourdough starter. She would let the dough rise. Midday she would take off some dough that would become her next starter and put the rest of the dough in the loaf pan. In the evening, she would bake the bread. I remember the smell of the bread wafting through the house. Often, we would “fight” for the first warm slice of bread with just some butter and salt.

Once I lived on my own, I just continued this tradition. Yes, there have been times when I wasn’t baking much. However, I have always come back to it.

My boys ate sourdough bread when they were growing up. As teenagers, though, they preferred some store-bought, softer bread. Oh well… Now recently, both of them told me individually that they actually really like this bread. My heart was singing…

Why bake with sourdough?

Apparently, the first sourdough bread dates back to 3700 B.C. in Switzerland. People found out that if they left the dough out, the gases of the wild yeasts leaven the bread.

We now understand that sourdough also breaks down the inherent phytic acid in grains.

The bacteria and yeast in the sourdough help to predigest the starches in the grains, thus making them more easily digestible. Often, people with gluten sensitivity have no issues eating sourdough bread.

Furthermore, even though you are baking your sourdough bread at about 350˚F, the inside never reaches that temperature. That means that the probiotics are still alive in there.

In contrast to yeast bread, sourdough bread stays fresh longer and is not as susceptible to mold.

For all these reasons, sourdough bread is so much healthier than bread made with commercial yeast.

no knead sourdough bread

How to make sourdough starter

As I said before, you can absolutely buy a starter from a good company (such as culturesforhealth.com or etsy.com).

Or you have a friend who bakes with sourdough who might give you their starter (or a portion of it to be precise).

However, I find it easiest and most satisfying to make my own. Every now and then, I have done that over the decades. For example, when I moved from Germany to the U.S., I had to make a new starter. Or if for some reason, I hadn’t been baking for a while and I wasn’t sure about my old starter.

As you will see, it’s really quite simple! All you need is flour, buttermilk, water, and caraway seeds.

What are the ingredients for this sourdough starter recipe?

ingredients for make your own sourdough starter

For this no measurement, no discard, no feeding method, you will need:

FLOUR:

While you can use regular, all-purpose white flour, I highly recommend you use both unbleached and organic flour! We are trying to capture the wild yeast. In the process of bleaching the flour, many of the wild yeasts may be killed. Similarly, using non-organic flour means that the grains will have been sprayed with pesticides that kill exactly what we are trying to cultivate. You can also use whole wheat flour or any other whole-grain flour (spelt, einkorn). The type of flour doesn’t matter so much. Most of the time I use wheat but ultimately, rye flour is the best flour for your homemade sourdough starter.

BUTTERMILK:

This is the key ingredient for this radically different method. You see, we are essentially jumpstarting the whole process by using something that already has active live cultures in it. If you can’t find or don’t have buttermilk, there are substitutions. I have successfully made a sourdough starter with yogurt and kefir. And if you are looking for a non-dairy alternative, you can use kombucha. Just make sure it’s plain and doesn’t have any fruit or other herbs added to it.

WATER:

I am listing this as an ingredient because it is important WHAT kind of water you are using. The best is filtered or distilled water. If you’re using tap water, there is a good chance that it has chlorine in it. This will inhibit the growth of the good bacteria we are trying to cultivate.

CARAWAY SEEDS:

I know, I know, they are a very unconventional ingredient in sourdough starters. But hear me out: I have made sourdough starters with and without caraway seeds. The one containing these little seeds becomes an active starter so much faster. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you exactly why but they make a difference!

active sourdough starter from scratch

The simple process of making your sourdough starter

You need to start with a clean jar. That can be a mason jar or something ceramic. I just don’t recommend any metal container since that can react with the acidity in the sourdough starter and give it an off-taste. However, you do not need to bleach or sterilize your jar. Just make sure it’s clean and has no soap residue in it.

To that jar, add about ½ to 1 cup of buttermilk.

Next, add some amount of flour. You can use anywhere from 3 tablespoons to 1 cup, depending on the size of your jar and how much starter you’re trying to make.

Start stirring this mixture with a spoon. Ultimately, you are going for the consistency of a thick pancake batter. If your mixture is too thick, add a little bit of water until you get that consistency.

Now, add a pinch of caraway seeds and stir this mixture well.

