No daily feedings or discard? That’s right! This Easy Gluten Free Sourdough Starter will have you in the sourdough game in no time.
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I was always so scared to start a sourdough starter and make sourdough bread. The way it sounded to me was so confusing and way too much work. Like you had to have all conditions exactly right. No tap water. No metal utensils. A big enough jar to handle overflow and lots and lots of discarding and feeding. Every day. Sometimes twice a day. At least that’s what I thought originally, and some of those “rules” stuck with me when I made my first sourdough starter and bread (such as twice a day feedings and discardings).
But I often found myself forgetting to feed my starter and it’d eventually die. So when I found a different way for beginning and maintaining a sourdough starter, I was absolutely thrilled to test it out and see how it would work in the gluten free bread baking world. And that’s why I’m here now, telling you all about it, because it worked SO well that there was no way I was NOT gonna share it with you!
This method is not my own creation, so I need to give credit where credit is due. The brain child for this fabulous sourdough starter is the “Sourdough Whisperer” herself, Elaine Boddy. In her book (affiliate link), she explains that there is no need for keeping an overload of starter because it will almost grow into a beast, requiring to be fed all the time. If you keep a minimal amount of starter, you only need to feed it a minimal amount of flour and water, and not that often either. So I took her teachings and applied them to my own gluten free practices and here we are. You truly won’t believe how easy it is to maintain this starter (in the fridge!) and feed it only when you need it. Let’s dive right in!!
here’s what you’ll need
- A medium bowl
- A small jar for storing starter, preferably one with a wide lid
- Gluten free flour (NOT a blend). I’ll explain more on this later.
THE SIMPLE METHOD FOR creating your SOURDOUGH STARTER
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. This was when kombucha first came on the scene and no one really knew what it was. 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. 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).
- In a medium bowl, add 50 grams of brown rice flour (or your gf flour of choice–see below) and 60 grams of water. Stir until well combined. It should look like a thick pancake batter. Cover loosely and leave on the counter for 24 hours. I use a paper plate to cover my bowl.
- The next day, feed the starter with 30 grams of your gf flour of choice and 40 grams of water. Cover loosely and leave for 24 hours.
- Continue this method until you get to day 5.
- On day 5, remove the cover and discard roughly half of the starter and feed again with 30 grams of your gf flour of choice and 40 grams of water.
- Day 6, do not discard anything and feed with 30 grams of your gf flour of choice and 40 grams of water.
- Day 7, discard half and then feed as per usual.
- Day 8, feed as per usual.
- Day 9, discard half and feed as per usual.
- Day 10, look for signs of plenty of bubbles, expansion of the starter, and a sour smell in the bowl. If you don’t see these signs, continue with the status quo until you do see them. If you DO see these signs, you can now put it in a wide-mouthed jar (affiliate link) with a tight fitting lid and place it in the fridge, where it will stay until you’re ready to use it.
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:
- Sorghum (affiliate link)
- Teff (affiliate link)
- Millet (affiliate link)
- Amaranth (affiliate link)
- Buckwheat (affiliate link)
- Brown rice (affiliate link)
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. Then, if you want, you can add half of the flour you started with and half white or sweet rice flour. The sweet rice flour offers a very slight stretch to the starter that you wouldn’t normally have.
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!
SOURDOUGH STARTER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
No, you absolutely do not need to feed your starter daily! If you aren’t making bread on a daily basis, store the starter in the fridge until you’re ready to make bread again. Only feed it when you need it.
While most people state to use filtered water, my experience is that tap water works just fine. If you feel your tap water is heavy in chlorine, you can fill a container with tap water and leave it on the counter overnight. The chlorine will dissipate as the water sits.
Liquid on top of a sourdough starter is called “hooch.” It’s a byproduct of the fermentation process and indicates your starter is hungry. You can either stir it back into your starter when feeding or pour it out before feeding.
Tips, Tricks, and Rules to Break
- 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. Or pour your tap water into an open container and let it sit on the counter overnight.
