Sourdough starter

Recipe by Clare (CG Admin)

  • Time needed: 5 to 7 days
  • Calories per serving:
  • Servings: unlimited
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Rating: 5.00 based on 2 reviews

Making sourdough is not a complicated process, but it does require time.


• 200 to 250g chosen flour in total (see method)
• filtered water


You may be lucky enough to have had a starter, known as the ‘mother’, passed on by another sourdough baker. Or you might skip the step of producing the starter yourself and buy one from a health food shop or

We did not have space in the Clever Guts Diet Recipe Book to include the starter with the sourdough recipe, so here it is. For those who decide to do it from scratch, all you need is organic flour and filtered water. The yeast and bacteria in the flour will seed themselves! It takes about 5 days to bring to life and cultivate your Sourdough ‘mother’. During this time the starter needs intermittent feeding with fresh flour and water to keep it bubbling and rising. By about 5 days, once it is frothing and bubbling it is ready to use.

Start as you intend to continue - If you want a wholegrain loaf, add wholegrain flour to the starter. If you want rye or spelt bread, feed that to your starter. The starter works best if grown on predominantly similar flour.

Day 1: Make your starter
Place 50g of your chosen flour in a medium sized glass bowl. Add 50mls of filtered water and mix it with a wooden spoon. Use a loose muslin/gauze to cover it (some prefer to leave it uncovered to ‘breathe’ for the first 2-3 days). Place it in a consistently warm place at room temperature such as above the fridge.

Day 2: Feed the starter
You may start to see a few bubbles and get a fresh, yeasty and mildly sweet smell. At this point the yeast in the flour is starting to feed on the sugars in the mixture, producing carbon dioxide & alcohol (hence the yeasty smell). Stir in another 50g of flour and 50mls of water to the original mixture, cover.

Day 3: Feed the starter
There will be more bubbles appearing and it will have risen a bit. The natural yeast fermentation results in increased acidity which in turn encourages healthy bacteria to grow and fends off unwanted bacteria. These will start to give it the slight ‘sour’ musty smell. Again, feed it with the same amount of flour and filtered water.

Day 4: Feed the starter
It will be honeycombed with large and small bubbles and may have doubled in size. It will smell stronger and a bit vinegary as the fermenting process gets underway. Add the flour and water, combining them as before.

Day 5: Use the starter
If bubbling and active, remove half the starter and use to make sourdough. If not ready, repeat feeding as in day 4 for the next couple of days until bubbling and active.

Place the remaining ‘mother’ in a glass container and keep the in the fridge until needed. The drop in temperature will significantly slow down the activity and it can remain there for up to 2 weeks undisturbed. Any longer than this she should be placed in the freezer. When you need to use it allow to return to room temperature. It will then need feeding with water flour again and leaving for about 24 hours to become active once more.

Maintaining the ‘mother’
If baking regularly, continue to keep the starter at room temperature, removing some starter (usually half) and feeding it with flour & water each time. If using less often but regularly, keep it in the fridge, feeding it every 5-7 days. After feeding, it can help to remove the mother from the fridge for 12-24 hours at room temperature to make it active again before putting it back in the fridge or using it. You will need intermittently to discard or give away half as the mother gets bigger.

Some suggest covering with a muslin/thin gauze to keep other strains out (such as from other fermented goods nearby like cheese or mouldy fruit/veg), using just the natural microbes in the flour. Others find that the sourdough develops its own flavour from natural yeasts in the air too and prefer to leave it uncovered.
If the starter sinks and a layer of liquid has formed, either drain this off or stir in some more flour to return it to its usual thick consistency.

Happy fermenting! Let me know how you get on in the comments below.

9 reviews for “Sourdough starter”

  • review by:
    Not rated

    My “mother” has been active for 3 weeks. I have made a spelt loaf each week using a different recipe. Love the smell and taste! The hardest thing is to stop at 1 slice per day. Great with avocado and the purple saurkraut. I only make 1 loaf a week and store the “mother” in the fridge. This is the only bread I have in the week. Still losing weight.
    Also used the “mother” as the flour component in Chocolate Brownies and Fruit Cake. Both moist and delicious!

  • review by:
    Not rated

    Am on day three of a ferment and it’s JUST starting to froth. Unfortunately on day one I used a metal spoon and I don’t know if that makes a difference but it’s only been today it’s started to look like anything. I was wondering if it was possible to use the mother from my apple cider vinegar to accelerate the fermentation process (not all of it obviously)? Does anyone know?

  • review by:
    Not rated

    Hi, I haven’t started this, but just wondering if anyone has attempted a gluten-free version of the ‘starter’?

  • review by:
    Not rated

    I have been using a gluten-free sourdough starter for some months now very successfully. I use brown rice flour. Place a small bunch of unwashed organic grapes in the mixture for the first few days to get it going and then discard. I faithfully followed the recipe for gluten free sourdough starter from the River Cottage gluten free book, and regularly bake the breads from that book. Highly recommend. Time consuming but well worth the effort. I double the recipes, slice and freeze the breads so always have some on hand.

  • review by:
    Not rated

    I have used spelt for my starter, and have found out online that the ‘extra’ starter if you have too much can be used to make some lovely cheese scones mixed in with the milk. As a single person I only make a sourdough loaf every few weeks and hadn’t thought of freezing it, so was looking for a way to utilise the excess. They are very tasty, made using spelt flour.

  • review by:
    Not rated

    This works well GF choosing your flour and also I add pumpkin seeds/ sunflower seeds/linseed chia etc

    juts play with things that work for you with the basic dough using your flour of choice

  • review by:

    Freezing sourdough starter. I dried out the starter, a dehydrator is quicker but it can be poured out thinly onto a tray and allowed to dry. Depending on the humidity, using a tray will take days. Crumble flakes, seal and place in fridge or freezer. When required, add a little water at a time until thick. Then feed as normal. Mine bubbled within 24 hours.

  • review by:

    Can you help?
    I’m on day 5 and my starter does not rise, it does bubble and Iiquid forms on the top overnight.
    I’ve poured it off initially, but am now stirring it back in to the mix.
    I have not discarded and starter mixture before the next days feed of 50g flour, 50 ml water.
    When your recipe says you use 200-250g of flour in total, I’ve taken that to mean I add 50g per day for 4 to 5 days? Do I need to discard each day so I’m only adding the new 50gms to 50 grams of my starter mix of the previous day?
    I understand I only need 2tbsp of my starter to make my no knead Sourdough.
    Please would you be kind enough to clarify this for me ?

  • review by:
    Not rated

    I’ve come a little late to this and have not used this particular recipe, but I’ve been making sourdough bread for over two years now in which time we have bought maybe 5 store bought loaves when consumption got out of step with my baking.

    @Because, it sounds to me that you have bacteriological action, the souring, but not a viable yeast culture. Perhaps you sealed the starter too early in the process or maybe conditions were especially cold when you kicked it off.

    Feeding the starter. I run about a 200g rye starter and most days, depends on temperature, will remove half then feed with 50g water and 50g flour mixed well to bring it back up to 200g. Halving the quantity then adding the same gives the sourdough a good supply of food to get going on which I find gives a decently vigorous reaction. It’s not unknown for it to start escaping from the jar!

    Starting small and adding the same amount over 5 consecutive days will progressively reduce the proportion of new to established so I would expect the apparent vigour to die back.

    The day before I bake I take my 200g and double it, 50% flour, 50% water and in my standard recipe will use 300g, leaving me 100g which I then double up to 200. Incidentally, the daily discards are not thrown away but are accumulated, stiffened with more flour and some salt, rolled out thin and baked into crackers.

    Using a 50/50 flour water mix is handy for bread batch claculations. Say your recipe needs 900g flour and 600g water, with 300g of starter, 150g each flour and water, the recipe will require 750g flour and 450 g water with the starter supplying the rest.

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