How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive — Baked Greens (2024)

How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive: alternately titled, How NOT to Kill Your Sourdough Starter.

It’s super simple, I promise.

In this latest installment of uncomplicated sourdough, I’m sharing all my tips and tricks for a stress-free, zero waste, nearly effortless way to keep your sourdough starter alive, from where to store it to how to feed it to keep it alive and well in perpetuity.

Here’s the best part: we aren’t weighing a thing, or throwing away any starter in between feedings. Nope nope nope.

I’m going to show you my simple method for feeding my starter the requires absolutely nothing complicated (like, we’re literally going to eyeball it) and encourages you to only create as much starter as you can actually use.

If you don’t have a sourdough starter yet, read this first: How to Make a Sourdough Starter.

How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive — Baked Greens (1)

storing your starter

Once you have an active, bubbly starter, you need to decide how you’re going to store it. Unless you plan to bake with your starter on a daily basis, I recommend keeping it in the fridge long-term.

If kept at room temperature, your starter will need to be fed at least once a day for literally the rest of forever. Considering it doubles in size each time you feed it, you’d find yourself with enough starter for the entire neighborhood within a very short period of time if you opt to leave it out on the counter.

I generally like to feed my starter, let it rise, pour off whatever amount I’ll need for a recipe, and put it in the fridge as soon as I’ve taken what I need.

Once cold, it can stay un-fed and entirely ignored for at least a week, and up to two weeks if you’re really pushing it.

How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive — Baked Greens (2)

when to feed your starter

Your starter needs to be fed flour and water to stay alive, and always needs to be fed at least once before baking with it, to make sure it’s nice and active.

Ideally, you will get into a weekly rhythm of taking your starter out of the fridge, feeding it, baking a loaf of bread, then popping it back into the fridge until the following week.

This way, you can be sure you’re always keeping it alive.

If sometimes you end up just taking it out, feeding it, letting it rise, and popping it back in the fridge without baking anything because life is busy, that’s fine too. Just give it a little love every week or so and it’ll be fine.

Conversely, if you find you want to use it more often, your starter can literally be fed and used as often as you want, putting it back into the fridge in between for however many days at a time makes sense for your schedule. I’ve been known to take my starter out and use it three times in a week, then go nearly two weeks without using it at all.

How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive — Baked Greens (3)

how much to feed your starter

Here’s my method for feeding my starter: whatever amount of starter is in the jar (use the lines on a mason jar to tell you exactly, or just approximate whether you think it’s 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, etc. this doesn’t need to be exact so don’t stress about it) feed that much flour and half that amount of water.

So, for example, if there’s about 1/2 cup of starter in my jar, I will feed it 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water.

If there’s 1 cup of starter in my jar I will feed it 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water.

Once you’ve fed your starter, let it rise until it has doubled in size (usually between 6-10 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is).

Note: I don’t like to let my starter get much larger than 1 cup or else I’m going to end up overflowing the jar when I feed it, and use up all the flour in my pantry very quickly. Instead, I like to make sure to actually use my starter, so that it’s frequently shrinking back below the 1 cup mark.

How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive — Baked Greens (4)

sourdough ‘discard’

Most sourdough starter instructions have you pour off the majority of your starter (discard it, if you will) before feeding it, to make it so you don’t have way too much starter.

I never refer to ‘discard’ in my sourdough starter tutorial because I hate to create excess waste. Instead, when my starter is growing too large for my jar, I take that as a sign that it’s time to use it!

If you have a ton of starter in your jar, rather than feeding such a large quantity of flour, you can simply pour out some of your starter into a separate container and save that to use in recipes calling for sourdough discard. This doesn’t need to be fed, and can stay in your fridge for weeks without going bad.

Alternately, you could give this ‘discard’ to a friend and they can begin feeding it and keep it alive as a stater of their own!

My favorite use for my excess starter is to make pancakes (recipe coming soon!), or to follow King Arthur’s recipe for crumpets!

How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive — Baked Greens (5)

the entire process

So, to recap, here’s how we’re keeping our sourdough starter alive.

  1. Store it in the fridge when you aren’t using it.
  2. Feed it once every week or so, and always right before you bake a loaf of bread. Put it back in the fridge after you’ve fed and used it.
  3. Use excess starter to make ‘sourdough discard’ recipes (there are so many on the internet!).
  4. Know how much to feed your starter by estimating how much starter is in your jar, feeding it that same amount of flour, and half that amount of water (i.e. feed 1 cup of starter 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water).
  5. Let your starter rise until it has doubled (usually 4-6 hours) before baking with it/before putting it back in the fridge. You can measure this by placing a small piece of tape or a rubber band around the jar after you feed it so you can see how far it rises past that point.

That’s it! It’s really quite simple to keep a sourdough starter alive. Just feed it, use it, and keep it in the fridge when you aren’t!

Coming up next in my series on uncomplicated sourdough: my go-to sourdough bread recipe! I’ll be sharing the simplest, most streamlined method for making a consistently great loaf of rustic sourdough bread.

Questions?Follow along onInstagramto see me make and maintain my starter there, or leave a comment below with anything you need to make this process as simple and stress-free as possible!

#How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive, #how to to kill your sourdough starter, #sourdough starter

How to Keep A Sourdough Starter Alive — Baked Greens (2024)
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