The sweet side of sourdough: delicious things to do with your sourdough discard

Bakers who keep a sourdough starter around are in a partnership with the contents of that little jar. To keep it in top shape, some of it has to go when you feed it.

If your discard to the compost pile makes you uncomfortable, take heart. This collection of handy quick breads and yeast doughs puts that excess (unfed and otherwise headed for oblivion) discard starter to good use. Best of all, there’s no waiting for it to reach its peak; it’s part of these recipes more for moisture and flavor than for leavening.

Take a tour through the spring issue of Sift’s sweet sourdough baking recipes, and give your starter a chance to show off its sweeter side. sweet sourdough baking via@kingarthurflour

Sourdough Waffles or Pancakes

What better way to launch a weekend than with a stack of crisp, light, tender waffles? The flavor and texture of sourdough waffles is like no other, and all they take is remembering to feed (and capture that discard) on Friday or Saturday. Breakfast has never been sweeter.

sweet sourdough baking via@kingarthurflourCinnamon Raisin Sourdough Bread

Cinnamon raisin bread is compelling, but Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Bread is even more so: the subtle tang sourdough starter brings to this sweet loaf creates a slice with a little more depth and personality. Not that it will be around long enough for you to find out, but adding starter to recipes also keeps them fresher longer.

sweet sourdough baking via@kingarthurflour

Sourdough English Muffins

If you’re looking for a recipe friend to keep you in quick, tasty breakfasts all week, look no further. Fresh, warm, split, toasted, and buttered, with a bit of jam or fresh peanut butter to top them off, these craggy, tasty rounds are mixed the night before and brought to glory on the griddle the next morning.

sweet sourdough baking via@kingarthurflourSourdough Chocolate Cake

This clever cake combines your starter’s wild yeast and lactic acid with baking soda to make a moist, tender cake with rich, nuanced chocolate flavor. Shown here wearing our Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting, this cake makes any occasion special.

blueberry sourdough muffin croppedBlueberry Sourdough Muffins

Whether you’re treating yourself, company, or your kids, these tasty, not-too-sweet muffins with a touch of whole-grain cornmeal make a fine snack or take-along treat. They bake up in no time, and take any meal from so-so to special.

sweet sourdough baking via@kingarthurflour

Sourdough Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a perennial favorite: infallibly moist, and a steady recipe friend. When made with sourdough starter, this standby is even more irresistible. While some may debate the finer points of the genre (raisins or pineapple, coconut or not), the enduring appeal of this dessert is indisputable.

The next time you tend to your trusty sourdough starter, despair not: that discard isn’t in vain. It can be just the beginning of some sweet sourdough baking. If you haven’t already, pick up your spring issue of Sift, and you’ll have all of these delightful baked goods at your fingertips.

Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.


  1. Deb A.

    I also make the cinnamon raisin bread on a regular basis, we cannot keep it for long as it works great for sandwiches, snacks or tea when toasted with Jam!!

  2. Jenn

    We make the cinnamon bread on a regular basis. It is simply divine. Sometimes I add a little extra cinnamon to the dough because my kids can’t get enough of it. The loaf is easy and swells up giant – like smurf bread.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      That’s awesome, Jenn! I find myself going back to that cinnamon bread on a regular basis, too! Susan

  3. Hallie McCoy

    I have made the sourdough chocolate cake twice now and it has been a real hit!! Yes it is a little difficult to mix, but when you keep at it it will mix. We all thought it was delicious!

  4. Renata Vigoda

    I am a bit of a novice in bread making but I have tried the sourdough raisin bread. My problem was that the raisins were not incorporated into the dough well and keep falling out. In a subsequent loaf I mixed the raisins in with the dough and brushed the top with milk and sprinkled a cinnamon sugar mix on top. This worked out well.
    As for the chocolate sourdough cake, also not a great success. I followed directions but the sourdough was difficult to mix in with the other ingredients. Any suggestions?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sometimes incorporating raisins into the dough as you begin to knead can cause them to break apart. So, incorporating them just as the dough is about to be fully developed usually works well. Be sure your dough is not too heavy or dense or else it may not readily accept the raisins. As for the sourdough cake, perhaps the starter is a bit too thick. It should be the consistency of pancake batter. Feel free to thin it out a little. And when maintaining, feed it equal parts flour to water by weight or 1 c. flour and 1/2 c. water by volume. Here are some great tips on how to measure flour. Happy baking Renata! Elisabeth@KAF

  5. Mary

    I see where you say keep the pH of your starter balanced. What should the pH be? I don’t understand what you mean.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Mary. As the yeast and bacteria in your starter grow, they create both lactic and acetic acid. Starter in need of feeding is usually fairly acidic; that’s why it’s necessary to discard some of it. When you add fresh flour and water to the starter, they need an environment that will encourage growth. While yeast doesn’t mind some acid, too much will keep it from embarking on a growth rate that produces enough bubbles to help bread rise. With the sweet recipes in this post, the discard you use is in the formula for moisture, flavor, and tenderness. Susan

  6. Anna Robinson

    I replace the word discard to use. Meaning, it’s time to USE and make into pizza, bread, pancakes, whatever. Once a week use your sourdough. Don’t waste, create something yummy.

  7. SD Bliss

    It would be nice if the link you provided so nicely worked! The reaction to “Page not found” is not the same as the one I have when reading one of your drool worth recipes.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      SD Bliss, our apologies for any trouble with the links. We recently completed some updates to our blog that may have caused temporary technical difficulties, but it looks like all the links in the post are up and working now! Mollie@KAF

  8. Judi Elster

    Cinnamon sourdough bread does not list cinnamon in the ingredients???? Seems to have missed something there. Want to be trying recipes for the unfed starter as I am going through a good bit of flour keeping the starter going. 😉

    Love it!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We feel your pain, Judi. Even if we’re not using the unfed starter, we do still recommend discarding in order to keep the volume in check, keep the ph of your starter balanced, and ensure your feedings remain proportional. For this recipe, the cinnamon is sneakily hiding itself in the ingredients list for the “filling”, as it will be part of the swirl, rather than part of the overall dough. Mollie@KAF

  9. Monica

    I have a loaf of Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Bread in the oven right now. I have made this recipe a few times and it is always delicious. The dough is very silky, and easy to work with. At this moment my house smells like heaven! I’m pretty sure heaven is the place where my sourdough starter is always ready to go, my butter is always at room temp. and there are enough ovens to bake bread, cookies and cakes all at the same time! Oh wait, I’m confusing heaven with the King Arthur test kitchens, aren’t I ?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Heaven = any home where there are baked products in the oven and your BBF (best baking friend, sometimes known as a blog post!) by your side. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    2. Nemat Heydary

      Does anyone know what the delicious sweet sourdough is that they sell at Farmer’s Markets? It has the moist, soft, top and the insides melt in your mouth? All you need is butter and you can make the loaf disappear.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Hmmm… we might be able to find you a recipe for the slightly sweet sourdough loaf you’re looking for, but we’ll need a bit more information about what you’re looking for first. Is it a white bread? Any mix-ins? Crusty? Soft? Shaped like a loaf or braided? Close-crumbed (no large holes)? If you give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253), we’d be happy to hear a bit more about this elusive, delicious bread and hopefully point you in the right direction of a recipe that will recreate something similar. Kye@KAF

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *