Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

How to make gluten-free sourdough starter from scratch using gluten-free flour. Making your own sourdough starter is easier than you’d think! And yes, it works with gluten-free flour!

Sourdough starter in a jar on a counter

Oh hey! Want to dive into the lovely land of sourdough but don’t know where to begin??  This post has you covered!

It is true that regular sourdough bread is lighter in gluten than regular (non-sourdough) bread, but those who are sensitive may still react to it, and those who are allergic should most definitely steer clear.

Thankfully, we can make sourdough starter using a store-bought gluten-free flour blend. Yes, it really does work! 

If you have been a long-time follower, you may know I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to fermentation. I published a cookbook in 2015 focusing entirely on fermented beverages, called Delicious Probiotic Drinks.

It had been many moons since I started a new fermentation experiment, so once I decided to make my own gluten-free sourdough starter, I felt childlike elation. 😀

This post can be used as a guide to make your own gluten-free sourdough starter, know when it is ready to use, how to use it, and how to store it. I hope you find it helpful!

First things first, here is

what you need to make gluten-free sourdough starter:

A large bowl or jar – something that will allow your starter to grow up to 3 or 4 times its volume. Note that after feeding your starter every day, it will always grow. Keep this in mind when choosing the vessel in which your starter will live.

I started in a mixing bowl and am currently using a large glass measuring cup. If possible, stick with the same vessel so as not to disrupt the fermentation process.

Gluten-free flour blend – I use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour (not sponsored), but from what I have read, King Arthur’s Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour works well too.

DO NOTE! The amount of water you use may vary depending upon the flour you use. This is the only tricky part about making your starter (keep reading!).

For consistent results, avoid switching flours while you’re making your starter. Stick with the same flour so you don’t disrupt the microbiome of the starter – it will be fragile at first!

Water – that’s it. Just water. I use filtered water from my Berkey filter, and I do recommend using filtered water if at all possible.

Kitchen Towel – Use a kitchen towel or cheesecloth to cover the vessel you’re using to make the starter. This keeps any bugs out and also protects the starter from too much light (a little light is fine, but you don’t want to cook it with UV rays, know what I mean?

mixing bowl, measuring cup with flour and measuring cup with water.

How to Make Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter:

Day 1: Combine 1 cup of gluten-free flour blend with 1 cup of water and stir well until all the clumps are out. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave untouched overnight (preferably 18 to 24 hours).

Water being poured into mixing bowl with flour to make sourdough starter

Day 2: Discard half of the starter (yes, throw it in the trash. Or if you don’t want to waste it, you can use it for a baking experiment). Add another 1 cup of flour and 1 cup water. If the starter is very thick like pizza dough, add more water until it is thinner.

You want it to be about the consistency of pancake batter. If it appears too thin, add more flour until that pancake batter-like consistency is reached.

Day 3 – 7 (and beyond): Each day, discard half of the starter and add a 1:1 flour to water ratio. This means you can continue adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water, or you can decrease the measurement to ½ cup flour and ½ cup water.

Keep noting the consistency of the starter and add more or less water to get it to that slightly thick pancake batter consistency. 

close up image of jar of sourdough starter

A note about flour to water ratio:

When using regular all-purpose flour, a 1:1 ratio is recommended to start and then the ratios change over time as your starter matures. Similar to making regular sourdough starter, I found that I needed a 1 to 1 ratio of gluten-free flour to water, as the flour blend I use has similar absorbency to regular all-purpose flour. 

King Arthur’s recipe for gluten-free sourdough starter specifies 1 cup of flour to 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of water to start out. If you’re using King Arthur Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour, use that ratio and see where it lands you. If you use Bob’s Red Mill’s 1-to-1 Baking Flour like me, you may need a larger ratio of water to flour.

Do note, humidity and elevation may play a role in your ratio! Here in Reno, we are technically high elevation and it is dry AF here. It makes sense if you live in similar conditions you’ll need a higher ratio of water to flour than 1:1. If you live in a humid area and/or at sea level, 1:1 may be great! 

Again, so long as your starter is the consistency of thick pancake batter, you’re good.

When is the Starter Ready to Use?

You can use your starter as soon as you witness signs of life – this means the starter will have grown 2 to 4 times its original volume and will have lots and lots of bubbles/air pockets. These air pockets are a signal you have active, living bacteria and yeast and they’re literally breathing and reproducing!

You will also smell a pretty pronounced sour scent! It will smell like bread dough as you walk by your starter – this is another sign it is working!

My sourdough starter was ready to use on Day 4, but I let it go an additional day before putting it to use, just to be sure.

I had read sourdough starters sometimes become very active at the beginning and then seem to die off by day 3. If this is the case for you, don’t fret. Keep proceeding as normal to see if the starter bounces back. 

Hand holding jar of sourdough starter

How Fermentation Works:

Across the board, the concept of fermentation is the same, but the inputs vary. You need bacteria and/or yeast, liquid, and something to feed the bacteria and yeast. For instance, when making yogurt, the lactose in the milk feeds the Lactobacillus bacteria strains, and the milk also serves as the liquid environment in which the bacteria live and reproduce.

In the case of sourdough starter, the bacteria and yeast are naturally occurring in the air (you may have heard the term, “native yeast.”). We continuously feed the native yeast flour, which is jam packed with carbohydrate, and give it a nice moist warm environment to thrive.

