BASIC WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH STARTER

whole wheat sourdough starter

basic whole wheat sourdough starter

FLOUR + WATER + TIME. Those are the ingredients for a basic whole wheat sourdough starter. You simply mix a high quality, whole grain flour with purified water and let time do it’s thing. It really couldn’t be any easier. Of course, there is some maintenance involved. Sourdough is a living thing, so just like you and me, it needs care. But once established (in only 15 days), you can stick him in the fridge and not think about him again until you’re ready to bake. Now, the most important thing is to not skimp on the good flour. This is why I start out with 100% whole wheat. It just has more to offer your little micro-organisms than hard white, and it tends to give your starter its best foot forward.

What does sourdough starter basic care look like?

Well, basically your starter is going to need regular “feedings” of flour and water. In the first couple of days, you’ll do that once a day. Then on day 5, you switch to twice a day. This gives all those micro-organisms plenty of time to develop. You’ll notice fairly quickly that your sourdough begins bubbling after you feed it. And you do go through a good bit of flour those first couple of weeks, but it is a small price to pay in order to create artisan sourdough loaves!

Creating My initial “starter”

You’ll begin this process by mixing together one cup of high quality whole wheat flour + one cup of filtered pure water. Stir it well and make sure all the flour is incorporated and store it in a clean crock or mason jar.

How do I feed my starter?

To feed your starter, simply measure out one cup of starter + one cup of flour + one cup of pure water. It’s important to use pure water- meaning bottled, filtered, or lightly* chlorinated. (Too much chlorine can kill of your good bacteria as well as the bad!) You mix those three ingredients together, discard any extra starter left over after your one cup and you’re done until your next feeding.

when can i start baking?

I give my starters 15 full days to develop before baking a sourdough boule (loaf) with them. During their teenage phase, they go through a period of unpredictability. But once firmly established, you can get really consistent results. However, you CAN go ahead and start baking some discard recipes! On day 7 your starter will be active enough to begin making these delicious strawberry scones!

transitioning my starter from wheat to white

After the starter is mature and predictable ( a few weeks old) I like to transition my starter over to organic hard white flour. I do this because I find that I get a better risen loaf with organic white flour than I do with the whole wheat. But this is just personal preference. You can continue to feed your starter whole wheat for as long as you like! Just make sure you consistently feed your starter the same flour for daily feedings.

Is it really worth the trouble?

It really does depend. Sourdough is not for everyone. It does take more time than commercial yeast, and it is a completely different flavor profile. In fact, most sourdough that you buy in stores actually contains added commercial yeast and doesn’t taste anything like the homemade goodness you make at home! BUT, if you enjoy baking and the amazingly complex flavor of sourdough, there really is nothing to stop you. Each loaf is like an artist’s canvas, and I love playing around with different scoring techniques just to see how beautiful each one comes out. I can’t describe to you the happiness I feel every time I pull off the lid to see the magical risen loaf! HA!

Did you make it? Let me know by leaving a review below or tagging me with a pic on instagram @good.to.gather
whole wheat sourdough starter

Basic Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter

Callie Morgan
A wild yeast fermentation "starter" of whole wheat flour and pure water that is the essential ingredient in all Sourdough recipes.
5 from 14 votes
Prep Time 15 days
Total Time 15 days
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 1 starter

Equipment

  • 1 mason jar with lid OR Crock with lid
  • 1 1 Cup measuring cup

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Cup pure water Bottled or filtered water works best. You can use regular tap water as long as it is not heavily treated with chlorine.
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour Organic is helpful but not necessary. You will be feeding it A LOT at first, and it is important to feed it the same flour at each feeding

