How to Make Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

Gluten-free sourdough might seem intimidating and it was to me. There were times I wanted to give up on GF sourdough but I am glad I did not. Now I prefer baking GF sourdough to any other type of GF bread! You only need to make it right once and you will never go back.

Gluten-free sourdough starter in a jar up close.

What is a Sourdough Starter (Wild Yeast)?

Not that long ago people did not have the type of quick yeast we have in stores today. So, how did they bake bread? With wild yeast! If you mix water with flour and let them sit for some time, the natural bacteria that is present in the flour will start growing and multiplying. That bacteria is essentially what serves as yeast and a rising agent in sourdough bread.

To maintain wild yeast you need to continuously discard some of the starter and add fresh flour and water. That discard is good for adding in GF pancakes, GF muffins, GF banana pancakes, GF chocolate chip cookies, and GF sourdough pizza crust or you can just make a fried starter pancake which is the easiest sourdough recipe to make! To find more discard recipes check out my collection of the top 9 GF discard recipes.

Is Sourdough Starter Naturally Gluten-Free?

No, generally sourdough starter is not gluten-free if you are using all-purpose flour. However, if you use gluten-free flour, your starter will be gluten-free and you can make gluten-free sourdough bread with it (which is way easier than regular sourdough)!

How to Make a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

Day 1

Mix 50 grams (1/3 cup) of gluten-free flour and water (the amount depends on the type of flour you use). You will need different amounts of water depending on the flour type you are using. Basically, your goal is for the mixture to be thick but not crumbly. If it looks like a paste and you don’t see separate clumps, that is the perfect texture. Don’t add too much water as it will prevent the starter from rising!

TIP: add 1 tsp of honey to help the bacteria. You only need to do it once or twice at the beginning or when you feel that your starter is lethargic.

Day 2-14

Discard half of the starter (place it into a food container to use later) and add 50 grams of flour with water.

IMPORTANT: a starter goes through an initial active stage where you might see a lot of bubbles and rise but that will go down in a day or two. Then the starter will show little to no activity for a week or so. That is ok! Wait at least 2 weeks before making bread with your starter.

Gluten-free starter in a glass jar with bubbles.

Expert Tips

Don’t go by the book when it comes to the sourdough starter (especially a gluten-free one!). You will develop an intuition for when to feed and discard your starter as you get used to the process.

– You know it is time to feed your starter when it peaked and started falling down. It is ok to wait until it falls flat completely.

– Whatever flour you choose to work with, don’t use premade blends as they contain starches that are not good for growing a sourdough starter. More on the flour in the FAQ section!

– The starter is ready for baking bread with it when it has risen to its full capacity and is still peaking. When it starts falling flat and deflating, that is when it is a little too late for using it in bread (although you can still bake with it, it just won’t be AS great as a fully mature starter at its peak).

– If you are not going to bake anything with your starter for some time, place the starter in the refrigerator and feed it 1-2 times a week. Take it out of the fridge and feed it a day before you want to bake with it (ideally).

– Sometimes life happens and we forget to take care of a starter. To avoid having to throw away moldy starter and begin from scratch, dry some of your starter to rehydrate later in case your current one dies. To dry it, just spread a thin layer of starter onto parchment paper and leave it out on the kitchen table for a day or two to dry out. Once dried, keep in an airtight container or a bag until ready to use again! To use again just add some water, wait for it to absorb, and resume the process of feeding and discarding.

FAQ

How Often Should I Feed my Starter?

Some people recommend feeding your starter twice a day to strengthen it but I only feed mine once a day and it is doing great! If your starter is showing very little activity after 2 weeks of feeding and discarding, try increasing the feedings to 2 times a day.

When Can I Use Starter To Make Bread?

When you see that your starter rises after every feed. It doesn’t have to double in size. A 1.5 times increase is good enough to bake bread with! I often read that people say it must double in size but mine rarely does, yet, I make gorgeous and delicious bread with it!

What Flour is Best For a Gluten-Free Starter?

Sorghum flour, brown rice flour, and buckwheat flour are generally the best options for starting from scratch. I tried white rice flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and brown rice flour, and in my experience, brown rice flour performed far better than any other type.
I read that some people find sorghum flour very good for starters, so I used it at first but did not see much activity. Then, I switched to brown rice flour with the same starter and it helped a lot. Now I only feed my starter brown rice flour! Whole-grain flour is generally a better choice, so pick one type and see what works best for you.

What Water Should I Use for a Sourdough Starter?

