Curious about how to make a gluten-free sourdough starter? Miss that tangy sourdough bread taste now that you can’t eat gluten? I’ll show you how to make a traditional gluten-free sourdough starter in seven days so you’re ready to make your own gluten-free sourdough bread in no time! This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
I’ve been having all sorts of craving for bread these days… and I figured there was no time like the present to perfect my gluten-free bread-making skills than now.
I love the smell of fresh baked bread, and the taste of sourdough bread, well, it’s an olfactory experience I can never get enough of.
On top of that, sourdough bread is just better for you. The wild yeast breaks down the proteins and carbohydrates in the bread, making it more easily digestible.
Remember, sourdough bread made with wheat flour is not gluten free. Yes, the fermentation process will break down the gluten proteins, but it does not fully eliminate them. You’ve been warned.
For the past few months, I’ve been working on creating a gluten-free sourdough starter, and then using that starter in a slew of recipes.
Today I want to share everything I’ve learned about making a homemade gluten-free sourdough starter so you can get busy making that delicious sourdough bread too.
Tip! If you’re looking to buy gluten-free sourdough bread, and don’t want to go through the fuss of making it yourself, I highly recommend ordering fresh gluten-free sourdough from this company – you won’t regret it!
Beginner’s Guide to Making a Sourdough Starter
Making a gluten-free sourdough starter from scratch is simple, but it does take a little work (more like babysitting!).
Give yourself at least a week to make your starter before making a bread, although ideally you’ll allow your sourdough starter to develop longer. The older your sourdough starter, the more tangy and flavorful it will be. Some sourdough starters have been passed on from generation to generation, giving a sourdough taste like no other.
While making a homemade sourdough starter is an exercise in patient, I promise you, the taste of fresh gluten-free sourdough bread is well worth the effort and wait.
You’ll need a few simple supplies to make your starter.
Mason jar: I start with a small pint-sized mason jar to hold my starter, but as the starter grows, it will need to be transferred into a quart-sized mason jar. Do not use metal. Use a wide-mouth mason jar if possible.
Gluten-free flour: You can use any gluten-free flour to create your starter. I typically use a brown rice flour or sorghum flour. Use whatever you have (or whatever you want to get rid of). The flour is tasteless.
Filtered water: I use filtered water from my tap.
Coffee filters: While you could use a light towel or even plastic wrap to cover your starter, I prefer to cover it with a coffee filter. The coffee filter allows the air to circulate, but it won’t let any particles into the jar that could taint your sourdough starter. You’ll need a rubber band to secure the filter in place.
Warming mat (optional): I know most sourdough starter recipes do not call for a warming mat, but let me tell you, my house is so cold even in the summer. It’s typically 67-69º F in my house year round. This is just too cold for the sourdough to do its thing. I have a warming mat that I use when making kombucha or to help my gluten-free challah rise. It’s magic.
Add to your clean mason jar the following ingredients:
- 2 tbsp flour of brown rice or sorghum flour
- 2 tbsp filtered tap water
Mix the flour and water together to make a thick but stirrable slurry.
Cover the jar with a coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band and place the jar in a warm place in your house (or use the warming mat I talked about earlier).
You’ll want to feed your starter twice per day. I typically feed it in the morning when I wake up, and again before bed.
To feed it, discard half of the starter from the jar. Then add 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of flour. Mix it together, scrape down the sides, then cover it and allow it to do its magic on your countertop (at room temperature or on the warming mat).
You’re creating an atmosphere that is wet and moist, the exact conditions where yeast and bacteria thrive. Feeding it allows that yeast and bacteria to proliferate.
Tip! Some people do not discard half of the starter. However, discarding allows the yeast to feed on new flour without as much “competition,” helping to develop your starter more quickly. I usually discard the starter for the first week, but then don’t discard any starter after that.
Continue to feed the starter twice daily, first discarding half of the starter and then adding 2 tablespoons of flour and water to the mix. Mix it well, scrape down the sides, and cover it until its next feeding.
By this time you’ll see the starter puff up and have a bubbly head or bubbles throughout. It will also start to smell sour. This is good. Your starter is developing more and more each day and officially transforming into yeast.
As you continue to feed the starter, you’ll see it rise (almost double in size) then fall after feeding it. This is normal and good.