Instructions
 

  • Day 1: Mix together 1 Cup of whole grain flour and 1 Cup of lukewarm water. Stir vigorously and store in a clean, sanitized mason jar. You now have a starter! Allow to sit in a warm area of your home for 24 hours.
    1 Cup pure water, 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • Day 2: Measure out 1 Cup starter (that you made yesterday) + 1 Cup lukewarm water + 1 Cup whole grain flour. Mix vigorously. Let sit for 24 hours. Discard the extra starter.
  • Days 3: Repeat 1-1-1 feeding (1 Cup Water, 1 Cup Flour, 1 Cup Starter) with a 24 hour rest. Discard the extra starter.
  • Days 4: Repeat 1-1-1 feeding (1 Cup Water, 1 Cup Flour, 1 Cup Starter) with a 24 hour rest. Discard the extra starter.
  • Day 5: Feed it once in the morning. Wait 12 hours. Feed it again. Repeat feeding twice a day until day 15- or until it consistently doubles in size after feedings. Discard the extra starter until day 7. THEN, use your extra starter for baked goods. You can find some of my favorite recipes in the post below!

Notes

  • It’s important to make sure that your storage jar is sanitized before using to deter the growth of any harmful bacteria. 
  • Make sure that you do not store your starter near any other ferments (think cheese, kombucha, kefir, or vinegar- to prevent cross-contamination of cultures.
Keyword sourdough, sourdough starter, whole wheat

So what do you think? Ready to get started yet?

Learn more about wild yeast fermentation

Sourdough starter discard recipes

Sourdough Banana Streusel Muffins

Strawberry Sourdough Discard Scones

New Favorite Chocolate Chip Sourdough Discard Scones

78 Comments

    1. Hey, Kathy! Great question! There’s a lot of debate about the use of food-grade plastics generally, but the rule would be: If it’s safe for other foods, it is safe for your sourdough starter. I personally prefer a mason jar or ceramic crock due to the size and shape, as well as its ability to safely handle high heats during cleaning. Plus it just has a nice aesthetic sitting out on the counter. 🙂

    1. I started my starter with 1/2 cup wheat flour and spring water . I unfortunately had to go out of town and the starter was fed on day 5-7 with 1 cup starter 1 cup wheat flour and 1 cup spring water. Do I need to start over or just continue feeding with 1 cup ?

  1. I’ve not done this before so I’m a bit confused. On you recipe it says it’s a recipe for sourdough starter, and in the ingredients it only lists water and flour, but in the instructions (1.) There’s three ingredients, starter, flour and water.

    I’m confused, I thought this was a recipe FOR the starter. So how do I make the starter for this starter recipe?🤔🤷😂

    1. Hi Callie!

      Is it possible to cut the flour and water for starter in half? Would the end result yield enough for a nice loaf of bread?

      Thank you!

      1. totally. As long as you keep the 1-1-1 ratio, you can raise or lower the amount of starter to scale. You can half my Sourdough Boule recipe since it makes two boules. But I can’t say for a loaf bread recipe bc they all vary in the starter needed to cause the loaf to properly rise. However, you can always double the amount of starter the night before baking so that you’re sure to have enough for your recipe and then keep less to maintain in between baking. Hope this helps!

  2. I’ve read through your starter recipe and it looks pretty easy, just a question about day 2 to 15. If you’re using 1 cup of the “starter” from the previous day, are you tossing away whatever is left from the previous day?

    1. Jeanne, yes. You discard the extra starter each feeding. On day 7 you can begin using the discard in baked goods. I recommend my Fresh strawberry scones or sourdough banana streusel muffins. Easy peasy and a great way to be resourceful!

  3. When do you start storing the starter in the refrigerator? or do you leave yours on the counter all the time?

    1. Hi Autumn!

      You can really stick it in the fridge anytime. Although it would work best to let it mature to the point that it is predictably rising and falling after each feeding and has become “established”. I keep mine refrigerated until I’m ready to bake with it. Then I take it out and feed it the night before I want to bake something. Hope this helps!

