Starting a Sourdough Starter

Making a sourdough starter isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just a few minutes a day will produce a bubbling, happy starter that will create beautiful breads, pancakes, and cakes that you can safely feed your family. I sound like an advertisement, don’t I?

But, it’s true. There is a wonderful sense of ‘providing’ when you can make healthier, more digestible baked goods and set them before your family – knowing it’s better for them.

There are several ways you can begin a sourdough starter. You can start one from the ‘wild’ yeasts in the air, or with an established starter purchased or from someone you know.

I purchased my sourdough online since I didn’t know anyone who already had one and trying to catch yeast from the air didn’t seem to have many raving reviews about its stability.

Once you get your sourdough starter, you’ll need to take care of it. It’s much like taking care of a dog or kids. Feed it. Water it. Watch it grow. Except this one stands still for more than two seconds and doesn’t leave holes in your flowerbed. There are just a few basic guidelines to follow:

Feeding Your Starter

A sourdough starter eats two things: flour and water, in equal amounts by weight. (This is roughly 2 parts water to 3 parts flour.) So, for example, if you feed your starter 2 oz. of flour then it needs 2 oz. of water.

When you feed it, you want to double the size of the starter. If you have a tablespoon of a dried sourdough culture to start with, then you’ll want to add equal amounts of flour and water (in weight) until it amounts to about 2 tablespoons total. If you have 1 cup of starter, then you’ll want to add equal amounts of flour and water (in weight) until it is about 2 cups total.

When your starter becomes good and bubbly (about 12 hours later) you feed it again.

Within 3 or 4 days, you should have a nice, bubbly starter. You’ll start to notice that after you feed your starter, it will rise and double it’s size. That’s good. That’s happy sourdough. It can take 3 to 6 hours to reach the peak of its rise, where it will stay for a while, and then start to deflate. If you’re gone during the day and don’t know if it’s risen or not, look at the sides of the container and see if there are streaks on the side. That is a good indicator that it’s risen and is now quiet again. If it’s not rising in the container, it won’t be able to raise your bread.

When your starter is about a week old and doubling in size after a feeding, it’s ready to graduate to baking.

Storing Your Starter

You can keep your starter at room temperature or in the refrigerator. There are pros and cons to each method.

1.) If you keep your sourdough in the refrigerator, you’ll only need to feed it once a month because it’s in a sort of ‘dormant’ state. Make sure you bring it out and let it warm to room temperature before feeding it. Then stick it back in the fridge with a lid. (Don’t fill more than half full and keep the lid loose to let gases escape.) If you’re going to use the starter in the next few days, leave it out and feed it every 12 hours or so.

If you’re not a big baker, or you’re going on vacation, this is probably the better option. I mark my calender to help remind me when it’s feeding time.

2.) If you keep your sourdough starter at room temperature, you’ll need to feed it about every 12 hours. If you are the forgetful type, keep your sourdough out where you can see it with a big yellow sticky note that says, “FEED ME!” If you aren’t feeding the starter often enough, it will not raise your products and will eventually die.

Of starvation.

That’s a horrible way to go. Please feed your starter. :)

This method works great if you bake a lot or have a large family and each of your recipes calls for several cups of starter.

At some point you may be feeding your starter more than you’re using it and you’ll feel like starter is coming out your ears. When you get to this point you have a couple of options.

  • dump half of the starter down the drain before feeding it again. (I know many people do this, but I just can’t get over the feeling that I’m wasting it.)
  • instead of dumping half of it, use it for a simple recipe like pancakes, biscuits, pizza crust, etc. and continue feeding the other half.

Want to learn more? Check out this video by GNOWFGLINS:



Shared with: A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, It’s A Keeper, Momnivore’s Dilemma, Sorta Crunchy, Healthy Home Economist, The Prairie Homestead, Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms, The Girl Creative, Motivate Me Monday, Skip To My Lou, Hartke is Online, Real Food Forager, Blessed With Grace, At Home With K, Cooking Traditional Tuesdays, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Women Living Well, Blue Cricket Designs, The King’s Court IV, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Gluten-Free Homemaker, The Thrifty Home, Raising Homemakers, This Chick Cooks, Nourishing Gourmet, Real Food Whole Health, The Shabby Nest, Life As Mom, Mom Trends, Coastal Charm, Vintage Wannabee, Time-Warp Wife, Confessions of A Frugal Mind, Far Above Rubies, Celebrating Family, Premeditated Leftovers, Rook No. 17, Milk & Cuddles, We Are That Family, Tip Me Tuesday, Food Corner, Make Your Own Mondays, Chef in Training, Kelly The Kitchen Kop, Flour Me With Love, The Modest Mom Blog, Little Natural Cottage, Real Food Freaks, Comfy in the Kitchen, Growing Home, Deep Roots at Home, Our Simple Country Life, Raising Mighty Arrows, Food Renegade, Our Simple Farm,

