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Want to make sourdough bread, but not sure where to start? You’re in the right place. We’ve pulled together our sourdough resources to create a guide that takes you from beginner to baker. Start by making (or buying!) a sourdough starter, learn how to feed and maintain it, then begin baking with our classic recipes. Don’t know the tools you actually need? Unsure what to do with all that discard? We’ve got you covered there, too. Let’s get baking.

Glass sourdough crock on digital scale next to measuring cup full of flour Photography by Danielle Sykes; food styling by Liz Neily
A scale is an incredibly helpful tool for making sourdough from scratch. 

If you want to make your own sourdough starter from scratch …

Recipe: Sourdough Starter

To make your own sourdough starter, you only need three things: flour, water, and time. You’ll start by combining equal parts flour and water. Let that mixture rest at room temperature, and then regularly discard some of it and refresh with more flour and water. As the mixture sits over the course of several days, it will begin to cultivate a flourishing community of microorganisms (which is what makes your bread rise) and slowly become bubbly and vigorous.

You’ll keep up a regular schedule of refreshing (or “feeding”) the starter twice a day, every 12 hours, until it doubles in size within six to eight hours. This can take anywhere from five to 14 days, depending on conditions. (So if you’re not seeing much activity, just be patient! And feel free to call our Baker's Hotline for troubleshooting and advice.) Once the starter has reached this point, you can start baking with it or keep maintaining it until ready to use. (See “How to maintain sourdough starter” below.)

If you want to buy your starter … 

Shop: Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter

Watch: How to feed your new sourdough starter 

Instead of taking days to make a starter from scratch, you can have one delivered in the mail. Our fresh sourdough starter is a mature, ready-to-use sourdough culture. You’ll just need to refresh it with flour and water (in other words, “feed” it) until it’s bubbly and doubles in size within six to eight hours. Then, it’s ready to bake, or to be stored and maintained until you want to use it. (See “How to maintain sourdough starter” below.)

Just fed starter next to ripe, doubled-in-volume starter Photography by Mark Weinberg; food styling by Liz Neily
Look for your starter to double in size after feeding — that shows it's healthy and active.

Wait, did someone give you some of their starter?

Blog: To feed starter you received from a friend …

If someone gifts you some of their starter, the best thing to do is to feed it immediately. Combine equal parts (by weight) starter, flour, and water, and let sit at room temperature. Gauge how active it is: Did it double in volume in six to eight hours? If so, it’s ready to store and maintain for future use, or to bake with right now.

Did the starter not double in volume? Feed it again. Continue these maintenance feeds every 12 hours at room temperature until the starter doubles in size in six to eight hours. Then get baking, or store it according to your maintenance schedule.

How to maintain sourdough starter

Recipe: Feeding and Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter

Generally, there are two routines you may choose for feeding sourdough starter:

  • Twice daily at room temperature: If you’re a regular sourdough baker, the best way to have ripe starter when you need it is to keep your starter on the counter at room temperature and feed it twice daily, about every 12 hours.
  • Once a week in the fridge: If you’re a more casual sourdough baker, it’s easiest to keep your starter in the fridge and feed it once a week. (We recommend leaving it on the counter for a few hours after feeding to start fermenting before returning it to the fridge.) Then, a day or two before you want to bake, give it a couple of feedings at room temperature before using it to bake.

To feed sourdough starter, you simply discard some of the existing starter, then replace it with flour and water. Essentially, you’re giving the starter’s microorganisms food (in the form of flour) to keep them happy and healthy. Once fed, the starter will become active and bubbly again, doubling in volume before it exhausts itself and begins to sink back down.

No-Knead Sourdough Bread Photography by Danielle Sykes; food styling by Liz Neily
No-Knead Sourdough Bread is a great beginner recipe.

Ready to bake? Start with these beginner-friendly recipes

Note: In these recipes “ripe sourdough starter” refers to starter that has been fed and then doubled in volume and is showing signs of just beginning to sag under its own weight. The timing will be different depending on your sourdough starter and conditions, but generally, this occurs roughly eight hours after being fed. See more: Ripe sourdough starter: Here's what that means.

No-Knead Sourdough BreadThis low-technique recipe relies entirely on sourdough starter for leavening. With an active, bubbly starter, a little bit of patience, and minimal effort, you’ll have a stunning, delicious loaf — all made without kneading.

Pain de Campagne (Country Bread): If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, try this recipe. Using unfed sourdough starter, minimal kneading, long fermentation, and baking in a hot Dutch oven are some of the techniques that make this naturally leavened, bakery-quality loaf simple to make at home.

Rustic Sourdough BreadBecause this recipe includes commercial yeast as well as starter, you're guaranteed a good, strong rise — even if your starter isn't quite up to snuff. If you’re just beginning to bake with sourdough starter and want some extra reassurance of success, this loaf is a great choice.

Tools you need for sourdough baking

Shop: Sourdough Savvy Collection

ScaleA scale makes feeding sourdough starter — and baking with it — easier, less messy, and more accurate. If you only invest in one piece of kitchen equipment for sourdough baking, this should be it.

Sourdough Crock: This glass crock takes the guesswork out of tending to your starter. Its clear sides make it easy to see your starter’s activity, and the markings on the side allow you to measure how much it’s risen at a glance. The stainless steel lid, meanwhile, keeps starter fresh but is still loose enough to let gasses escape.

Dough WhiskThe unique shape of this whisk makes it great for stirring starter and bread dough, and it’s easy to clean, too.

Bowl Scraper: There’s no better tool for easing sticky bread dough out of the bowl; this scraper is also stiff enough to cleanly divide dough and scrape dried dough off your counter.

Lame: You can score bread dough with a sharp knife, but for the cleanest scoring (which translates to better bread) you need one of these thin, super-sharp blades.

Brotform: While not strictly necessary, a brotform makes your baking easier and your bread better. It provides a consistent shape and size for your bread dough to rise, and crucially, it enables you to turn risen bread dough out onto the baking surface without any sticking or tearing.

Dutch OvenThis all-purpose kitchen workhorse is an excellent way to achieve crusty, artisan-style bread at home with little effort. Baking your bread in a lidded pot traps moisture as steam, which contributes to better rising and great crust.

Baking StoneIf you’re ready to take your bread baking up a notch, invest in a baking stone. The heavy-duty stone absorbs the oven's heat, then transfers it to your bread dough, baking a perfectly crisp, golden crust and resulting in lots of oven spring for gorgeous height in your bread.

Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookie Photography and food styling by Liz Neily
Use your sourdough discard to make cookies.

What to do with all that sourdough discard

Collection: Sourdough Discard Recipes

Discarding is an unavoidable part of sourdough baking. When feeding starter, you have to remove some of the existing starter to make room for the flour and water you’re adding — otherwise, your starter would grow infinitely. The starter that you remove is called discard, and you can toss it into the compost or trash bin. But many bakers like to use it in their baking instead, and the good news is that you can use it to make plenty of baked goods, from pancakes to pizza to banana bread to chocolate chip cookies. Check out the collection above for a full list.

And if you want to create less discard overall, consider keeping A Smaller Sourdough Starter

The next steps in your sourdough journey

Are you feeling confident in your starter? Have you mastered a few basic loaves and want to try some new recipes? Here are your next steps:

Cover photo (Pain de Campagne) by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.

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About Rossi Anastopoulo

Rossi Anastopoulo grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, which is how she fell in love with biscuits. She didn’t have any bakers in her household (with the exception of her grandmother’s perfect koulourakia), so she learned at a young age that the best way to satisfy her sweet tooth was to make dess...
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