Sourdough Starter, Gluten-Free

NOTE: Please read the entire post and the Sourdough Starter Troubleshooting FAQ before posting a question about the Starter or the Bread. Making a sourdough starter and the bread is a process–you can’t rush it and you need to give it time. Also, you need to follow the directions :).

Important new information added 5/4/14 and 1/5/15 and 2/12/15.  Please read entire post for a better understanding of what’s happening with the starter.

I miss sourdough bread!  I am from Monterey, CA, which is a lovely coastal town about 100 miles south of San Francisco. And I grew up with fabulous San Francisco sourdough. When I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant, I was no longer able to eat commercial sourdough. It’s been a source of great anguish for me–I loved my San Francisco sourdough!  Since I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, I’ve experimented with making gluten-free sourdough every so often. But, nothing really has come even close to my beloved SF sourdough–until now.

As you may know, sourdough bread is made by using a fermented starter, which is usually made from wild yeast, flour, and water. The yeast ferments the mixture by eating the sugars in the flour and turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The starter, then, is what is used to make the bread rise.  Bread made with a starter has a more complex taste and texture than one made with commercial yeast. What distinguishes sourdough starter and makes it sour is that it evolves over time. It’s created by the feeding and elimination process the yeasts and bacteria in the starter go through when you mix them with food (flour) and water. They consume the flour and water and eliminate alcohol and gas.

Also important to the process is lactic acid bacteria.  This works with the yeast to create an environment that allows the yeast to grow and develop without being invaded by things like mold.  It’s the wild lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, floating around San Francisco that is what makes San Francisco sourdough so special.

But, as one researches the world of sourdough, some unexpected facts turn up.  As it turns out, what is called “sourdough” isn’t necessarily sour and it’s not necessarily something that takes days or weeks to create.  Sourdough is simply bread (or baked items) that are made with a fermented culture or starter, also known as the “pre-ferment” or the “chef,” among other names.  It is what we call bread that is not made quickly from commercial yeast.   The concept of a starter was developed at some point in the distant past when bakers realized that they could harvest the yeast and bacteria from the flour and the air in order to leaven their loaves.  Further, it was discovered that they could keep back a little bit of starter or some dough from each baking to feed and create more starter that would be used to make the next batch of bread.  Therefore, making bread from a pre-ferment that has only proofed overnight (vs. days) has more complex flavor than that made with commercial yeast, it isn’t at all sour in the way San Francisco sourdough is.    Most of the time, a sour sourdough is made from a starter that is mature (i.e., has been cultivated over a longish period of time).  A young starter will create bread that one would not call “sour.”

What this means is that all bread used to be sourdough.  Who knew?   But, as commercial yeast came onto the market, there was less need for bakeries and for home bakers to use a starter.  Commercial yeast (known in its various forms as fresh, cake, active dry, or instant yeast) allowed bakers to just add yeast to recipe without having to wait for a starter to develop.  But, even though this development saved time, it creates bread that has a much more neutral and less complex flavor.  Recognition of this fact has contributed led to the rise in the past several years of artisan bakeries which make bread from a starter vs. from commercial yeast.

So, how do we start a starter?  There are several ways to get the yeast into the flour/water base mix to create the fermented starter. You can start with commercial yeast and mix that with flour and water. Or, you can mix flour and water and the wild yeast on the flour will be activated and will mix with the bacteria on the flour and in the air and start multiplying and create a starter.  Or you can use a boosting medium on which wild yeast likes to grow, like grapes or red cabbage, and mix those with flour and water to get the yeast into the starter.

It’s important to note that the concept that yeast is floating around in the air is a myth. You will read old sourdough books where they talk about wild yeast in the air.  As it turns out, the yeast that starts a wild (aka, non-commercial yeast) sourdough starter is on the flour and on any boosting mechanism you add (e.g., red cabbage or grapes).  The thing that floats around in the air and is different to different regions is the lactic acid bacteria.

Every method of culturing and developing a (wheat) sourdough starter I have ever come across has seemed to me to be long and involved. I have followed many methods over the years. Most of them seem to require crazy amounts of flour and water and a specific time-table of when to feed the starter and when to stir the starter. You’re always pouring off stuff, adding more, etc.   It always drove me crazy. It was like having a persnickity pet. I always got frustrated with how complicated things seemed and gave up after a while, my starter inevitably went bad, and I ended up throwing my disgusting mess into my compost bin.  As it turns out, the problem with these recipes is that they most often don’t explain why we needed to do what they asked.  This is important to me.  I find that I always need to know “why” a thing is required in order to be convinced to do it.

Then, I ran across an old post by Michael Ruhlman about sourdough starter. In the post he discusses a method of harvesting wild yeast that was developed by a woman named Carri Thurman of Two Sisters Bakery in Homer, Alaska. She uses a leaf of red cabbage mixed with her flour and water. You know how red cabbage has a bit of a white film on the leaves? That is wild yeast. And, so you can use red cabbage to kick-start the yeast harvesting process. And you know what? It works well and is extremely easy.

My first several starters provided a world of information for me.  First they smelled a bit sour, but not that strong.   And then they got very sour.  But, sometimes they eventually mellowed out and started to smell like whey.  Of course, after all of my past experiences, I worried that the starter would go bad. As it turns out, the reason the older recipes ask you do pour off your starter before you feed it again is that the starter needs to be fed with roughly equal amounts of flour and water.  So 1 cup of starter to 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour.  This keeps the yeast and the lactic acid bacteria happy and well fed and they will work together and make sure nothing else grows in it. It turns out that the lactic acid bacteria create an antibiotic called cycloheximide that kills the unwanted organisms that might grow in your starter, but it doesn’t kill the yeast. So, if the lactic acid bacteria is happy and being fed and watered enough and stirred well, it will keep your starter free of bad things like mold.

Problems arise when you have too much starter and aren’t feeding and watering it often enough.  There is a “perfect spot” at which yeast is just old enough and acidic enough that it is sour but not too sour.  But, if you let it get too sour, it means that the yeast is too old and too acidic and problems like mold will develop on it.  Also, starters often develop a top layer of waste liquid alcohol that the yeast produces as a result of fermentation that is called “hooch.”  You can mix the hooch back into the starter to make it more more sour or you can pour it off.  A moderate amount of hooch is fine, but a lot of hooch means the yeast is weak and stressed.  I recommend mixing it back into the starter if it’s not a lot of hooch or if you’re going to use that starter to bake with very soon and want the sourness.  A lot of hooch (a layer equal to or more than the lower layer of starter) means that you need to feed and water the starter more and more often.

Keep in mind that most of the time, a more sour the starter usually means the yeast have become weaker, which means less leavening power.  So, the more sour the bread, the more dense it will probably be.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  :)

I have also found that different flours create differently-flavored starters.  Which makes sense.  So, you can play with the flours you give your starter and see how they affect the taste and smell of the starter.

Also, you can keep your starter going forever or you can use it all up and start a new starter.  I have found that if I go weeks or months with not using a starter, it’s easier to just use it all up (or compost it) rather than keep it going.  But, experiment and do what sounds interesting to you.

Sourdough Starter, Gluten-Free

Equipment Needed
-a large glass, plastic, or ceramic container–like a bowl, a jar, or a measuring cup–be sure it can hold about 6 cups of dough.  Currently, I use a 2 quart/1.9 liter Cambro bucket for my starter
-something porous (the starter needs to breathe) to cover the container with like a cotton dishcloth (don’t use aluminum foil or plastic wrap)

-One or more of the following whole grain gluten-free flours: Sorghum flour, Teff flour (sorghum and teff seem to perform the best and are the ones you want to use to begin the starter) Brown Rice Flour, Amaranth flour, Quinoa flour, or Buckwheat flour.  I recommend that you do not use a high starch flour like tapioca, millet, white rice, sweet rice, or potato.  These will cause the yeast to go into overdrive, which means they will do everything faster and you will need to feed them much more often than every 8 hours.

Filtered Water: We have filtered water in our house that contains no chlorine–and I think that does the best. You need to experiment to see how your house’s tap water works if you don’t want to buy filtered water.  I have had reports that people have been able to make a starter with water that is chlorinated.  But, be aware that there is a new type of water purification that cities are going through that uses another disinfectant–chloramine–and I’ve heard that it is less friendly to a sourdough starter.  So, your results may vary if you use non-filtered water.

Organic red cabbage leaves (although I heard that people have had results w/non-organic as well, but I think using organic cabbage is best), washed but not scrubbed.  The white stuff on the cabbage is the yeast that helps to start the starter.

Place 1 cup (5 oz/140 g) of sweet sorghum or teff flour (these seem to work the best to begin the starter) and 1 cup (240 ml) of filtered water in your container.  Mix thoroughly (I’ve been using a whisk and it’s worked well).

2. Add 1 or 2 leaves of organic red cabbage. Mix those around with the flour-water slurry.

3. Cover with your porous material. I use parchment paper pierced with a bunch of tiny holes secured by a rubber band to the jar.  A cotton kitchen towel is also good.  If you’re using a Cambro bucket, you can cover it with the lid left ajar.  You can also leave it open if you don’t have fruit flies bopping around your kitchen like I do–leaving it open will encourage more lactic acid bacteria from your kitchen to land on the mixture. Leave it on your kitchen counter.  Do not use aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

(The ideal temperature for yeast to grow at is around 70 to 75 degrees F/21 to 24 degrees C.  The colder the environment, the more slowly the yeast will grow.  The warmer the environment, the faster the yeast will grow.  You need to feed yeast that is in a hot environment more often than you need to feed a yeast at a moderate or cool environment.)

4. Stir it every so often–no stress, just when you think about it (although try to stir it at least once during the 8 to 12 hours between feedings).

5. About 8 to 12 hours later, feed your starter: add another 1 cup each of whole grain flour (teff, sorghum, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, garbanzo bean) and water. Mix well.

6. Repeat this process every 8 to 12 hours (your starter will do the best if it’s fed more often–i.e., it can be fed every 12 hours but every 8 is better). After about 48 hours you should see some bubbling action in your starter.

Important: The conditions in your kitchen may require a longer development process.  Give it about 5 days before starting to worry or emailing me.  Once the bubbling action is definitely in place (wait another full day), then you can remove all of the cabbage leaves.  Do not leave the cabbage leaves in there indefinitely.

Congratulations!  Your starter is on now ready for use to make bread.

Starter Maintenance

Once your starter is on its way, you need to maintain it in a way that keeps it healthy.  For most people, this means that you need to reduce the amount of starter each time before you feed it.  This is because the larger your starter becomes, the more food (flour) and water you have to give it.  After a few days without pouring off any starter, the amount of starter you have will become larger than is truly manageable for a home baker.   If you don’t feed a starter enough food/water for its size often enough, the more weak and acidic the yeast becomes.  This means that the starter becomes much more sour, but it also means that it is prone to getting contaminated with things like mold.  A starter that has mold growing on it is evidence that the starter is too weak to fight off bad things. There are techniques for combatting things like mold in a starter and making it healthy again, but for our purposes, I recommend that you throw it out and start again if mold occurs.

