how to make your own sourdough starter

Learn how to make your own sourdough starter the easy way without measurements. No discards or daily feedings required!

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 bake with sourdough!!

And it’s just as 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 great, satisfying, and cheap to make your own?

I will show you how simple it is!

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 the 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 know 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 it 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 breads, sourdough breads stay fresh longer and are not as susceptible to mold.

How to make your own sourdough starter

As I said before, you can absolutely buy a starter from a good company (such as culturesforhealth.com or from 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 US, I had to make a new one. 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. You can try omitting the caraway seeds. My mom reminded me, though, that the starter will be better with them.

What do you need to make a sourdough starter?

ingredients for make your own sourdough starter

I used organic white wheat flour because that is what I had. You can also use rye flour or a combination of both. Rye actually works great with sourdough!

Next, I use buttermilk. I prefer using organic buttermilk or make your own. I thinned it down with just a bit of water and mixed the flour into it to form a thick but runny batter.

Even though I can’t speak from my own experience, I have heard that you are not supposed to use reactive ware with your sourdough. Thus, it does best in a glass jar, or ceramic crock, or something enameled. Just try to avoid stainless steel. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of caraway seeds into your starter.

Now, you stir it up, cover it loosely (beeswax wraps are perfect here), and put it in an undisturbed spot such as a window sill. Make sure there is no draft.

What to do over the next days:

Every day, you’ll want to check in with your sourdough starter. The first few days, you may notice some more bubbling but it may still be lacking the typical, pleasant sour smell. Don’t let that fool you!

After a few days, and it may take up to 7 days you will have your sour. It will smell sour (not like buttermilk) and it will bubble. 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.

To check for its ripeness, you can also drop a bit of it in water. If it floats, it’s ready. If it sinks, it needs to ferment another few days.

bubbling make your own sourdough starter

You have a sourdough starter – now what?

Congratulations! You have successfully made your own sourdough starter! You can either go ahead and bake bread (such as this European-style whole-grain bread or a lighter, artisan-style bread) or use it in other recipes, such as homemade sourdough pasta.

Pro Tip 😉:

One trick that I use when I am not sure about my starter is to add about 1 tsp of commercial dry yeast to whatever I am baking. You still get the long fermentation with the added insurance that your baked goods will rise nicely.

To keep your starter until the next time you bake, simply add a lot of flour to it, mix it into a stiff dough that’s hard to work, pour some flour on top, and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

This method is perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to do daily feedings of their sourdough starter and/or anyone who doesn’t bake very often.

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 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 breads ALWAYS come out different. Changes in the ambient temperature, humidity, wild yeasts in the air and in the flour all affect your sourdough.

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 averaged sized bread) to your dough to make sure it does rise!

If you have more questions, head over to this article in which I try to answer the most common questions about sourdough.

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

Print Recipe
5 from 4 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. 

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64 thoughts on “How to Make A Sourdough Starter”

  1. 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

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  6. 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?

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  8. 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

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  11. 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.

  12. 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” 😊

  13. 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?

  14. 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

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  21. 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!

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    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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

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  27. 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!!

  28. 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!

  29. 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!

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