I am so excited to show you today how you to make your very own gluten-free (or regular) sourdough starter that you can keep in your family for generations. It makes it easy to whip up delicious, yeast-free, (gluten-free) foods for you and your family.
Video Tutorial: How to Make (Gluten-Free) Sourdough Starter
Here is a video answering most of the big questions you might have about making your own sourdough starter, and I’ve mapped out each step below. Note however that I am no longer using a 1:1 flour mix with xanthan gum in my sourdough starter—I only use that in my bread recipes.
Benefits of Sourdough
Using sourdough starter in your baking offers numerous benefits, including better digestion, better nutrient absorption, and better flavor. This is because sourdough breaks down the phytic acids found in grains and starches. These phytic acids inhibit enzymes in our stomach that are responsible for breaking down and properly digesting grains and starches. The wild yeast and lactobacillus found in sourdough break down the phytic acids thereby making it easier for your body to digest your bread, resulting in less bloat and common IBS symptoms for many people. To learn more about the benefits of sourdough, please check out the research and resources at The Sourdough School.
Up until recently, gluten-free sourdough bread has not been easily available commercially, and artisan varieties are very expensive. Typically, even a traditional wheat-based commercial sourdough bread doesn’t even contain actual sourdough. Finding a gluten-free option that uses sourdough starter has been nearly impossible until very recently.
That’s why I’m so excited to share this with you. It’s a pretty big deal. Also, it’s super easy to make this starter, but I know people have a lot of questions when it comes to fermentation in general, and this topic specifically, so I’ve gone in-depth below. I hope I have managed to answer most of your commonly asked questions; if not, please comment below or DM me on Instagram @eatingbuckets.
Easy Step-by-Step Process
To get started, there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind:
- Pick a timeframe when you will be home around the same time for the next 7-10 days, because that’s about how long it will take to get your starter up and running, and you need to feed it regularly each day at around the same time.
- Pick your gluten-free flour or non-dairy, nut-free flour blend of choice. You can use nearly any gluten-free grain flour, but I chose to go with a gluten-free flour blend because I wanted to ensure my starter had as much depth as possible. I’ll talk more about that below. (Now, however, I make my starter out of a mixture of sorghum, teff, and buckwheat flours. They all have great fermentation profiles and they add a nice whole grain texture and flavor to the bread.)
- Pick your favorite non-reactive container for your starter, such as a glass bowl, jar, or crock pot, and make sure you don’t use a metal lid.
- Use purified water, because chlorine-treated water will kill the good bacteria you’re trying to grow in your starter.
- Consider whether you want to use just water and flour, or add kombucha starter, which I detail as an option below and in my video. It is not a necessary step. You can just use flour and water.
Choose your flour
Rice, buckwheat, teff, sorghum, or a 1:1 flour blend without xanthan gum are all great options. I like to blend flours together and tailor them as I go.
Choose your container
I use a ceramic crock for fermenting, but you can also use a glass jar or bowl, as long as it doesn’t have a metal lid. I found a farmhouse crock set at Costco recently that I love; the three various-sized crocks cost about $25. A good glass jar with a non-reactive rubber sealing ring, rather than a metal top, is also a good option. IKEA has an inexpensive option.
Choose your location
Room temperature can affect how your starter develops. Hot, humid temperatures can make it overly reactive, whereas colder room temperatures can make it slower to develop. An average 60-70-degree room seems the most simple. If it’s hot and humid, consider placing your starter in a cooler place, such as a below-grade cupboard, or, if it’s cooler in your home, then near a heater, stove, or oven.
Additionally, where you store your starter really depends on how frequently you plan to use it. Right now, I keep my starter on my counter and I feed it daily because I am using it frequently while I test various methods for baking bread. However, once your starter gets going after 7-10 days, you might prefer to keep it in the fridge and pull it out only weekly when you plan to bake, remembering to feed it 3-4 times per week and always feed it the night before you use it.
Optional: Use a kombucha starter
Adding a well-fermented, non-flavored kombucha starter with plenty of the “mother,” or grainy bits at the base of the kombucha jar or bottle, ensures that you are delivering an instant dose of fermentation yeast.
I have a big jar of continuous-brew, raw honey-based kombucha that sits alongside my fermented pickles and sourdough starter, so it was an easy choice for me to add some of my kombucha starter. Additionally, I love that my kombucha has it’s own history that is now a part of my new sourdough starter, as it was handed neighbor to neighbor over the past 16 years on my island until it landed in my hands last year.
If you choose to add kombucha starter to your sourdough starter, and you don’t have your own brew, just make sure that you buy a raw, unflavored kombucha that is well-fermented, such as GT’s Living Foods Classic Original Kombucha Organic and Raw. I tested this and it was a total success; in fact, the next day my starter was so bubbly and alive that I think I’ll plan to amend my starter with this every few months. (I am also not sponsored by GT’s Living Foods, and am not making any money by making this recommendation.)
I’m sure there are a lot of options out there. Just make sure that if you decide to amend your sourdough starter with kombucha, that the kombucha you choose is not flavored, not too sweet, and is fully fermented. While I love all the kombucha flavor options these days, the last thing you want is a raspberry-flavored sourdough.
Optional: Add a kombucha scoby
In my video, I show you how you can add some of your kombuch scoby to your sourdough starter. If you don’t have any scoby, just leave a glass of organic and raw kombucha out on your countertop at room temperature, and a thin, cloudy seal will form over the kombucha. That’s the scoby. You can add that to your starter to give it additional good, happy bacteria to help it come to life. This is also completely optional.
The good folks over at Kitchn put together a great post about kombucha, scoby, and, how to make your own, and why it’s so good for you: How To Make Your Own Kombucha Scoby. I will also post a tutorial soon showing you how I brew my own kombucha.
Get Ready, Get Set, Go: Mix Up Your Starter
- Mix one cup of flour with one cup of purified water OR 1/2 cup purified water and 1/2 cup kombucha starter.
- Optional: Add a small 1-2″ square of kombucha scoby.
- Add to a non-reactive glass bowl, jar, or stoneware crock.
- Cover loosely with fabric, such as a cloth towel.
- Set out at room temperature for 24 hours.
- The following day, approximately 24 hours later, mix up an additional 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of purified water. Remove half of the original starter and set aside for that day’s recipe (I used my discarded starter for pancakes and English muffins). Pour in your new flour-water blend. Set aside for another 24 hours. Repeat this for approximately 7 days until your starter begins to puff and double in size. Optional: Add another 1/2-cup or 1 cup of kombucha starter about 5 days in.
- Once it’s active and bubbling, you can store it in your refrigerator for future use, remembering to feed it every 3-4 days. Always feed your starter the night before you plan to bake with it.
Questions or Comments
Questions, comments, or suggestions? Comment below and let me know how things are going, or contact me on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube. I’ll update this post with additional comments and useful tips as I continue baking and working with my sourdough.