I like to cover my sourdough starter. Most often, I use beeswax wraps but you can use fabric, a paper towel, or a coffee filter. A rubber band will keep it in place. I just don’t like plastic wrap or any other tight-fitting lid that does not allow your starter to breathe.

To get the fermentation process going, keep your sourdough starter at room temperature. An ideal temperature is somewhere between 70˚-73˚F. What if you don’t have a warm kitchen? I can tell you that I have made many starters in our kitchen in the winter with much cooler temperatures than that. Then, I just put it in a warm spot, such as a sunny window sill to capture some warmth.

glass jar with active sourdough starter

What to do over the next days:

Every day now, you’ll want to check in with your sourdough starter. Simply, look at it, smell it, and give it a good stir. Don’t worry if nothing seems to be going on in the first day or two or three. Don’t let that fool you!

After a few days, you might see some small bubbles and you might notice a slightly sour smell. But don’t worry if this whole process might take up to 10 days. Eventually, you will get an active starter. Just remember that with the warm temperatures of summer this process might happen quicker than if you’re doing this in the colder winter months.

Another sign of a healthy starter is a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of your jar.

bubbling make your own sourdough starter

What if it takes a really long time to make a sourdough starter?

Sometimes, the entire process might take longer than the typical 5-10 days to get an active starter. If you are making a sourdough starter for the first time, it might take longer because you will have no or fewer wild yeasts in your kitchen. For best results, it is also a good idea to keep your sourdough starter at least 3 feet away from other ferments. That way, nothing will compete with the good bacteria you are cultivating.

You have a sourdough starter — now what?

Congratulations! You have successfully made your own sourdough starter!

You can now bake some homemade bread (such as this European-style whole-grain bread or a lighter, artisan-style bread) or use it in other recipes, such as sourdough pasta or even a sourdough lemon cake.

Is my sourdough starter good enough for baking?

This is my pro tip: If you are not sure if your starter is active and healthy enough to bake some bread, simply add about 1 tsp of active dry yeast to your bread recipe. You still get the long fermentation with the added insurance that your baked goods will rise nicely.

How to maintain your starter:

Since I love when things are simple and no-fuzz, the maintenance for my sourdough starter is the same.

In my family, we have never, ever fed or discarded any of our sourdough starters.

Instead, we have been using a very simple method that I describe here. This easy method works best for people who bake 2 times a week or less.

This is the same sourdough starter about 1 year later.

Troubleshooting your sourdough starter

Now, I say this to everyone who is new to sourdough baking: DO NOT GIVE UP! Your first bread may not rise. That’s ok. Just keep some of the sourdough starter and try again.

My bread tends to come out differently every time. You see, sourdough is a living thing. It does react to the ambient temperature, humidity, wild yeasts in the air, and in the flour. While you can control the flour and the temperature a little bit, you will have less control over the humidity and wild yeasts in the air.

Instead, I recommend you relax and start getting a “feel” for your sourdough starter. It will be so rewarding once you get the hang of it.

And remember, if you don’t “trust” your starter, you can always add some yeast (about 1 tsp for an average-sized bread) to your dough to make sure it does rise!

What if you still have questions?

You can head over to this article in which I answer the most common questions about sourdough.

If you want to delve deeper into sourdough baking or if you want more personalized help from me, I recommend you check out my signature online sourdough course. By enrolling, you can join my private Facebook group where you have direct access to me, ask me questions, and post pictures of your sourdough starter!

My favorite bread recipes:

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

German Whole Grain Bread

Life-changing Sourdough Bread

More sourdough recipes you might enjoy:

How to Make Sourdough Lemon Cake

Sourdough Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

How to Make Sourdough Pasta

Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

This is the easiest method to make a sourdough starter, no measuring or discarding required!
fermentation time7 d
Total Time7 d
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1 sourdough starter
Calories: 130kcal
Author: Our Gabled Home
Cost: $4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 dash filtered water
  • 2-3 TBSP flour white or rye flour
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Instructions

  • Combine buttermilk, water, flour, and caraway seeds in a glass jar (or in another non-reactive container. 
  • Lightly cover and leave in warm, undisturbed spot.  Check every day for progress.  You can also stir it.
  • Depending on the environment (temperature, moisture, wild yeasts), this can take about 7 days. 
  • Your sourdough starter is ripe when it has a pleasant sour smell and is bubbly and foamy. You can also drop a bit in some water: if it floats, it's ripe, if it sinks, it needs a few more days. 

