This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

You can make a starter for bread at home out of thin air! Learn how to make sourdough starter with this step-by-step recipe.

Don’t miss our recipe for the best sourdough bread in the world.

Stirring the starter
Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!

Are you looking to start baking sourdough bread at home? As part of our series How to Make Sourdough Bread (The Simplified Guide), we’re showing you how to make sourdough starter at home! A sourdough starter is essential for making sourdough bread. Though you can order one online or find one from a friend, why not make it at home? It’s simple and requires very little hands on time. Wait for 5 days, and you’ll have grown your own starter—out of thin air!

Buy it: To shortcut the process, you can buy a starter instead! We’ve tested this starter and it works well: Buy a sourdough starter

Watch the video to learn the process!

But first, here’s a video about the process. Watch Alex show you how to make this sourdough starter recipe!

Sourdough bread sliced

What is sourdough starter?

A sourdough starter, also called levain, is a fermented dough filled with natural, wild yeast and a bacteria called lactobacilli. The starter is what makes sourdough bread rise. Instead of using active dry yeast like in other bread recipes, sourdough bread uses a starter. Along with leavening the bread, the starter also brings that classic sour flavor.

A starter is literally full of life! There are 50 million yeasts and 5 billion lactobacilli bacteria in every teaspoon of starter dough. Sound weird? Actually, humans have been doing this for thousands of years; the process is as old as bread itself. For over 5,000 years, humans have mixed flour and water, waited for it to ferment, and then used it as leavening for bread. Ready to take part in the ancient practice of making a sourdough starter for yourself?

Interested in the science behind sourdough starter? Read more here.

Sourdough starter

Background on how to make sourdough starter

Making this sourdough starter recipe is a simple process. You simply mix together flour and water, and then wait, wait, and wait some more for the yeast and bacteria to do their thing! It’s a 5 to 6 day process that mostly consists of waiting. For our sourdough starter recipe, we use a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour to give the start a jump start. Once the starter is active and vibrant, we switch to all purpose flour for regular feeding of the starter.

And that’s right, we said feeding a starter! Since this little dude is alive, you’re going to have to feed him or her regularly. See our post on How to Feed a Sourdough Starter. You may want to give him a name too! (Ours is named Starty. Original, right?)

Scroll down to get our full recipe for how to make sourdough starter, below!

Loaf of sourdough bread

What you need to make your own sourdough starter

Luckily, you don’t need too many special tools for making this starter recipe. (Don’t worry, you’ll need special tools when we get to How to Make Sourdough Bread!) Here’s what you need for making sourdough starter at home:

Active sourdough starter bubbling

What to make with sourdough starter

One more thing before we get down to it: what can you make with starter? Homemade sourdough bread, obviously! Here’s our How to Make Sourdough Bread, complete with printable to make the process pretty simple.

Beyond bread, there are all sorts of things you can make with sourdough starter: pancakes, waffles, cookies, pizza crust, and muffins. Check out some uses here: Beyond the Loaf: The Many Uses of Sourdough.

Related posts

This post is one of three in our series on making sourdough bread:

Sourdough starter in a jar

This recipe is… 

This sourdough starter recipe is vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, and dairy-free.

Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Sourdough starter | Best sourdough bread recipe | how to make sourdough starter

How to Make Sourdough Starter


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 days
  • Total Time: 5 days
  • Yield: 1 starter

Description

This sourdough bread starter recipe shows how to make sourdough starter from scratch. No need to order online, you can make a starter for bread right at home!


Ingredients

  • Whole wheat flour
  • All-purpose flour
  • Room temperature filtered water

Instructions

  1. Day 1: Use a kitchen scale to add 25 grams whole wheat flour, 25 grams all-purpose flour, and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. The mixture should look like a thick paste. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours. The temperature of your room can have a big effect on the speed at which your starter grows. Ideally, you want to be between 68 and 72 degrees. The starter will not flourish in cooler temperatures.
  2. Day 2: You may or may not see a few bubbles starting to appear in the starter. Either way, discard about half of the starter and add the same ingredients to the jar: 25 grams whole wheat flour, 25 grams all-purpose flour, and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours.
  3. Day 3: You will likely see a few more bubbles today. The starter should start to smell a little bit sour (in a good way!) Again, discard half of the starter. Today, you’ll switch to using only all-purpose flour. Add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours.
  4. Day 4: You should see a lot more bubbles and the starter should increase in volume. Follow the same process: discard half of the starter. Add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours.
  5. Day 5: The starter will be very bubbly and double in volume. It will have a funky sour smell that indicates the magic of sourdough is ready to happen! This starter is ready to use! Follow our instructions for feeding and maintaining a starter to keep it alive on the long term.

Notes

Depending on your room temperature conditions, it might take several more days of the same process to get the starter to be really bubbly and active!

  • Category: Baking
  • Method: Fermented
  • Cuisine: French

Looking for more sourdough recipes? 

Once you’ve baked your first loaf of sourdough, there are so many ways you can enjoy it! A few of our fave sourdough recipes are:

Looking for more homemade bread recipes?

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

137 Comments

  1. Mandy Bohanek says:

    Hi, I am new and this is my first attemp to make a sourdough starter. Each day I get a smooth hard layer on the top of the mix. It didn’t rise or produce any bubbles either. I discarded the hard top layer and just added the flour and water to what was remaining but still no rise or bubbles. What am I doing wrong?

  2. Randall James Lafferty says:

    . . . excellent a pair of healthy people . . . happiness and long life . . . thanks for sharing . . .

  3. Deb Robichaud says:

    Hi,
    I just read through your directions on making the sourdough starter,, simple and strait forward! Now looking forward to giving it a try , Thankyou for sharing!

  4. Jovita says:

    Have you ever tried a gluten free version? I made your wonderful sourdough bread for my husband and he loves it but I have celiac disease and can’t eat that. It smells soooo good!






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’m sorry! We don’t have any experience with gluten free.

See More Comments