How To Make A Sourdough Starter in 5 Days

Have you ever taken a bite of bread and found yourself wondering if you could make something equally as good, if not better? This is the ultimate guide to show you how to make your very own Sourdough Starter using simple ingredients, no speciality equipment, and ready to use in just 5 days – but also how to maintain it for years to come! Used for a variety of things from sweet delicious baked goods to your favorite crusty loaf of bread. Sourdough Stater is one of the essential things to learn how to make!

sourdough starter in a glass jar on a marble counter with a white napkin

About The Recipe

Honestly, It takes less than 5 minutes a day for 5 days to make a starter. Think about that. With a total time of 25 minutes spread over just a few short days, you can have at your fingertips the basis of so many wonderful recipes! You don’t even need yeast!

I made my first starter over 20 years ago. It was a really complicated process I found in a bread book somewhere, and boy could that thing could eat! It ate through an entire 5 pound bag of flour a day!

Needless to say, that was waaaaay too expensive to keep up.

sourdough starter in a glass jar

So, after a few years of tinkering, I came up with this method for making sourdough starter. I’ve had the one I use today for about 15 years now. It has moved with me from Mississippi to Florida to North Carolina!

Not only did the starter not die on me during the moves, it only needed a couple of days of feeding to revive it!

Now, I’ve made a brand new starter using my new method for this post just so you can see how to make your very own and share even more delicious recipes with you guys.

sourdough starter in a glass jar with a white napkin and a container of flour

Equipment Needed

Ingredients

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Water
  • Barley Malt
ingredients for sourdough starter on a marble counter

Instructions

Start by combining the whole wheat flour, water, and malt in your clean jar.

Now, let it sit out on the counter overnight! Next day, combine bread flour, honey (or barley malt), and water. Mix together and let it sit once again!

Only three more days! Now, for the next three days, just add flour and water. Always let it sit out on the counter overnight!

And you’re done! You now have your very own sourdough starter.

How To Take Care of My Sourdough Starter

It’s actually very easy! Starting at Day 5 after you feed the starter, let it ferment for an hour or so at room temperature, then put it in the fridge. The next day, an hour or two before you are ready to begin baking, remove your starter from the refrigerator. This allows it time to warm up a bit and come to life again. It should be bubbly when you use it!

After you finish using it, feed it again, let it ferment for an hour or so, and return it to the fridge!

TroubleShooting

Why Is It Runny

If your starter is runny, it’s because it has eaten through all the flour you fed it with. Stir it, pour some off, and feed it again! Let it ferment for a hour or so, and put it in the refrigerator.

Why Is My Starter Separating

If your starter is separating, it’s because it’s gone way too long without feeding! The clear liquid on top is actually pure alcohol, but don’t worry! It’s easily fixed. Stir the liquid back in, pour some of the starter out, feed it, and return it to the refrigerator. It will probably take a couple of days of feeding to restore that sweet yeasty smell.

Does Sourdough Starter Need To Be Refrigerated

Technically, no. It actually doesn’t. In professional kitchens, starter is kept at room temperature and fed on a schedule based around their baking schedule. That means it needs to be fed every few hours, and there is someone on every crew who is responsible for doing that!

However, in a home kitchen where you may not be baking every day, it’s best to refrigerate it. Refrigeration slows down the feeding schedule! How cool is that?

Substitutions

  • If you don’t have barely malt, feel free to use honey instead.
sourdough starter in a glass jar with a white napkin and a container of flour

Expert Tips

  • Healthy sourdough starter has a sweet, yeasty smell.
  • A new starter doesn’t have as much sourdough flavor as an older starter!
  • Always use a glass container with a loose fitting lid to keep your starter in.
  • Sourdough does not react well to stainless steel!
  • Sourdough tastes different in different parts of the country, based on the type of yeast in the air. If you move and take your sourdough starter with you, the flavor will change based on the airborne yeast in your new location. Crazy, right?
  • You can use sourdough starter for a variety of recipes, not just bread!