By day seven, the starter should be bubbly and airy. This means you’re almost ready to bake with it. Take a whiff. Do you smell that tangy, sour aroma? Can you hear it bubbling? It’s alive!
If your starter is not light and bubbly, continue to feed it for a few more days, and make sure you’re storing it in a warm place. Yeast and bacteria work faster in warmer climates.
Is It Ready to Bake With?
You’ll know your sourdough starter is ready to use when it’s bubbly and has doubled in size.
When you’re ready to bake with the sourdough starter, remove the portion you need and use it. The yeast in the sourdough starter will work better if it’s been fed, so consider feeding the portion you need for your bread and then allowing it to sit at room temperature for a few hours before using it. This is especially important if your starter has been in the fridge. A room temperature, well-fed starter will work faster and better.
When using your sourdough starter in lieu of yeast, the general rule-of-thumb swap goes as follows: 1 cup of sourdough starter is equal to 1 package of yeast.
However, you’ll want to subtract about 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of flour from your bread recipe to compensate for the extra water and flour in your sourdough starter. Make sense?
It’s always easier to work from a gluten-free sourdough bread recipe (like mine), or I sometimes use pre-made bread mixes and just use 1 cup of start in lieu of the yeast. Works really well and gives those boxed bread mixes a tangy, sourdough taste.
Storing Your Starter
If you are planning on baking with your sourdough starter often, you can store it at room temperature, just make sure to feed it once per day to maintain it. You can continue discarding half of it, then adding more flour and water to the mix. Or honestly, after my starter is in good shape, I feed it once a day and don’t discard any of it.
Any discarded starter from here on out can be used in pancakes, muffins and other fun quick breads, which I will be experimenting with more myself in the coming months and years.
If you don’t plan to use your sourdough starter for awhile, store it in the fridge. The cool enviroment will slow down the ferment and allow you to keep your sourdough starter happy for a long while.
If you see a cloudy liquid forming on top of your starter (called a “hooch”), it means your starter is hungry. Stir your starter and feed it!
When storing it in the fridge, be sure to feed it once weekly with equal amounts of water and flour, and discarding some of it as you go along. Have a set night marked on your calendar to feed it. (Now you can see why a sourdough starter passed down through generations is such a prize. You have to feed your starter once per week to keep it alive.)
When you’re ready to bake with your sourdough starter again, remove it from the fridge 12-24 hours ahead of time. Mix it and feed it as you would if you were storing your starter at room temperature (once per day). When it gets bubbly, it’s activated and ready to use to bake up those delicious gluten-free sourdough bread loaves!
Keep feeding your starter and allow it to grow as you need it. An active starter will quickly bubble and be more readily available than a beginner starter.
Your gluten-free sourdough starter is in jeopardy if any of the following occur:
Mold: If you see mold on or inside your starter, discard the starter. It has gone bad. I have seen mold on the sides of my jar but not on the starter. I transferred the starter to a clean jar and all was good again.
Bad Smell: Your starter will have a sour, tangy aroma, but if it smells awful, it will probably taste awful.
Need it to Grow Faster: Feed your starter more often and it will grow faster. Also divide it into two jars to get more starter action and to prevent your jars from overflowing.
I’m still learning, so I will add to this post over time. But please leave your questions and I will try to respond and we can learn together.
Ready to Bake Bread?
Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter
- 1 quart mason jar
- Coffee filter with rubber band
- 22 ounce bag of sorghum or brown rice flour
- filtered water
- Day #1: Add to a clean mason jar 2 tbsp of flour of brown rice or sorghum flour and 2 tbsp of filtered tap water. Mix the flour and water together to make a thick but stirrable slurry. Cover the jar with a coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band and place the jar in a warm place in your house.
- Days #2-6: Feed your starter twice per day. I typically feed it in the morning when I wake up, and again before bed. To feed it, discard half of the starter from the jar. Add 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of flour. Mix it together, scrape down the sides, then cover it and allow it to do its magic on your countertop at room temperature. As you continue to feed the starter, you'll see it rise (almost double in size) then fall after feeding it. This is normal and good.
- Day #7: By day seven, the starter should be bubbly and airy. This means you're almost ready to bake! Take a whiff. Do you smell that tangy, sour aroma? Can you hear it bubbling? If so, it's ready as it has fermented nicely. If not, continue to feed it twice daily for a few more days, and make sure you're storing it in a warm place so the yeast and bacteria can do their magic.