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. George

    If you only have 1/2 cup in a sourdough starter. How to you build up that same starter to more than the 1/2 a cup? Or if you have 1 cup of starter and so on. How do you make more starter. I need to bake more bread a day.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great question, George. Here’s how we suggest going about increasing your starter in our Sourdough Tips & Recipes booklet: “To build a larger quantity of starter, simply increase the amount of flour and water you add at each feeding, being sure to keep the flour and water in the same ratio. This should allow you to make enough for a large recipe with some left over to feed and maintain. For example, the last feeding before you bake, save 8 ounces (1 cup) of sourdough starter, and feed it 8 ounces (1 cup) of water and 8 ounces (2 scant cups) of flour.” Mollie@KAF

    2. Christopher

      Dear Baker’s Hotline,
      I have a question for clarification regarding your answer to George’s question from Nov 28, 2017, about growing a starter. Your first sentence instructs to increase TWO of the three “ingredients” in the same ratio, the amount and flour and water, but it makes no mention of the amount of starter to use if I want to grow it. The next sentence, if I understand it correctly, instructs to increase ALL THREE ingredients, starter, flour, and water. Which is it? If I want more starter, do I increase by the same ratio the two ingredients (flour and water) or all three (flour, water, starter) at feeding time?

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      So sorry for the confusion, Christopher. You want to use equal portions of starter, flour, and water. If at first you only have a small amount of starter, you can use extra flour and water to bulk it up initially, then give regular feedings from that point on with an equal portion of the three. However if you already have a fairly large portion of starter that you want to increase, you can begin the process with equal portions, skipping the one feeding of extra flour and water. Hope this helps! Annabelle@KAF

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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?

  8. 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

  9. 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

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