Now I’d like to hear from you in the comments below! Have you tried making it? How did it turn out?

Pin For Later:

pin for how to make your own sourdough starter

77 thoughts on “How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch”

  1. The answer may be obvious but: Your bread recipes call for different amounts of starter. Hearty Whole Grain Sourdough calls for 1.5 too 2 cups of starter. How can I make/have 2 cups of starter? Seems like the jar has much less.

  2. 5 stars
    I sorta want to make my starter from scratch. I purchased some original San Francisco dehydrated starter. Any experience you can share with this type of starter was be appreciated.

    1. I recommend you follow the instructions to get your SF starter going. It is not all that different from mine, in fact, once you have used it a few times it will include the very specific wild yeast strains that live in your kitchen and be different from the one you bought. Hope this makes sense ~ Anja

  3. 5 stars
    Anja,
    I bought some original San Francisco starter (dehydrated). Can I pretty much replicate your starter method by adding water, Diastatic Barley Malt, and carraway seeds?

  4. My first started never “made”. Poured it out on day 14, even had the caraway seeds in from the beginning. Is it likely that your flour scoop is more than a tablespoon and it needs more flour in my starter?

    1. Hi Lois, there could be so many reasons your starter never took, some of them being the temperature in your kitchen too low, not stirring the starter, and even the possibility that you have never made a starter before (and the lack of ambient good bacteria). I encourage you to try again, use enough flour to create a pancake batter-like consistency, and keep me posted! Anja

    2. I accidentally forgot to stir for a couple of days and on day 6 there was black mold growing in it and on the sides. I’ve had it sitting in a crockery on my counter. Was the mold caused by the lack of stirring? I dumped it out and am starting over again. I am using the buttermilk and organic caraway seeds.

      1. Hi Laura, it’s hard to make a remote diagnosis but the most common cause for mold is either when the container wasn’t 100% clean (even soap residue) can do it or if you’re not using filtered water. I think you did the right thing by starting over again. Hope your next starter will be great ~ Anja

        1. My next batch worked and I’ve made bread a few times now, although I didn’t have a Dutch oven and had to use two bread pans on two occasions. I don’t bake a whole lot so I used your method of storage with lots of flour and on top and covered. I think it stayed in there about 3 weeks and there was some faint black mold again around the top and sides, but I scraped it off. I did use a clean container and filtered water. Yesterday, I used my cup of starter and didn’t have but a tablespoon left, so I fed with some extra flour and filtered water and letting it stay at room temp for awhile before putting back in fridge. I have a new Brandani cast iron 6.3 qt. 11” Dutch oven now, too, so looking forward to seeing how the next loaf turns out! Thanks! 😊

          1. Hi Laura, tap water and bleached flour can sometimes cause the SD starter to get moldy so I always recommend using filtered water and unbleached (ideally organic, too) flour. But it sounds like you are well on your way to successful sourdoughing! Happy baking ~ Anja

    3. I needed WAY more than 2-3 tb (as in 1/3-1/2 C!) of flour to make it the same consistency as Anja’s. It does work that way 🙂 Just look at consistency as your reference.

  5. My starter formed hooch on top should I mix it back in or pour it off
    There are bowls on top of the hutch
    Also my starter was really bubbly all the way to the top of the jar on the fourth day should I have used it then instead of waiting till the seventh day
    Thank you

  6. Pingback: Easy Sourdough Skillet Cornbread -

  7. Pingback: How to Make German Pretzels - Our Gabled Home

  8. Pingback: Cast Iron Sourdough Waffles - Our Gabled Home

  9. Pingback: How To Add Fermented Foods To Every Meal - Our Gabled Home

  10. Ive just come across your YouTube videos which I loved. I’d very much like to try making your sourdough recipe – as a non-milk user can you advise of what other base can you use?

