How to Make a Sourdough Starter

It may seem daunting to consider making a sourdough starter. But, it is actually very easy.

Rye is the simplest type of flour to use that works extremely well for creating your own rye sourdough starter.

You’ll only need a few simple supplies to get started:
  • rye flour
  • water
  • a glass/ceramic bowl
  • cheesecloth to cover the bowl

To get your starter going all you have to do is mix rye flour with water, stir until it forms a soupy mixture, cover with cheesecloth and let it sit.  Each day, simply add more flour and water and transfer the mixture to a clean bowl (and recover it with the cheesecloth).

After just a couple of days your mixture will be bubbly!

Keep it covered with cheesecloth to keep bad stuff out and let the natural yeasts in:

Here’s how the starter looks on the fourth day:

Day 5:

Day 6:
Here it is on day 7, ready to get used to make a delicious loaf of bread!

Once you have your starter going, it is very easy to maintain. Simply store it in a jar in your refrigerator and it will keep for at least a few weeks without being fed. Alternatively, you may freeze it until you’re ready to use it.

It is pretty cool to see the bread rise and turn out when all you started with was flour and water! Once you’ve got your starter going it is simple to use your sourdough starter to make bread.

2 cups rye flour
2 cups water
6 cups rye flourMix 2 cups of the rye flour and water in a bowl (that is not metal- metal reacts with the starter).Cover with cheesecloth and sit on the counter. The next day transfer the mixture to a clean bowl, stir in 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water (or enough water to make the mixture soupy).

Every day for a total of 7 days, transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and add 1 cup of rye flour and 1 cup of water.

The starter will go through a bubbly, frothy stage and will probably have an alcoholic smell. After 7 days the starter is ready for bread making.

You’ll use 2 quarts for bread making and save 1 quart for your next batch.Store any unused starter in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.



40 comments to How to Make a Sourdough Starter

  • This is great – I've been wanting to make my own sourdough for a while. And I agree, it is pretty exciting!

  • I love it, I even have some rye flour!

  • This has to be the prettiest loaf of bread I've ever seen! Gorgeous!

  • This is GREAT! I've been wanting to do this for a while also. Is there any difference in flavor in a rye sourdough and regular? I'm sure I'll love it!!

  • Katie

    I am thinking that the rye does change the flavor. When I bake mine I use the rye starter and then I add white whole wheat flour. To me, the flavor is delicious!

    Sent from my iPhone

  • Katie

    It does look yummy :). There is just no flavor like sourdough!

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  • Katie

    Try it! I bet you'll be hooked :)

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  • Katie

    Give it a try, Rachel. It is surprisingly easy :)

    Sent from my iPhone

  • I haven't seen Rye soughdough… this looks wonderful!

  • Katie

    Thanks :) It is really yummy!

  • Making a sourdough starter is something I've been wanting to do for…oh…forever. And I happen to love rye flour! Can wait to see what happens next. :)

  • Katie

    It is really addictive, especially with a good serving of butter :)

  • I've been wanting to make sourdough flat breads and I really need to get on with it. Thanks Katie for the tutorial. You make it look so easy and do able.

    I'm hosting Whole Food Wednesdays at beyondthepeel.net. I hope you'll swing by and even share if you like. Have a great rest of your week.

  • Katie

    Thank you, France. I will stop by and share a link :)


  • Oh this is awesome! I am going to give it a try too. That bread looks great. Can you try other flours too?

  • Katie

    Rye is supposed to be the easiest to ferment and it is the only type I have tried so far.


  • Kerry

    I'm running out to grab rye flour right now! Eager to get this started! Thanks for the directions!

  • Katie

    You're welcome, Kerry. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.


  • I got my sourdough starter from my mom, and it has been so wonderful. Bread without that sourdough flavor just seems lacking to me now!

    I'm working on stocking my freezer for the upcoming birth of my second child. I would love for you to come share this recipe at my Make-ahead Monday Link-up over at Raising Isabella! I think everyone should know how to get a starter going for their home!

    Hope to see you there!~

  • Katie

    Thanks for inviting me, Sarah. I will stop by as soon as I get a chance. Have a good day.