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I’m Paula - like many of you I wear a lot of hats. Child of God, wife of 17 years, mother of five, reluctant cook, full-time teacher, chocolate-snatcher, and children's author. Various family health issues including Lyme disease and candida has turned me into a 'researcher'. I don't have initials after my name, a degree in anything but motherhood, or a framed certificate on my wall. What I do have is a passion for understanding how our God-created bodies thrive or deteriorate based on what we put in it. Oh, and I also might mention homesteading, homeschooling, fitness, herbs, faith, and anything else I'm thinking about. . . like wow, I need to refill my tea. . .


  1. Jesalynn says

    Thanks for stopping by Homemaid Expressions! It was nice to "meet" you! It looks like we might have a lot in common! I will enjoy following your blog!

  2. Kim says

    Oh, I'm happy I stumbled across your blog, I've subscribed to your posts and look forward to reading them. I blog about the Mediterranean Diet which is very similar to what you blog about. Hope you'll come check it out. I love keeping a good sourdough starter around. The bread is so amazing… Sadly I got a little lazy with mine and let it go to far. Something to start up again for the new year.

  3. Paula says

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for stopping. I checked out your blog – it's great! You're right, we do chat about the same things – healthy eating, whole foods, etc. It's so nice to find others who share your passion. :)

  4. Paula says

    Deana@CountryMommaCooks – thanks for stopping by. From the looks of your site, we have a lot in common. Glad to meet you!

    Buffie – Sourdough pancakes are hard to beat, aren't they! Thanks for coming over!

  5. Jen says

    My goal in 2012 is to get my SD to work! Mine always looks and smells great. But after baking it is hard as a rock and dense!

  6. Karah @ thespacebetweenblog says

    Oh, this is such great info. Thank you for sharing. A few blog friends and I introduced a new challenge idea yesterday and it would be so fun if you want to join. One of the challengers is going to be trying to make homemade bread! If you have a second, check in at to learn more, and feel free to email me if you have any questions!
    Karah @ thespacebetweenblog

  7. Shannon, Food Channel Editor, says

    Loved this one too. Sometimes the neatest part of the Friday Food links is the stuff I learn. I had no idea how to do any of this.

    Thanks for linking up to Friday Food on!

  8. April @ The 21st Century Housewife says

    This is such an informative and interesting post! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience of sourdough starters with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  9. Jenn Erickson says

    I've been wanting to get a starter, well, uh… started! Thank you so much for recipe! Can't wait to try it! Featuring your post on my Facebook page today too!


  10. Ange says

    So cool that I ran across your blog about a sourdough starter. I'm going to start making my own bread, and I've been curious about starters ever since I read the book, "How to bake a good life". I look forward to getting more information from your blog.


  11. Lea H @ Nourishing Treasures says

    Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures' Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back later tonight when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)

  12. Lisa @ Flour Me With Love says

    This is wonderful information Paula! Thanks so much for sharing at Mix it up Monday :)

  13. Kim says

    I just wanted to let you know that it easy to make your own starter with wild yeasts from the air. It’s a great way to ” buy local” so to speak. I noticed in your blog that you seemed hestitant about harvesting wild yeasts, so i just wanted to share my experience.
    I used to worry about the bad yeasts from candida overgrowth taking over and somehow yucky it up into a cocktail of unhealthy slime. In fact, I found out my newborn daughter and I were battling a yeast issue was thru sourdough starter . I mixed flour and water in a jar and in less than 24 hours had a bubbly starter! It usually takes a 4 days to a week.
    Anyway, I dumped that starter in the compost and dealt with getting our thrush / candida under control. Two years later, I was ready to slowly introduce sourdough back into my life.
    This time when I mixed the flour and water it took about five days to get a bubbly starter.
    Sorry to ramble, my point is i think that the wild yeasts in your environment are breaking down those sugars in the and leaving you with helpful bacteria specific to your environment. Now, of course , I could just be telling myself that! I do think also even if you order a starter from somewhere else, perhaps the wild and
    dominant yeasts will take over anyway!
    So, thats my weird advice about wild yeast sourdough starter. My aim was not to creep folks out, but instead to encourage to at least try wild starters.

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