How to Feed Your Sourdough Starter: Everything Your Need to Know

Congratulations, you’ve just become the proud parent of a sourdough starter! 

Or, perhaps you just bought your first starter and want to make sure you’ll be a good parent to it once you bring it to life. 

Whichever one it is, we have compiled a list of everything you need to know about feeding your sourdough starter. That way you can keep the little yeasty alive for days, months and even years if you’re looking for something more long-term.

Before we delve into the nitty gritty of how to feed your starter and help it grow big and strong, let’s cover the basics of where to source your starter.

First things first: Where to buy a sourdough starter

Sourdough starter activating

Yes, you could make your own sourdough starter from scratch, but I much prefer to buy my own dried starter and activate it myself. By “activating your starter”, I simply mean adding flour and water to your starter, stirring and waiting patiently – which ironically is all there really is to feeding a sourdough starter, but I digress. 

If you’re like me and just want to dive right in, then you can purchase a dried starter for as little as $15. You can also follow my step-by-step instructions on how to activate your starter using these dried flakes, so you don’t have to trawl the depths of the internet looking for answers.

Jump to:

How often to feed your starter

Assuming you’ve now successfully created your own sourdough starter you can move on to the fun part: keeping it healthy with regular feedings. 

There are, in fact, two ways in which you can feed your sourdough, depending on how you store it:

  1. If you’re an enthusiastic baker and bake a lot of sourdough, then you’ll want to store your starter at room temperature and will need to feed it twice a day.
  2. If you’re a more casual sourdough baker you’ll want to keep your starter in the fridge and will only need to feed it once a week.

Ultimately, how you store your starter depends on your own baking preferences – if you always want it ready to go, then opt for room temperature storage and vice versa.

How to feed your starter: step-by-step instructions

Stirring sourdough starter

Sourdough feeding instructions

Room temperature starter

  1. Stir the starter thoroughly with a wooden spoon, while spooning a 1/2 cup starter into a bowl.
  2. Discard the remaining starter or use it in another recipe.
  3. Add ½ cup flour and ½ cup lukewarm water to the ½ cup starter in the bowl. 
  4. Mix the starter until smooth, then return to its jar or crock and cover.
  5. Repeat this process every 12 hours.
  6. Remove starter to bake with as soon as it's expanded and bubbles appear, then feed the remaining starter immediately.
  7. Revert to your normal 12-hour schedule for subsequent feedings.

Refrigerated starter

  1. Take the starter out of the fridge.
  2. If there is liquid on top (known as “hooch”), then either drain this off or stir it in. 
  3. Spoon 1/2 cup starter into a bowl
  4. Either discard the remaining starter, or use it in another recipe 
  5. Add ½ cup flour and ½ cup lukewarm water to the ½ cup starter in the bowl. 
  6. Mix until smooth and then cover. 
  7. Allow the starter to rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours to give the yeast a chance to warm up and get feeding. 
  8. After 2 hours, replace the starter in its storage container and refrigerate.
  9. To maintain your starter's health, repeat this process about once a week.

Feed your starter before baking

  1. To prepare your starter for baking: take the starter out of the fridge or off the counter, discard all but 1/2 cup of starter and feed it as usual with equal parts (½ cup) flour and water. 
  2. Cover the starter and let it rest at room temperature. It should start to bubble and expand, but this may take up to 12 hours.
  3. Feed the starter every 12 hours until you see it double or triple in volume within 6 to 8 hours and it should be ready to bake.
  4. For the final feeding before baking, add enough flour and water to use in your recipe, with 1/2 cup left over to feed and maintain the starter for your next bake. E.g. If your recipe calls for 1 cup starter, add ½ cup each of water and flour. 
  5. Once the starter is ready, spoon out what you need for the recipe and set it aside. 
  6. Feed the remaining 1/2 cup starter as usual, with equal parts flour and water. 
  7. Mix until smooth and let the starter rest for about 2 hours at room temperature before placing it back in the fridge or back onto the kitchen counter.

Food for thought

Now you’ve learned everything you need to know about feeding your sourdough starter, I’ll leave you with some little loaves of wisdom from one baker to another.

  • Always use equal parts starter, flour and water when it comes to feeding your starter – regardless of whether you’re using ½ cup of starter or 2 cups of it. 
  • Try using your sourdough starter discard to make pancakes, waffles, cake, pizza, flatbread, or cookies.
  • Eventually you’ll get the hang of your starter’s rhythm: how it rises and falls, how it behaves when you feed it more regularly and how it behaves when you neglect it, so feeding and maintaining it will become second nature to you.

If you’d like to take things to the next level and start nurturing your own sourdough starter, then check out our Complete Sourdough Starter Kit. It’s got everything you need to get started, so buy your kit today.

Don’t forget to tag us at @youkneadsourdough on Instagram, so I can “ooo’ and “ahh” over your sourdough creations.

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