Excess Sourdough: Five Tasty Ways To Use It Up

It’s that time again. Your precious sourdough starter is hungry. Sad-looking and perhaps a little weepy, it’s in need of a tasty meal.
sad-sourdoughSourdough can be stored on the counter – a good choice if you’re an avid baker, since it will be very active. But then, your pet will need to be fed at least once a day, perhaps even twice, depending on how warm the air is.

Starter can also live quite happily in the refrigerator, where the cold air will suppress its appetite and make it sluggish. Here, it will only need to be fed once a week – a better choice for those who bake less frequently. Our test-kitchen pet lives in the fridge until a few days before we need it. Then it comes out and is fed twice a day for a few days to get it back in tiptop shape.

add-flour-and-waterA little room in the belly needs to be made before it’s time for the next meal (not unlike Fluffy and Fido, but undoubtedly less gross… you can use your imagination). So out goes all but 4 ounces of the refrigerated and lethargic starter, and in goes the restorative meal of 4 ounces each of both flour and water.

angry-sourdoughBut what to do with the cup or so of discarded starter? You could certainly throw it away…but why would you? It’s a delicious gift from your bubbly pet, and deserves to be enjoyed. It’s probably best not to anger it…

happy-sourdough2Luckily, there are so many delicious ways to incorporate that unfed starter into baked goods. Delicious, and very righteous of you to not waste. A win-win, in our book. We’d love to share with you our favorites.

sourdough-pizzaAdding your discard sourdough starter to pizza dough will add a slight tang and richness that will have your grateful eaters inhaling slice after slice. When eating homemade pizza, the best part should be the crust. Done and done when you add sourdough to the mix.

sourdough-pretzelSoft, vendor-style pretzels are easy to make, and make a unique and unexpected afternoon snack. Serve with mustard, if you’re craving savory; or sprinkle with sparkling sugar and dip into this addictive cider-cinnamon spread for a sweet treat.

sourdough-carrot-cakeThis one doesn’t seem like it would work, but mixing sourdough and cake is a recipe for success. Unless you don’t like rich, moist, and unbelievably flavorful carrot cake… but we think this recipe might have you singing a different sweet, sweet tune.

sourdough-wafflesTo quote PJ, because she describes them so deliciously, “These sourdough waffles are ultra-light and crisp, with a lovely moist interior. They’re pleasingly (but not overwhelmingly) tangy.”

Need we say more? We don’t, but we will. Waffles require a bit more work than pancakes, but ohmyaretheyworthit. Guaranteed to start your day off on a cheerful note.

sourdough-crackerEverything tastes better when it’s homemade, doesn’t it? We certainly think so, and these sourdough crackers are no exception! The slight tang pairs perfectly with the added herbs and salt, leaving the eater helplessly sucked into the “I’ll have just one more” vortex.

Did this blog fill you with tangy sourdough envy? Looking to adopt a sourdough starter of your own so you, too, can experience waste-anxiety? Check out our sourdough page! It includes tools to get you started, care instructions, and even more delicious recipes.

Once your bubbly pet is fed and happy, there are so, so many recipes to bake. Check out the sourdough section of our recipe site to find out for yourself. And, as always, happy baking!

Gwen Adams

Gwen Adams grew up in northern New Hampshire, on top of a mountain, surrounded by nature and not much else. After graduating from Lyndon State College in 2010, Gwen sought a career that combined her passion for writing with her love of baking. She found ...


  1. waikikirie

    I’ve tried in the past to do a starter….failed….ignored the poor little thing then worried about my family’s safety……
    Have to try again….. Would LOVE to be able to come up to KAF for a few classes, one about starter (would be lovely….hint-hint)_……and a lot about other stuff!!! teehee…..IF only I didn’t work full time

    1. PJ Hamel

      Waikikirie, I hope you try making starter again – it can be a long process, but summer is definitely the easier time to do it, if you live in a cold climate; starter likes to be kept warm, which isn’t easy if you’re keeping your thermostat at 60°F! Choose a week, and set aside 10 minutes first thing in the morning, before work, each day, so you don’t forget. You’re an old pro in the kitchen, I can tell, and I KNOW you can do this! Plus, you can always call our baker’s hotline if you get stuck… PJH

