Looking to start baking sourdough bread but not sure where to start? Here’s a guide for beginners with all the recipes and resources you need.
We know you’ve seen them: those beautiful sourdough bread loaves popping up all over Instagram. And this is a trend Alex and I can absolutely get behind! Baking sourdough bread is not just a satisfying life skill. It makes bread that’s loads cheaper, a little healthier, and a lot tastier than store-bought bread. But honestly: we mostly do it for the satisfaction. There’s nothing cooler than pulling a loaf out of the oven, with that intoxicating aroma, and knowing that you made it yourself.
Aside from being passionate sourdough bread bakers, Alex and I want to pass on the art. It took us 2 years to perfect the craft of baking sourdough bread. So we wanted to find a way to simplify it so that everyone could do it—not just super motivated sourdough nerds like us! Here’s everything you need to know about sourdough to get started. We think (hope) that it’s just the right amount of information and motivation to start your baking career.
“Your steps are so helpful. I’ve tried to make sourdough through the years and it’s never worked…until now! Your directions combined with video helped things click.” -Claire
Ready to get started?
Sourdough Bread Beginner Guide: Table of Contents
Here's our master recipe for sourdough bread! Sourdough bread can feel complicated, so we did everything we could to simplify the process. Our free online resource, Simplified Guide to Sourdough Bread includes:
-Tools list: There's list of tools you'll need, including links to get them if you don't have them already.
-Video: Because the bread shaping process is very tactile, the best way to teach it is to actually show you. We included a step-by-step video of Alex showing you the entire process of a real sourdough bread loaf being baked in our kitchen.
-Printable Checklist: Because there are a fair amount of steps to sourdough bread, Alex created a checklist so you can check off each step as you do it! He uses it to this day every time he makes a loaf.
The first step to sourdough bread? A sourdough starter. The starter is what makes sourdough bread rise. Instead of using active dry yeast like in other bread recipes, sourdough bread uses a starter. There are two ways to get a starter: you can buy one, or grow one—out of thin air!
Buy a starter: You can buy a starter online here. We've tested this one to make a sourdough loaf and it worked well.
Make a starter: Why not make a starter 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!
Once you have a sourdough starter, remember: it's alive! (Or he's alive! She's alive!) We actually recommend naming your starter so that you can remember to care for it like a pet. If you're a new mom or dad to a sourdough starter, the new responsibility might feel overwhelming!
Luckily, feeding and maintaining sourdough starter is quite simple. In order to have bread on the regular, you have to learn to feed sourdough starter to keep it happy and healthy. Here's how to feed sourdough starter, including how to tell if sourdough starter has gone bad.
Baking sourdough bread and need to troubleshoot your loaf? Questions about timing or how to store it? We’re here to help!
While we wish it was as straightforward as mac and cheese, sourdough bread has a lot of variability due to the science of the starter. It takes a bit of practice and troubleshooting to make great sourdough bread under the varying environmental conditions of your kitchen. Got questions? We’ve got answers. Head to our sourdough bread FAQ.
For more: Our book club read this novel called Sourdough: it’s fun if you like both fiction and baking!
More bread recipes
Love to bake? Here are some of our favorite bread recipes, from yeast breads to quick breads to focaccia to pita.
- Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
- Easy Vegan Cornbread
- Healthy Banana Bread
- Best Zucchini Bread
- Raspberry Braided Bread Recipe
- Tomato Sage Parmesan Cornbread
- Easy Chocolate Banana Bread
- Pita Bread Recipe
- Artisan Multigrain Bread
- 5 Reasons to Make Homemade Bread
- Garlic Herb Focaccia Bread
- Whole Grain Homemade Pita Bread
I followed the recipe and followed the instructions in the Sourdough Bread Checklist. Bread did not raise, it was very wet, did not hold shape. Was starter not good? I tried the float test, and it floated. But? What was wrong?
Hi! Did you check the temperature of your proofing area? A warm temp is essential to getting the starter to work. Also, if you’re not using King Arthur brand flours, you may want to adjust the liquid down a little.
Hi, well I made it ?and despite that it did not rise so much….no crock pot and tried to adapt to other methods, happy with taste, crust crunch. I think it is definitely a process that you learn from and adapt to hone the perfect loaf and your checklist really help me to keep track of where I was up to. It’s great to do the research but actually making it is where you learn?. Would have included a photo but unable to do this here.
Tried your recipe over the weekend and it turned out perfect! Thank you for all the information and checklist.
You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed :)
I love this recipe and have been using for months but I recently bought some fresh, cold milled flour and now it no longer works!
My breads are flat and gummy
I feel like perhaps it’s over proofing, but I’m really not sure
Hi! I’ve had this issue too and have been bummed. You’ll need to reduce the water content by about 40 grams to make it work (and still use bread flour along with it).
Ok thank you! Should I still follow along as per the recipe re timing?
Thanks again for responding!
Thank you so much!!!
Your recommendation of 40g less water solved the issue
Wish I’d thought to write you two weeks ago 😊
Do you have recommendations for favored sourdough such as raisin or garlic?
We don’t have any recipes for this, sorry!
I have been successfully making 2 loaves at a time. Tried to up it to 3 loaves at a time and did not get the rise I’m used to. Do I need to change the proofing times?
A friend gave me all the tools needed, your directions and the checklist as a retirement gift July 2020. She has created a “sourdough monster” as I just baked my 57th loaf this morning. Your process was so easy to follow, and as you can imagine, I now have it memorized. I continue to use the checklist, to remember what fold I am on and also to keep count of the number of loaves I have made. Just wanted to say, Thanks. (All my friends who are the recipients of my loaves thank you too!!!
This makes me so happy! Thanks for sharing and cheers to your next 57!