Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

This gluten free sourdough starter is just what you’ll need to make a great loaf of gluten free sourdough bread!

active gluten free sourdough starter

Sourdough is all the rage right now, and for good reason! Of course the whole pandemic thing caused a shortage of packaged yeast, so that was probably the main reason. But the best reason is that it’s so freakin’ good, ya’ll!!!

Before we get into all the sourdough BREAD talk, though, we have to start with the STARTER. Start with the starter. Start with the starter. Don’t mind me. Anything to do with great gluten free bread gets me excited, haha!

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

As you’re probably already aware, all sourdough bread begins with a sourdough starter. But what exactly IS a sourdough starter? And how do you make one that’s gluten free?

Fun fact about me–I used to brew my own kombucha! I was good at it, too, and it was incredibly cheap to make!! I used to make different wonderful flavors, like lavender lemon, tangerine, and chai just to name a few.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “why in the heck is she telling me this?” “Who cares?” I actually DO have a relatable reason. It’s the way I “got” the whole sourdough starter thing. You see, kombucha uses a SCOBY, which is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It is required for the fermentation of kombucha, which is just sweet tea that’s been fermented.

Sourdough starter is basically the same concept. It’s simply a mixture of flour and water that grabs the wild yeast in the environment and flour to create a live fermented culture. Sourdough starter takes the place of store bought yeast in bread baking.

To make a gluten free version of a sourdough starter isn’t really any different, other than the types of flours you use. And in my experimenting, I’ve found that there is a WIDE range of flours that can be used in making a gluten free sourdough starter.

Of note, there won’t be the same kind of stretch in this gluten free sourdough starter as there is in a regular (gluten/wheat) starter. In fact, sometimes the top of the starter looks like cracked leather a little bit, and in order to see the bubbles you may need to agitate the jar (or even stir it gently). Check out this little phone video I took of the bubbles popping in my jar!

What Flours are Okay to Use?

From what I’ve researched about sourdough starters, the best flour type to begin with is a wholegrain variety. Here are some examples:

You can also use a combination of any of the above to start your starter. I would NOT suggest using anything other than the above flours for the first few days, until you begin to see activity.

When I made my first starter, I used sorghum because I had a bag of it sitting in my freezer just waiting to be used. Then I ran out and needed to feed it with something else, so I used brown rice flour.

Not too long ago I bought several bags of Bob’s Red Mill wholegrain flours, almost every single one listed above. I stashed them in my freezer for a rainy day. So I’ve pretty much been experimenting with all kinds of wholegrain flours and teff flour was bubbling within 2 days!

Starting Your Gluten Free Starter

Everyone seems to have their own way of beginning a regular starter, so I researched several of them and then came up with MY own way. Plus, gluten free is different so that factor always needs to be taken into account. Here’s a timeline of how I made my gluten free starter:

  • Day 1, 9:00 a.m.–in a clean glass jar, add 50 grams of your whole grain flour of choice. To this, add enough water to make a thick pancake batter-like consistency (for me, this is usually 70 grams or so, but you don’t need to be precise). Stir to combine. Cover loosely and set on the counter.
  • Day 1, 9:00 p.m.–repeat what you did in the morning.
  • Day 2, 9:00 a.m.–repeat adding 50 grams of the same flour and about 70 grams of water. Stir to combine. Cover loosely and set on the counter.
  • Day 2, 9:00 p.m.–repeat what you did in the morning.
  • Days 3-7 to 10 or more, 9:00 a.m.–check starter for activity. If it seems to have risen at all and there are tiny bubbles breaking on the surface (or you can see bubbles on the side of the container), discard about a third of the starter. I don’t measure. I just estimate about one third, but I’m not precise about what I discard. Add another 50 grams of flour and 70 grams of water. At this point, you can start using a different flour if you’d like, or stick with the same flour you’ve been using. See below for other flours and blends.

Do the same as above until you begin to notice a predictability of your starter to rise and fall. After feeding it, it should bubble and rise to its “peak rise” stage, a little less than double, within about 5-6 hours. Then it will fall predictably in about the same amount of time. In other words, it should be ready to “eat” every 12 hours or so.

peak rise and fall

Tips, Tricks, and Rules to Break

  • Don’t worry so much about being exact. That was one of my biggest fears in beginning a sourdough starter, all the rules and regulations and if I would get it right. I never weighed my jars and never weighed how much I was discarding. I just used a rough estimate and everything went perfectly fine.
  • If you stir your starter with a metal spoon, it’s not going to die. I know this because for the longest time I used a metal spoon and had the liveliest starter ever. The only reason I switched to a silicone spatula is because it was easier to scrape the sides of the container and I wanted it to look a little neater.
  • Shocker–you can actually use tap water!! Again, I know this from experience. I’ve never used anything other than tap water. Maybe my tap water isn’t filled with tons of chlorine, but I’ve never had a problem with it. If yours is, by all means use bottled or filtered water.
  • If you forget to feed your starter once or twice, don’t sweat it. Just pick up where you left off. It’ll be fine. Guess how I know this one?? Haha! (do you see a pattern here?!?!)
  • If you plan on baking gluten free sourdough often, just keep your starter on the counter and feed it at least once a day (discarding as usual). If you don’t plan on baking as often, you can store your starter in the refrigerator and feed it once a week (discarding before you feed).
bubbly starter