When you make this recipe and if you find this helpful, please leave a comment down below! We love hearing from you and answering any questions you might have! Also, be sure to tag us on social media and hashtag it #BakersTable.

sourdough starter in a glass jar with a white napkin

How to Make a Sourdough Starter in Five Days

Traci
A simple but essential recipe in every baker's kitchen! This is the ultimate guide to show you step-by-step on how to make your very own sourdough starter in just five days.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Breads
Cuisine French
Servings 1 quart
Calories 455 kcal

Ingredients
 

Day 1

  • Clean glass jar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon barley malt or honey

Day 2

  • 1 cup bread flour
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon barley malt or honey

Day 3

  • 1 cup bread flour
  • ¾ cup water

Day 4

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups water

Day 5

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups water

Instructions

Day 1:

  • Combine flour, water, and malt.
  • Cover jar with a loosely fitting lid or plastic wrap.
  • Set in a warm, draft free place for 24 hours.

Day 2:

  • Uncover jar and stir ingredients.
  • Stir in flour, water, and malt.
  • Cover jar again and set back in a warm, draft free place for 24 hours.

Day 3:

  • Uncover jar. There should be a little bubbling in the mixture.
  • Mix.
  • Stir in flour and water.
  • Cover jar again and set in a warm draft free place for 24 hours.

Day 4:

  • Uncover jar. There should be more bubbles, and the mixture should be starting to smell sweet.
  • Stir together.
  • Add flour and water and stir together.
  • Cover again and place in a warm, draft free place for 24 hours.

Day 5:

  • Uncover jar. Mixture should be bubbly and have a sweet aroma.
  • Stir together, then pour off half the mixture.
  • Add flour and water. Stir.
  • Cover again and place in refrigerator.

Notes

  • Healthy sourdough starter has a sweet, yeasty smell.
  • A new starter doesn't have as much sourdough flavor as an older starter!
  • Always use a glass container with a loose fitting lid to keep your starter in.
  • Sourdough does not react well to stainless steel!
  • Sourdough tastes different in different parts of the country, based on the type of yeast in the air. If you move and take your sourdough starter with you, the flavor will change based on the airborne yeast in your new location. Crazy, right?
  • You can use sourdough starter for a variety of recipes, not just bread!

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 455kcalCarbohydrates: 95.4gProtein: 12.9gFat: 1.2gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 10mgFiber: 3.4gSugar: 0.3g

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

When you make this recipe, remember to tag @abakers_table or hashtag it #BakersTable!

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22 Comments

  1. Do you mind if we share your posts – as long as we link back to the original page and give full credit of course? I just discovered your site and am loving it 🙂

    1. Hi, Maria! Barley malt is an unrefined sweetener. It is used in breads to help the yeast along and to help the crust brown. You can use either the syrup or the powder. Either will work. If you use the powder, make sure it is diastatic malt powder. Hope that helps!

  2. Hey Traci,
    I noticed that on day one it says whole wheat flour buy on the next days it says bread flour. Is that correct or does it matter if I would continue to use whole wheat flour instead of bread flour?
    TIA!

    1. Hi MaryAnn! It is correct. You need the whole wheat flour to jump start the process, but you don’t want to continue to use just whole wheat. You need the bread flour to balance it out. Using just whole wheat will make your breads heavy and dense.

  3. I have a starter that I’ve used for a while, but thought I’d like to try yours. Got a question for you, do you discard any of the starter as you are making it? Other recipes I seen say to discard a portion each day.

    1. Hi Debbie! I don’t pour off anything for the first 4 days. I start pouring off half on day 5. My starter makes a bit more than most that you find.

  4. Hi, Traci, I have always wanted to make sour dough bread starter and I’m using your recipe to do it. Thank you! I have questions. Why do you throw 1/2 of the starter away? Isn’t that wasteful? Can I use the part that I’m throwing away to make something with it? When starting the starter, it asks for wheat flour. You said that using more wheat flour would make the bread dense. What do I do if I want wheat bread? Is sour dough just white?
    Thanks Traci!