  4. Hello! Should we pack the flour when measuring out the 1 cup? I just made my starter and I didn’t; I used the spoon-and-level method, but now I’m wondering if I should have packed it so the weights would be more even. (My water was about 230g, but my flour was more like 130g.) Other recipes seem to have them be equal weights, but the other recipes I saw didn’t feed the starter with whole wheat like yours does (which is what I’m looking for!), so I’m wondering if that accounts for the difference. Basically just wondering if I should pack the flour for future feedings. Thank you!

    1. Hi Gracelyn! Sourdough starter is sooo forgiving. No need to pack it tightly. You basically want to aim for something like a thick pancake batter. The wheat flour does provide more “food” for the yeast, and is also a bit denser so it tends to absorb more liquid than white flour.

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you so, so much!! I just fed my starter (before reading your reply, of course) and put in what was maybe too much flour so going to add a titch more water now, lol. Thanks again!

  5. Hi, I’m very much a beginner and just started my starter yesterday. The recipe i was following says to start with wheat and then switch to white on day 2. Well, i didn’t have enough white flour (just have whole wheat) so thats how i found this recipe! I’m confused on something… the recipe I started with says to use 1/2c water and 1c flour to feed daily. Is it different if you’re using white vs wheat?

    1. Hi Liv! Great question. Sourdough starters can be kept in various amounts and hydrations. Some are very dense like biscuit dough. And some are really thin. I like to keep mine something like thick pancake batter. Wheat flour does tend to be more dense and absorptive than white flour, so it will yield a thicker starter when using it as your “food”. But it should not be such a significant difference that it will affect your recipes.

  6. 5 stars
    This has been fun and easy! I do have a question though. When I get today 15 do I start feeding once again or what’s the protocol after the 15th day? Thanks!

    1. You continue to feed daily as long as you keep it on the counter. I “feel out” how often to feed mine. In the summer when it is warm, i may feed it once in the morning and once at night. The rest of the year I’ll only feed it once. You want to feed it when it has risen and fallen. When you get ready to refrigerate it, feed it once a week.

  7. 5 stars
    When should I stop storing this on the counter vs put it in the fridge!? Thank so much! My dreams of sourdough pancakes every weekend are in full swing🌷

  8. Day 9 and still not rising. Feeding twice a day, 1:1:1, heating pad on low. Bubbles (a few) but no rise. What should I do? (This is my first time).
    Thanks.

    1. Stay the course, Rebecca! You’re doing it all right. Some starters take longer than others to get going. Make sure your starter stays warm (good job with the heating pad— don’t let it get too hot), feed it quality, un bleached, whole wheat flour. “Purified” water… no chlorine! If you’re doing all that then it just needs more time.

  9. 5 stars
    Hi. I know regular sourdough starters, you can use the discarded starter as soon as it starts. Why exactly do you have to discard it and only able to use it on day 7?

    1. Hi Abigail! Great question… you can technically use it immediately as a sourdough starter, but it will just taste like wet flour. It takes several days for the starter to actually start to have a sourdough flavor. And even then, often starters go through a weird phase during the initial development when it actually may not smell or taste pleasant. I call it the teenage phase. Ha! So my personal preference and recommendation is to give it a week for the flavor to sort of stabilize before using it in a recipe. But you can absolutely use it before then and it will work. It just may not taste optimal.

  10. 5 stars
    Is it normal for it to rise after day 3 and 4? I tried to make this a few months ago with the same results but after the initial rising in early days it never seemed to rise that much again? Thank you

    1. That can be totally normal. All starters are different. Young starters often go through what I like to call the “teenage” phase where they just are a bit unpredictable. If you keep feeding consistently and stay the course, they will stabilize as the yeast colony matures and you’ll start seeing that predictable rise and fall with feedings.

      1. 5 stars
        I just started mine yesterday, but it occurred to me, do I need to sterilize everything that comes in contact with the starter? Like when I go to mix the first 1-1-1, will I need to sterilize the spatula and measuring devices? I’m a pro sterilization tech by trade so I may be overthinking it. Lol
        Thank you, I’m excited!

