Basic Sourdough Starter

It takes several days to make your own sourdough starter--but the small investment in time up front is worth it for the delicious homemade bread you can produce regularly. It's said to be good luck to name your starter, which if well cared for, can survive happily for years.

Prep Time:
5 mins
Additional Time:
5 days 23 hrs 55 mins
Total Time:
6 days
4 ounces



  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour

  • ½ cup room-temperature water

Per Feeding

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 scant cup)

  • ½ cup room-temperature water


  1. Mix 1 cup whole-wheat flour and 1/2 cup water in a nonreactive container, such as a glass or stainless-steel bowl, until thoroughly combined. Cover loosely with a lid or plastic wrap and let sit at a warm room temperature (ideally around 70 degrees F) for 24 hours.

  2. Using your kitchen scale, measure 4 ounces starter (about 1/2 cup) into a second nonreactive container; discard the rest of the starter and wash the first container to use tomorrow. Weigh 4 ounces all-purpose flour and add it along with 1/2 cup water to the reserved starter. Stir thoroughly and loosely cover. Let rest about 24 hours.

  3. As in Step 2, weigh out 4 ounces starter into a clean nonreactive container and discard the rest. Add 4 ounces all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water, stir thoroughly and loosely cover. Let rest at room temperature for 12 hours. You'll now start feeding the starter approximately twice a day.

  4. Repeat Step 3 for the next 2 days, feeding the starter approximately twice a day (4 feedings total). On the sixth day, or after about 8 feedings, the starter should be doubled in volume, bubbly and have a mild, vinegary aroma similar to cider vinegar. If not, repeat Step 3 for 1 to 2 more days (2 to 4 more feedings).

  5. When the starter is risen, bubbly and smells mildly vinegary, feed again with 4 ounces flour and 1/2 cup water, stirring thoroughly and covering loosely. Let rest 6 hours, or up to 12 hours at most.

  6. Measure 4 ounces of the starter into a nonreactive container, such as a 1.5-quart crock or jar, that it can be kept in permanently. (Discard the rest.) Feed with 4 ounces all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water, stirring thoroughly and covering loosely. Let rest at room temperature for 3 to 6 hours before covering tightly and storing in the refrigerator.

  7. At least once a week, feed the sourdough to keep it active, adding 4 ounces flour and 1/2 cup water and stirring thoroughly. Remove starter as needed; if the container gets too full to continue feeding, discard excess starter or use it in a recipe. Always keep at least 4 ounces starter in the container.


To make ahead: An established starter, fed weekly, will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Equipment: Kitchen scale, 1.5-quart crock or jar

Tips: Sourdough starters develop more quickly in warmer environments (say, an 85 degrees F summer day) and more slowly in colder ones (a drafty 65 degrees F kitchen come wintertime). The starter may take more or less time depending on your surroundings, so watch for the cues and use the timing given in the recipe as overall guidelines.

If you see an 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch layer of what looks (and smells) like vinegar on top of your starter, it means your sourdough is underfed; feed it twice that day, at the usual 12-hour intervals, to bring it back to form. If the sourdough fully separates (i.e., a 1-inch layer of vinegar is floating on top of a thin, dormant starter), discard and start again.

The sourdough should remain fragrant and slightly bubbly in the fridge. Feed once each time before using to get the starter nice and active.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

17 Calories
0g Fat
4g Carbs
1g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 24
Calories 17
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Protein 1g 1%
Total Fat 0g 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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