How to Use a Sourdough Starter: 9+ Easy Recipes (2024)

I know so many folks are eagerly baking right now (one of the side effects of coronavirus quarantine) , so today I want to give you some ideas for how to use your sourdough starter.

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There are many feelings that surround the current state of the world. (If you’re reading this in the future, we’re currently in 2020, the year of coronavirus, toilet paper and meat shortages, business closures, mask- wearing, and murder hornets…I know it sounds sci-fi like and, trust me, it feels that way.)

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Despite the challenging times, there is a glimmer of hope. Folks are turning to local farms and have returned to their kitchens and are now cooking at home (because when you’re not hustling 24/7 you have time to make nourishment a priority). I’ve also noticed the number of people outside, enjoying bike rides and playing with their kids. I know we’re all eager to get back to “normal life,” but I hope we don’t rush back too quickly. I hope we remember the practices we’ve developed during these “slower times.” I hope the sourdough starters continue to thrive, the home-cooked meals continue to be celebrated and enjoyed at our tables, farms continue to experience local demand, and we continue to embrace the beauty and joy that comes from getting outside and connecting with our loved ones. In a way, this virus situation has brought us back to the basics, back to what matters, and for that I’m grateful.

With the hope that all the sourdough starters that were created and loved on during quarantine continue to thrive post-corona, let’s talk about some ways to use that starter beyond just a loaf of crusty bread (which don’t get me wrong is amazing).

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

If you’re reading this post, my guess is that you already have an active sourdough starter. Or, maybe you’re about to make one and you’re doing some research on how to use your starter once it matures and becomes active. If you’re brand new to the idea of sourdough, then before we proceed on, let’s talk about what a sourdough starter is and why it’s the foundation for all sourdough recipes.

Any type of sourdough (whether pizza or bread or muffins or cake) is made by first creating a sourdough starter. A starter is simply a blend of water and flour and wild yeast. Wild yeast lives everywhere, so the intent of creating a sourdough starter is to capture naturally-occurring wild yeast and use it for baking bread. A sourdough starter is full of life, literally, in the form of healthy and active bacteria. According toDiscover Magazine(check out the article, it’s fascinating),“Sourdough is teeming with bugs—some 50 million yeasts and 5 billion lactobacilli bacteria in every teaspoon of starter dough.”

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This bacteria, when mixed with flour (and usually some water and maybe a few other ingredients) and given time (hours to rest and make a fermented dough), goes to work at breaking down (pre-digesting) the gluten and phytic acid found in grains. This makes sourdough easier to digest and full or beneficial nutrients.

Sourdough is truly a magical process. It’s fascinating to watch how something so simple (water, flour, and air) can create the most delicious breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, crackers, and so much more. (PS: If you have Netflix, I recommend watching Michael Pollan’s Cooked and the episode about Airwhich is all about fermentation and sourdough.)

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To make a starter, you’ll need flour, water, and patience. Here’s my tutorial for how to make a sourdough starter. You can also purchase one online or ask a friend.

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Where to Find Flour for Sourdough Baking

In order to make sourdough, you need flour. I’ve found the quality of your flour makes all the difference when it comes to making good sourdough. If you’ve been around the blog for long, then you know that I love einkorn flour. Einkorn is the original wheat, an ancient grain that hasn’t been hybridized. You can learn more about einkorn here. Einkorn is very easy to digest compared to most flours so I prefer to keep my einkorn for quick baking projects like quick breads (banana bread, etc.), muffins, biscuits, pie crusts, etc. Here are my favorite (non-einkorn) sources for quality whole wheat and all-purpose flours (the two flours I use most often for making sourdough bread)…

How to Use a Sourdough Starter

Recipes

Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite ways to use my sourdough starter. Along with the sourdough recipes below, I recommend picking up a copy of Artisanal Sourdough Made Simple. This book is my go-to for sourdough recipes. There are so many ideas for how to use a sourdough starter and every recipe is easy to make.

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Pizza

This is my go-to recipe right now to make on Friday night. On Friday morning, I feed my starter and by mid-morning make the dough. In the evening, we roll out the dough and make a couple of pizzas to share with the family. The pizza dough can be made with all-purpose flour or einkorn or a mix of wheat and all-purpose.

Focaccia

This is one of my favorite ways to use my sourdough starter. Trust me, make a focaccia and you’ll see why. Focaccia is a wonderful bread to eat as-is with soup or cut in half and enjoyed as a sandwich. For a quick lunch, I love to cut focaccia in half and top with a red sauce and cheese then broil for few minutes until the cheese is melty. The cookbook mentioned above (Artisanal Sourdough Made Simple) offers a few different variations, from a pesto version to a fresh tomato option. Here is an easy recipe for a basic focaccia.

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Muffins

It’s currently blueberry season in Florida so we’ve been making lots of blueberry muffins. This recipe starts by combining a sourdough starter with flour and water and then allows for an overnight fermentation period. In the morning, add a few other ingredients and bake the muffins. You can add a variety of mix-ins to this recipe. I use einkorn flour (since so little flour is used and I love the flavor), but there is room for variation with all-purpose or whole wheat flour.

Banana Bread

I’ve been experimenting with sourdough banana bread, using brown bananas leftover from the week. It’s so good! There’s a slight tangy and sweetness that’s unlike any other banana bread. This recipe only calls for a small amount of honey or maple syrup, too.

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Crackers

Crackers are a good way to use the discard from your starter. (Each day you have to toss half the starter and give the remaining sourdough a fresh feeding, the tossed sourdough is called the discard.) Crackers are a fun way to use that discard and enjoy a delicious and nourishing snack. Pair the crackers with cheese or some homemade hummus.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but it comes from one of my favorite recipe developers (Carrie was on the podcast back in season 2). The fermentation process that takes place in this recipe makes the cookies easier to digest and I’m sure the flavor is amazing.

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Chocolate Cake

We made this recipe over the weekend. I was skeptical because it’s just so stinkin’ simple, but simplicity is gourmet (as Hilary from Live Yum Yum says, another podcast guest). The kids made the recipe and then we topped the cake with buttercream frosting (this frosting cut in half). The cake was gone that night. We used einkorn flour, but the recipe calls for all-purpose so there’s room to work with what you have on hand. This cake is also dairy and egg free (see why I was skeptical), so it’s great for anyone with an allergy or anyone wanting to use pantry ingredients and a sourdough starter to make a delicious cake.

Garlic Knots

This recipe is sooooo good and comes from the book I mentioned above (Artisanal Sourdough Made Simple). Fresh roasted garlic is added to this sourdough recipe to make the best garlic knots you’ve ever had. I made the knots recently for a friend who had a baby and her family couldn’t stop raving about them. Naturally, my family was quite jealous so I had to make another batch for our family the next night. Not a bad problem to have.

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Pancakes

This recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but I’ve made them with einkorn and they’re so good! A nice addition to our favorite pancake recipes (found on the blog) and a great way to use my sourdough starter.

Waffles

Sourdough waffles are another favorite in our home: light and fluffy with a slight sourdough tang. I think your family will love them, too. This recipe is my go-to right now. I usually make the recipe with all-purpose einkorn flour.

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Kristin Marr

Kristin is the creator and editor-in-chief of Live Simply. Kristin is married to her high school sweetheart, Dustin, and is the mom to two kids and two free-roam (litterbox-trained) bunnies, Leo and Estela. Kristin started Live Simply in 2013 to share her passion for real food and natural living.

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How to Use a Sourdough Starter: 9+ Easy Recipes (2024)

FAQs

What else can I use my sourdough starter for? ›

10 ways to use up sourdough starter
  • Sourdough crumpets. Add your sourdough starter to crumpet batter for a super light and airy texture. ...
  • Sourdough crackers. ...
  • Sourdough pancakes. ...
  • Sourdough pizza.
  • Sourdough scones. ...
  • Sourdough focaccia. ...
  • Sourdough toad-in-the-hole. ...
  • Sourdough hot cross buns.

