If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you may want to try creating your own sourdough starter from scratch. Baking bread from scratch is satisfying in its own right, but when you’ve also had a hand in the creation of one of the most fundamental components, the leavening agent itself, you’ll feel an even greater satisfaction and connectedness to the process.

Are there kids in your house? This little science project is ideally suited to sharing with any children you can convince to join in. Culture their budding scientific minds while creating your own bread culture.

This video outlines one simple method that worked for me the first time I tried it. In the video, I give credit for this technique to Peter Reinhart. It has since come to my attention that Debra Wink, a chemist and accomplished baker, is the mastermind and author of this Pineapple Juice Technique. A lot of research and testing went into developing and refining the technique. The choice of pineapple juice over other juices is from much trial and error. Debra was kind enough to email her essay on the Pineapple Juice Technique. Click here for a printable copy of it.

As I mention in the video, the wild yeast spores and lactic-acid bacteria that give your starter its leaving properties are all around you. You are simply creating the conditions ideally suited for them to thrive and multiply. I used whole wheat flour in this recipe because fresh whole wheat flour may harbor greater numbers of yeast spores than ordinary all-purpose flour and so increase your likelihood for success. It worked for me, so you might try the same. If, at any time, you wish to transition your whole wheat sourdough starter to a regular white flour starter, it’s super easy to do so.

I’ve listed the ingredients and approximate steps here to save you the note taking.

  • Step 1. Mix 3 ½ tbs. whole wheat flour with ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. (“Unsweetened” in this case simply means no extra sugar added).
  • Step 2. Add to the above 2 tbs. whole wheat flour and 2 tbs. pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for a day or two. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. You should see some activity of fermentation within 48 hours. If you don’t, you may want to toss this and start over (or go buy some!)
  • Step 3. Add to the above 5 ¼ tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 tbs. purified water. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.
  • Step 4. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.

Notes: I do wonder if the fact that I bake all the time with a sourdough starter (and so theoretically have wild yeast floating around our house by the gazillions and covering everything we own) would increase the likelihood that I would have success creating my own sourdough culture from scratch. So I anxiously await feedback from anyone who attempts this process at home. (You’ll see a nifty little form below for comments and feedback. If you’re shy; you can use the Contact link at the top of the page. While I may report your (mis)adventures, I’ll keep your identity anonymous ;).

2,093 thoughts on “Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

  1. Have made several sourdough breads so far with great sucess,also sucess with making starter I am hooked.

  2. I have made sour dough starters on and off for about 5 years. I gave up bread for a while and flour in general but I am coming back to wheat but only wholemeal. I don’t want to eat white flour bread and I no longer eat pasta.

    To the point.

    Yeast is every where, it’s in the air and it’s also in the flour already. It was on the grain in the field and it stayed there through the milling process. It’s impossible not to be able to make a sourdough starter.

    Things required. It can happen quickly but usually around 3 to 5 days are need to make the starter. So patience is required. Basically all the bacteria in the flour in the air and in the container will start to grow, but the yeast will dominate and make it impossible for the others to continue. The starter will go through a sour acidic phase. This will probably be the produce of the unwanted bacteria and it will eventually destroy the bacteria and the yeast will become dominant. I’m no expert on the science but that is more or less what happens.

    To maintain the starter you throw away half of the starter and top it up with the same amount of fresh water and flour mix as you threw away. It does require constant monitoring but the starter would theoretically last forever.

    The consistency. I have no recipe to offer. My suggestion is to make a slightly runny paste with flour and water but not a dough. This will enable the yeast to thrive, to move around the mixture and not work too hard to break down and consume the starch.

    Warm conditions but not hot, and to slow down or temporarily stop growth put it in the fridge. Don’t leave it too long or the yeast will die and the unwanted bacteria will take over again. Don’t seal the lid allow it to breath.

    Sugar nor juice is necessary. The final useable yeast should have a slighty heady sweet smelling creamy quality to it, though I doubt it tastes sweet.

    The yeast basically uses an enzyme to convert the carbs to digestible sugars. I know a little science it seems.

    Good luck.

  3. I had forgotten all about making sourdough bread as I haven’t made it for years. Will definitely be making this starter, and having another go at it. Love the smell when it’s baking and the bread? Best you can eat. Thanks for this.

  4. Tammy

    I may have missed this somewhere but I don’t understand how to maintain the starter for continued use. In your instructions it’s always a different amount for the flour and liquid. If I want to keep it going, do I continue with step #4 each time and do I keep it in a sealed jar in the fridge?