    1. Hi Kristy! You need to throw the starter out the first time. That will be your first real feeding. Before that you may not get very much kick or as rounded a flavor. After that, cook with it. The principal behind not adding only wheat flour to the sourdough is the same as baking a loaf of wheat bread. You have to have regular flour mixed in or you wind up with a dense, inedible loaf. You can certainly add wheat flour in instead of bread flour occasionally. I do every time I feel like it needs a little bit of a pick-me-up. If you want to maintain more of a wheat starter, you’ll have to mix the wheat flour half and half with your bread flour. Just be aware that you may need to proof your bread a bit longer. And finally, you don’t need an all wheat starter to bake wheat bread.The sourdough is there for the flavor and if you are baking a true sourdough (no yeast), for the rise. Just add it in to your bread recipe. Let me know if I can be of further help.

  5. On day 5 it says throw away 1/2 about how much is that? And then when I feed it how much do I feed it with?

    1. Hi Bobbi! Half doesn’t have to be exact. You can just eyeball it. Sourdough starter is very forgiving! If you want an exact amount, you can pour the starter into a measuring cup and pour off half. The amount you feed is equal to at least the amount you have left. You can use a formula of 4 parts flour to 3 parts water by volume. For example, if you have 2 cups of starter left over, you feed 2 cups of flour and 1 1/2 cups water. I hope that helps!

      1. That does help me a lot. Do I dump 1/2 every day if I leave it out or if I put it in the fridge once week? Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions. I’m excited to bake with it today was day 5 😊

        1. Hi Bobbi! I’m always happy to help!!! If you leave it out on the counter, it needs to be fed several times a day. That really is only necessary if you are baking a lot of loaves a day like you would in a professional environment. If you keep it in the refrigerator, you can take it out, let it come to room temperature, pour off the amount you need, feed it, and put it back in the fridge. If you don’t bake everyday, you don’t have to feed it everyday. It will keep. At the risk of repeating myself, sourdough is very forgiving. Just remember to refresh (feed) it for a couple of days before baking. Please let me know how your bread turns out!

  6. Hi, on day 5 and after discarding half of starter do you feed it as in day 1 or as in day 4. Also, can the discarded half be fed as in day 1 or day 4 to start a new recipe that can be given away to friends and neighbors?

    1. Hi Martha! Just like it says in the recipe card, you feed Day 5 the same as Day 4 (2 cups bread flour, 1 1/2 cups water). You always want to make sure that you are doubling the amount of starter you have left. The discard can absolutely be shared! However, I would wait until after Day 5 to make sure that you have a fully fledged starter. If you are sharing the discard, the recipient just needs to pick up at Day 4 and move forward from there. If you have any more questions, please feel free to reach out!

  7. Hi,
    Really like the directions and recipe. But how often do you need to feed while storing in the refrigerator?
    Thx

    1. Hi Mike! Sourdough starter is very forgiving! If you bake a lot, feed it every day. If you bake once or twice a month, start back feeding it 2-3 days before you plan to use it. If you leave it for longer and there’s any clear liquid (“hooch”) that has accumulated on top, just pour it off before you feed it. Let me know if you have any other questions. I’m always happy to help!

  8. I just finished day 5 and placed it in the fridge. I will make your biscuits Thursday. Do I take it out use the 1 1/2 cups then feed it?How much flour and water do I use? I will be an infrequent baker in one comment you said take it out and feed it 2 to 3 days prior to baking. How much flour/water? Do I pour some off before feeding it? Does it go back in the fridge?Specifics please for infrequent baking and maintaining. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jill! When I said feed it a couple of days before, I meant feed it each day starting a couple of days before. So, tomorrow take it out, pour off half, and feed it 2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water. Do the same thing again on Wednesday. Set the starter out about an hour or so before you are ready to start the biscuits so that it can start to come to room temperature. When you have finished, you can pour off another 1/2 cup or so; then feed it. Put it back in the fridge until you are planning to bake again. And most importantly, relax. Sourdough starter is very forgiving. It’s nearly impossible to do anything to it that can’t be fixed. I’m always happy to help if you have more questions.

      1. Thank You! So after baking with the 1 1/2 cups then pouring off an additional 1/2 cup, I feed with 2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water. Correct?