        1. I’m excited for you! You definitely want to keep things “clean”, but I wouldn’t say you need to sterilize everything. A hot rinse or run through the dishwasher should be fine. It IS important to keep it away from any other ferments, dairy, sauerkraut, that kind of thing bc they can compromise your starter’s bacteria colony. And always use a clean spoon to stir… that sort of thing. But it is pretty resilient once it gets established!

          1. Hello…I have a quick question…when you get to the day you feed the starter every 12 hours…is it still a 1:1:1 ratio and discard the extra???

    1. Congrats on taking the first step! And Sure! Just set it on there to cover but don’t twist to seal. You want to leave room for the starter to grow and expand. If the jar is sealed, you could risk the glass breaking.

  11. 5 stars
    Hi! I just tried this out, so Day 1 for me. I’m a bit confused though for Day 2. Do I discard all the starter since it says 1 cup? Or half of that? Would be great if you could clear my doubts 🙂

  12. I’m on day 5 of feeding. Can I switch to 1/2 cup starter, water, flour just to l over volume and flour needs? Then bulk it back up when I’m ready to bake?

  13. Hi! I’m on day 15 of my new starter, I’ve only fed it once a day so far but it is doubling in six hours. Ready to bake?? Should I bother feedi my twice a day at this point?

    1. Woohoo! You are ready to bake! You can refrigerate it at this point when you want a break from baking. And daily feedings— if temperatures are cold you can get away with once a day feedings so long as your starter looks healthy and is rising and falling predictably. If it gets warm outside or if your starter begins producing a lot of “hooch” you may need to go to twice a day feedings!

  14. Hello,

    I have a question concerning feeding. After 10 days my starter is still very slow, it basically takes more than 20 hours for it to really expand and have bubbles. Should I still feed it every 12 hours anyway? I’m afraid it’ll ruin it if I don’t let it sit for long enough, eventually turning it back into just flour and water.

    Thank you.

    1. Are you in a cold climate? If you are noticing a regular pattern of rising and falling and your starter seems to be doing well with once a day feedings, that is totally fine! In winter, I feed mine once a day and in summer twice a day. You could try putting it somewhere warmer to speed up the activation time. (But not somewhere hot!) Hope this helps.

  15. Hi Callie,
    I have a sourdough starter jar that has a hard lid and a cloth cover. What would you recommend?
    Jane

      1. Calli I’m on day 4 and getting very excited. One question I had, is there a particular temperature the starter should have? I tried to read but don’t have much time. ?? Thanks for your help!

  16. 5 stars
    Thank you for for providing this recipe and the instructions. Would this also work if I blend whole wheat and rye flour, or would I need to make two separate staters then find a way to blend the two “flavors” prior to baking?

    1. Jani, you’re so welcome! And yes. Starters LOVE rye and tend to be very healthy on it. In fact, I sometimes suggest organic rye for a slow-to-start starter. The important thing would be to feed it the same thing consistently. So if you feed half wheat/half rye, don’t switch suddenly. But gradually transition. Then maintain with the same type feeding everyday.

  17. Hi Callie,
    Thank you for providing this recipe for me to try! I am currently on day 10, there is no rising happening quite yet but there are some bubbles. On day 9, I ran out of whole wheat flour but I had orgainc king arthur’s white flour so I used that instead. With my work schedule, I can’t make it out to grocery store till this coming thursday to get more wheat. Should I switch back my feedings to whole wheat flour once I buy it or continue to feed it the white flour as it matures?

    Also, I have been measuring with my scale in in 8 oz 1-1-1 ratio…is that right?

    1. Hi Karli! You’re so welcome! I would suggest sticking with the white flour now that you have transitioned it as the young starter does better with consistence feedings of the same type of flour. And if you move it to a warm location in your kitchen,it may help to speed up the activation time (bubbling and activity) Additionally, if after the 15 days it still seems a bit sluggish, you could try substituting a couple Tablespoons of the white flour for an organic rye or wheat to give it more complex nutrients! But if it’s starting to bubble it sounds like you’re on the right track!