I have found that the following feeding/watering ratio is best for maintaining a healthy starter:

Feeding Ratio: 1 part (by volume) starter to 1/2 part flour and 1/2 part water

As you can see, the larger your starter, the more food and water it needs at each feeding.  If you’re not regularly baking with the starter (and therefore reducing it by using it), the amount of starter you have will quickly become unwieldy.  I have found that the way to maintain a healthy and manageable starter is to stir and then pour off *(and throw away, to make another starter for yourself, or *to give away to friends) some starter each time you feed and water it so it doesn’t get too big.

*Please don’t ask me what else you can do with your starter that you pour off.  If you don’t want to compost it, pour it into another container to use yourself, or give it away to friends, I honestly don’t have any other ideas on what to do with it other than use it.

For our purposes, I recommend keeping the starter to an average of 4 cups/960 ml maximum as you’re developing it.

1. Before each feeding, stir the starter and then pour off (i.e., throw away) as much as you need to get the starter down to 2 cups/480 ml.

2. Then feed it with 1 cup whole grain flour and 1 cup water and stir, which will bring the volume back up to about 4 cups/960 ml total.

When you are ready to make your bread

1. You will need 4 cups/950 ml of starter. Therefore, it’s best to time your last feeding before you use your starter to about 2 to 4 hours before baking.

2. Feeding it a few hours before use in your recipe will give you an active and happy starter.  At this feeding, stir and pour off enough so that you have about 2 1/2 cups left.  Then, when you feed it 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water, you will have a little more than 4 cups–which is enough to for use in the bread and for a little extra (a 1/2 cup or so) to keep the starter going should you wish to do that.

3. Wait a couple of hours for the starter to get active after feeding and then use it for making bread.

Making and Maintaining a Sourdough Starter is an Organic and Somewhat Imprecise Process

As you can see, the feeding process isn’t that precise.  There is a fair amount of wiggle room as long as you’re paying attention to the amount of starter you have and using that to gauge roughly how much flour and water to feed it according to the ratio above.  (And making sure you’re also paying attention to how the starter is behaving–i.e., it’s not growing mold–which can be white–or starting to smell like a sewer).  Using volume measurements helps me “eyeball” how much I need to feed my starter–using weight measurements here seems to make people feel like the process is more precise than it actually is.

You don’t have to keep a starter going forever.  There is actually no need to have a starter that is years old.  Most of the people who have starters that are years and years old are baking with it on a very regular basis–and many of these folks are in the baking business.  Although there is some amount of pride that seems to go into keeping a starter going forever, I have found it to be more of a hassle than I’m personally willing to put up with.  Thus, if I’m not planning to use the starter anytime soon, I just throw it out and wait until about a week before I’m ready to bake to get one going again.

If you’re not going to use your starter anytime soon but you want to maintain it, you can refrigerate it.  This allows the yeast to go dormant and allows you to feed and stir it every 3 days or so rather than every 8 to 12 hours.  Be sure to watch it so that nothing funky starts to grow in it (like mold–which can be white).

Go to Sourdough Bread boule (round loaf) for the recipe that uses this starter.

If you are having problems with your starter or have questions about it, please check my Sourdough Starter Troubleshooting FAQ before posting or emailing me with a question.  Thanks!

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  1. liane says

    forgot to add, when i pour off some i put it in a covered bowl in the fridge cos i might use it again to get the starter going after baking or i might use it if i’m a bit short of starter when i go to bake the next day. or it might eventually get thrown out.

  2. liane says

    i started a starter using wheat flour, water, youghurt & raisins. Which i got from a book by Dan Lepard (celebrity baker). i would combine it with soaked & ground buckwheat, roasted chopped beetroot & sweet potato or pumpkin. makes delicious bread which is almost like cake. but my guts doesn’t like wheat so i’ve been feeding the starter just buckwheat & it looks very much like the foto at the top of this page – smaller bubbles in the starter. i bake about once every 5 – 6 days and use up most of the starter & leave the remnant in the fridge & then feed it up a day or so before baking. i also have an old starter which is dormant in the fridge & take a spoon from the sludge at the bottom if i’ve lost everything current.

    above all, i don’t worry. i don’t do anything that seems to arduous for the result i want. no way am i gonna have a daily fed starter consuming huge amounts of flour. we have to design a process which suits solitary eating.

  3. Jake says

    I just thought I would add something I have learned from much sourdough baking. I found that using pineapple juice, rather than cabbage leaves, gives me a good start a lot sooner. It may have something to do with the acidity. Without the pineapple juice, there is, sometimes, a nasty, stinky, bacterial period before the yeasts fully take over the culture. I’ve never had to throw out a starter made with pineapple juice.

    • says

      Jake: Yes, pineapple juice is awesome for starting a starter. There is a bit of debate on what’s going on, but here’s what I’m understanding: The difference is, if I’m understanding correctly, that cabbage leaves add yeast to the mixture while pineapple juice boosts the acidity, which encourages yeast to grow. Yeast thrives in acidity. So adding pineapple juice increases the acid environment. The yeast is already on the flour, so the acidity boosts the action. Using cabbage leaves adds some yeast to flour that may be low on yeast (as some gluten-free flours are). Also, the pineapple juice won’t protect a starter that is left without being fed or watered on a regular basis. :) I haven’t worked with pineapple juice–I will check that out soon. Thank you for bringing it up!

  4. Janna says

    Just wanted to give a huge shout out and thank you, overdue. Thanks to your intelligently written research and great tips, (yay organic red cabbage!) I was able to really understand it all, and get my GF sourdough up and running, even in the colder part of winter (N. CA also, and we keep the heat low, so….winter is colder inside!) , and it worked! We’ve been running sourdough loaves ~4 a week ever since, and it’s so lovely and wonderful to have actual sourdough again, as a regular, normal staple in the house. Thank you!!!!

  5. Misty Summers says

    I am on my second day of my very first starter! And it is bubbling like crazy ;0) I am so happy. The directions are wonderful and very informative. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to create such a great step by step process. I will let you know how my very first loaf of bread comes out!

    • Misty Summers says

      SO… right after I typed this my husband opened all the windows in the kitchen to cool the house off. ;( My starter went completely still. So I placed it in my oven over night with the oven light on and covered it with a cloth. It was beautiful this morning. It had risen and was very active. So I decided to go ahead and bake my bread. It is rising in the oven now. Thank you for all the info! All the comments and the FAQ are so helpful for fully understanding the process.

  6. Laura says

    I made a successful starter beginning with Teff and Sorghum flours, then diluting it by feeding with a half and half mix of brown and white rice. Since then I got lazy and used a GF mix that has starches, and it rises SO FAST! So fast I’m afraid I’m growing something other than yeast because of the starch. It smells ok, though. Bread dough rises almost as fast as commercial yeast with this beast.

    • says

      Laura: I usually recommend that people not use a high starch flour for feeding their starter. It causes the yeast to go into overdrive (which is what you’re seeing) and you need to feed them much more often than every 8 hours.

  7. says

    Hola! I’ve been reading your website for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas!

    Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  8. Marti says

    When you speak of “pouring off” some of the starter….before feeding again….what exactly do you mean? to pour off and throw it away…?? How many days are you feeding, before it becomes a usable starter?
    Many thanks

    • says

      Marti: Yes, pouring off means throwing it away. Also, once the starter is actively bubbling and you’ve removed the cabbage leaves, it’s ready for use. Happy baking!

    • KJ says

      Is there anything that can be done with the part you’re throwing away, other than using it in a compost bin? Is there no other dish that this throw away portion can be used for? Surely there must be some way to use it in the kitchen.


      • says

        KJ: As I stated in the post, you can either pour it off, give it away to friends, or start a new starter for yourself. I have no other ideas on what to do with it. Maybe that’s something you can work on? If you do, let me know what you come up with!

      • Mel says

        You can make many things with sourdough starter! Pancakes, muffins, cakes, biscuits even. There is a dedicated website to this: Cultures for Health. :-) best ever!!

  9. Romana says

    Hi Jeanne,
    Thank you for all for your wonderful work and recipes. I can’t wait to make my sourdough. Before I do this I have one concern. Do you know if sourdough can be eaten by someone with a lactose intolerance? I never knew the Lactobacillus was in the bread!
    Thank you!

  10. Kimberly Marino says

    I tried making a sourdough pasta the other night:

    ½ cup sourdough starter (100% hydration)
    1.5 cups flour
    2 eggs

    my dough was very sticky and wouldn’t for a ball. I let it sit for 8 hours prior to trying to knead. Why did this happen? This is my first experiment using the sourdough starter.

    when they say 100% hydration – I am assuming this means equal parts flour to water? I have been adding 2 oz flour with 2 oz water when I feed every 12 hours.

  11. Sass says

    Hello, forgive me if this question has been answered already. I scrolled through the questions and couldn’t see anything about coconut flour. I am looking to create a sourdough starter from just coconut flour. A local bakery makes the most amazing (expensive) coconut sourdough bread, and I would like to figure out how to make it myself. I need a recipe for the starter and the bread !! Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated :) Please feel free to email me at… Thank you!! ~ Sass

    • says

      Sass: I haven’t worked with coconut flour. I would try the cabbage method and use coconut flour and see how it works. Also, I would recommend asking the bakery if they use a coconut flour starter or some other type of starter. Happy baking!

  12. says

    I think you may have been the first person to post a recipe for gluten-free sourdough starter on the internet! I’m wondering if you have made any changes to your starter since you first came up with this recipe. I’ve found that using sorghum or teff flour gives the starter much better flavor than brown rice flour. Also, I’ve formulated a way to create a starter more quickly, and with more LAB for better sourness. Here’s my newest post if you’re interested:
    Thanks for being a gluten-free pioneer and sharing the knowledge! I used this post as a reference when I first got going with GF sourdough.

  13. Kris says

    Thank you for your research and information. This is day 3 and my starter is bubbling nicely. I have missed Sourdough for 5 years.

  14. Amber says


    My children and I are very sensitive to recipes containing yeast (breads, beers, wine, kombucha, basically everything you actually add yeast to). I had someone suggest we try a sourdough that uses a starter without added yeast. I’m going to give it go, since I’ll just be relying on naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in the environment. We are also gluten free, dairy free, soy free, and my kids are egg free. They desperately miss bread :-)
    Have you visited with anyone else with a yeast sensitivity that has had success with this recipe? Any thoughts or input?

    Thank you very much!

    • says

      Amber: I don’t know how folks who are sensitive to yeast react to this recipe. Please be aware that yeast is yeast–and since this bread contains naturally occurring yeast, I’m not clear that it is any better for you and your kids. I would maybe discuss it with your doctor before trying it. :)

  15. says

    Hi Jeanne, I am making a starter on quinoa flour and pineapple juice and it was going really good until the forth day when I had to add water and flour and then it seemed to stop fermenting, it smelt a little funny no mold or anything else so the next day I added flour and pineapple juice again and now it has started to ferment again (it smells like it did when I first started). Do you think it will be OK to use or should I just start again? Should I just keep adding pineapple juice instead of water so I will have enough starter to make a loaf of bread. Cheers Glenda

    • says

      Glenda: I’ve never tried to make a starter with pineapple juice so I am unable to troubleshoot for you. It sounds OK. I would recommend using it and seeing what happens.

  16. Janette Gross says

    I love this starter and bread. I keep it in the fridge, feeding it every few days then take it out a day or so ahead of baking. I’ve been making a loaf every two weeks or so for a few months now. It’s just wonderful. However, I am going away for three weeks and wonder if it will be OK in the fridge without being fed, or can I freeze it?