    2. waikikirie

      Thanks for the pep talk PJ…..Live in Dutchess County, NY…about 2 hours by train from the heart of NYC. We like to keep our house cool. In the winter, no warmer then 60/62 degrees. (That’s not to say it won’t dip down cooler!) May give it a go again after we come back from vacation. I seriously think you guys should have some classes about “Starting your Starter” and maybe show it during different stages, how to feed it etc and end with a recipe using not only the starter, but the “discard”…..I think people would come. I know I would if I could get the time off. Just a thought!! xoxox

  2. cartvl219

    A while back I felt I had to throw out my starter. It had developed an odd orange/pink color at the top. Just a few days ago I got my replacement starter and mixed it up this morning.It’s sitting in a bowl on my counter at this moment. I put a note on the neighborhood list serve that I would have some to give away and I have had one taker. I’ll be sure to tell her about today’s blog and direct her to the how-to and recipes. And in a week or so, I’ll be looking back at these suggestions!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Happy to hear that your sourdough has been working better this time around, Carolyn! If you have any questions or concerns about new recipes you are going to make, please let us know! Jon@KAF

  3. member-captkirk4

    Okay lets say I want to use my discard in a loaf of bread or pretzels. After weighing my unfed starter do I treat it like 100%hydration? That is, if I have four ounces of unfed starter, do I subtract two ounces from the flour, and two ounces of the water in the recipe I’m using? Thanks for any help!

  4. Ed Engel

    The secret I found to creating a sourdough starter, after many failures, was contained in KAF’s directions. Use non-chlorinated water and be patient. I could never get it to work until I used water from daughter’s well. I don’t treat the starter very well; have gone over a month without feeding but it bounces right back using the well water.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s wonderful to hear you’ve had such great luck, especially getting it back after leaving it un-fed for a month which can be pretty hard on it! Keep up the good work! Jocelyn@KAF

    2. deb

      use bottle water ,free of chemicals. it works good. if house is cold. just heat oven till 125. turn off. set dough to rise in oven

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your tips! You can also let your tap water sit out in an open container for a few hours. This allows the chlorine to dissipate. Barb@KAF

  5. Shirley verdolini

    My husband loves the sourdough recipes on this site. The BEST recipe as far as I am concerned here is the Sourdough Chocolate Cake. It is the moistest, not heavy and has excellent chocolate flavor of any cake I have had or made…ever. Paired with a great fudge frosting….yum.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      So glad you enjoy this recipe! Who knew sourdough starter could achieve such rich and delicious heights? Barb@KAF

  6. Josette Gleason

    I have had to throw out my starter also, left my husband in charge of the poor thing…….

    I akso have in the past had sucess wih freezing fed starter while gone for an extended time. Works great. Thanks for the recipes for unfed starter. It is really difficult to eat a baked good with some taste of my starter. Any ideas for fruit tarts, since summer fruit is coming in now I think a base of sourdough something with fresh fruit would be perfect for a summer dessert.


  7. Sue Kacir

    I LOVE baking with my sourdough starter. I have not been throwing any of it out, I keep a container in the fridge and add the extra when I feed my starter. I keep the active starter on the counter. I have made the onion and chive biscuits twice, but I just use the chives from my garden. I have used the recipe for the butter rolls as a loaf of sandwich style bread. and will be making that recipe into cinnamon buns next. I find we cannot eat so much bread, so I am now giving one loaf away to friends when I bake the rustic sourdough bread. Everything is so delicious, and smells SO good! Very tempting.
    I do have a question, tho. I am confused by the fed unfed labels. If I feed my starter, and bake the next day before feeding again, Is that fed or unfed? When does it change to fed and when does it become unfed? I know this sounds silly, that I don’t know, and I’m sure it’s written some where, but I cannot find the information.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Sue,
      The “fed” and “unfed” designation is a bit tricky. The starter is considered “fed” from the time you feed it until it reaches its peak of fermentation and falls, at which time you would normally feed it again. Once you put a “fed” starter in the refrigerator for any length of time, it becomes “unfed.” So, when a recipe calls for “fed” starter it requires starter that has been recently fed and is at its peak of fermentation–risen and bubbly and very active. When a recipe calls for “unfed” starter, it came be starter that is directly out of the refrigerator, although I would qualify that by saying that starter that has been in there for more than a week may not bring optimum flavor to your baked goods. Another way to look at it is that “unfed” starter is the portion that you would normally discard, when refreshing your starter. And remember you can always call the Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253, if you have more questions about the care and feeding of your beloved starter. Barb@KAF

