A Beginner's Basic Sourdough Starter Using Yeast

Beginner basic sourdough starter in a canning jar

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 5 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 bowl of starter (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 of starter (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 like 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 fermented 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.

    Warm water and yeast in a bowl with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Stir in the flour and mix until smooth.

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

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

    Starter covered with a cloth napkin and an elastic
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Set the starter in a warm spot for 5 days, stirring once a day.

    Mixing the starter with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Refrigerate (or freeze) and use it as needed.

    Starter doubling in size in a plastic cup
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Keep Your Sourdough Starter Alive

You can choose to store your sourdough starter on the counter or in 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.

When feeding your sourdough starter, 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 another delicious sourdough baked good. Half of the starter is discarded to keep the yeast growth under control and manageable and the remaining starter healthy. Then feed the starter in the clean bowl with the 1 cup (110 grams) of flour and 1/2 cup (110 grams) of water. Allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour before returning to the refrigerator.

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 it until you need it.
  • Don't be tempted to add extra ingredients to your starter. If you want to embellish the flavor of your sourdough baked goods, you can add vinegar, beer, and more to the bread mixture. Just don't add any of these flavorings to the starter.