    • says

      Janette: I think it would be OK in the fridge. I’ve left mine for 3 weeks in the fridge and it perked up again just fine. It may take some extra time for the yeast to get going again, but it shouldn’t be a problem.

  17. Maree says

    Hi fellow GF sourdough enthusiasts!

    I wonder if anyone can help me. I am flying from Australia to Seattle in a couple of weeks and can’t figure out how to bring my starter with me. I’m not sure LA customs will be understanding if I have it in my carry-on luggage. It’s a 20 hour trip and I’m concerned it will either leak if I have it in my check-in luggage, or smother if I seal it too well.
    If I can’t bring it with me, I wonder if there is anyone who would be willing to share some of their starter with me. I’ll only be there for 2 weeks to attend a medical clinic so I won’t have time to start from scratch.
    Hopefully, Maree

    • says

      Hello Maree,
      Are you there?
      I did reply to you. But the reply disappeared…
      To cut my long story short…
      I suggest that you feed about 2 or 3 oz of your starter about 8 hours before your departure, and arrange a airtight container (small one) then put this container inside another slightly larger container.
      Alternatively, you may start this one or two days before.. After having fed your starter and allowed about 8 hours fermentation, you may deep freeze it and then place the container used to deep freeze inside a larger container.
      In both cases you will need to reactivate your starter by feeding it with water and flour. In the former case only two cycles will be enough to get you up and running. But in the latter case you will need about 2 to three days (2 cycles per day). Both ways are effective.
      The proportions to feed a starter are:
      30% starter
      70% water
      100% flour
      ex. 100 g flour, 60 g water, 30 g starter…
      The starter should be slightly denser and less fluid for your trip.
      I wish you the best possible trip and happy baking!

  18. Kylie says

    I just recently bought The Art Of Gluten Free Sourdough on Amazon by Sharon Kane. She uses water kefir to boost her gluten free sourdough starters. I really tried to read through ALL the comments on this post to see if someone had already asked this, but I just couldn’t finish. lol Has anyone had success using water kefir (Sharon Kane uses 2-4 Tbsp at the beginning of the starter only) in your recipe, that you remember. I have already purchased the water kefir and started it, and I know we will make a regular habit of drinking. It won’t go to waste, but I am just curious if it might work for your technique. As far as I can tell, all of Sharon’s are baked in loaf pans because she uses as much hydration as you do. However, I had been reading about the dutch oven method with wheat sourdough, and stumbled upon your post here tonight in my Google searching. Now, I am curious if any of Sharon’s recipes will also work in the dutch oven to make boule’s instead of loaves. Either way, I cannot wait to finally try my hand at sourdough! Thanks for the post. Your boule is beautiful. :)

    • says

      Kylie: Thank you! I haven’t used water kefir grains, so I can’t help you with that. That said, I’m guessing that a starter made from water kefir grains would probably work just fine with my recipe. Also, using a Dutch oven with a lid creates a little oven within your oven. What that does is allow the steam from the bread to stay in close contact with the bread and therefore create a lovely crust.

  19. Tracy says

    OK, this may be a dumb question, but am I right that after I make my bread I can take the leftover starter and continue feeding/caring for as before? I never made sourdough before going gluten free, apparently it seemed to complicated!

  20. Marilyn says

    I successfully made your GF sourdough starter! Red cabbage and blueberries had been washed too clean, but I finally realized that a piece of local fruit was coated in white powder. 24 hours later – voila! So I now have totally authentic Kauaʻi Sourdough, made from scratch using Jeanneʻs formula. Iʻve made buckwheat pancakes that turned out better than Iʻd expected. Now Iʻm ready to make my first boule. Thank you so much for sharing the information that Iʻve been trying to find for a very long time!

  21. Rhonda says

    The starter and bread turned out great! I have made banana and pumpkin breads and coffee cake with the starter with great results, but our favorite is sourdough yogurt pancakes! Thanks so much for the all the research on the starter!

  22. Janette says

    I made my first bread from your starter (after throwing the first batch out because it became pink). The new batch was fabulous. Instead of the cabbage leaves I used the first time, I used red grapes. The starter is still awesome doing all the things it should. I wasn’t ready to bake again, so I put it in the fridge for a week ( stirring and loving it as needed). I took it out yesterday and poured off some of the hooch. I fed it and went off for the day. It totally rose out of the big jar I had it in and spilled all over the counter. I am in Santa Cruz and for us, it’s been really hot which means in the 80’s. Is that why it went crazy? I cleaned it all up and fed it again since I threw a bunch out. It is now rising again…!

    • says

      Janette: Yes, the heat will make it rise more. And it will keep spilling out of the container–so I would mix it up, pour off about half, and then feed and water it. That way you can control the spilling situation. It sounds like you’ve got a very happy starter there!

      • Janette says

        Thanks for your quick reply! I do think the starter is happy. It looks just like your picture. I also wanted to tell you that I made the boule and it turned out just perfect. Thanks again for your recipes and your site!

  23. Sara S. says

    Hi Jeanne,

    I was wondering how to make my regular sourdough recipe gluten free. Thank you!

    I just thought I’d mention that I use milk instead of water to feed the lactobacillus. They’re a natural milk bacteria so they should have lactose to eat instead of sugar. Anyway, it works much better than water and is ready in 1/2 the time.

  24. Michelle says

    I found this last night and just had to try it. I used sweet rice flour and organic blueberries – I never knew that white coating was yeast! I forgot to feed it this morning but I just noticed tonight that it is already bubbling and has a very nice sour smell. I fed it, shook it up and put the hole punched parchment paper back over it. I left the blueberries in it (I only used maybe 1/2 a cup of berries or so and plan to take them out tomorrow . I am so excited to try baking some sourdough bread! THANK YOU!!

  25. Samantha Matete says

    Me too! Its like having a pet….feeding it everyday and keeping it warm!!! I think its what you call a wet starter being that I started with 150g flour and 100g water and have been feeding it 50g each of flour and water each day??? So what do I do next when its ready???? LOL
    This recipe was given to me by a friend:
    Small Sourdough Boule

    Mix until everything is wet:
    175g spring water at room temp
    10g whole psyllium
    4g ground chia

    150g starter 10% hydration
    150g flour
    12g sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    (optional 1 tsp vinegar if your loaves aren’t coming out sour enough for your taste. Try the first time without.)

    Mix everything until well blended. Scoop it into a ball and set to rise on parchment paper in a bowl seam-side down. Cover the top with plastic touching the surface of the dough. Put the whole bowl in a plastic bag and let rise 4-12 hours. The longer it rises the more sour it will be (hopefully) but the less oven spring you will get. 30 minutes before you want to bake, gently form the boule by tucking the sides of the ball under the bread with the sides of your hands. Brush the top with water and re-cover with the plastic wrap touching it. Set the oven to 450 F with a heavy stock pot or dutch oven inside. When the oven has heated up, score the bread, brush with water again, and carefully place it in the hot dutch oven. Cover. Cook 15 minutes. Set the oven to 400 f and place the bread on the oven rack. Cook for 10 minutes or until the crust feels crisp on top. Let cool several hours before slicing.

  26. Samantha Matete says

    I am just learning about sourdough making. I suffer from severe IBS and have to stay clear of cabbages! What do you suggest I use instead???

    • says

      Samantha: Grapes are another thing that has natural yeast on them. And fresh, unpolished apples. Look for ones that have the white-ish covering on them. Let me know if you can’t use them and I will look up other ones to try.

        • says

          Samantha: Ah, OK here’s what you do. Use organic grapes if you can. Don’t wash them–just rinse them lightly. Put a few whole ones in the jar with the flour and water and stir gently. Don’t cut the grapes–it’s the skins you’re really using. Follow the directions for the starter. You should see action in a few days.

          Also, one thing to keep in mind–you are just using the cabbage/grapes/apples for the wild yeast that grows on them. You aren’t really eating any of the fruit/vegetable. So, unless you are allergic to cabbage, I would try that first. Once the starter begins to bubble, you take the cabbage out and go from there.

          • Samantha Matete says

            yes thats true, I will try!! Thanks. I don’t know much about sourdough making, I understand your method here using cabbage is because you wanted to create a sourdough from a wild yeast base…so then what is the other perhaps the traditional way of making sourdough???

          • says

            Samantha: This is the way sourdough has been traditionally made–by harvesting wild yeast instead of using store-bought yeast to get things started! Where the yeast is harvested from varies: cabbages, grapes, apples, raisins. There are many sources. Technically, you could even set out a bowl of flour and water slurry and see if wild yeast lands on it and starts to grow. But, I have found cabbage to be an awesome and almost foolproof source for wild yeast.

          • Samantha Matete says

            Wow I did not know that, fascinating! Now I understand why my aunty only ate sourdough bread, when she said she had to avoid eating yeast! Oooooo I cant wait to try now! So you think cabbage would be the best to use for maximum successful results?

          • Samantha Matete says

            Just to update on my sourdough quest…..I have a sourdough starter on the make for 3 days now using only sorghum and millet flour and water!!!

          • Julie says

            samantha, i described in the comments below how i got yeast to migrate into my GF sourdough starter. worked like a charm and now i have a very nice tasting & working sourdough starter.

  27. says

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  28. Judy says

    Interesting, and I’m anxious to try making GF sourdough starter!
    Question: What other alternative flours have been tried (for either feeding the sourdough, or baking the bread)? I’m particularly wondering about coconut flour and almond flour….

  29. Julie says

    Hi Jeanne,

    I’m back working on another batch of starter. One question for you – have you tried making your sourdough recipe using your own flour mix when you are baking it? I’ve been thinking of trying that. I think I might like more of the bland flours (brown rice, white rice and sticky rice) and less of the sorghum flour. I’m thinking that might let the sourdough flavor shine through a little more.

    Second, I am doing a little experiment. Instead of using cabbage leaves and their yeast, I have a small jar of regular wheat sourdough starter from a friend that I have placed inside a larger jar. The larger jar has the gluten-free flours in it. Her sourdough has the most fantastic flavor, so I am *hoping* that the yeastie beasties from her starter will travel over to my gluten-free mix and give mine the fantastic flavor as well.

    It’s just been a day since I set them up, but there is already a little bit of action in the gluten-free jar. Tons of action in the regular gluten starter’s jar. It is a well-established starter. We’ll see how if it takes and i’ll let you know in a few days.

    • Julie says

      Oh, and I meant to ask, have you ever tried using your GF sourdough starter in a regular gluten-sourdough recipe, just substituting GF flours? Other than not kneading, I’m wondering what the outcome would be? Hate to experiment with these expensive flours and wondered if you already have.

      • says

        Julie: Well, I based my recipe on a wheat recipe. But the problem is, you need to ramp up the amount of starter and water. GF bread needs more “hydration”. If you just used it cup for cup in a wheat-based recipe, things won’t turn out well.

    • says

      Julie: You can use the flours from my mix, but don’t put in the xanthan gum. Also, I think it’s best to start with a more whole grain flour (like sorghum or brown rice or amaranth) and then add the starchier flours. But, you never know–my philosophy is to try and see what happens. I’ve never tried to colonize my starter the way you have–very interesting. It will be interesting to see what happens with yours!

    • says

      Janice: If you don’t want to use sorghum in the beginning, I would try another whole grain flour–like brown rice, amaranth, or buckwheat.

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  31. SarahK says


    Once the starter is going, how long can you keep it going and use it for baking? Do you have to start (no pun intended) again after a few months with a new batch?

    Thanks and all the best

    • says

      SarahK: Theoretically, the starter will last for years. It’s a living thing and if you keep feeding and watering it, it will go on and on. That said, if you haven’t used yours for awhile and have a bunch of it, you can pour off all but a cup and then keep feeding and watering it. As long as you have some, it will last forever.

    • says

      Toni: Hm, I don’t know. The reason you use red cabbage is because of the yeast that naturally grows on the leaves. I’m not sure if the same thing happens on green cabbage.

    • Abbey says

      In “Wild Fermentation” Sandor Katz recommends using a few stone fruits or blueberries in a sourdough starter. He says (I’m paraphrasing here), the white filmy layer you find on these fruits is yeast. I didn’t know that film could be found on the red cabbage as well, interesting.

  32. Julie says

    I’m back, wanting to try again on the sourdough bread. I’ve recovered from the garbage disposal trauma! 😉

    Can you tell me the reason for using cabbage as the starter instead of a package of yeast? Just been curious about that. This time I’m going to try using no water and perhaps letting it go 60 minutes in the dutch oven before removing the lid. surely something will get the bread baked all the way through.

  33. SANDRA says

    I am new to the GF sourdough starter. Thank God that someone has found a way! Could someone provide me with two things: 1. The recipe for using the starter, and 2. Instructions on how to dry/freeze the starter and re-use it later? In the past, when using traditional sourdough starter, I found that it could be too much of a good thing in a household of one. I cannot use it up fast enough. The ability to stop feeding for a while and re-start when I’m ready would be great.

    • says

      Sandra: The recipe for the bread is in the post. And there is also a link to a post that answers questions about the starter. I haven’t frozen or dried it yet, but there are instructions around the internet for that if you want to check them out. I will do a post on that eventually! Happy baking!

  34. Christina says

    I was at a store today and the vendor sold a gluten sour dough bread and said that someone they knew who was celiac can eat this bread because it their process of making sour dough is 3 days. It’s fermented long enough to break down the gluten. What do you think?

  35. DIane Steffes says

    I started my started w/GF sorghum, water and cabbage on Saturday night. It seemed to start bubbling a little by Sunday night and a little more monday am. There was definitely a separation of what I assume was hooch on the top. By Monday night I thought it had a strong odor and was getting rather pink, so I took out most of the cabbage, which had made it difficult to stir, but left in one small portion. The bubbling doesn’t seem to be progressing though and I wondered if I should have left all the cabbage in. I read through some of the posts again, this am, Tueday I decided to pour some off and then feed it with millet flour this time. I still have a smaller piece of the original cabbage in it. It looks like their is some action, but not a lot. It definitely doesn’t look like your picture with the bubbles throughout, only some on top. Did I do something wrong or am I just too impatient? Should I kept feeding and and leave the cabbage in? Or add more cabbage? Take that out?
    Also, when I weigh my one cup of sorghum flour, it only weighs 4 oz. That seemed like a bid difference, so I compromised and used about 4.5 oz. Is that ok? Maybe my scale is off.

    • says

      Diane: Take the cabbage out. Leaving the cabbage in once the bubbling starts doesn’t do any good and actually can compromise the starter. Also, have you been feeding it according to schedule? I can’t tell from your question. Finally, don’t concentrate too much on the weight of the cup of flour right now. Whether or not it’s perfect is not important right now–the yeast will eat what you give them and a small different won’t affect whether or not your starter is working. Please keep in mind that sourdough is a living thing and takes time. Finally, if your starter is pink and smells funny I would throw it out and start again.

      • DIane St says

        Thanks so much for your quick reply. I have been feeding on schedule. It is kind of pink, especially the hooch on top, I can’t say that the smell is really bad but I don’t think its really a vinegary smell as some have been describing, its sort of a slightly sour,pasty smell. The cabbage I used was not organic as I couldn’t find any organic at several markets. I did wash it well but there was definitely still the white film on it. I used two large leaves and it was hard to stir around it, but I did stir it a few times a day.
        Thanks, D

  36. Kristine says

    So I haven’t read all your post, so I am sorry if I am asking a question you have already addressed. I am wondering if you have ever tried a wheat sour dough bread that the “mother sponge” sat for 10-12 hour and had no flour added after that first rise? My husbands family has a lot of gluten intolerance, my husband and a daughter included, and they have had success with it. A family friend, who is also celiac, introduced it to us. I just wonder if there are others out there who have tried it and what their reactions were.

    • says

      Kristine: The answer is no. The 2004 study that started the whole idea of celiacs potentially being able to eat sourdough bread was quite small and the folks that didn’t suffer intestinal damage from the wheat sourdough were fed a bread where the wheat gliadins were fully hydrolyzed. This does not happen with commercial or homemade sourdough bread. It was something that was created in a laboratory under conditions that we can’t currently mimic easily. Also, there is confusion on the parts of so many people who may think that “no symptoms” equals “no intestinal damage.” This is not the case–you can still do serious damage to your body without symptoms. Please do not eat this if you are truly celiac, gluten intolerant, or wheat allergic–you will not be able to mimic the fully hydrolyzed wheat bread that was created under lab conditions. For a clear explanation of this situation, please see this link.

  37. Julie says

    Thanks so much for the starter recipe and bread recipe! i’ve had starter going now for about 6 weeks and have made a dozen or so loaves of bread, plus given starter to 2 of my kids who have moved elsewhere. I keep having the same problem, however, and i don’t know how to fix it.

    all of us absolutely love the flavor, but all of the loaves are too wet inside. i’ve used an instant thermometer and had the loaf get to as much as 205*, i’ve let them cool in the pan, then out of the pan per your directions – but they are still wet inside. i’m getting really discouraged.

    I’ve tried baking it longer with the lid off (45min with lid on & 25 min off), heating the dutch oven more thoroughly with the lid off before adding the dough, and baking a 1/2 volume in a smaller pan. I’ve used the thermometer but can’t seem to get it hotter than 200ish. I think the dough has the right amount of water in it – it seems like a good level of tackiness. I watched a video by another person who is a pro GF baker and the consistency of my dough matches her demo and would be what i would call a stiff cake batter. i’m ending up with the top crust fried while the inside is too wet. Do I need a different temperature?

    I’m new to celiac, but i was never much of a baker before. in fact, i think i’ve only made bread once before trying this. So i don’t have a bag of tricks to try. Can you suggest something?

    • says

      Julie: Hm. I wonder if your oven is heating to temperature? If you don’t have an oven thermometer, I would get one immediately and check to see how your oven is heating. Also, the bread is more dense and “wet” than, say, a SF sourdough–which is more fluffy and dry inside. How wet is the dough inside after it bakes? Like raw dough? Or wetter than you would like?

      • Julie says

        it’s not raw dough, but it sticks a lot to the thermometer and is more wet than what i would call moist. it’s far wetter than something like a banana bread or carrot cake. it just seems like it’s not done to me. the last loaf i had the top so overdone i had to cut it off and toss it out, but the inside felt gooey wet. i’ll go check the oven now – i think it’s registering to temp.

        i’m wondering if it’s too much tapioca flour. i’ve read that tapioca flour is heavier, chewier, gummier, than potato flour. But if others have had success with the tapioca, that might not be the problem.

        Or if i should bake it a full 60 minutes with the lid on the dutch oven before removing it to brown. My daughter made the recipe and didn’t add any water at all, just the starter and the flours.

        we live in Oregon, so the humidity (and water needed in the dough) should be similar to yours. I don’t have a food scale so am measuring rather than weighing. Perhaps I need to get a scale.

        • says

          Julie: Hm. Yes, that sounds like it’s too wet. I don’t think it’s the tapioca flour. Tapioca flour supplies the necessary starch that works with structure-building elements to create a covering over the bread that the yeast gasses press against. But, if you want, go ahead and try it with potato flour–see what happens. Also, the humidity in your kitchen will make a difference in how much water the recipe needs. It would be worth a try to add less water and see what happens. Or, try what your daughter did and add no extra water. The dough should be sticky–like a thick cake batter. Let me know how it goes!

          • Jessie Mae says

            Only add enough water to what feels/looks right. For me it was more than prescribed, but my starter is very thick, no hooch forms. Works great.
            Tapioca– Good Gahd NOOO. I stopped using tapioca in GF recipes many years ago. When I first started, I followed recipes to a T and they definitely needed a lot of tweaking. I’m not sure why so many bakers write recipes using it. I never had any luck with it. Always the recipes came out too flat and sticky like you said.
            I love arrowroot. I use 3 starches, but mostly arrow. also corn and Maine Potato starch.
            Take out the tapioca, maybe use LESS then is prescribed of any starch you substitute. Add water a little at a time until it’s just right. Don’t over mix either.
            Lots of don’ts sorry… Be well and best.

          • says

            Jessie Mae: Actually, tapioca is just fine in gluten-free recipes. It’s gotten a bad rap due to incorrect information. Gluten-free baking needs starches in order to create the proper structure. If you don’t like tapioca for whatever reason, that’s fine. But please do not spread incorrect information about tapioca starch. To be honest, I experience more problems with arrowroot starch than I have ever experienced with tapioca.

        • Julie says

          well, i am giving up for the time being. i made another batch of dough, but as the mixer was going, it just smelled awful. i think the starter had somehow gone bad – not sure why, but it smelled far too strong and, just bad. a couple of days ago i poured off the hootch, thinking it smelled too strong at that point.

          i dumped the dough in the garbage. then poured the starter in the sink and *YAY* discovered the garbage disposal was broken – so i have smelly starter sitting in the sink.

          some days are like this. so we’ll give it a rest and try again another time. thanks for all the suggestions.

          • Jessie Mae says

            Fresh approach on another day is always a wise choice. Something will work out.
            Like with the computer, a weird glitch appears and nothing works to fix it. Eventually turning it off and giving it a rest is the only solution.
            Be well.

    • says

      Michele: Hm, to be honest, I don’t know how almond flour will work. I’m not sure that the yeast would eat almonds. But, it’s worth I try. :) Let me know how it goes!

      • Jessie Mae says

        I use pecan meal and bean flour from time to time. I think it’s probably fine as long as you have a base of grain products. We used to use a LOT of almond products, great flavor, great alternative if you can’t eat soy and rice (like my little guy at the time). But you need to be careful about focusing on one product. ‘Doodlebug’ became sensitive to almonds because we used them with everything. Now I tend to make sure he has a balanced mix of grains, beans and just a little pecan and coconut for the fat. Just be careful about the ‘x’ craze. Be it almond, coconut, millet (our current fav.) And think variety, balance.

        • says

          Jessie Mae: Thanks for the info about the nut meals in the starter. And good point about not getting stuck in a rut with foods, especially nuts–which are highly allergenic.

  38. Vincent says

    This is incredible! I have a sourdough question for you. I know sourdough wheat pasta exists, but I can’t find anything on the web about gluten free sourdough pasta. Have you ever tried this, or do you have any speculations about a starting point ratio using this starter?

    • says

      Vincent: Yay–I’m so glad you like it! And I haven’t heard about sourdough pasta, so I can’t give much guidance. I do have a recipe for gluten-free pasta on the site (do a search on it) and see what it looks like. Then I would recommend finding a wheat recipe you like and go about adapting it to gf. Often what happens with adapting recipes like bread to gluten-free is that you will need more liquid than in a wheat dough–but with pasta, you never know. Happy experimenting! Let me know how it goes!

  39. Jessie Mae says

    5 points/questions
    1. I was pondering if using a bowl with a large area on top vs. a jar with a small area open to the air might help production?

    2. I might suggest users look up Indian(as in the country of India) recipes for fermented products. I just spent 3 days with 3 post-doc Indian researchers and learned a lot about Southern Indian cooking. Most interesting was their use of fermented rice to make their dosa, which is a pancake but thin, which they use to fill with everything from sweet to savory dinners. And also their fermented lentil dishes. I need to do more research, but it inspired me to the GF possibilities.

    3. I’m going to try a brussels sprout top (looks like a really loose cabbage) for my yeast bit, as that’s all my farmer friend had on hand, and it’s organic.

    4. Anyone tried lacto-fermented grains? I’ve got some goat kefir, just wondering if it would go bad if left out on the counter with the grains, maybe mix half kefir, 1/2 water.

    5. Can you buy sorghum grain and then mill it? I have the flour, but have been milling millet to make super tasty stuff. It really is amazing the difference in flavor.

    • says

      Jessie Mae: Here are my answers to each question:

      1) I think a bowl would be awesome–just be sure you don’t have bugs around (I am plagued by fruit flies).
      2) The Indian connection is interesting. I will do some research.
      3) For sure let me know how the brussels sprouts worked! I am intrigued!
      4) I haven’t used lacto-fermented grains so I can’t answer this question.
      5) I think you can buy sorghum grain and mill it. I’m guessing it would be fine. The only issue would be if you can’t get it as fine as you want it to be–but that’s up to you.

      Thanks for the food for thought!

      • Jessie Mae says

        YES success in 12 hours! Can you believe it? The brussels must be grown with lots of critters here in Maine because my mix started to bubble after 12 hours. Now 24 hours and it’s working up a frenzy! I mixed various flour on hand. Fresh milled millet and fresh milled Northern White beans, local. I don’t know what else, spelt, sorghum, white rice…
        Smells like the Old Town Paper Mill!

        • says

          Jessie Mae: Awesome! I love it! And I love what you did with the flours. One thing: spelt is a form of wheat–so if you added that to the mix, your bread will not be gluten-free.

          • Jessie Mae says

            true. My son is not a Celiac. He has a troubled GI and some things bother him and not others. 5 years ago we started this naturapathic journey of healing. Had to take nearly everything out of his diet. Some voodoo, patience and time have brought us to the point where some spelt is OK. Still no to Wheat, Oats etc. Also no to dairy, although now he can eat and LOVES goat yogurt and goat cheese. Recently he became intolerant to bakers yeast. Which is why my renewed passion for making a sourdough. Gotta take our victories and then roll with the punches.

  40. Julie says

    Hi, Jeanne!

    Sourdough has been the one thing that my husband has really missed during our 7 GF years. Thanks to Jean and a couple of other great bloggers, I have created a great starter, and now I am busily making sourdough for my GF friends in the area. It is true that it has become more sour over time, which most people seem to love, and I have been adding things like garlic-flavored oil, fresh roasted garlic, and fresh rosemary to my baguettes (can you tell I live near Gilroy, garlic capital of the world?). :)
    I am thinking of pouring off some starter and making a second starter that isn’t as strong, just so some folks who don’t like their bread so “tart” can still enjoy GF sourdough… just brainstorming.

    • admin says

      Julie: Ah, Gilroy! I grew up in Monterey, so I totally know about Gilroy! Also, I do pour off starter and replenish with new. The tartness does get to be overwhelming. Starter is very forgiving once it’s going. Just keep about a cup so you can build it up again.

  41. Janelle says

    A friend gave me a jar of the starter 4 days ago. I got sick and haven’t done anything with it except refrigerate it (with a loose lid) and stir once a day. Should I still try to proceed with the process of feeding it or just discard it and start over?

  42. Sarah says

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! I grew up in the SF Bay Area as well and, aside from beer (I know there are tasty gf ones but…), sourdough is the only other thing that I am missing and craving. Can’t wait to make this!!!

  43. Kim says

    Help! I am on day 2 of trying to start my starter. I started on Thursday night, it is now Saturday night. I have not fed it tonight yet, it’s just not time yet. It is now purple. Will this go away (eventually) after it starts to bubble and I take the cabbage out of it? Thank you so much! I am soooo looking forward to using it!

    • admin says

      Kim: If you are only on day 2, I wouldn’t start worrying yet. And it will be a bit purple because of the cabbage. Just keep feeding and watering it on schedule!

  44. Shelley says

    Thanks so much for posting this! We are buying the stuff and switching over! I can’t wait to make sourdough bread, pancakes and english muffins for my family. My daughter is allergic to wheat among things so I have been scouring the internet for recipes and replacements for her so that we can still feed her yummy food.

  45. says

    I am on a mission to begin my starter today! I even have a gallon sized mason jar just waiting for me :)

    I actually read through ALL the comments & am thankful for all the tips! How exciting! I can’t wait to get going. It is encouraging to know you will answer any questions that arise during this adventure!


  46. says

    Thanks for an informative and inspiring piece. Twice now I’ve began starters based on your cabbage method. With my last starter, the ‘hooch’ became purple over time, and this new starter’s liquids on the top were a greyish purplish brown from the start, I’m assuming on account of the cabbage? Have you experienced this? And when, if ever should I expect the color to lighten up? I’ve also worried that this might be a mold issue. Thanks!

    • admin says

      Erin: A few questions:
      Do you remove the cabbage when the starter starts to bubble? You should remove all of the cabbage when you’ve established that the starter has activated.
      Do you stir in the hooch when you stir starter? You should stir in the hooch every time you stir the starter. If it just sits on top it goes bad.
      Does it stay purpley permanently? It will be a tiny bit pinky-purple until a day or two after you’ve removed the cabbage.

      Just so you know: my hooch is not clear. It’s got a bit of a color. I’ve noticed that it subtly turns color depending on the flour I mix in. For example, amaranth has slight blue tinge, so the starter looks an itsy bit blue when I mix that in.

      I think the main thing is to smell it. If it smells like it has gone bad, then assume it’s gone bad and start over.

      Let me know how it’s going!

  47. Ligea says

    I’ve been thinking about sourdough a lot lately. Lee, I appreciate your comments; before I found out I had celiac disease, I took a 5 week bread techniques class at my local culinary school in which we did begin our starter with grapes. Here in Colorado, it turned out a really nice sourdough flavor. I kept it alive for two years feeding it regularly and keeping it in the refrigerator most of the time. I would bring it to room temp before using it in a recipe so it would be active. Jeanne, thanks so much for this post and updating it – I think I’ll go make my starter now.

    • admin says

      I think grapes have the same yeast coating on them that cabbage does. I haven’t used them yet, but I want to experiment with them for making starter.

  48. lee jenkins says

    Hi Jean,

    Saw your post for FAQs re sourdough starter. . . First i want to say for anyone reading this, yes its a real recipe and yes it does work. . . I’m always suspicious (rightly so) when i see lots of comments like, wow, sounds great i want to give it a try, and no wow, worked great comments. So for the record, works great! As for my own experience, i did not follow your recipe (i admit) bc i’m in france and didn’t have sorghum flour. I just used randomly whatever GF flours i had. By day 5 or 6 i was baking bread. My starter does OBVIOUSLY bubble (i.e. one has no doubt that it is bubbling.) Secondly, i also confess that i didn’t use organic cabbage bc i couldn’t find any. I only found one solo head at the regular grocery store. So i used that. I have spoken to others who have also had a problem getting the GF starter to start, and i’m wondering if there are just certain locales where there is a high preponderance of wild yeast–and correspondingly, places where the wild yeast is particularly low. There is no magic behind the cabbage, you can also use other fruits and vegetables, such as organic grapes bc most fruits and veg have wild yeast on them. I tried it, it works, but it is kind of a pain to fish out the grapes. I guess what i’m saying is that if someone follows your recipe and it still doesn’t work, i’d say there isn’t enough yeast floating around in their environment. I did not follow instructions and mine worked beautifully. And continues to produce fabulous bread–so fabulous that gluten eaters love it too and the bread is often the topic of conversation if i bring it somewhere for dinner (I’ve had a number of gluten eaters say, wow, i could go GF if i got to eat bread like this. :-) ) I admit i also changed the bread recipe (life is for experimenting!) but your recipe worked too. . .

    Lastly re the “sourness” issue. I find if i use bean flours (including chick pea) or buckwheat flour my starter turns very sour. My starter tells me what it likes. In fact, i once put green lentil flour in and it literally threw it back at me–would not mix in, pelletized and kept popping up off the surface. So i fished it out (see i even abuse my starter and it works fine.) If i use “heavy” flours like quinoa or amaranth, i only use a tiny bit. . . I find using sorghum (when i have it!), millet and brown rice flour work the best, adding tiny amounts of some of the other specialty flours.. . mostly i use these other flours in my bread recipes, not the starter.

    And lastly, lastly, if your bread shrinks a bit when it cools, dial back the xathum gum. . . I find that with sour dough i have to use less than with other bread bc otherwise i get a denser loaf. I like my bread light and fluffy, and eatable without toasting even days later, so i dial back the xantum with no noticeable crumbling effect!

    • admin says

      Lee: Thanks so much! Terrific observations and comments. And I agree–the bean flours make the starter very sour. And I love the fact that the starter threw the lentil flour back at you–LOL!

  49. Cathi says

    On day 3 of following directions to the tee…nothing. I am going to start another with the remaining sorghum flour and use other grain free flours I have to feed it as you had as well. When I make kefir or cultured veggies I use honey to feed the yeast…any thoughts?

    • admin says

      Cathi: Well, the flour should be feeding the yeast. I would wait for a day or two more. Also, is your kitchen really cold?

