How to make a sourdough starter


Confession time……this is probably the 4th time I’ve made a sourdough starter. My first attempt was back in 2012 when I was just starting out with Real Food and surprisingly it went well! I had a nice bubbly starter and even made delicious sourdough biscuits out of it. Unfortunately, I was not a good sourdough mama and my starter died of starvation in the back of my fridge. Since then I’ve attempted to make sourdough 2 other times and was not able to recreate it. I was determined to make it work this time and it did!

What is sourdough?

Sourdough is basically an ancient fermented dough from naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacillus bacteria. Yeast and lactobacillus found in the air will eat up the sugar from the flour and create gas which will allow your bread to rise naturally. Because the flour is already partially digested by the bacteria, it will be easier for our bodies to digest the final product (like a loaf of bread, tortillas, biscuits, etc.) Sourdough also breaks down phytic acid so that we can get more nutrients out of the resulting product.

The ingredients needed for a sourdough starter are simply water and flour in a 1:1 ratio.

Water– Use filtered water to avoid chlorine. Chlorine will kill your lactobacillus bacteria before it even has a chance to colonize in your jar.

Flour– The yeast and bacteria will eat the flour in order to multiply and thrive. You can use any grain based flour. I like to use organic, unbleached all-purpose flour.

You’ll also need an impeccably clean glass jar, wooden spoon, coffee filter and a rubber band. The process can take anywhere from 5-7 days depending on the temperature in your house.

Day 1:
Add ½ cup flour and ½ cup warm water to a jar and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Cover top of jar with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. This will allow wild yeast to collect in your jar, while at the same time keeping out little critters and bugs. Keep jar in a warm place and make sure to not keep your sourdough jar near other ferments or else they can cross. Let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2:
Time to feed your hungry starter! Do this twice a day, 12 hours apart…so morning and then again at night. Add ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup water to jar and mix well and cover once more. Try to keep it in a warm place in your kitchen. I like to keep mine in the oven with the light on. It creates a nice, warm environment.

Day 3-7:
Keep feeding your starter twice daily with ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup water. You should start to notice bubbles forming and a sour smell developing. The starter may also separate. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about. Liquid forming is normal, but if it turns dark just pour it off. It’s not harmful but some say it can affect the taste.

That’s it!

You now have an awesome sourdough starter with wild yeast and bacteria collected from your own kitchen! You can start cooking with it right away or store it in your fridge to use later. Always remember to feed your hungry starter at least once a week to keep it alive and going. Just take it out of the fridge and feed it in the 1:1 ratio of flour to water.  I will place mine back in the oven with the light on during this time and after a few hours move it back to the fridge.

If you aren’t planning on using your starter for a while then make sure to throw some out along the way so that as you keep feeding it weekly, your jar won’t run out of room to house it.

It can take a while for your sourdough starter to make a great loaf of bread, so don’t jump into baking bread right away. Instead use it for things like tortillas, biscuits, crackers, etc.

Here’s how my starter went:

Day 1. Here is what the starter looked like right after mixing the flour and water. There’s no bubbles or activity at all. Some starters may continue to look like this for several days so be patient….but……

Check out my starter just a few HOURS later! There is already some activity forming! This is when I knew I’d finally have a successful starter again, but like I mentioned above, it may take you several days to notice anything happening. I just happened to get lucky 🙂


Here is what my set up looks like. I like to keep it in the oven with the light on in order to create warmth. The jar is covered with a coffee filter and a rubber band.


Morning of Day 2. Here is  what my starter looked like the next morning before I fed it. There were more bubbles and fermentation occurring since last night.


Evening of Day 2
. This picture was taken before I fed the starter for the 2nd time that day. You can see just how much more activity has happened since the morning.


You can start to see bubbles on the sides of the jar too.


Here is an example of the starter starting to separate. This isn’t a big deal. You can just mix it all up again when you are doing your feedings. If you get liquid on the top then you can pour that out.

I stopped taking pictures at this point because all the rest of the days pretty much looked the same. I kept feeding it twice a day until day 7. Between days 4-7 I fed it just 1 Tablespoon of flour and 1 Tablespoon of water twice a day. You can keep feeding it the original 1/4 cup but I didn’t want to end up with too much starter so I cut down the amount.

Later in the week I made sourdough tortillas. I just mixed some of the starter with flour, olive oil and salt and let it sit out overnight. I was surprised and happy to see how much the dough had risen already, but I still plan on waiting a while to bake bread.

While I liked the taste of the tortillas, I did not love them as much as my usual, non-sourdoug version. I know the fault was not in the sourdough, but in skipping the lard and opting for olive oil as the new recipe I was following suggested. Lesson learned, always use tried and true lard for tortillas! I get local, pastured lard and it’s so good! I plan on trying out crackers and another batch of biscuits for my next sourdough projects!

Here is the tortilla sourdough after resting overnight on the counter. It had risen quite a lot already and there were plenty of bubbles happening.
Shared at Down Home Blog Hop.

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