Flours for Feeding

Although it’s wise to start your starter with wholegrain flours, once you get it going you can begin feeding it with other flours. I fed one of mine with sorghum flour from the start, but finished with brown rice flour. Another started with teff flour and ended with white rice flour. Yet another began with brown rice flour and was fed with my xanthan gum free flour blend.

What Size Jar Do I Need?

The size of the jar is only as limited as the amount of starter you want. In other words, if you want to make a lot of bread, use a larger jar. If you want to only give it a go every few months or so, a smaller jar would be perfect.

Which brings me to my next tidbit of information on sourdough starters–if you want more starter, make more. What a concept, huh? I thought for the longest time that sourdough was so intimidating, but after working with it for the past 3-4 months I’ve determined that I was unjustly worrying for no reason.

Let’s say you’re gung ho and really want to make all the sourdough breads. Instead of feeding your starter 50 grams of flour and roughly the same amount of water, go for the gusto and up that to maybe 100 grams of flour and about 120 grams of water (give or take, just until the mixture is like thick pancake batter). Just keep in mind that your jar will need to be big enough to hold the larger amounts.

What’s the Liquid on Top of My Starter?

The liquid that may gather on top of your starter is called “hooch” and it’s basically alcohol. It presents when your starter hasn’t been fed in a while. Although it’s harmless to your starter, it’s an indication that you need to feed it. You can either pour it off with your discard, or stir it into your starter. Hooch can be quite strong, so I always pour mine off.

sourdough starter with cloth on top and rubber bands holding cloth tight

Don’t be intimidated about making your own natural yeast. It’s so much easier than you might think and the rules CAN be broken. Start your gluten free sourdough starter today and by next week you’ll be ready to bake my gluten free sourdough bread!!

active gluten free sourdough starter

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

This gluten free sourdough starter is just what you’ll need to make a great loaf of gluten free sourdough bread!
Print Recipe
Coursebread
CuisineAmerican
KeywordGluten Free, sourdough starter
Prep Time5 minutes
Resting Time7 days
Total Time7 days 5 minutes
Servings2 cups, depending on amount your starter is fed
AuthorKim

Ingredients

  • 50 grams wholegrain flour, plus more for feeding
  • 50-70 grams water, plus more for feeding

Instructions

  • Day 1, morning–In a clean glass or ceramic jar, add the wholegrain flour and then pour in the water, beginning with 50 grams. Stir the mixture. If it's super thick and not like a thick pancake batter, you can add about 20 grams more water.
  • Loosely cover the jar and set it on your counter for roughly 12 hours.
  • Day 1, evening–Add another 50 grams of wholegrain flour and water and stir to combine, adding more water as necessary to get to a thick pancake batter-like consistency.
  • Loosely cover the jar and set it on your counter for roughly 12 hours.
  • Day 2, morning–Add 50 grams of wholegrain flour and water to jar and stir to combine, adding more water as necessary to create the proper consistency.
  • Loosely cover the jar and set it on your counter for roughly 12 hours.
  • Day 2, evening–Add another 50 grams of wholegrain flour and water and stir to combine.
  • Loosely cover and set it on your counter for roughly 12 hours.
  • Day 3, morning–Check for activity in your starter. If you don't see any bubbles or smell a sour aroma (or see an increase in volume), continue with the previous day's feeding schedule without discarding. If you DO see bubbles and smell a sour aroma, discard about one third (you don't need to be precise) and then feed it with 50 grams of either the same wholegrain flour, a different wholegrain flour, white rice flour, or my gluten free xanthan gum free flour blend, as well as 50-70 grams of water. Stir to combine.
  • Loosely cover and set it on your counter for roughly 12 hours.
  • Day 3, evening–If you had no activity in the morning, check it again for activity. If no activity, repeat the steps for days 1-2. If you already saw activity in the morning and are seeing more, continue to discard about half and then feed it with another 50 grams of your flour of choice and 50-70 grams of water.
  • Loosely cover and set it on your counter for roughly 12 hours.
  • Days 4-7 and even up to 10 days–Continue discarding and feeding every 12 hours until you begin to see a predictable peak rise of almost double in size and fall, letting you know it's time to feed again. Your starter should be fed at the most 12 hours before you use it in any sourdough bread recipes.

STORING SOURDOUGH STARTER

  • If you plan on baking with your sourdough starter quite frequently (at least once a week or more), you may keep it out on your counter (mine is always on my counter).
  • If you only wish to bake with your starter every few weeks to months, you can store it in your refrigerator, discarding and feeding it once a week.

Notes

Once your starter is ready, use it in my amazing gluten free artisan sourdough bread recipe.  From there, you can learn how to use it in any of my bread recipes.  


39 thoughts on “Gluten Free Sourdough Starter”

  • Do you have a preferred “recipe” to use when making sourdough bread from your starter. I love your flour mixes and appreciate all your tips so much. Thanks.

    • Thanks so much, Jody! I will be posting my boule recipe next week and also instructions on how to substitute the yeast in any of my bread recipes with sourdough starter 🙂

  • I have a good healthy GF starter going. I can’t wait for your recipes. I used Sorgum flour to make my starter. I have my first loaf in the oven now. Recipe from another site. I didn’t know you had one. I love your other breads. I can’t wait to try this

    • Thanks so much, Patricia! I’m hoping to have the recipe for a sourdough boule on my site next week, but also instructions on how to substitute the yeast in any of my bread recipes with sourdough starter 🙂

  • Thank so much for your thoughts on a starter. I have had success with a starter but used it all trying to make pizza dough. I look forward to creating one from your recipe soon. I hope you will offer other recipes along with a bread recipe to use our starters with.

    • Absolutely! I’m hoping to have an in depth instructional post about how to substitute yeast with sourdough starter in ANY of my bread recipes 🙂

  • I started my sourdough starter a while ago with half brown rice flour and half white rice flour, it works fine for me. For the actual sourdough bread, I use your gluten free bread flour mix. My family loves it!

    • That’s awesome, Catherine!! I have one going now that’s half brown rice and half white rice flours and I think it’s my favorite so far in terms of flavor, but the sorghum one is also great 🙂

  • Why do you discard some of the starter? Can’t you keep it and continue to feed it and make more starter?

    • I’m pretty new to all this sourdough stuff, but from what I’ve researched it’s because if you don’t discard some, your starter will take over and expand so greatly you won’t be able to contain it. I’ve actually found this to be somewhat true in one of my first starters I made. It was almost overflowing! But that was mainly because I wasn’t discarding enough. I guess you could put the discard in another container and basically start another starter. I’ve seen some recipes for making things with the discard, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. Google sourdough starter discard recipes 🙂

      • You can use what you discard to make bread, sourdough crackers and more. I now have a system where I store my starter in the fridge, bring it out on Friday, start the feed process going again and discard on Saturday, ready to make Kim’s bread dough for the week and a batch of sourdough crackers. Then, when I have the starter quantity back to where I want it, by adding the half flour -half water mix in stages, it goes back in the fridge to rest until the following weekend. No waste!

  • I have a few questions! How strong should the starter smell when it is ready?
    Have you ever seen hooch form on the bottom? I am noticing some liquid forming on the bottom. Should I just stir it in when I feed?
    So excited to try this!

    • Hi, Katelyn! I think the strength of the smell is different depending on the flours you used, but in general it should be pretty strong smelling but in a good way. I personally like the sour smell so to me it smells pleasant.

      Yes, I have seen hooch form on the bottom of mine and I just stir it in, if it doesn’t escape when I’m discarding.

      I can’t wait for you to try the bread!!

  • Really excited to try this! So far all of your bread recipes have been wonderful (I have you Italian bread in the oven right now!) do you have a good recipe for using the discarded starter (pancakes perhaps?) I feel like I haven’t been able to find a decent GF pancake recipe and would love to see your take on them 🙂

    Thanks! Can’t wait to let you know how it turns out!

    • Hi, Jillianne! If you love the Italian bread, you’ll love this bread, too! It’s so much like a bread you’d get at a real gluten-filled bakery, it’s unbelievable.

      I don’t currently have any discard recipes, but I’ve seen a lot of them floating around on the internet. I do, however, have an amazing gf pancake recipe on the blog (https://www.letthemeatgfcake.com/gluten-free-pancakes/) If you want to add some of your discard to this recipe, it’d probably work out just fine 🙂

  • Hi, I had some questions about the starter! Currently, it’s the end of day 2 of my starter and I’ve fed it four times total (approximately once every 12 hours). For some reason, the liquid is forming on top of the starter only a few hours after feeding (and after the last feeding, it appeared within one hour)… does this mean I should be feeding it every 2-3 hours? Also, bubbles started appearing in the starter after only one day, is this normal? I’m using brown rice flour.
    I’m really excited to see how it turns out!! I’ve already tried your pizza recipe and your donut recipe and both were delicious 🙂

    • Hi, Annika! I would just continue feeding it every 12 hours as you’ve been doing. You can either pour off the hooch or stir it into the starter. And you can go ahead and start discarding now since you’re seeing bubbles. That’s a good thing!