  50. says

    Hello Jeanne,
    How nice to hear your feedback!
    I partially agree with you regarding the starter transition from non-GF to virtually Gluten-Free. If one does not have the appropriate equipment (a good scale) and knows exactly what he or she is doing this procedure can prove unfortunate.
    Having said that, it is useful to emphasise that what makes a starter a special leavening medium for breads is the bio-diversity in it.
    The amount of metabolites which the sourdough starter’s flora produces cannot be equalled by any leavening agent, biological (commercial monoculture such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae), or by chemical agents.
    My starter has been developed over many years of research and work. More than 170 strains of bacteria and yeast have been detected in this medium. It is a very special starter which was naturally inoculated by the atmosphere of nature reserves in South America, Scotland and the Unesco accredited and protected Madeira Island Laurissilva Forests.
    The reason I thought interesting to implement such a transition from a biologically rich medium is basically to provide the GF breads with the same bio-diversified metabolites and hence the rich aroma of my other breads.
    The popular dilution rate used when normally feeding a starter is 50%, but if one takes this rate to 90% dilution, the starter re-activation although slower, will be achieved with success (without compromising its qualities).
    The benefits of working with higher dilutions is that more quickly the gluten can virtually be eliminated from the starter.
    One must understand that just as in chemistry, in kitchen too, it is not only analytically impossible, but also not gastronomically meaningful to entertain such thing as “absolute gluten-free”.
    In Europe most suppliers of “GF” flours often say in their packs that their products “may” have traces of gluten. By law it has been established that trace may be anything less than 20 ppm (parts per million, which is the same as one milligram per kilogram) . Gluten testing protocols are challenging to establish because there is no one method that can be used to test 100 percent of the products. Regulation of the label gluten-free will depend on each country’s legislation. In your country, the FDA issued regulations in 2007, limiting the use of “gluten-free” in food products to those with less than 20 ppm of gluten. But the current international Codex Alimentarius also establishes 20 ppm as a standard concentration of gluten in so-called “gluten-free” foods.
    If you consider the average gluten concentration in my normal sourdough as 125 ppm it is easy to understand that if one dilutes it to 10% using, say, rice flour or corn starch, this will already take the concentration to a safe level in the new transitional sourdough itself.
    But when this sourdough is fed progressively, after a few refreshments, using only “GF flours”, the concentration of gluten will become hardly possible to trace.
    In reality, if someone decided to use this first-time diluted sourdough at 10% to leaven a 1 kg loaf of bread dough he / she will have taken it to a rather safe gluten concentration.
    After three starter refreshments (always taking a small fraction of the sourdough transitional starter and feeding it with a mixture of water and GF flour 10 times larger), the concentration of gluten will be merely 1 ppm, when by law, gluten free is only less than 20 ppm.
    After 10 refreshments the “transitional” starter will be as “Gluten-Free” as any of the flours used to refresh it.
    It is ironical that, although the concentration of the estimated gluten content in this transitional Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter may even be less than 1 part per billion (1 ppb!), in most cases it will be analytically higher than this – not because of the methodology proposed here, but in spite of it! Namely by merit of the very quality of most “Gluten-Free” flours available in the market. Since by far most suppliers cannot assure a better level of purity than 1 ppm! There are no reliable tests that accurately determine the amount of unwanted grain overall in any given product lot.
    Cross contact begins at the farms. The amount of other grains mixed into GF products depends on a variety of factors, including what part of the country the grain is harvested. Kernels that fall into the ground prior to and during harvest one year often grow as volunteer grain in the next year’s crop. For example, if a producer grows barley one year, followed by oats the next year, the oats harvested from the field often contain a small percentage of barley. In the Illinois corn belt a farmer may just grow corn but in Kansas they may grow corn and wheat. Weather conditions, harvesting practices and other variables lead to inconsistent cereal grain admix from concentrations from year to year. This variability makes it impossible to determine an expected level of the presence of other grains in any given product.
    I am obviously talking here about concentrations of gluten that can be less than 20, 10 or even 5 ppm (5 ppm is considered by most allergists a very safe level for the most sensitive patients).
    A second source of cereal grain admix is during the handling of cereal grains. Because various crop species are grown in a given region, the grain handling systems will be used on multiple grains which can add to the amount of unwanted grain. The equipment is expensive and cleaning of this machinery is very time consuming, different grains are often dealt with using the same equipment on a farm to minimize capital investment, and the equipment is usually not cleaned out between the work with different grains. And the story goes on.

    Sort of a roundabout way of saying, no use if we are trying here to be “plus papiste que le Pape”!

    I would not be surprised if the gluten particle concentration even in the air should be higher than 100 ppb in restaurants, grocery shops, bakery vicinities, airlines, and generally in recycled-air premisses.
    Moreover, when we are so worried about the safest possible gluten concentration, there might be other highly lethal or carcinogenic particles in the very air we breath, or disperse in the environment we live, at concentrations much higher than EPA respective standards.

    Now the good news: I have already started my GF sourdough baking, using my 16+ times diluted transitional starter and a mixture of the all-purpose flour you suggested (THANK YOU!!!) and some other all-purpose GF flour recipes. When possible, I tried to develop my the flours from scratch from original organically European grown grains (whole rice, white rice, glutinous rice, amaranth, millet and quinoa), my excellent tapioca and arrowroot flours are imported from Brazil.
    The customers are simply in love with it! I am baking GF only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to avoid cross contamination from my other baking activities.
    A lady who had bought one of my GF Sourdough Loaves from a local nature shop on our Island of Madeira, phoned me yesterday to say she never tasted anything like this bread before. She emphasised its delicate texture and nutty flavour in her assessment of the bread. She also asked me if I could send the breads by DHL to Lisbon, where she lives!
    Regards to everyone,

  51. MamaCassi says

    greetings- i’ve been making a sourdough rice for years now, and instead of making loaves make quickbreads with it as the souring helps me avoid using xanthum and guar gum. are there any sourdough recipes that avoid the thickeners? i’d be willing to get sorgum to grind and mix w/ the brown rice i’ve already been souring, but want to avoid the gums…

    my brown rice sourdough is so delicious, and most importantly, my delicate system can digest it well. i’m so glad that sourdough is getting out there! i shipped off some starter with a friend to Chico, and have friend in Kansas City, Peoria, and Amherst all using it now for their grain sensitive folk. Some of my non-celiac friends enjoy it because it tastes so delicious and is easier than many non-gluten-free sourdough recipes for the pancakes/quickbreads.

    • admin says

      MamaCassi: Well, you can make the recipe I have an just not use the gums–but do not be surprised if the bread is crumbly and flat. For my recipes, xanthan gum doesn’t serve as a thickener, it serves as a gluten-replacer. Gluten does several things: it is a binder, a structure builder, and it is elastic–so it can be molded into shape. Without gluten, gluten-free baked items are crumbly and don’t hold their shape because there is no structure. Eggs provide a little bit of structure in baked items that use them, but be aware that my sourdough doesn’t use eggs.

      It sounds like maybe you have a sourdough recipe that you like and use already? Yay!

  52. Marg says

    I did pour off the hooch. I ended up having to throw out both the starter and the bread because the odor became overpowering and filled my home. Very disappointing as the bread really did look wonderful.

    • admin says

      Marg: Oh blech. So sorry that happened! It definitely sounds like the starter went bad. And a bad starter smells horrible.

  53. Marg says

    Well I baked the bread today and it looked just like the picture. It was a lovely brown crust with just enough firmness to make it crunchy. However, the taste test failed miserably. It was horribly sour and not edible. I am wondering if putting too much starter in would cause this. I also substituted coconut flour for the xatham gum. I measured the starter in liquid measurements. The centre of the loaf was a tad moist although it had reached the proper temperature. I would appreciate any thoughts you might have.

    • admin says

      Marg: Sounds like your starter was very strong. I would recommend pouring off the “hooch” that forms on top of your starter. That’s where most of the sourness comes from.

  54. says

    Dear All, I deeply appologise for the mistake I made in my previous post:
    “I assume you (Jeanne) are using your original prescribed mother-starter, which has 160% hydration (230 g flour / 104 g water ), you could keep a 200 g (77 g flour and 124 g water) of such a starter in your fridge.”
    The fraction 230 flour / 104 g water) should read instead 230 g water / 140 g flour, this will give 1.60 or 160% hydrationrate (it is the water proportion relative to the flour content). Because the baker’s formulations all relate the dough’s ingredients to the actual flour weight, the flour and the water together, translated into percentages will be 100% (flour) + 160% (water). This gives 2.6 or 260%. In order to work out the flour content of any starter quantity, one may simply divide the starter’s weight by 2.6. i.e. For a starter which weights 30 oz (850 g), the flour content is 30 oz / 2.6 = 11 oz (340 g), and the water content is 11 g x 1.6 = 18 oz (510 g).
    Hope now the calculations are correct…

  55. Marg says

    Well bless your heart! I did not give up on it. I poured some off and put some in a smaller bowl and kept the original pink creation in the original bowl. Today I decided to throw the whole thing out but when I looked at them, both batches were foaming away happily. In the meantime I had started a new bowl with just brown rice flour and water. That looks promising too. One of these days I will actually get to baking some pinkish sourdough bread. Thanks for your help.

    • admin says

      Marg: Yay! But please note that the starter shouldn’t stay pink past the first few days. If it continues to be pink days after the removal of the cabbage, then it has gone off and I would throw it away.

  56. says

    I think I found an answer to my question! The original question is is safe to produce a GF starter from a starter which is not GF. Keep refreshing is for a log period without using it until the fraction of gluten in it gets so minute that it renders the starter GF and harmless?
    So, here is what I found:
    “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to define
    the term “gluten-free” for voluntary use in the labeling of foods, to
    mean that the food does not contain any of the following: An ingredient
    that is any species of the grains wheat, rye, barley, or a crossbred
    hybrid of these grains (all noted grains are collectively referred to
    as “prohibited grains”); an ingredient that is derived from a
    prohibited grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten
    (e.g., wheat flour); an ingredient that is derived from a prohibited
    grain and that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat
    starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20
    parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food; or 20 ppm or more
    gluten. A food that bears the claim “gluten-free” or similar claim in
    its labeling and fails to meet the conditions specified in the proposed
    definition of “gluten-free” would be deemed misbranded. FDA also is
    proposing to deem misbranded a food bearing a gluten-free claim in its
    labeling if the food is inherently free of gluten and if the claim does
    not refer to all foods of that same type (e.g., “milk, a gluten-free
    food” or “all milk is gluten-free”). In addition, a food made from
    oats that bears a gluten-free claim in its labeling would be deemed
    misbranded if the claim suggests that all such foods are gluten-free or
    if 20 ppm or more gluten is present in the food. Establishing a
    definition of the term “gluten-free” and uniform conditions for its
    use in the labeling of foods is needed to ensure that individuals with
    celiac disease are not misled and are provided with truthful and
    accurate information with respect to foods so labeled. This proposed
    action is in response to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer
    Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA).”
    Now I just have to work the mathematics and see how many refreshments I will need until I get this starter legally gluten free and safe. Obviously after such point the starter will become safer and safer, as the dilutions will be progressive.
    It is interesting this concept in the light of homoeopathy where often a poison is used in minute concentrations to cure lots of diseases, or sometimes an allergen can be used in infinitesimal concentrations to completely heal the allergic process. Hey! I am not implying here anything. Just providing food for thought!
    Take care every one!

  57. says

    Hello Jeanne,
    Of course I bake breads every day (and every night sometimes ;-0)
    The point I was trying to make is that in order to make a very active starter it only requires a very little proportion of inoculate. The ensemble of micro-organisms in the mother-starter is so strong that it can in no time grow to a huge population.
    I remember once, when I used up all the starter in a bowl I kept in the fridge. Normally I would simply wash the bowl and take another sample from deep-freeze. But I decided then to try to use that barely dirty bowl (with only some signs of starter left in it) as the inoculate for a new starter batch. Then I added 200 g flour and 130 g mineral water (my starter is not like your, it is about 65% hydration). Et Voilà! After about 5 hours I had a most perfumed and the strongest starter!
    The problem about keeping larger quantities of starter is two-fold:
    1 – it is a terrible waste of expensive materials, unsustainable both financially and environmentally.
    2 – As you may know, cereals are normally packed with enzymes. These enzymes are both important to their germination process, collapsing their seed walls, and also freeing long chain molecules so that their sprouts can grow with the reserves in the grains. But also they help to facilitate a great deal in our digestion process.
    Some vegetables don’t have such great concentration of enzymes and will require the assistance of birds or other animals, which will eat their fruits and predigest their seeds before they become viable for germination.
    Oh my God! There I go again, with my digression! Sorry for that!
    Back to the main issue, when storing these starters in great quantities, you will allow more time for these natural enzymes in the flour to operate in the starter and thy will reduce the size of the long molecule starch chains. Eventually the starter will look like a broth or a slurry rather than a fluid dough or batter. It will be a juice of sugars ready to be devoured by the bacteria and by the yeast. What the problem?
    The problem may be when the starter makes up a great proportion of your dough (such as in your case). I like to call such starters “biga” because they are really a structural part of the dough, rather than simply providing leavening to it.
    And when the dough relies so much on the starter (biga) as a building block, it will need to keep gelatinous and elastic virtues, which a juice / broth cannot endow.
    My humble advice is that you may try to make your big starter (biga) only a few hours (4 to 5 hours) before you want to be ready to assemble your final dough. In order to have a good powerful starter (biga) I need only 1/8 of the weight required to make up the biga (the starter I shall use in the final dough).
    In this way you can keep a very small amount of starter (mother-starter) in your fridge.
    It will be much easier to refresh it and also to store it.
    If you ever need to discard part of the starter, it won’t be a big loss.