I use tap water and my starter is thriving. However, it will depend on your location. If you can’t drink your tap water, then it is better to give your starter the water you would drink yourself. If your tap water has chlorine then you should use bottled or distilled water as chlorine can kill some of the natural bacteria.

What Is the Best Jar for Sourdough Starter?

Glass is the best option because you will be able to track how much the starter has risen and see the bubbles on the bottom. Plus, glass is non-interactive, so it won’t affect the natural processes. But feel free to use stainless steel or a plastic container if you prefer!

What Is the Liquid On Top Of My Sourdough Starter?

The liquid on the top is called hooch and it is a sign that the bacteria is hungry. Just do the regular feeding and mix the liquids in. If you forgot to feed the starter for many days in a row and you noticed a back liquid in your starter, then it is a sign that the starter is going bad and is getting moldy. It is safer to start all over again if that is the case.

Can I Freeze Sourdough Starter?

You can freeze the sourdough starter for later use. Place your starter into an air-tight container or a bag, then freeze it. To defrost, place the starter at room temperature and wait for it to thaw. Then, feed and discard as normal. Note, that it takes longer to revive a frozen starter than the one right out of the refrigerator. So, it is better to keep a starter in the fridge unless you know you will not use it in the coming months!

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Gluten-free sourdough starter in a glass jar up close.

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

Natasha
Did you know that making gluten-free sourdough bread is way easier than regular one? All you need is a strong starter. This recipe is all you need to know to make GF starter without extra hastle.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 14 d
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 14 d
Course Baking Ingredient
Cuisine International
Servings 1 starter
Calories 191 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 digital scale (not necessary but beneficial)
  • 1 glass jar
  • 1 stirring tool (a spoon or a knife)
  • 1 Rubber band (to keep track of how much your starter has risen)

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lb gluten-free flour brown rice flour is my go-to for this recipe
  • water the amount depends on the type of flour you use
  • 1 tsp honey optional

Instructions
 

Day 1

  • Mix 50 grams (1/3 cup) of gluten-free flour and water (the amount depends on the type of flour you use). You will need different amounts of water depending on the flour type you are using. Basically, your goal is for the mixture to be thick but not crumbly. If it looks like a paste and you don’t see separate clumps, that is the perfect texture. Don’t add too much water as it will prevent the starter from rising!

Day 2-14

  • Discard half of the starter (place it into a food container to use later) and add 50 grams of flour with water.

Notes

TIP: add 1 tsp of honey to help the bacteria. You only need to do it once or twice at the beginning or when you feel that your starter is lethargic.
IMPORTANT: a starter goes through an initial active stage where you might see a lot of bubbles and rise but that will go down in a day or two. Then the starter will show little to no activity for a week or so. That is ok! Wait at least 2 weeks before making bread with your starter.

Expert Tips

Don’t go by the book when it comes to the sourdough starter (especially a gluten-free one!). You will develop an intuition for when to feed and discard your starter as you get used to the process.
– You know it is time to feed your starter when it peaked and started falling down. It is ok to wait until it falls flat completely.
– Whatever flour you choose to work with, don’t use premade blends as they contain starches that are not good for growing a sourdough starter. More on the flour in the FAQ section!
– The starter is ready for baking bread with it when it has risen to its full capacity and is still peaking. When it starts falling flat and deflating, that is when it is a little too late for using it in bread (although you can still bake with it, it just won’t be AS great as a fully mature starter at its peak).
– If you are not going to bake anything with your starter for some time, place the starter in the refrigerator and feed it 1-2 times a week. Take it out of the fridge and feed it a day before you want to bake with it (ideally).
– Sometimes life happens and we forget to take care of a starter. To avoid having to throw away moldy starter and begin from scratch, dry some of your starter to rehydrate later in case your current one dies. To dry it, just spread a thin layer of starter onto parchment paper and leave it out on the kitchen table for a day or two to dry out. Once dried, keep in an airtight container or a bag until ready to use again! To use again just add some water, wait for it to absorb, and resume the process of feeding and discarding.

Nutrition

Serving: 1starterCalories: 191kcalCarbohydrates: 40.3gProtein: 3.8gFat: 1.5gSaturated Fat: 0.3gSodium: 4mgPotassium: 152mgFiber: 2.4gSugar: 0.5gCalcium: 6mgIron: 1mg
Keyword GF starter, Gluten Free Sourdough Bread, Gluten free starter, Gluten-free sourdough starter
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