      Good luck and please let me know if you like the sourdough bread 🙂

    • Hi,

      If you plan to use it more often and leave it on the counter, how often do you feed it?

  • I’ve been so excited about my sourdough starter all week! I’ve been searching all of quarantine for a gluten free sourdough recipe and i am so happy i came across yours.

    Quick question. Mine was rising and falling after a few days, but it recently stopped rising altogether. Is there anything i should do to get it to start rising again? Or do i need to start over completely? Thanks!

    • Hi, Allie and thanks for the kind words!

      Hmmm. I would suggest continue feeding and discarding and it’ll pick back up. If it doesn’t in a few days, you could start over but I have faith that it will 🙂

  • I am having trouble with my starter. I start getting bubbles forming around day 2-3 but when I start the discard-feeding schedule it stops rising and bubbling. I keep feeding and discarding but I get nothing. I am using brown rice flour. Am I doing something wrong? This is my second attempt and its the same issue each time.

  • So, I went to feed my starter for the last feeding before using it tomorrow, and there was mold around the top curve of the jar. Any idea why that would happen?

  • Thank you! You have no idea how refreshing it is to read a bread recipe that says you don’t have to be exact in your measurements! How many grandmothers made bread by weighing out their flour and yeast??? And I use tap water ALL the time in my sourdough bread, without trouble, and I have a LOT of chlorine in mine! I’m excited to try this bread recipe, although since my husband is only wheat sensitive, not allergic to gluten, I’m going to use a rye fed starter.

    • So true, Melanie! I remember watching my grandma make biscuits and just dumping everything in the bowl without measuring. Wish I could be that brave, but I’m glad I found at least the sourdough starter doesn’t need to be exact.

      Let me know how your rye starter works 🙂

  • I’m excited to try this! I’m curious though, it’s a gluten free starter right? Is the whole grain flour you start with gluten free or regular flour? And does it become gluten free when you start mixing in the gluten free flours? I just want to do it right and not hurt my tummy. 🙂

    • Oh, definitely gluten free! You could never start with gluten containing flours and end up with gluten free. Within the post itself, I list several wholegrain flours you can use that are naturally gluten free, such as sorghum, teff, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and brown rice.

  • So very excited to find your website. Made your gluten-free sourdough bread this weekend and it was a super hit. Had made sourdough bread for years and stopped when my daughter became gluten intolerant. So everyone is very excited about your recipe. My question is has anyone ever frozen the starter. I have frozen a regular starter in the past and I was able to revive it. I will be gone for an extended period of time in a few months and wanted to know if it would be OK in the refrigerator or should it be frozen and if so has this been successful. Thank you again for sharing your discovery and talent.

    • I have never heard of freezing the starter, but I seriously bet it would work because I’ve frozen several of my yeast doughs with little to no effect at all, and starter is just like the most basic dough. If you try it, let me know what happens 😊

  • Love love the sourdough bread. Enjoyed the challenge of making the starter, not complicated. Kim your my kind of lady, great sense of humor.

  • Hi Kim. Thank you so much for all your great recipes. At what point can the starter be used to make loaf of bread?

    • Whenever it’s predictably rising and falling. I apologize for not having the link to my sourdough bread on this post, but I’m putting it on there right now 🙂

  • Hi, a few questions I’m afraid!
    I have a regular starter that works well, I want to go gluten free because of a thyroid problem not celiac. If I start replacing the feeds with one of the approved gluten free flours from your list will the gluten slowly get less and less or is it something that continues to multiply and exist?
    And,
    Does the float test work/apply with your gluten free starter. I find this so helpful when making a normal sourdough loaf.

    Many thanks and sorry to be difficult!
    Xx

    • You’re not difficult! That’s what I’m here for! Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to your question about using your own starter. If you were Celiac or gluten intolerant, I would probably say start over. I personally wouldn’t trust anything that started with any kind of gluten in it already.

      To answer your second question, I believe I tried the float test the first time I made my starter and it didn’t work so I wouldn’t go by that test. I wish gluten free had helpful things like that to determine readiness, but the only thing that I’ve ever used to determine it is when it’s predictably rising and falling after feedings.

      I wish you much luck in your gluten free baking endeavors, and hope that you are able to find something on my site that suits your needs 🙂

    • Hannah—have you or are you trying what you asked about? I want to try the same, to “convert” my healthy gluten full starter to GF. Since I’m not worried about Celiac, a bit of gluten that diminishes with each batch doesn’t bother me. Looking forward to your reply [please].

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