How do you feed a sourdough starter for dummies? ›

To Activate Your Sourdough Starter:
  1. Place starter in a vessel. ...
  2. Add 45 g each of all-purpose flour and room-temperature water. ...
  3. Wait. ...
  4. When the starter has roughly doubled in volume, it's likely ready to go. ...
  5. If it doesn't float after 24 hours, add more flour and water (equal parts), stir again, and wait.
Nov 7, 2019

When can I use sourdough starter discard in recipes? ›

Remember, you can't use the discard from your homemade sourdough starter for the first 7 days. You can use sourdough discard in all kinds of sourdough discard recipes, including these no wait sourdough recipes, overnight sourdough discard recipes and sourdough discard recipes that use up a lot of discard.

How do you use a store bought sourdough starter? ›

ACTIVATING THE SOURDOUGH STARTER
  1. Pour the entire contents of the package into a quart-sized jar or similar container.
  2. Add ¼ cup room-temperature water; mix well.
  3. Add ¼ cup flour; stir vigorously.
  4. Cover with a tight-weave towel or a coffee filter, secured with a rubber band.

Do you have to discard sourdough starter every time you feed it? ›

It would be best if you discarded some portion of your starter each time you feed it unless you want to continue to let it grow. Eventually, you need to discard the used “food” (flour and water) that's been used to sustain your starter during the last fermentation period.

Can you use sourdough starter to ferment other things? ›

Sourdough Starter

This is obviously well-suited to grain dishes and baked goods, but can also be used to culture beans, fruits, and even vegetables. You can also use sourdough bread to make kvass, which has a bread-yeast beer flavor.

What happens if I forgot to discard starter before feeding? ›

If you didn't discard a portion of your starter each time you feed it, two things would happen: Your starter would grow to an enormous, unmanageable size. Your starter would likely become more and more inhospitable to the bacteria and yeast we want as the mixture would become ever more acidic.

Can I refrigerate sourdough starter discard? ›

You can store mature sourdough discard in the refrigerator indefinitely. As long as there is no mold, it is good to use. It may develop a grayish liquid on top called “hooch” which can be poured off before use or stirred in. If you stir it in, the flavor will become more sour.

What happens if you don t discard sourdough starter before feeding? ›

Discarding some first allows you to add this fresh food, whilst maintaining your starter at a manageable size. Not discarding your starter will also affect the flavor of your starter. Not discarding before you feed will cause too much acidity which may eventually be detrimental to your microbes.

How do I know how much sourdough starter to use? ›

Common feeding ratios for sourdough starters include:
  1. 1:1:1 Ratio: This ratio means using equal parts of flour, water, and starter by weight. ...
  2. 1:4:4 Ratio: This ratio involves using four times the weight of flour and water compared to the starter.
Aug 29, 2022

What is the best flour for sourdough starter? ›

The best flour blend for creating a new sourdough starter is 50% whole-meal flour (whole wheat or whole rye) and 50% bread flour or all-purpose flour. I recommend a 50/50 mix of whole wheat flour and bread flour. Why do you need to use these two types of flour?

Where is the best place to put sourdough starter? ›

Sourdough starter can be stored on the counter or in the refrigerator. "If you're someone who bakes sourdough bread more than a couple of times a week, keep your starter in a cool, dry place. If you don't bake every week, keep it in the refrigerator," Pellegrinelli explains.

What do you do with sourdough starter when not using it? ›

Storing: Crumble Into Dry Flour

This is by far my preferred method for long-term sourdough starter storage. Place a large dollop of your ripe sourdough starter in the bottom of a large bowl. Cover the starter with lots of flour—you can use the same flour used for feedings or 100% white flour.

What can I do with sourdough starter when not baking? ›

Store it in the fridge when you aren't using it. Feed it once every week or so, and always right before you bake a loaf of bread. Put it back in the fridge after you've fed and used it. Use excess starter to make 'sourdough discard' recipes (there are so many on the internet!).

How long does sourdough starter last? ›

As we have seen, a sourdough starter can last indefinitely with proper care and maintenance. So, don't let your starter go to waste – nurture it, experiment with it, and let it be your trusted companion on your sourdough journey for years to come.

Can you freeze sourdough starter? ›

Sourdough starter stored in the fridge will stay in good shape for the occasional baker who might be making a loaf or two every couple of weeks. But if you need to store it longer—for instance, if you won't be baking much in the summer—the freezer is your best option.

References

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