  5. Dave

    I haven’t made home made bread in over 20yrs but with this starter receipt it was a breeze the pineapple juice makes all the difference. when making sour dough bread I used to save some of the dough back and freeze it to add to new batch of dough for conformity in every batch. Is that still the way to do it? Is there a better way now?
    thanks Niko

  6. Dave

    I haven’t made home made bread in over 20yrs but with this starter receipt it was a breeze the pineapple juice makes all the difference. when making sour dough bread I used to save some of the dough back and freeze it to add to new batch of dough for conformity in every batch. Is that still the way to do it? Is there a better way now?

  7. I don’t know if there’s something the matter with me, but making a new starter has always been incredibly simple and easy. 1 cup of fresh, organic, hard whole wheat flour. 1 cup of reverse osmosis filtered water. In a 1 litre jar. (162 g flour, 225g water – 166% or so hydration) Cover. Leave at room temperature until it starts expanding up the side of the jar. Refrigerate for a few days. Refresh and use. I believe that the quality of the flour (organic, fresh, whole wheat) and the water (pure as can possibly be) make the difference. Notice I am putting the lid on the jar. I used to think it needed to attract mold spores in the air until I tried an experiment and found out that the covered new starter did better than the uncovered. Therefore, the yeasts must be lying dormant in the flour.

  8. Chauqg

    This process of making your own sourdough starter is by far the most helpful instruction. I have made starter several times, but I have never had the next appropiate steps to follow. After several attempts at making bread and not knowing how to properly maintain the starter, I became frustrated no suggestions like: how to use the sourdough – “recipes”; let alone, “how to manager your sourdough starter”.

    I am quickly finding this site has it all. The lessons are well written with easy to follow videos. This time I am much more confident about the long term success. I am on day 4 the foaming has begun. The smell of pineapple is replaced with the smell of sour yeast. :~)

    Thank You!

  9. Hello again. I wanted to thank someone for the response to my first email, but i didnt see a name on the reply. I typed in my question,hit the submit button and just went on thru the site because i thought well, i might get a reply in a day or so. I was amazed when i came back in a couple hours to look around some more and someone replied in 10minutes!!! Thanks again!! That being said I was wandering if anyone could point me in the direction of using spent grains for bread making? Recipes or cookbooks? Thank you, j.w.

  10. Hello, i am interested in making my first sourdough starter and i was wandering if it’s ok to start with 100% unbleached White whole wheat flour in place of the unbleached whole wheat? And is it ok on the 3rd day instead of dicarding half of the mixture i could double the feeding to get a larger amount of starter? That way i could give away a little more than one starter for family or friends.
    Thank you, J.W.

  11. John K

    Very much enjoyed your videos on sourdough starter and pizza making.
    I make my starter using active dry yeast,flour,and water. It takes 4 days to a week to get an active sponge going. I feed it with flour and water, plus a little sugar if I want to step up the pace.
    I keep a jar in the refrigerator for future use. I will mix the sponge and add some flour and water every 2-3 weeks. To use I will let the sponge warm and add a larger amount of flour and water and let sit at room temp until it is active and sour smelling, usually 1 day.
    I don’t use any metal to contain or work the starter. I don’t use filtered water or fruit juice. Very simple process. Do you see any problems with my method? Thanks

    • It’s working, so I don’t see a problem with it.

  12. Sandra Loubet

    Thank you so much! It worked first time! We use sourdough for one thing and that is this wonderful waffle recipe. (From now on it goes in a labeled jar so it will never get thrown away accidentally again)
    Night before: 2 C flour, 2 C milk, 4 T starter – Mix, cover, let stand. Next day stir & take out 4 T. starter and save! Add to remaining: 3 beaten eggs 1 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. soda, 2 T sugar, 4 T butter or oil. Cook on UNgreased waffle iron. Incredibly good!

    • Awesome. Glad to hear your enthusiasm!

  13. Gunny

    Sour dough french Baguett I made this past week, needs more steam in he oven to thin the crust but other wise was good eats :).

  14. Gunny

    The best success for stater that I’ve had is to start with equal weights of flour and water. example 100 gms water 100 gms flour, cover with a lid lose not snapped, and for warmth I use the top of my frig for 3 days. If mold should appear, remove the mold and weight the amount of starter, and add equal parts of flour and water by weight. example, after removing the mold my starter weights 70 gms, so I’ll add 70 gms flour and 70 grams water. Day 4 Refresh starter remove what ever amount you can, minus the hard crust if one is present and weigh the starter, add that weight in flour and water. Day 5 thru 9 should see a transformation and beginning of a yeasty aroma. Day 10 start feeding on a regular schedule I use every 12 hours, and now cover with cheese cloth. Continue this to day 15. At this time the starter should be strong, after each feeding it will double or triple in size 8 to 12 hours from the amount of starter you begin with after each feeding.