    1. You can technically refrigerate it at any time but for best results, I suggest waiting until it is fully active, bubbling, and predictably rising and falling with each feeding. The cold causes it to go “dormant” so to speak.

  18. Callie ,what day can I start adding a couple of tablespoons of organic rye. I am told rye gives the bread a nice flavor to the palate! This is the 7th try for me. Your recipe seems to be pretty straight forward for me to understand! LOL…

    1. Debby, I tried twice before I was successful! I’m so glad you find it simple— that was my goal in writing it! Rye absolutely will give it a boost. You can start immediately. Just start by substituting a TBSP of rye from your whole wheat feeding and then gradually increase to more. The principle is just to feed it consistently the same thing and to switch it over slowly if you change.

  19. Hi Callie
    I’m on about day 20 for my starter. I have 2 questions. What causes the hooch to show up about 3 hrs after I have fed it? Is it ok to let it go until the next day to feed it?
    Jane

    1. Hi Jane, hooch appears when the starter is hungry. It is a biproduct from the yeast having consumed all the sugars in the flour. Are you storing your starter somewhere quite warm? If so, you could move it somewhere slightly cooler and it should slow down the process a little bit. You can pour off the hooch or just stir it back in at the net feeding. Stirring it in will result in a more sour flavor in the things you bake.

  20. Hi Callie,

    I’m in the middle of a New Zealand summer with high temperatures and I’ve just started my starter (literally day two). There seemed to be hooch within a few hours of starting. Should I store in the fridge or should I feed it more? It seems a bit odd as I’ve literally just started, but I followed the recipe, I swear 😂

    1. I would try to move it to the coolest spot you can (maybe close to an air conditioner or vent?) and let it stay out until it is consistently rising and falling predictably after feeding. Sometimes starters will act crazy the first week and then level out. But definitely a warm environment long term is going to make for a very happy (active) starter! So I would definitely store in the fridge once it is fully mature!

  21. Quick question. If I have a recipe that calls for 2 cups of starter, does that mean that recipe will use the entire starter I’ve made in this recipe??? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Tyler! Yeah so when you have a recipe that calls for a lot of starter (and two cups is a lot!) you will want to feed your starter and NOT discard the night before you bake. That way you have built up enough starter to use in your recipe AND hold some back to feed and keep for future baking. Does that make sense? A lot of recipes will have you create a “levain” before baking, which is essentially a small amount of your starter that is fed and prepped to be used in your recipe. Hope this helps!

  22. 5 stars
    On day 3. So far so good. This will be my third try making a sour dough starter. I’m very hopeful this go around will work out!
    When transitioning the starter to white flour, is there an increment that is best to swap out each time until it is fully transitioned?

    1. Katie, you’ve got this! Come back if you have any questions. Just transition it by swapping out a few tbsp of flour at a time for the type that you want to transition to. But I’d suggest letting it get established before you switch!

  23. Hi Callie, I started my starter yesterday, and it’s already rising! So hoping that’s a good sign! I do have a question though, as I continue feeding my starter do I always only use one cup of starter, one cup water, and one cup of flour even as I get to where I feed it twice a day?! Also does that mean that I discard twice a day once I get to day 5? I’m new to this, so I don’t know much about it!

    1. Hi Makenzie! Sounds like your starter is doing great! Yes— you discard each time you feed all but one cup of starter then feed one cup of flour and one cup of water. And yes it’s a lot of discard, but soon you can store your starter in the fridge when you aren’t baking. You can also check out some of my discard recipes too! Happy baking!

      1. 5 stars
        Hello Ms. Callie, very new to this, I am on day 3 of your starter, I do have a question. When I get to day 5, feeding twice a day, do I continue to do the 1:1:1 ratio day 5 and onwards or do I not have to do that? Thank you in advance!

Leave a Reply

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

Recipe Rating