- If you plan on baking gluten free sourdough often, just keep your starter on the counter and feed it at least once a day. If you don’t plan on baking as often, you can store your starter in the refrigerator and feed it once a week.
What Size Jar Do I Need?
Elaine from Sourdough Whisperer recommends going with a smaller jar because you really don’t need to keep large quantities of starter at any given time. I personally like these 16-oz wide-mouth jars (affiliate link), but use what you have. You don’t need to go out and buy any jars, but especially not ginormous ones!
Don’t be intimidated about making (capturing) 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 should be ready to bake my gluten free sourdough bread!!
Gluten Free Sourdough Starter
- wholegrain flour, at least 290 grams (options: sorghum, buckwheat, brown rice, amaranth, teff, millet, quinoa
- Day 1–In a clean glass or ceramic bowl, add 50 grams of the wholegrain flour of your choice and 60 grams of water. Stir the mixture. If it's super thick and not like a thick pancake batter, you can add another 10 grams of water.
- Loosely cover the bowl (I like to use a paper plate) and leave it to sit on your counter for 24 hours.
- Day 2–Add 30 grams of wholegrain flour and 40 of water to what's already in the bowl and stir to combine.
- Loosely cover the bowl and leave it on your counter for 24 hours.
- Day 3 and 4–Continue with the previous day's feeding (30 grams of wholegrain flour and 40 grams of water) for both days. Loosely cover the bowl and leave it on your counter for 24 hours each day.
- Days 5–Remove the cover, discard roughly half the starter (no need to measure), and feed the starter as per usual (30 grams of flour and 40 grams of water). Loosely cover the bowl and leave it for 24 hours.
- Day 6–Remove the cover and feed with 30 grams of flour and 40 grams of water (do not discard). Cover loosely and leave for 24 hours.
- Day 7–Remove the cover, discard roughly half the starter, and feed with 30 grams of flour and 40 grams of water. Cover loosely and leave for 24 hours.
- Day 8–Remove the cover and feed with 30 grams of flour and 40 grams of water (no discard). Cover loosely and leave for 24 hours.
- Day 9–Remove the cover, discard half, and feed with 30 grams of flour and 40 grams of water. Cover loosely and leave for 24 hours.
- Day 10–By now, your starter should look very bubbly and have a sour aroma to it (in a good way). Spoon it into a wide-mouthed jar with a tight fitting lid and place the jar in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake with it.
Gluten Free Sourdough Starter was originally posted on June 9, 2020 and has been updated with an entirely new method for creating and maintaining the starter, as well as new pics and a video.
56 thoughts on “Easy Gluten Free Sourdough Starter”
Kim, you are a ROCK STAR! Thank you for all of your hard work; you are so kind to share it ! I have started with the sourdough “starter” and used sorghum flour. I am now on day 8. I have never had any liquid or hooch. It looks like a paste, and it’s not bubbly. It is the farthest thing from thick pancake batter that one could get. It has the sour smell but not the other attributes. What do you think is going on? Should I start over with a different flour?
Thank you, my friend!
Nope, I would just keep going. Different climates take longer or shorter. If you’ve got the sour smell, you’re heading in the right direction!
Big fan of your recipes! 2 Questions on using the starter- once you have a successful starter in the fridge , do you need to feed it weekly? Second. Once you use it to make your amazing bread, how do you feed it to get it back to be ready to put in the fridge for next use. Thanks. H
Hi, Helen! You do not need to feed it regularly. When I feed it and use it in my recipe, I put the lid on and put it right back in the fridge as is. It stays in there until the next time I make bread and I do absolutely nothing with it until then. I once left the starter in there for literally months and when I finally got around to baking sourdough again, I pulled it out, fed it, and repeated the same process. It worked beautifully!!!!
Kim- my starter is going nuts !!!! A loaf of your artisan bread is baking now.
I’ve got so much starter I was hoping you have several more ideas if what to do with this monster I’ve created🥴😳🤣🤪
Ha! That’s a great problem to have I guess!!
You could try making any of the other bread recipes using the starter versus yeast. I explain how to do that in my sourdough bread recipe 😍
This worked like a charm. Bless you.
I’ve been so excited to do this but something is not going right. After watching your video on making the bread, I noticed that your starter was gooey, while mine is consistently rising/falling and bubbly after 25 days it isn’t gooey or creamy like I saw yours. I’ve been faithfully feeding it by 1/3 discard, 50 grams sorghum or fine white rice flour + 50ish grams of water every 12 hours. What am I doing wrong? I tried, at about 15 days to make bread following the recipe with your prescribed bread ‘flour’ and got a lump of concrete dough, it never rose. Argh..I would love some help figuring out what I am doing wrong? My daughter and son are now 15 months GF with a Celiac’s diagnosis and she is so craving ‘real bread’ my heart aches for her. Thank you so much! ~ Nikki
I’m here to help, Nikki! First off, I’ll ask if you substituted anything within the flour blend itself, such as using a different rice flour instead of the superfine rice flour, or a different protein instead of the whey protein isolate. Can you send me a pic of your starter? My email is [email protected]. We can go from there and see what else could be wrong. Also, if you want to try something that uses yeast and not a sourdough starter, try my regular gf artisan bread. It’s easy and is a wonderful loaf that everyone really enjoys. Another is my gf Italian bread, which is a little more enriched with some butter and milk, but is one of my favorite breads I make.
I am allready trying to get my starter going for more than 10 days and the problem is that every time when i feed it now, it rises 1-2 centimeters in the first 2 hours but after that it falls and doesnt rise more. Any tips? In the beginning the starter was very active rising more, in my impression. I started with brown rice four andnow feeding with white rice flour. Thanks!
It might be the cold that’s causing the problems, but I would also try a more hearty grain, such as buckwheat or teff, to bring it back to life. Once it’s rising more, then you could switch back to white rice flour.
Do you HAVE to discard some of the starter if you have a big enough container & plan on making a few loaves?
Nope, you certainly don’t have to discard all of it. Eventually, if you don’t discard some of it, it will just continue to multiply and outgrow its container, no matter how large the container is, however. But it’s not necessary to discard all of it.
I just started my 1st batch a few minutes ago. I used sorghum flour. My question is, can I use masa harina (corn flour) as a partial addition down the road when I’m feeding my batch?
I am not celiac but I do follow an autoimmune protocol due to being diagnosed with MS and since cutting out all gluten & dairy 5 years ago, I haven’t suffered a flare since and I’m keeping my symptoms in check fairly well.
Looking forward to making this recipe as I really miss having sourdough bread.
That’s a good question! I honestly have never tried masa harina in it before, but I’m hopeful that it would work if you want to give it a go 🙂
I’m sure someone has asked this but I cannot seem to find the answer. which flours can I use for feeding the starter? I seem to remember brown rice, sorghum, teff ….
Yep, any of those will work. Check out the section “Flours for Feeding” in the sourdough starter post and you’ll see what I used 3 different times and got great results every time 🙂
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?
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!
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].
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 🙂
Love love the sourdough bread. Enjoyed the challenge of making the starter, not complicated. Kim your my kind of lady, great sense of humor.
Oh, haha! Thank you so much, Marilyn!! I try to find humor in every little thing 🙂
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 😊
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.
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 🙂
Hi, could it be that the leaven didn’t rise in 3 days?
and I make it with spelt flour
I’ve never worked with spelt flour, Marina, so I can’t say as to the results.
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?
I’ve never had mold, but here’s a great article on why it happens and what you should do: https://www.theclevercarrot.com/2018/03/troubleshooting-your-sourdough-starter/comment-page-1/
So, that site was VERY helpful. I’ve been hard at work…lol…creating my new starter. When they mentioned a fruit bowl, I had an aha moment. My starter was right next to my fruit bowl!
I’ve had no issues with my starter since I relocated it (the new batch).
Question: are you supposed to stir the starter before adding it to your recipe? Or add it while it’s bubbly?
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
If you plan to use it more often and leave it on the counter, how often do you feed it?
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 🙂
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!!
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 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 🙂
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 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 🙂
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 🙂