    The Key is to weigh and keep the starter at a 1:1 ratio or 100%. 100gm starter = 100 grams water, 100 gram flour each feeding. I use a 32 oz Deli container from the local Deli. Works great. My starter is now 7 month old. I keep in the frig and feed it once a week, less maintenance this way.

  15. Cris Paraiso

    Thanks for this great site. I was able to make my own starter on my first try. I used freshly squeezed pineapple and whole wheat flour. Great for making breads and pancakes.

  16. dave

    how long will the starter last?how and where should you store it. Some one said that if you keep some of the dough that u can use it in your next batch of bread dough is this true?

  17. alexis

    seemed ok after first mix good smell coming then post pineapple moving to spring water just seemed to have died after this. Six days in just revisited and it smells of vinegar. Using orange now and going to leave where a few hours of direct sunlight can hit it each day and see if the second pot will work.

    Wait and see and just keep trying.

  18. sherry

    Great site..Thank you for the information here! I’m new to sourdough breads and reading all I can to get going. I’m wondering if this starter recipe would work with gluten free flours. If so which would you recommend to start with?
    Best… Sherry

  19. MaryLou

    Thank you for your comments, and encouragement to keep on trying. I am happy to report this morning my starter was bubbly and yeasty smelling this evening it had risen to almost double and sort of foamy bubbles , so am leaving it out overnight on the stove top after baking today kitchen is warmer. YAY! I have learned a lot about this process reading all the posts on here it really helps to see what others have done and what works and doesn’t, Thanks everyone for sharing. I can’t wait to make my first sourdough recipe.

  20. MaryLou

    I began my first ever sourdough starter using the pineapple method 4 days ago it didn’t seem to be doing anything as of one day ago. I am concerned my house is too cold, it is 68′ in my hallway, but probably slightly cooler in my kitchen. The bottom of the jar felt very cold. Last night before bed I heated a kitchen towel in the microwave to slightly warmer then my hand and wrapped the jar in it and put this into an insulated lunch bag to sit over night. I also have not stirred it as often as it states in the directions as I am not home to do so, but it does get attention at least twice a day. I will report back when I see what happens with the heated towel method I am trying out.. I also have read some methods that use cheese cloth over jar top, would that help assure more yeast in my jar to assist if the flour alone isn’t enough? Would that also leave it open to more molds that may not be good for it? It just seems wrong to leave something that would be eaten out on the counter open like that, but I am sure in days gone by they left a lot of things open to the elements since they didn’t exactly have plastic wrap or Tupperware to use. I havn’t begun discarding any and replacing it. Should I do that now regardless of how active it is?

    • Hi MaryLou,

      No one really has much control over this process. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t even when you think you’re doing everything “right”. It’s definitely possible to over think this and I’m pretty sure you’ve done that ;-). The best advise is just follow the instructions and if it doesn’t work, you’re out a few cents and a few more days to see if the next try is successful.

  21. Elena

    Hi! I’m on day 3 of the preparation and I’ve noticed that some white mould has started to grow on the sides of the plastic container I’m using for the sourdough starter… Is that normal or should I toss everything away? I’m keeping the closed container on the kitchen counter, could it be that the kitchen is too warm/humid? Should I perhaps use a glass, airtight jar to create the starter (and then move to a non airtight in the fridge)? So many question I know, sorry :) Thank you for your help! Elena

  22. Carol Ann Speight

    Many years ago(early 1970’s) I was given some starter and to feed it I used flour, milk and sugar. Have you ever come across a recipe using these 3 ingredients? I made endless delicious items like pancakes, biscuits, donuts, bread, and a chocolate cake that was to die for!!!! ;).
    This sourdough did NOT need feeding twice daily, ONLY when you used it. It was kept in the refigerator.
    IF I recall I used 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk and either 1/3 or 1/2 cup sugar.
    I have tried maybe 30-40 times to get a new starter going. ALL have failed OR the taste of the item made with this starter was so gross that I just chucked it all……again!
    Here’s hoping you have a suggestion for me.
    Thank you in advance.

    • People feed their starters all kinds of stuff. Flour, milk and sugar is one way it can be done. I’m pretty sure hardly anyone would feed their starter 2x/day unless they were in a big hurry to build up a large quantity of it or were baking like crazy and keeping it at a warm room temp.

      Of the 30-40 times you’ve tried to make starter, were any of them following the instructions outlined above?

  23. John

    I bought some sourdough starter from the store but the instructions for making it are strict about keeping the temperature at 85 degrees for long periods. I don t think I can achieve that temp here in February (the oven temp with light on shows 77 degrees), so I was thinking about using your method. Do you think it would hurt if I added the store bought sourdough starter when making your sourdough starter? How does temperature effect your method? Thanks.

    • No, it wouldn’t hurt. The main thing about temperature is simply that the warmer it is the faster the starter will ferment and the more often you’ll need to feed it. Cooler = slower = less frequent feeding. Any starter should work within a pretty wide temperature range.

  24. Raakhee

    Which recipes can I use this starter. Thank you

    • If you’re new to bread baking, you might want to stick with recipes that specifically call for using sourdough starter.

  25. Merel

    This recipe worked great the first try! Thank you very much for sharing it!

  26. Leslie

    Lieonvalle
    I have made my first attempts at starter.2 weeks ago with just flour and water. Four days ago with fresh squeezed o.j. The o.j. Has turned out to be very vigorous, and the flour and water not so much. Wondering if I should toss the one and continue on with vigorous starter? Also can you share your recipe that uses 2 cups of starter for bread?
    Thanks so much, I am addicted to this science experiment now.
    Leslie

  27. robert

    HI my name is Bob after your starter takes off how often do you feed it and how much do you feed it. and where do you store it until you use it

    • Robert

      After two smelly failed attempts with water and flour, I watched your video and now have a lovely yeasty smelling active starter doubling just a couple of hours after the second feeding at 48 hours. Thanks so much for the easy to understand instruction.

  28. Chelsea

    I’ve read a lot about the float test with starter. I just made my very first starter using the King Arthur flour method so I’ve been feeding it equal parts of water and flour by weight twice daily. I’ve been doing this for 2 weeks now. It’s living in room temp in southern CA at about 58-60 degrees at night and 68 by day. It bubbles but does not float. Also I don’t seem to be getting any major volume increase. I understand that 100% hydration starters won’t float? I’ve tried making bread twice now both times with failure. Maybe I’m just not waiting long enough? Are there any tips for converting a 100% hydration starter to a lower hydration so that the float test will work and tip me off to when it’s ready? Also is it harder to keep a low hydration starter going? I’m considering starting over with this pineapple version :). Many thanks!

    Chelsea

  29. Joni

    I got my fermentation at the end of step 2, thank you. Will just need to feed it one more time. Needed to make my own since I forgot mine on an extended trip (although my brother offered to Fed-Ex me some of his!). Thought you would get a kick out of the history of my own starter. It was purchased by my mother, Pat Fleetwood, and kept alive by her (and now by my brother and myself) until her passing in 2011. She bought it at a church bazaar in Anchorage, Alaska in 1959 from Bertha Meir. Bertha’s brother brought it to Alaska in 1898 during the Alaska Gold Rush over the Chilkoot Pass Trail.

    • That’s very cool. Just last night, Denyce and I watched an excellent show on PBS on the Klondike Gold Rush.

  30. Kath onboard Caramor

    Brilliant website, thanks.

    I’ve been baking for years with a starter I was once given, last May we moved onto Caramor and set sail around the world, the starter was doing fine. I bought some very nice flour in Morocco which came alive a few weeks later with weevils. Unfortunately I had used that flour to feed my starter. When I pulled it out of the fridge it had gone completely flat and bad smelling and had larvae floating around in it.

    I made a starter but just with flour and water, it hasn’t really worked, sours nicely but doesn’t rise enough. I’ll try the pineapple juice, brilliant!

  31. Joanna

    I am pleased to find this recipe for the pineapple whole wheat starter on the Internet. I made bread the other day and unfortunatly used the last of my five year old starter. I restarted it and am only one day in so I hope it catches the wild yeast. Again, thanks for the wonderful website.

  32. I am pleased to be able to find this starter on the Internet. I had a whole wheat starter using the pineapple juice for five years and much to my dismay two days ago, used every last bit in my bread! So now I’m restarting it. Only one day in but I hope it will catch the wild yeast. Again, appreciate this site and are thrilled to find so many people interested in sourdough bread.

  33. Evan

    I followed your instructions but substituted fresh squeezed orange juice (pineapple allergy) and it worked amazingly, this is my first attempt at sourdough so the fun is really just beginning…

    It’s going to be a sourdough Christmas =)

  34. Roy

    hi there,

    My old starter kicked the bucket and there was no reviving it. I left it in the fridge too long and it smelled like paint; yuk! So I gave the recipe of creating a starter with natural yoghurt another whirl but to no avail. I was slightly reticent about the success of this recipe using pineapple juice as I used juice from concentrate and yet still it produced a fantastic healthy starter just in time for cheese croutes for our French onion soup starter on Christmas Day. Thanks Breadtopia!

  35. Loralie

    Absolutely amazing! Just finished day four using straight rye flour ( Rogers brand) and even this morning it was already bubbly at the stirring, and tonight when I added the water and flour it was beautifully yeasty smelling. This method does work. I can hardly wait until the starter is ready to use. I already have a friend waiting in the wings for me to share. Very happy, thank you for sharing.

    • That’s awesome. Glad it’s working out!

  36. jill

    once the starter is finished and you keep in the refrigerator, what quantity do you feed it 1x a week.
    i know you probably have this written somewhere, but I couldn’t find it.
    Thank you.
    J

  37. Marc

    Excellent instructions and video. Do you know what the hydration level of the final starter is?

    Thanks
    Marc

    • Somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%

  38. Brenda Boldt

    This is my very first attempt at sour dough starter, I am so happy to have come across your method of making it!
    I am only at the first 48 hours and just gave the baby her next feed. I just know this is going to be a complete success as it is already on it’s way to a good fermentation, lots of bubbles, and a pleasant sour odour ;) Will keep you posted, but so far so good! Wheeee :D

  39. Hi! I made a sourdough starter by accident. Just mixed crushed pineapple with hazelnuts. It smelt yeast after 2 days and looks like an ideal leaven. I’m new in baking using sourdough and I wonder if it’s safe to try this mixture of mine. Tell me please what You think about it. I’m glutenfree and like experimenting as long as it doesn’t make me vomit :-)

  40. Wendy

    Hi Eric,
    Nice video. Very informative.
    One question: Can I use fresh pineapple juice?
    Thanks,
    Wendy

    • Thanks!

      Sure, fresh is fine.

  41. It worked like a charm! After 72 hours the pineapple smell was replaced with a yeasty fermentation smell and the change was visible. I’m going to start a loaf for this weekend so I can have some good bread to serve with my scrambled eggs.

  42. I have been trying for several months, without success, to create a Sourdough Starter. I had all but given up when I came across your website and video. I am now into the 5th day and I have a great looking starter, which I intend to look after like a baby. I now look forward to baking my favourite breads. Thank you for the video and digging me out of the frustrating depths I had plummeted to :-)

    Regards
    Barrie

  43. chris

    After many unsuccessful attempts I almost gave up on my own starter until I came across this “pineapple juice” recipe you adopted.
    There was a link to a doctors scientific experiment explaining the reason citric acid works so well by inhibiting unwanted bacteria. Very interesting.
    Anyway, using your recipe I FINALLY made a great starter, one wheat flower and the other white.
    By the way, your video and written instructions are clear, concise, brief and easily understandable, even by me.

    • Thanks Chris. I’m glad you’ve got a good starter going.

  44. Yi

    Just started the starter today, the video is extremely helpful and I enjoyed reading the science behind the use of pineapple juice. It makes so much sense and actually explained why my first starter died so pathetically. Fingers crossed this batch will come out fine! PS: I used orange juice (freshly squeezed) as I have no idea how to juice a pineapple without a juicer and it is near impossible to get unsweetened pineapple juice where I stay.

  45. Gina Benavente

    Hi, I was just given a sourdough starter. It is a very small amount so I really can’t do anything with it until I expand it, I think… I am wondering what I do now. How do I feed it? How do I store it? fridge? airtight container? I’m really confused… thanks

  46. Nikos

    Thank you so much for your wonderful whole wheat starter and the
    fantastic Rye/Wholewheat bread I made.
    My starter (thanks to your advice) was as it was expect it and the
    bread making experience was just perfect.
    I follow your instructions to exact with the exception that I added
    a teaspoon of local honey.
    The bread was a dream of the act of bread making from scratch.
    Thank you again so much.
    Best regards
    Nikos

  47. Michelle

    Thanks for your video! I’m in step 3 today and my starter is going well with moderate bubbling and a mild smell of alcohol.

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