  8. kytendp

    Great light fluffy focaccia bread recipe.
    I just made the Blitz no fuss focaccia bread and my husband says it is the best bread he has had.
    I followed the recipe in last month’s catalog with a new twist. I used 1 cup of fed sourdough starter.
    I used 3/4 cups less flour and 1/4 cup less water. I did not have durum flour so I twisted that also. I used 2 cups bread flour and 1/4 cup semolina and 1/8 t baking powder. I used my bread machine on the dough cycle. After the first knead I put the dough in a prepared glass pan. Followed the rest of the directions. Perfect and so delicious. For extra fun I used my husband’s index finger. I am going to make more and use it in my turkey stuffing for the bread cubes.

    1. JudyN

      Glass pan?? I’ve been using metal pans and not knowing why my bread doesn’t rise beyond the rim of the pan while baking. The wrong pan just might be the clue?

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Judy, I don’t think using a metal baking pan will cause your sourdough bread not to rise properly. For more help with your sourdough baking please give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253). We’d love to help! Barb@KAF

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ll let Kytendp answer to see what worked best with these adjustments, but we’d recommend adding some instant yeast along with your sourdough if you want a light and fluffy focaccia. Otherwise you’ll need to wait a very long time for the sourdough to make the dough rise. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  9. Vivian

    I neglected my poor starter for far too long, and am in the process of reviving it per the instructions in the “maintaining your sourdough starter” post. As part of the process, it instructs you to feed the starter a couple of times a day with 4 oz. of water and 4 oz. of flour until it recovers, discarding all but 4 oz. of the starter before each feeding session. In this case, would the discarded starter be considered “unfed” if it doesn’t appear to be active and bubbly?

  10. Kathy

    I worked out a way to incorporate my starter into my weekly bread machine white bread recipe. If i need more for another recipe, I just bump up the volume at feedingg time.

  11. Marilyn Drnevich

    Added 2 oz of sour dough starter (which I would have discarded) to a standard pizza dough recipe. After it had time to rise, I divided it into 4 small pizzas. They were about 8″ in diameter. We then grilled them on the charcoal grill. They were terrific. The sourdough starter made very light crisp pizzas–much lighter and crispier than I have ever made before.

  12. Viva Barney

    I bought my starter 25 years ago from King Arthur. I used it in bread I baked for my restaurant and now that I have retired use it in my own breads.

  13. nancy clark-hughey

    why do all your recipes have yeast added to them. I would prefer not to add yeast and have had purchased bread (that was very good) without added yeast. can I just eliminate the yeast? I have a mold allergy and yeast just adds to it. thank you

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Allison, if you added our regular sourdough starter to a gluten-free recipe, it would no longer be gluten-free, since this starter contains unbleached all-purpose flour. We do have a post about creating your own gluten-free starter, which discusses ways you can incorporate this starter into your gluten-free recipes. If you’re unconcerned about adding a bit of gluten to your gluten-free recipes, I think you could incorporate this starter in the same way described in this post. The added gluten will provide more structure to your baked goods. Barb@KAF

    2. Jan

      I am sensitive to gluten and have found that I can tolerate sourdough breads. YAY!! In fact, I’ve even read where persons having Celiac disease may be able to eat sourdough; apparently the process of becoming sourdough partially digests the gluten, making it more tolerable? Although if I had Celiac’s disease I would be very cautious. I’m just tickled pink that I can have “normal” breads!

  14. Moses

    Due to my low sodium diet I cannot partake of most leavening agents; therefore I have used starter as the main ingredient to make dumplings, crepes and cake. All have come out quite well – airy with that delicious complexity and easy digestibility that sourdough imparts to food.

  15. Shakespeare

    I am baking a lot. I dont throw any starter away. can i add the excess to my KAF starter jar in the frig with starter from another day? then keep adding as i discard and taking out what i need? Also can you double the starter to make more at a time. Thank you….