The reason we continuously feed the culture is to ensure there is plenty of yeast for leavening our sourdough projects.

As long as you’re able to get a starter going, it becomes forgiving in terms of the amount and timing of feedings. You can also allow the starter to go dormant by transferring it to a sealable container and refrigerating (I’d recommend using a jar with an airtight lid).

Best Household Temperature for Sourdough Starter.

70 to 80 degrees. Yeast love temps in this range, so if your house stays warm, making a successful sourdough starter will be easy peasy. Mine has been between 74 and 77, and my starter only took 2 days to show signs of life. By day 4, it was ready to use. If you keep your house cooler, no worries! It could still work, it just may take 5 to 7 days to show signs of life.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out:

If you see any mold at all – pink, white, green, brown, black, throw it out and start over. There is absolutely no reason to risk it. Note that if you live in a humid area, you may need to keep a very watchful eye over the starter and begin keeping it in the refrigerator after a few days to avoid mold. 

How to Use Sourdough Starter:

So you made a starter! Yaaay, congrats! Now what do you do? You have options: 

  1. Use the daily discard in recipes, and continue feeding the starter
  2. Give some of the starter to family/friends, use starter for sourdough things, continue feeding starter
  3. Use starter for a while, get sick of sourdough, stick the starter in the refrigerator and allow it to go dormant,

Three plates with blueberry sourdough muffins on them and a cloth napkin to the side

Gluten-Free Sourdough Recipes:

Here are some magnificent recipes using gluten-free sourdough starter that I found on Pinterest:

How to Store Sourdough Starter:

If you’re continuing to use and feed the starter, just keep it in its original vessel. If you decide it is time to take a hiatus, transfer it to a sealable glass jar and refrigerate until you are ready to start back up. If you’re keeping your starter in the refrigerator, be sure you allow it to come to room temperature before using it in a recipe.

Troubleshooting:

This is above my knowledge and experience, so if you’re having issues, go to A Beautiful Plate’s Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting Guide and FAQ . But do feel free to drop me questions in the comments section! I’m new to sourdough, but old to fermentation, and am keeping my starter going, so don’t hesitate to ask!

More Fermentation Experiments:

Love fermenting things as much as I do? Check out my recipes for some additional fun!

That’s all for now, folks! I hope you enjoy the process of making sourdough starter as much as I have. Reach out if you have any questions!

What will you do with your sourdough starter??

My cookbook, Paleo Power Bowls, is now available! CLICK HERE to check it out. Thank you for your support!

If you make this recipe, please feel free to share a photo and tag @TheRoastedRoot on Instagram!

Hand holding jar of sourdough starter

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

Course: Bread
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten free, sourdough, sourdough starter
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 2 days
Servings: 1 starter
Author: Julia

How to make sourdough starter from scratch using gluten-free flour

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Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine 1 cup of gluten-free flour blend with 1 ¼ cups water and stir well until all the clumps are out. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave untouched overnight (preferably 18 to 24 hours).

  2. On the second day, discard half of the starter. Add another 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water. If the starter is very thick like pizza dough, add more water until it is thinner. You want it to be about the consistency of pancake batter. If it is too thin, add more flour (start with 1/4 cup and work up from there).

  3. Each day, for the next 2 to 5 days, discard half of the starter and add a 1:1 flour to water ratio. This means you can continue adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water, or you can decrease the measurement to ½ cup flour and ½ cup water.

  4. Keep noting the consistency of the starter and adjust amounts of flour and water as necessary.

  5. Once your starter shows signs of life (smells like sourdough bread, increases in volume two to fourfold after each feeding and is very bubbly), you can use it in sourdough recipes!

collage of two photos on how to make sourdough starter from scratch

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Comments

  1. Stephanie Waldman

    once you have created the starter after the 5 – 7 day process – how do you store it in order to use it? Do you need to keep doing the 1:1 ratio and for how long? sorry if too many questions. would really love to learn this!

    Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Hi Stephanie,

      After the starter is a week or so old, you can store it in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks if you don’t want to keep it going and allow it to go dormant. Simply feed it, allow it to sit for 1 hour, then seal it up and refrigerate. From what I have read, you shouldn’t let it stay dormant for more than 2 weeks in the fridge, as it will change the composition of the starter and it won’t be as effective for use. I simply keep mine going by leaving it on the counter and using the discard every day. After the starter begins to mature, you can drop the feeding to once every 2-3 days 😀 Let me know if you have any more questions!

      Reply
  2. Annie L

    Do you stir the starter each day before you discard half the amount? On day 4 now and it gets watery at the bottom or top the next day. I tend to need to stir before I discard.

    Reply
  3. Annie L

    Starter finally came alive on day 9! San Francisco has cool summers so it took a while. On Day 7 when the starter looks flat, we put it next to a water heater. Voila…air bubbles the next day! We made the blueberry muffin and pancakes with the SD starter and they turned out fluffy and moist! Thanks for the awesome recipes!

    Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Wahooo! It’s crazy how sometimes they take only a couple of days and sometimes much longer. I’m thrilled you were so persistent! Enjoy all your sourdough adventures! xoxox

      Reply

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