A Beginner's Basic Sourdough Starter Using Yeast

Beginner basic sourdough starter recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 5 mins
Servings: 15 servings
Yield: 1 starter
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
63 Calories
0g Fat
13g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 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 an excellent place to begin. All it takes is three simple ingredients—water, flour, and some active dry yeast—then add some time and patience on your part, and you'll have your sourdough starter to make delicious loaves of bread. 

A starter is a homemade fermented yeast for bread. With regular yeast bread, you can use a store-bought packet of active dry yeast. On the other hand, sourdough bread gets its flavor from wild yeast that is naturally found in the air. It's everywhere! 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.

"Even a starter that’s boosted with commercial yeast needs attention and adaptation to your environment. Mine required daily feedings but produced fantastic bread in the end. Remain mindful of its needs and it will work out great." —Colleen Graham

Basic Sourdough Starter/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water (110 F to 115 F)

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 (7-gram) package

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more for feeding

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for basic sourdough starter
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. In a medium bowl, add the warm water and yeast. Mix 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. Transfer the starter into a container at least 4 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 or kitchen towel and hold it 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 five days, stirring once a day. Feed the starter daily or weekly according to the directions provided in the How To Feed Your Starter box below.

    Mixing the starter with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Properly cared for, your starter should be ready to use in five days. Read more about How to Store Your Starter in the box below.

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

Tips

  • For a successful sourdough starter, avoid bleached flour because the process to make it leaves only a few organisms behind to feed the yeast. Use unbleached all-purpose flour, or switch to whole-wheat or rye flour. Also, use only unchlorinated water.
  • The starter's growth and feeding needs are dependent on the environment. The temperature and humidity in your kitchen will affect how quickly it grows. This can fluctuate with the seasons.
  • Don't forget to feed your starter regularly because 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.
  • Avoid making or storing your starter in reactive metals like copper or aluminum. A stainless steel container is safe.

How to Feed Your Sourdough Starter

When feeding your sourdough starter, remove 1 cup of the starter. You can use this portion of starter for a bread recipe, discard it, give it away, 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.


Feed the remaining unused starter with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Allow it to rest at room temperature for one hour before returning it to the refrigerator, or leave at room temperature. Note that starters remaining at room temperature need to be fed daily. Refrigerated starter needs to be fed weekly.

How to Store Sourdough Starter

You can 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, you can store your starter at room temperature.


Keep it away from extreme heat and humidity, and make sure you feed it once a day. A starter that is set out at room temperature can be covered with cloth and a rubber band but should be loosely sealed when refrigerated. 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.

Variations

  • 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 other ingredients to the bread mixture.