    For instance, in your case, I assume you are using your original prescribed mother starter, which has 160% hydration (230 g flour / 104 g water ), you could keep a 200 g (77 g flour and 124 g water) of such a starter in your fridge. Then when you need more, you could take a sample of only 170 g (6 oz) and refresh it with 261 g flour (9.2 oz) and 418 g water (14.7 oz).
    This will all total up to 29.9 oz (or in my European decimal system , about 850 g), which is exactly what you say would require to enter your Boule dough.
    In order to maintain the original mother starter you simply refresh the remaining 30 g (1 oz) with more 65 g flour (2.3 oz) and 104 g water (3.7 oz).
    I hope my calculations are correct, but it was only to exemplify my idea. I am a horrible teacher. Hope I helped a little bit.
    Love to you all!

    PS: Ah! Marg, please don’t give up! Keep on refreshing it and stirring, until it start liberating a very alcoholic smell. I think you may remove the leaves by now. All the bacteria and yeast have already inoculated your sample. You simply need to give it a time.

  58. Marg says

    I began making the starter 60 hours ago. I now have a bowl full of pink, somewhat thicker than water, liquid with very few bubbles. The colour has been picked up from the red cabbage and looks unappetizing. Should I give up on it?

    • admin says

      Marg: Hm. I’m not sure. I think it is probably good to throw that away and start over. Mine does start out a bit pink because of the cabbage, though…

  59. says


    Another point important to make is that when we cool down the dough to a typical fridge temperature of 5 C we can increase the leavening time by at least 50%, meaning that we can use this to improve taste, acidity and enzyme activity. Lactic-bacteria are not highly sensitive to this cooling but yeast is a lot. Therefore the metabolites (aroma) of the bread can be tuned by the time and temperature the bread experienced when leavening.
    Moreover, at typical leavening temperature (from 25 to 35 C), any increase 10 C increase can mean about 30% of leavening time reduction. This information helped me to better manage my work schedule (sleep, drive my wife and son to work and school), etc…



  60. Sabrina says

    Hi thanks so much for your suggestion of pouring off some of the starter, it totally worked! My starter revived and got bubbling loads, with lots of “hooch” which I have mixed back in (although it is starting to smell a bit too vinegary now). I have decided to start baking today for the first time! I was reading your recipe for the boule, but I don’t have a cast-iron dutch oven. I have a big stainless steel pan with lid which I am pretty sure is oven-proof (think that’s what it said on it when I bought it). Would that be good enough? Also I don’t have a mixer, but I have a hand-held manual one, will that be ok? Thanks so much again!

    P.S. I want to put the rest of the starter in the fridge. Do I then need to get it out to feed it every 3 days? DO I need to keep it out for a while, or do I just feed it regular amount and put it straight back in the fridge for another 3 days? And when I want to use it again, how long do I need to leave it out for before I can use it? THanks, sorry for all the questions!!

    • admin says

      Sabrina: Yay! Yes, I think the big stainless steel pan with a lid should be OK. The baking time might be different, so just watch it. Also, if you put the starter into the fridge, you don’t need to feed it every day because the yeasties will get slower. And when you do feed it, you just feed it and then put it back into the fridge–don’t worry about leaving it out. When you want to use it, let it come up to room temperature before using. You can use it before it reaches room temperature, but the yeasties will be slower than normal and the bread will take longer to rise. And no worries about the questions–I am happy to help!! Happy baking!

  61. Sabrina says

    Hi, Thanks so much for your instructions. I followed your instructions, alternating different gluten free flours on different days. After 48 hours I was so excited cause it was super frothy, so I took out the cabbage. Then I kept feeding it every 12 hours but it never became frothy again, and has only showed tiny bubbles as soon as I feed it, but then nothing much the rest of the time. I’m on day 6 now. A couple of days ago I put in a new cabbage leaf for a few days to see if that improved things, but it didn’t so I have taken it out. I can’t tell if that means I’ve killed it somehow. But it still has a few bubbles so I’m guessing something is happening, but I don’t understand what’s happened and if this is normal. Should I start again? It seems like such a waste of expensive flours.Thanks in advance for any help and advice!

    • admin says

      Sabrina: I would pour off a bunch of it. It sounds like it’s gotten so big that it is having a hard time. Or, you can bake with a bunch–that will get rid of much of your starter. Whenever your starter gets too big, feel free to pour off some to give the leftover starter some room to breathe. I need to include a note about this. Happy baking!

  62. Jen says

    This post is very exciting! I read through your recipe and all the comments and am left with one question about the cabbage leaves. You said that the while film on the cabbage we see is yeast (which is what we want so that we can encourage the yeast growth in the starter), so do you wash the cabbage first? I didn’t know if washing it would change it’s ability to encourage that growth assuming washing it would remove the yeast. My brother used to work in a grocery warehouse and said you wouldn’t believe what goes on in there so wash everything. Just wondering before I get started. Thanks for all your work!

    • admin says

      Jen: What I did was wash the leaves very delicately. You want to get the dirt off but you don’t want to wash all the good yeast/bacteria off. Also, I use organic cabbage, so there are no chemicals that kill the yeasties. Let me know how it goes!

  63. Sharon says

    Hi Jean,
    Thank you for your dedication to Gluten-Free Baking. It is a life-saver for us! My starter shows very little after 40 hours. I have been using mostly distilled water or water from our refrigerator filter. Sometime I leave the water on the kitchen counter to come to room temperature but not always. I have used Sorghum flour and Garbanzo Bean flour. I have poured off some hooch once; the rest of the time have stirred it in. What, if anything, am I doing wrong? How much longer should I wait. There are slight bubbles every day, but nothing like I think it should be by now. Thanks!

    • admin says

      Sharon: Mine usually takes about 48 hours to get started. So, give it a little more time. And feed it on schedule. If you have some action, then I’m guessing it will get bigger. If you have no action after about 4 days, then I’m going to assume that you should start again.

  64. lee jenkins says

    Hi Jean,

    I think this was successful! After 3 days it got super foamy and almost overran the bowl. (First two days it did nothing, but i think it was bc my kitchen was too cold. ) I then put it in the fridge bc i was waiting for my GF flours to arrive in the mail. When i put it in the fridge, it went back to flour mixture on bottom, watery stuff on top, is that ok? I took it out, stirred it and put it in a warmer place (i live in a 500 yr old stone house and it tends to be a little cold bc i’m too cheap to pay to keep it totally warm–i only heat the rooms i’m in.) I intend to bake with it shortly. Do i have to wait until it gets super foamy again? Or is it good to go once it’s stirred? I’ll probably have baked by the time you answer this, but i’d like to know the “correct” answer so i know if it doesn’t turn out right! Thanks.

    • admin says

      Lee: I think that once you have established that the yeast are alive and kicking, then you can use it. That said, I wouldn’t use it right after adding new flour. You will be adding new flour as you use the bread recipe. So, I would stir it, and then use it for the recipe. After you’ve poured off the amount you use, then add new flour. Also, the older that the starter gets, the more “sour” it will become. So, you will find that your new starter will produce less sour bread than a more mature starter. That’s not bad, it’s just something to be aware of. Happy baking!

  65. Tammy Clardy says

    I can’t believe I found this wonderful site! I grew up on SF sourdough. I went GF April 1, 2011. How I’ve missed SD bread! My next shopping trip will be a hunt to find your list to make my stater. Then I will attempt first time ever making this bread. I’ve added your site to my cell. :)

  66. Neringa says

    I have did what you said and my started is fine! Wonderinga if I have to feed it every 12 hours with 1C of flour and water or I could use less of it? Also, I don’t consume sugar, could I omit it? Thank you in advance.

    • admin says

      Neringa: If you put it in the refrigerator, you can feed it every three days or so. Also, you don’t need to feed it sugar–just water and flour. If the container gets too full, pour a bunch out before you feed it again.

    • admin says

      Neringa: I would wait w couple more days. If it does not bubble soon, then pitch it and start again. Also, did you follow the directions exactly?

  67. Heidi says

    Hi, thanks for the information about gluten free sourdough! I use whole wheat sourdough right not to make crackers and pancakes. My family will be going gluten free soon and was wondering if you think your gf sourdough would work for crackers and pancakes?

    • admin says

      Heidi: I haven’t used it for those yet, but I think it would work just fine! I would experiment and see what works best. When I get a chance, I will do some experimenting, too!

  68. says

    Thank you for this inspirational article about gluten-free sourdough! I’ve just mixed my flour and cabbage leaves and can’t wait to see what develops. Woohoo!

  69. baker dude north shore says

    I knew this was about to happened. I’ve been patiently waiting for just such a recipe to make breads for people on Oahu, Hawaii. I’ve been using organic wheat based flours for my chef and adding 1 part flour to 4 parts chef to create the levain which I then add to mix 8 hours later yielding a bread with a thick crust. What do you think? I so glad I don’t have to make a heavy rice bread for the wheat intolerants. Thanks for your dedication. Michael

  70. says

    I realise after exchanging words on twitter that I should have had the curtsey of leaving a comment when I first read this post a long time ago! But in my defense it was very late and I was wondering about blogger-land and bumped into here…

    I enjoyed reading the post very much, your experiments and results of your detailed search. I like details. Thank you…finally she says!

  71. says

    Wonderful work you are doing to bring gluten-free baking to those who can’t eat wheat. I can, but my daughter-in-law can’t, and she is always so grateful when I create a g-f baked good for her. Yeast bread is particularly tricky, but is also especially appreciated!

  72. Raelene says

    Great post! Thanks! Do you cut up the cabbage leaves or try to leave them whole? Do you use regular sorghum flour (the brown one) or the more refined superfine? I can only get the regular one here.

    • admin says

      I used 1 cabbage leaf that was large, and cut it into 2 pieces so it would fit into my container. It worked terrifically! Also, I used the Sweet White Sorghum Flour from Bob’s Red Mill. But, I think it’s fine to use what you have.

  73. Raelene says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I am keen to give it a go, although I haven’t made much bread in the past, and have certainly never tried to bake sourdough. I’m excited by the possibility of trying gluten free sourdough, so I appreciate all the hard work by yourself and Jean on this subject. Question: do you chop up the cabbage leaves or try to keep them whole?

    • admin says

      I wouldn’t chop the cabbage leaves. The point is to harvest the yeast that is growing on the outside of the leaves–so chopping them doesn’t do any good in this case. Just use them whole–or cut into pieces that will make them fit into your container. Yay!