  • Jennie

    Today is day 7 of my starter. From about day 4 onwards, when I went to feed it, there was a 'skin' on top and it was greyish and furry. I scooped it off before putting it in another bowl and feeding it. Is it okay to use? Thanks for your help.

  • Katie

    My starter also has somewhat of a coating on top. I just mixed it right in and continued on making the starter.

    As long as it didn't look like mold, I think you should be ok. The \”skin\” on mine was just a thin looking skin with a grayish tint and easily mixed in. And, the starter smells rather alcoholic. If you have any other questions, I'll be happy to help.


  • Jennie

    Hi Katie, thanks for your help. The skin on mine was thick and furry and I think it looked like mold. After taking the skin off there was a ring of it around the bowl that was crusted on. I'm wondering if it made a difference having a cotton cloth over it instead of cheesecloth? Also, it's summer in Australia and I'm in a sub-tropical area and it's been quite humid. Even though I've had the air con on, it's still quite warm in my kitchen (in the 80's). Yesterday afternoon I put cheesecloth over it and so far there is no skin on it. The consistency is just like a mix of flour and water, it's not soupy and bubbly and it doesn't smell alcoholic, but it doesn't smell bad either. Is it worth continuing to feed it and see what happens or should I just start again do you think? Thanks, Jennie

  • Katie

    You need to use a cloth that is not too thick and let's your starter get plenty of air circulation so that the good bacteria can get into the starter. If your starter doesn't have any bubbles at all, I would think that it is not alive. If you are on day 7, you could always try scaling back the recipe to make a small loaf of bread and see what happens.


  • Leila

    I am just about to put my first loaf of this in the oven and it looks amazing! Can't wait to taste it. Can you tell me how you maintain your starter? How often do you feed it? Any special instructions to keep it alive and healthy?

  • Katie


    I'm glad it is turning out well for you! You can store your starter in the fridge. I've kept mine in there for up to about 2 weeks before taking it out to feed it and use it. When you take it out, bring it to room temperature, feed it and then put it into a new clean container or use it for a recipe.

    They say that you can also store your starter in the freezer, but I have not tried that. As long as the starter doesn't smell nasty or have mold when you take it out of the fridge, it should be ok.

    Let me know how you all liked the bread :)


  • Jennie

    Hi Katie, just thought I would update you. I ended up throwing it out because it got mold on it again. I bought some more flour 2 days ago and started again – using cheesecloth this time – and it's looking like it's supposed to. Yay!

  • Katie

    Jennie, I am sorry to hear that you had issues. I m going to go back and check to make sure to specify that you must use cheesecloth over the starter.

    I'm glad to hear that it is looking better :)


  • Cheryl

    Can anyone share the bread recipe that they used with this starter? I’ve made the starter (day 5 now) and am furiously searching for a good recipe. Rather confused that most recipes call for 1/3 or 1/2 cup starter…I could be making LOTS of bread! Thanks…

  • Carol in NJ

    I am on day 4 of my starter and have a ‘hooch’ on the top. Is that normal or okay? It definitely smells correct and has no mold. It is hot this summer and I have no air conditioner in the kitchen. The temp is about 80-85 degrees in the kitchen. The hooch was there on day 3 too and I just mixed it in and added rye and water. Any advice is appreciated.

  • Michelle

    I just want to clarifly

    Day 1: Mix 2 cups Rye Flour and 2 Cups water. Cover with cheesecloth
    Day 2 to 7: Add 1 cup water and 1 cup Rye Flour and transfer to a clean bowl each day. Cover

    In the recipie it maentions a Rye Flour Mix. Is that for the bread itself or for the starter? Is it straight up Rye Flour each day or am I making a blend?

    • That is correct, Michelle. When I refer to the rye flour mixture, I am simply talking about adding rye flour and water to the existing mixture of rye and water. If you have any other questions, feel free to let me know.

  • I was just thinking I needed to attempt sourdough again because I only want to give my daughter fermented grains. This is very timely. Last time I made it, it was a flop, so hopefully I can get a good starter this time.

  • Nancy Sloan Dowell

    6 cups rye flourMix 2 cups of the rye flour and water – confused…please clarify . First it says 2 cups flour 2 cups water but then mentions 6 cups….where did that happen/come from ?

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