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi again Shakespeare,
      We saw your post on another blog post and have answered you there as well, but basically it’s not a good idea to add all your unused starter together unless you want to keep that jar just for unfed starter. Larger amounts of unfed starter will build up a high amount of acidity and won’t become as active if you try to feed it. If you can’t bring yourself to throw any away, check out our recipes that call for unfed sourdough starter on our website. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  16. CW

    When storing fed starter in mason jar in fridge, do you cover or cap it tightly with a jar lead or plastic wrap or loosely with cloth? Does it need air to stay alive?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great question, CW! Some gas exchange is necessary in order to keep your starter alive. You can use a lid slightly ajar or cover it with plastic wrap loosely. Either will work! Kye@KAF

  17. Fergie

    I need to increase the volume of my starter. Do I have to discard any when I add more? Whats the best way to increase the volume?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great question, Fergie. When increasing your starter, you also want to try and keep it relatively balanced. So if you save 8 oz of starter (rather than the typical 4oz) for example, you’ll want to feed it 8oz of flour and 8oz of water (rather than the typical 4oz of each). Hope this helps to get you on the right track, and if we can help any further, don’t hesitate to give our free Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE. Mollie@KAF

  18. Mary Mck

    I hate waste, and my son-in-law loves baking too. Rather than use the discarded starter in baking, can I make another starter to give away?

  19. Lu

    I fed my first batch of starter this morning. I am thinking about keeping it on the kitchen counter with a loose cover, I am concerned about nats or ants, earwigs getting into it, any comments? Does anyone keep it in a cabinet? A cabinet against our frige is the pefect temp. My cabinets are not air tight, and the insects don’t seem to get into them. Thank you

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lu, we like to use food grade bowl covers to protect sourdough starter while it’s rising. This tends to provide enough protection to keep unwanted things out. However, if you know your kitchen is prone to attracting these kinds of creatures, you can always flip a large bowl upside-down and place it over the starter while it rests for extra protection. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  20. Derick

    I keep my starter in the fridge and take it out and feed it 2x a day for a few days before I use it. When I’m done, should I feed it and put it directly in the fridge, or let it get bubbly again and then put it in the fridge?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Derick, in general we recommend allowing the starer to rest at room temperature for about two hours at room temperature before putting it back in the refrigerator. This will allow the starter enough time to do its magic before it “goes to sleep” (becomes slightly dormant) in the refrigerator. Happy sourdough baking! Kye@KAF

  21. Wanda

    I thrower my started out it smelled like someone threw up. It’s not supposed to smell like that is it?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Doesn’t sound to us like something you’d want to eat, Wanda. Starter can smell very yeasty and acidic, but we’ve never heard of a good starter described as smelling like throw up…Mollie@KAF

  22. Suzin

    I have been baking with sourdough for 38 years and love it! I use it in sooo many things. Quick breads as well as sandwich breads and rolls. I have a 1 gallon clear glass crock I keep my starter in. That way it has plenty of room to grow and stay happy. After feeding it I let it get all bubbly at room temp then just tuck it in the back corner of the fridge on the bottom shelf. All I have to do it open the fridge and take a quick look. I can tell if it needs feeding or a little warming up. It’s nice to learn so many others enjoy it too.

  23. Andrea Ralston

    I’ve had a great starter going for about 7 months and have made many beautiful loaves, about once a week. I’m so proud everytime I see it bubbling up then when I see those beautiful yummy loaves of bread! I never throw any of my starter away. I just put the unused back in the fridge, take it out and activate it a few days before I’m ready to use it. There’s always about a 1/4 cup left. I’ve read everything I can about sourdough but I still just don’t understand the concept of throwing it out. Can you explain what I’m missing?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ll try to explain the logic, Andrea. Every time you feed your sourdough starter, the very first step that should be taken is removing or “discarding” about a cup (or half) of your starter. This part of the starter becomes the excess or “discard,” which can be used in other recipes. This step of discarding is key to growing a successful sourdough starter. It helps keep the balance of the pH within a healthy level so that wild yeast and bacteria can thrive. If you don’t take this step, you’re limiting the growth and flavor that your starter could potentially reach. We know it seems counter-intuitive at first, but if you give it a try, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the beneficial results that come of it. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

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