A Beginner's Basic Sourdough Starter Using Yeast

Beginner basic sourdough starter recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 5 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 bowl (serves 15)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
63 Calories
0g Fat
13g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 bowl (serves 15)
Amount per serving
Calories 63
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 4mg 0%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 24mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Homemade sourdough bread begins with a sourdough starter. Bakers are known to covet a healthy starter and care for it as if it were a treasured family heirloom. If you haven't made a sourdough starter before, this easy recipe is a good place to begin.

A starter is a homemade yeast for bread. With regular yeast bread, you can use a store-bought packet of active dry yeast. Sourdough breads, on the other hand, get their flavor from wild yeast that is naturally found in your kitchen. Capturing a good yeast from the environment alone can sometimes be tricky, so this recipe gets help from a bit of store-bought yeast to kick-start the process.

Once the starter has had a chance to bubble up and grow more yeast, you can use it in sourdough bread recipes. A sourdough starter can be kept alive for months, or even years, with proper care. Remember, yeast is a living organism, and this starter certainly has a life of its own.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 1 (7-gram) package)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for basic sourdough starter
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. In a ceramic bowl, add the warm water and yeast. Mix with a wooden spoon until the yeast is dissolved.

    Add warm water and yeast
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Stir in the flour and mix until smooth.

    Stir in flour
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Pour the starter into a plastic container that is at least four times larger than the liquid amount of the starter (such as a 1/2-gallon ice cream container). This will allow room for the starter to expand.

    Pour starter in container
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Cover the container with a cloth napkin and hold in place with a rubber band.

    Cover with a cloth napkin
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Set the starter in a warm spot for five days, stirring once a day.

    Set starter in warm spot
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Refrigerate (or freeze) and use it as needed. At least once a week, feed your starter with equal amounts of water and flour to keep it alive. The recommended amount to feed your starter is 1 cup (110 grams) of flour and 1/2 cup (110 grams) of water. First, remove 1 cup of starter into a new bowl (this is the starter you're going to replenish). You can use the remaining starter for a bread recipe, discard it, or make something super delicious like a sourdough scallion pancake. Then feed the starter in the clean bowl with the 1 cup (110 grams) of flour and 1/2 cup (110 grams) of water.

    Starter in a plastic cup
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Keep Your Sourdough Starter Alive

While you can certainly experiment with different starters, the key to any of them is to keep them alive and give them time. Feeding your starter is very easy. There are three basic things that you need to remember: The starter needs to be replenished after using, refrigerating a starter requires less attention, and daily feeding is required when stored at room temp.

When you use your starter to bake a loaf of bread, it needs to be replenished. To feed your culture, simply add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to the container and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour before returning to the refrigerator.

Many bakers choose to refrigerate their starter because it slows down the culture's growth. It also means that you only need to feed it once a week. However, if you don't have room in the fridge for your culture, you can store it at room temperature. Keep it away from extreme heat and humidity, and make sure you feed it once a day.

Tips

  • Don't forget to feed your starter. If you don't feed your culture on a regular basis, it can die. Often, this can take a few weeks, but yeast is a fragile organism and you may have far less leeway under certain conditions. Make a habit of feeding it, working this simple chore into your daily or weekly routine.
  • It's also important that you regularly use your starter to make bread. Just letting it sit and feeding it does no good for the culture or you. The culture will be healthier if used, and you get to enjoy fresh sourdough bread.
  • If you don't have time to bake some sourdough bread, you can put the starter into hibernation and freeze or refrigerate it until you need it.

Additional Sourdough Starters

The starter is the most important element in making great sourdough bread. Many bakers seek out and exchange starters with others throughout the world, and some starters have been kept alive for an extraordinary amount of time.

Sourdough starters take on the characteristics of their environment. The air in your kitchen is completely different than that of your neighbor, so your sourdough bread will have a unique taste. Each microenvironment plays a big role in the wild yeasts that develop and the subtle flavors of the final bread.

This recipe is just one way to begin a basic sourdough starter. It relies on store-bought yeast, but there are many other sourdough starters (such as potato and honey) you can play with.