  74. says

    This is really, really exciting! I can’t wait to keep up with your progress, and then try it out myself. I have just been discovering your website and recipes, after just starting a blog myself, and your recipes are so delicious. Thank you–I’m glad you’ve been at this awhile. I’ve also enjoyed reading about your chickens…how is Millicent?? :o) I hope, in your new web location, you can still tell us those wonderful stories.

    I took the liberty of mentioning your website in my blog, and posting your recipe for zucchini bread. (with a link back) I hope you don’t mind. More people should try that one! It’s very good. Thanks again, Rebecca

    • admin says


      So glad to have you here! The chickens are good–but Millicent is no longer with us. She went to the Great Coop in the Sky a couple of years ago. We miss her. She was my favorite.

      And I’m honored that you mention me on your blog–thanks! Send me a link when you get a chance!


      • says

        I’m very sorry to hear about Millicent….Someday I’ll have to tell you about a fictional chicken named Henrietta I wrote about. :o)
        I would love to keep chickens here but we have so many potential predators and ways for the little gals to die that I have resisted thus far.

        I have some organic red cabbage heading my way today! Very excited to try this sourdough project…!

        My link is

        I think my next blog is going to feature your wonderful butter cookies in some way–I used the recipe when I put on a little English tea here and they were sublime. Even the non GF guests loved them! (and that’s what we want, after all)

        • admin says


          Oh, thank you about Millicent. She was a good chicken. Actually, the afternoon she died, she found a part of the garden she like, set herself down, and just died sometime over the course of the afternoon. Rosie, our other Silver-Laced Wyandotte, stood with her the whole time. It was quite touching.

          Oh, I”m so glad you liked the butter cookies–the are soooo good! And I love hearing that your non-GF guests liked the–yay!

          I am so excited that you’re trying the sourdough. Please let me know how it goes!


  75. says

    omg this is fantastic!!! I did not think gluten free sourdough existed, and here you have a starter!! Thanks so much for sharing so much useful information on making a starter, I def. have to do this!

  76. says

    Hi Jeanne,
    This sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to see your bread. Thanks so much for the shout out about the starter. I’m happily sending it out to folks who send a envelope and donation to the support group.
    I wouldn’t have thought of cabbage. When do you remove the cabbage?

    • admin says

      Hi Jean! If you want to send me the info about where to send the envelope and donation, I will put it in this post! Also, you remove the cabbage once the mixture is truly bubbling and fermenting–after about 3 days if all goes well.

      • says

        Hi Jeanne,
        The way to get the dried starter is to mail a stamped Self addressed envelope (3 stamps) to
        Layton Health Clinic
        1329 King Street
        Bellingham WA 98229
        with a donation to the Healthy Gluten Free Kids support group, if possible. Our goal is to create an online educational game (like Club Penguin) to teach about gluten intolerance, cross contamination and such in a playful setting

        • says

          Hello Jean,

          I loved your comments. In fact I loved this whole site!

          I am an unemployed Oceanographer, and bread lover. Recently one friend who had been for quite some time quietly watching my artisanal bread baking approached me and asked if I could ever try to bake some bread for him. He is gluten intolerant, and I will try an do my best to give him a little pleasure of enjoying some unorthodox gf sourdough batard I shall soon bake.

          My question to you is twofold:

          – Since I have been for a VERY LONG time developing my own normal sourdough which took me a great effort indeed, I wonder if I could ever adapt this sourdough into a GF sourdough gradually until there is no trace of gluten protein in it. My sourdough was originally developed in open air, and because I travel a lot to Brazil and also to Scotland, I managed to bring it with me to these places and inoculate it with local strains of bacteria and yeast spores in the Amazon, various Scottish Woods and also from the Laurissilva Forest of Madeira Island. Normally I “feed” my sourdough starter when it gets as low as 1/8 of its original size (by normal use). I imagine that if for a reasonable time I start only using GF flours, one day say about 10 or 20 re-cycles there will be a reasonably untraceable concentration of gluten in it. As you may appreciate the unique taste provided by sourdough starters can be attributed to their maturity. It is true that the biological assembly in a mature starter is somewhat dynamic in as much as it will be affected by the local atmosphere where the starter is kept. My starter is almost 10 years old! Please give your thoughts on that idea.

          – the second point and question is to do with the maintenance of the integrity of the starter itself. You gave me a great idea! I have backups of my original starter in a deep freezer at -26 C. I cannot risk ever the possibility of loosing it! So my idea is to create a very sterile environment in a lab chamber where my backups could be amplified without being contaminated by the local atmosphere of my house or other peoples homes. The starter do loose with time their original integrity because they become subject to the local biological pressures of the spores available locally.

          As a matter of fact I would like to briefly comment on a few notes I read here on this site regarding the development of new starters. It is very normal to experience in the beginning of the process, when fermentative stage begins, the onset of a initial ecological succession by the proliferation of a bacterial community mainly populated by Leuconostoc (a genus of Gram-positive bacteria, placed within the family of Leuconostocaceae which is responsible for the little bubbles that people are describing in this blog). Although this bacteria is not ideal for bread leavening, it will gradually acidify the medium and prepare it for the next stage in the succession which will then give rise to other bacterial and fungal growth, namely Lactobacillus sp. and Saccharomyces exiguus (having an ideal pH ranging from 3.8 to 4.5 and is fermented in a room-temperature range of 20 to 30 °C). As the acidity of the dough increases the Leuconostoc will die out and the dough will become populated by the appropriate leavening community.

          So, in most cases there is no need to discard the starter, simply be patient and stir it often and feed it every 8 to 12 hours, discarding about 1/3 to 1/2 of the starter and replacing it by mineral water and flour. It is VERY IMPORTANT that the water be mineral or purified (but NEED NOT to be distilled). Bear in mind that the yeast community is greatly inhibited at low temperatures, but the bacterial community less so.

          Now it is time to ask you which type of methodology you use to dry the starters, is it lyophilization / cryodesiccation or it is a thermal dehydration at low temperature?
          I would love to try to dry my starters and then keep them in the freezer to preserve their integrity.

          I will dry-out and let you go, sorry for this long outpouring…


          • admin says

            Egberto: Hi! Thank you for the information!!

            I do not know if using gluten-free flour on a starter that was originally made with gluten grains will eventually turn it into gluten-free. Even if it did, how would you know when that happened? I’m not aware of any home gluten testing kits.

            Also, about the concept of discarding some of the starter at various points. Yes, I agree–you do not need to do this, but I do it because it starts to get too big for my container if I don’t use it regularly. So, the easiest way I know to deal with it (other than to bake with it or give it away) is to pour off some every so often.

            I haven’t dried my starter yet. It’s my understanding that you can do it via a very low oven for 2-3 hours. Also, I know that the British baker Dan Lepard freezes small hunks of his starter for storage like you do. He just wraps them in plastic and puts them in the freezer. When he needs to reanimate it, he just puts it in a bowl at room temperature and lets it warm up. Looks pretty straightforward.

            I hope all of this is helpful! Let me know if you dry yours and how that turned out! Happy baking!

          • says

            Hello Jeanne,

            Many thanks for your reply and info.

            May I suggest that instead of operationally keeping a storage of a huge volume of starter you only keep a very small portion. It may be only 200 to 300 g. It is easy to refresh and should you have to discard any proportion of this already small storage, it will keep your waste to a minimum. Whenever you need a larger starter (i.e. to make it into a biga), you can always mix 50 g of your starter with up to 1000 g of GF flour and 800 g of mineral water and have your starter amplified in a couple of a few hours (4 to 6 hours). This is what I do with my non GF sourdough starter. I shall try to adapt this concept to the GF starter too.

          • admin says

            Egberto: Ah, good point. But I’m not clear, if you don’t bake with it regularly, how to you keep a small portion without pouring off some every so often (other than freezing)? I will admit that I go in phases with my sourdough baking. Sometimes I bake it every few days, other times I go weeks without baking it. Are you baking with yours on a regular basis?

          • says

            Hello dear Jeanne,

            I am sorry for this late reply. But I have been too much busy with my new job. To answer your question, I only need 30% of the weight of my GF flour to activate or feed the starter. So I can keep indeed very small quantities of the starter in side a very small container. I can do it every 2 days or even once a week. For instance I can have 50 g of your flours mixed with 70 g of water and 15 g of the starter. Normally I wait about 10 hours before storing it in the fridge. The when I need to bake, I simply take it out of the fridge and feed it again 10 hours before starting the main dough…

          • Jason says

            I admire your devotion and willingness to help your friend. Before trying to dilute out the gluten origins of your starter, you might want to consider how little gluten causes reaction in a GF person. The amount of gluten filler in an aspirin tablet can cause reaction in some people. In the US, the GF standard will soon be 20 parts per million or less, so simple math tells me one gram of your starter would need 50Kg of GF flours & water to dilute. How much starter do you think it would take to transfer the culture?

            I wonder if there is a “no contact” way to transfer the active parts of your starter to a GF base. Would it work to use a small glass or jar inside a larger bowl or jar such that the yeast and acids could transfer while not mixing the gluten flour with the GF base? Even a fabric spice bag would be helpful for removing the gluten part of your starter and letting you more easily dilute to the 20ppm level.

            Not a baking expert, but trying to help brainstorm an approach.

          • admin says

            To be honest, I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to turn a gluten-filled starter into a gluten-free starter. Part of what makes a starter special is that it tastes a certain way. That taste comes, in part, from the flours that the yeast and bacteria are fed. So “transitioning” a gluten starter into a gluten-free starter will transition the flavor, as well. I think one should start with a gf starter and go from there. I know I would never eat bread made from a starter that “used” to be gluten. I react to teensy tiny amounts of gluten and I really think this is playing with fire unless you have specialized scientific instruments that allow you to test the amount of gluten in the starter you end up with.

          • lee jenkins says

            fyi, if you want to test to see if something is gluten free , they now sell home tests. . . Same people (out of Spain) who make the tests for industry. This is the US distributor. e (btw, i have no connection with them, just a resource i found when i wanted to test flours–there is no GF certification process in france, so you never know….)

          • says

            lee jenkins and Jean: Many thanks for this excellent information. Here in Madeira Island I have access to the University of Madeira labs, since my wife is a Microbiologist and Fish Patholgist. We have not yet thought of running an ELISA gluten assay protocol on my transitional starter and GF products, but we will consider this option. At the moment we are using an enzyme-linked assay method, and it is made by the R-Biopharm Company to determine whether gluten is in our products. The transitional starter after 10 x 10% dilutions (refeshments), tested negatively, meaning that no detectable gluten could be sensed. The lowest detection level of the test is 10 parts per million gluten (by law 20 ppm is the safe level). The testing kits and the supplies are off-the-shelf and available to anyone. The technical details and tests are available from that manufacturer. The cost is about 12 US$ per sample.
            Regards, Egberto

        • Sandra Bee says

          Hi Jean and everybody else contributing to this blog! Jean, is the offer still available to get the dried starter? And what would you consider an appropriate donation amount to receive it? I’m excited to try this recipe as I just ran across by searching for a GF Sour Dough Bread Recipe but it just seems so complicated to me to start it myself, guess I’m being lazy! Also, with the dried starter, how do I get it alive again? I really appreciate your sharing of this recipe!


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