Sourdough for Beginners

Here’s How to Use Your Sourdough Starter in Practically Any Baked Good

updated Apr 23, 2020
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Credit: Sheela Prakash

Whether you’ve just created your own starter, were gifted one from a friend, or have been baking sourdough for years, you know that one downside of keeping and feeding a starter is the regular discard (the unfed bit of starter left after feeding). But, as I recently learned, it doesn’t have to be thrown away — it can actually be used in plenty of other baked goods. That’s right — rather than toss your starter’s discard into the trash or compost bin, you can use it to lend its unique flavor to a number of tasty treats.

There are plenty of recipes that specifically call for sourdough discard like biscuits, pancakes, and crumpets, but you can also add it to your favorite recipes that don’t outright call for it, like banana bread, pizza dough, or even chocolate chip cookies. Here’s how to do it.

You Can Add Sourdough Starter Discard to Almost Anything — It Just Requires a Little Math

First, you’re going to need a food scale. The next step is to choose a recipe that calls for some amount of flour and a liquid like water or milk — things like cakes, quick breads, muffins, biscuits, and pizza dough are all fair game. Remember that your starter is equal parts flour and water, so you’ll be using it in place of flour and water in those recipes.

Now, weigh your sourdough starter discard. Divide that number, whether it’s in ounces or grams, in two. Subtract that weight from the weight of the flour and the weight of the liquid in your recipe and use these new weights, along with the entire amount of discard, when making the recipe.

This process can be a bit confusing at first — especially if you don’t use a kitchen scale often. To help make more sense of it, here’s how I applied it to Kitchn’s banana bread recipe.

  1. First, I weighed my starter’s discard. I’d been storing it in a plastic storage container in the fridge, separate from my fed starter, and adding to it every time I fed my starter. For this banana bread I weighed out 8 ounces. Because discard is equal parts flour and water, I could say with confidence that this was 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces liquid.
  2. Kitchn’s banana bread recipe only has volume measurements, so I used this handy chart to figure out metric conversions. Quick math told me 2 cups of all-purpose flour weighs 9 ounces and 1 cups of milk weighs 8 ounces.
  3. I subtracted the weight of the discard from the amount of flour and milk I needed for the recipe. 9 ounces flour – 4 ounces discard got me 5 ounces flour, while 8 ounces milk – 4 ounces discard got me 4 ounces milk.
  4. I followed the recipe instructions but ignored the original amounts of flour and milk. Instead, I weighed out 5 ounces flour and 4 ounces milk. I went step by step as the recipe instructed, but I also added in my 8 ounces sourdough starter discard. It doesn’t particularly matter when you add it — I stirred it in after I whisked in the mashed bananas, but it could have gone in at any step.
  5. Then I baked as instructed!

The method works with any amount of sourdough starter discard. I do it almost weekly with my favorite pizza dough recipe, which is even easier because the weight measurements of the flour and water are already listed. The discard isn’t as active as fed starter, so it doesn’t alter the flavor completely, or affect how much it will rise. Depending on how little or how much I use, I’ve found what it does is lend a mellow tangy flavor that really makes it a whole lot more interesting. Plus, it leaves me without the guilt of wastefully tossing it in the trash.

5 Recipes to Make with Sourdough Starter Discard