  11. Pingback: All Your Sourdough Questions Answered - Our Gabled Home

  12. Thank you for sharing your recipe and tips Anja. I’m a total novice so would you mind letting me know how much flour to add to a starter before putting it in the fridge fir next time? Thanks Gail

    1. Hi Gail, I am so glad you like my sourdough starter method! I don’t know if I can give you exact measurements, especially since I don’t know how much starter you have. I simply add a lot of flour and mix it up. You want a very stiff dough. I have a video in which I explain that a bit better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POD2gRL799Q&t=258s Hope this helps but let me know if you have more questions 😊 ~ Anja

  13. Pingback: Sourdough 3D Easter Bunny Cake - Our Gabled Home

  14. Pingback: Sourdough Life-changing bread - Our Gabled Home

  15. 5 stars
    This starter works wonderfully, and no waste. Made a danish rye (rugbrod) and couldn’t ask for a better loaf of bread. Thank you for helping to make this so easy.

  16. Thank you for sharing your knowledge; site has me in awe. I can’t wait to bake bread. Your “Hearty Whole Grain Sourdough recipe calls for 1 1/2-2 cups of starter. Does your “Starter recipe” yield that amount of Starter, or will I have make a larger batch. In your videos, it does not appear you are using that much,

    1. Thank you for your comment! My challenge is that I cook and bake mostly by feel but then I need to come up with reliable amounts and measurements for my recipes and videos. You can absolutely use less starter and increase both the temperature (just a bit warmer) and the rise time. Hope this helps 💛 ~ Anja

    1. You can absolutely leave out the caraway seeds. I don’t even know exactly WHY we put them in there, other than my mom saying that they “help the sourdough” 😊

  17. So I am on day two with the kefir method. Lots of bubbles… Do I need to feed the starter? This doesn’t appear to be enough to bake with after seven days. Did I miss something?

  18. Really excited to try this, your method seems like it’d be perfect for how often I bake! Quick question though, are the caraway seeds necessary? What is the purpose of them? Mahalo for your time!

    1. Thank you and yes, this method is perfect for people who don’t bake very often. My mom recommended the caraway seeds but I couldn’t find any explanation why exactly they help the sourdough. However, they are not necessary at all, in fact, we may be the only people using them in their starter … Hope this helps ~ Anja

  19. Pingback: Best Homestead Kitchen Tools - Our Gabled Home

  20. Pingback: How and Why I wash my Hair with Rye Flour - Our Gabled Home

  21. Pingback: How to Make Sourdough Pasta - Our Gabled Home

  22. Pingback: ww88club

  23. Pingback: make money online

  24. Pingback: game bai doi thuong that

  25. Penny Lonergan

    Anja, could use Kefir as well? Or just buttermilk. I was one Pintrest looking for something else and saw your pin about Fermented foods. I love all you tips. I was never a big fan of Sauerkraut but Sauerkraut in Deutschland is SOOOOO different(LOVE IT NOW) than what I had eaten in the States. I am now a fan. Love all your tips on Sourdough bread and starter. I am going to try your starter with buttermilk. Will let you know how things go. Vielen Dank! Schoenes Tag!!!

    1. Thank you for your nice comment! I haven’t tried kefir but it could work. If you do use it, let me know how it worked. Danke und liebe Grüße!

  26. Pingback: Easy No-Knead Sourdough Bread - Our Gabled Home

    1. Although I have not tried that I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work – adding vinegar and lemon is a quick way to make buttermilk. Hope this helps and I’d love to hear your experience!

  27. I need to do this. I have found sourdough to be so intimidating but your method breaks it down step-by-step which is super helpful for someone like me!

  28. Making a starter is on my list of things to do this year! Thanks for giving me a push and reminding me that it’s really not that hard.

  29. Pingback: URL

  30. Pingback: Sourdough Bread From Scratch - Our Gabled Home

  31. I’ve tried several times to start my own sour dough but for some reason it hasn’t work for me yet. Your recipe is a little different than the others I’ve tried so maybe I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, my recipe is very different! First of all I am using buttermilk (which already adds good bacteria) and if you saw my video, my mom has always been adding caraway seeds. That starter came out beautifully and I just made the most delicious bread with it! Keep me posted and feel free to ask me questions! Hope your starter comes out nicely!!

  32. I have wanted to try making sourdough starter for a while now! I’m horrible at cooking though so I’ve been putting it off. Your recipe looks so easy to follow!

  33. Your site looks so nice! You have been working hard! My son is interested in making sourdough. He had a starter that recently died…RIP ha. We will definitely try your method!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating