Sour Dough Starter




Our family has been enjoying delicious pancakes, waffles, bread, pizza crusts, and English muffins (click here) made with my homemade sour dough starter. It has opened a whole new world for me, since several of us are gluten intolerant. If you use a fermentation process, it helps to break down the phytic acid which is the cause of most digestive issues for people.
(This is a quote from Dr. Weston A. Price… “Another study showed almost complete elimination of phytic acid in whole wheat bread after eight hours of sourdough fermentation.”)

Making your own sour dough starter is really not as hard as you may think. What helped me the most in getting and maintaining a strong starter is the addition of using rye flour as well as white unbleached flour.

I like the King Arthur flours, but I don’t alway have it on hand. If you’re following THM diet plan, you can only use white flour to FEED the starter, but not when you go to bake with it. The reason you can use it to feed the starter is because it will only be a minimal amount in your whole recipe and the sourdough eats up the natural sugars and breaks down the phytic acid, making it easier to digest. It works similar to using regular sugar while making Kombucha.

I’ve found the easiest way to maintain my starter is to keep it in a large glass container in the refrigerator, and I only feed it once a week. On the evening of my feeding day, I make sure to mix up a batch of English muffins and/or some pancakes just before I feed it. This way it uses up most of it and I have less to feed. It is very important to remember to always feed it with the same ratio of flour to the amount of starter you are feeding and a bit less water than the amount of starter. (If you have 1 C. starter, feed with 1 C. flour, and a scant 1 C. water. )

Note: To keep it THM compatible, make sure to wait at least 8-12 hours to use your starter after you’ve fed it. As in my recipe for the English muffins, I always mix the starter, flour, and milk (or water) the night before I want to bake it and leave it set at room temperature. This provides a longer fermentation period to make sure it is THM approved.

Also, baked things like bread and cinnamon rolls need to set out a few days to become more active. Take the amount of starter you need and set it at room temperature and feed it more frequently until it rises well and is thick and bubbly. You should be able to see lots of air pockets when you pull some back from the sides.

*Make sure not to use ANY metal utensils or bowls with your sour dough starter.

I hope you enjoy working with your sour dough starter as much as I do!




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39 Responses

  1. Kerri says:

    t. means teaspoon?

  2. Duane & Cindy says:

    Yes, Kerri, it does! I will go back and clarify that. Thank you for asking!

  3. Keila says:

    Thank you so much for such a clear, easy to understand recipe for a starter. I followed your instructions, and am on day 3 and it is bubbly already! Thank you !!

  4. Cindy Mullett says:

    That’s wonderful, Keila! Glad it’s doing well for you.

  5. Rebecca says:

    What do you do if you’re not around to feed it, like leaving town for the weekend?

  6. Brenda Josselet says:

    Would you explain a little more what you mean by “lightly covered”. Does this mean don’t put the glass lid on?, cover with a piece of cloth?, I’m always confused about this part.


  7. Cindy Mullett says:

    Hi Rebecca.
    I recommend beginning this project when you’re planning on being at home. If something comes up unexpectedly, feed it just before you leave and put it in the refrigerator. When you get home, take it out and pick up where you stopped. It should be fine, but I can’t say for sure. (I think it will depend on if it had time to catch some yeast before you needed to refrigerate it.) You may need to feed it several days longer in order to get it good and active.

  8. Cindy Mullett says:

    Hi, Brenda! It just needs a napkin or paper towel on top. The only reason it needs a covering is to prevent bugs, etc. from getting inside (and just feels a bit strange leaving something like that completely uncovered!) You can put a rubber band around it to keep it from slipping off if you want.

  9. Carol wagner says:

    Can I start with rye white flour and whole wheat instead of regular rye and white flour? Thank you!

  10. julie foley says:

    could you give me a recipe for bread or cinnamon rolls? Every THM recipe for sourdough i see is for one that doesn’t use a starter.

  11. Cindy says:

    Yes, Carol, that should work fine.

  12. Cindy says:

    Hi Julie. I don’t have my bread and cinnamon roll recipes posted on here yet. Sorry! I know I really need to do that… Have you seen my pancake/waffle and English Muffin recipes though?

  13. Carol wagner says:

    I’m very UNSKILLED when it comes to making and using sourdough, so please forgive, but after 7days you would only have used about 64 t. Of flour….when you use it to bake some thing, do you add just regular flour? I put mine in a large jar and it spread out and got a little hard on the edges. Thank you for your answer.

  14. Cindy says:

    Hi Carol. I’m sorry but you must not have done something right because you should have used much more than 64 t. of flour. Did you measure your starter every time before you fed it and then added the same amount of flour and a bit less amount of water? Example…If you gave a total of 1/2 C. of starter, you will feed it with 1/2 C. of flour and a scant 1/2 C. of water. This means the next time you feed and measure it, you should have around 1 and 1/2 C. of starter so you feed it with 1 and 1/2 C. of flour and scant 1 and 1/2 C. of water. As you can see, it will multiply very quickly…That’s probably why it was getting hard around the edges. 🙁 I’d suggest you throw this batch out and start over…The next time around will be a winner! 🙂 And once you make delicious sourdough bread and pancakes, you will not regret the bit of work it took for a healthy active starter. God bless! ~Cindy

  15. Carol wagner says:

    I guess I misunderstood….I am on day 4 and was only adding 7 1/2 t. Flour and 6 1/2 t. Water each time and not measuring before feeding. I think I understand now. Will try again. Thank you!

  16. Dorothy Yoder says:

    I didn’t know you were allowed to use white flour in THM. ??

  17. amy says:

    This is delicious….i was get my starter started. 🙂
    And made english muffins, which were so yummy
    I do have a question about my starter upkeep….can
    I leave it sit out on my counter and just feed it every
    Thursday(or whichever day of the week)? And that
    Is sufficient. Or do i need to feed it more often. And
    Do i feed it before or after i want to use it? Thanx

  18. Duane & Cindy says:

    Hi Amy. I’m glad it worked well for you. If you keep the starter at room temperature, you need to feed it at least every 12 hours. Or you can keep it in the refrigerator and then feed it once a week. This is what I do. You can use the starter directly from the fridge for English Muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc. but if you want to use it for bread, you need to get it more active by taking some out of the fridge and then feeding it twice a day until it’s rising well. I hope this helps you! ~Cindy

  19. Carolyn Trenda says:

    I received a sour dough starter that has been around for about 8 years. I am gluten in tolerate and on the THM lifestyle. My question is what type of flour do you feed it, bake with and what recipe do I use to stay in the THM lifestyle to have wonderful sour dough bread?

  20. Cindy says:

    Hi Carolyn. I’m also gluten intolerant, but I can eat sourdough food if I ferment it long enough. In order to keep it THM, you need to use whole grain flour for the main flour in your recipes. (I like the white wheat flour…which is a light, yet whole grain flour.) However, the starter can be fed with regular white flour or any combination of rye, wheat or white flour. Because it eats up the sugar as it ferments, the small amount of white flour used in the starter is still THM approved. I hope the sourdough works for you. Cindy

  21. Sara says:

    If I store it in the fridge, and only feed it weekly, do I need to take out my required amount for making bread and set it out on the counter overnight? I’m assuming I cant use it straight out of the fridge right?

  22. Brianna Mullett says:

    Yes, Sara, you want to set it on the counter and feed it at least 3 or 4 times before using it for bread. The sour dough needs to be very active. 🙂

  23. Lydia Seibel says:

    Hi Cindy, I started my first sourdough starter on saturday!! And my question is…yesterday it formed a brown liquid on the top. This morning I poured it off and now today it is there again. Is this normal? We are living in Grenada with no a/c and the weather is very warm, could that be affecting it? The first 2 days it was nice and bubbly and now it seems more “heavy”.

  24. Cindy Mullett says:

    Hello, Lydia! Yes, with being in a place like Grenada, the starter will getting very “hungry.” I would start feeding it twice a day and it should become active. The brown liquid (hooch) just means it needs to be fed more often. If you just dump that part off, the rest of the starter should be fine!

  25. Kathy says:

    I think I may have messed up all ready and I’m just starting! I’m on Day 2 and just realized I put the lid on the jar instead of covering with a paper towel. Oh my! Should I start over? Also, I don’t know if my white flour is unbleached. Is that very important?

  26. Cindy Mullett says:

    Hi, Kathy! I don’t know that either of these (lid on the jar, and bleached flour) will totally ruin it, but if you’re only on Day 2, my recommendation would be to start over especially because of the lid being on the jar. How much bleached flour affects starter is a bit controversial…I would use unbleached flour if possible, as some say bleach affects the quality of starter, but that is really up to you…I don’t think it will completely ruin it.

    Don’t let this discourage you…you’ll be glad you kept up with it! It’s really easy to maintain once you get it going. Best of wishes in this!

  27. Kathy says:

    Thank you for your advice, Cindy. I took it and am starting over! I’d rather have the best quality and wait a few more days! Glad to here it is easy to maintain once I get it going. That’s encouraging.

  28. Kristina says:

    At what point can I put it in the fridge and just feed it once a week? Do I have to get it out the night before if I’m going to make pancakes or do you just do that when you make bread?

  29. Cindy Mullett says:

    Hi, Kristina! When you see a distinctive rise and fall after your feedings (about day 6 or 7) the starter is ready to use. The instructions for the sourdough pancakes tells how to use the starter ( but yes, you do set it, along with other pancake ingredients set out at least 7 hours. Once you can tell your starter is active, you can refrigerate and only feed weekly. For sure by day 10 you can feed weekly (and it can even survive longer than that). Hope this helps to clarify!

  30. Kathy says:

    Hi again Cindy! I have made some amazing english muffins and delicious pancakes from your starter. This is my question: How do I increase the amount of starter so that I can make things more often? If I keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week, I never seem to have enough or only enough to make one of these things. So last week I thought well maybe if I take it our of the fridge and feed in twice a day (every 12 hours) I will increase my sourdough starter. I did this but then chickened out and was afraid I was ruining it and ended up putting in back in the fridge but it seems to be getting that brown liquid on top a lot. Could you share your wisdom and experience on this. Thanks in advance!

  31. Cindy Mullett says:

    Hi Kathy. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to keep it out of the refrigerator and feed it a few times in order to increase the quantity. Just be aware it will increase quite rapidly so you likely won’t need to leave it out more than a day or two. And I would feed it at least twice a day if it’s at room temperature. The reason it gets the brown “hooch” on top is only because it’s hungry and it wants to be fed. However, I’ve experimented with mine and refrigerated it without feeding it for almost two months and it still revived well. It’s fairly resilient and amazing stuff! Have fun on your sourdough journey. ~Cindy

  32. Kathy says:

    That is very helpful City and reassuring! So if I have a cup of starter I feed it a cup and then a little less water and I keep doing this twice a day increasing the feeding amount to the amount of starter. Right? And that is why you are saying it will overtake me if I leave it out on the counter too long.

  33. Cindy Mullett says:

    Yes, that’s right, Kathy.

  34. Nancy says:

    Just curious (total newbie), why do we need to keep metal away from the starter?

  35. Cindy says:

    Great question, Nancy! Sourdough is naturally acidic and long exposure to specific metals can damage it. It’s best to to glass or plastic. But brief contact with metal shouldn’t cause detrimental effects to the sourdough.

  36. Debbie says:

    Thank you for sharing your sourdough experience! My starter is on day 11, but isn’t rising very much. I have about 4 inches of starter in a pint jar and it raises about an inch after each feeding. Should I expect it to double? Also, the picture of your starter at the beginning of this post, is it before feeding or after feeding?

  37. Cindy says:

    Hi Debbie. I’m so sorry I didn’t respond to this earlier. As long as it’s rising, the starter is doing great and will keep getting stronger and double the more you feed it. The photo of my starter was just before the next feeding and after it had reached it’s peak and then fell. Good luck on your sourdough journey.

  38. Linda says:

    Hi Cindy….how important is it to use room temperature water?.I’m on day 5 and I used water straight out of of our reverse osmosis faucet for days 1-3 then I started filling my cup and let it set on the counter awhile b4 using it…. Should I start over or is it ok?.it does have some bubbles but seems to be on the thin/ runny side of dough…thanks!

  39. Duane & Cindy says:

    I’m so sorry I didn’t see this message sooner…It’s best if the water isn’t too cold. Or too hot. If there are bubbles, it means it is beginning to become active. There may only be a few bubbles in the beginning stages, but those are good signs. The longer the starter progresses, the more active and thicker it will become.

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