Sourdough Bread for Beginners

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.

Sourdough bread

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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