In the quiet corner of a cozy kitchen, a bubbling jar of gluten-free sourdough starter sits patiently, alive with the promise of tasty homemade gluten-free sourdough bread. Sourdough is an ancient tradition that has been passed down through generations.

Are you ready to delve into gluten-free sourdough baking? Let’s get started by making your gluten-free sourdough starter!

A photo of my gluten free sourdough starter in a mason jar. A blue rubber band shows the growth.

My original post on how to make gluten-free sourdough bread was so long that I felt it would be much easier and more helpful for everyone if I broke it down by writing up how to make the gluten-free starter information separately.

When I first interviewed Sadie at Bread Srsly, she was so generous to share an older version of her famous sourdough recipe with me to share with my readers. I have streamlined Sadie’s original recipe and tested a few different gluten free flours and blends to make it easier for you to recreate this recipe.

If you want to try Sadie’s original recipe given to me, you can use 1/4 cup of millet flour or 1/4 cup of sorghum flour. (Check out Rachel’s comment in my Gluten-Free Sourdough post to see her comments on how she uses the millet flour!)

I will cover all the steps needed to make a gluten-free sourdough starter with several different gluten-free flours and blends so you can compare and dive in to make your starter! Gluten free baking is like a chemistry project! Are you ready to get started?

Recipe At A Glance:

  • Skill Level – Advanced beginner to intermediate.
  • # of Ingredients – 2
  • Tested Flour Blends – King Arthur Measure for Measure, GF Jules, Bob’s Red Mill 1:1, and brown rice flour (by itself.)
  • Timing – 5 days, depending on the season and where you keep it.

Allergen Information:

This starter is gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, and completely vegan.

Flour and water in a glass jar.
Day One: Equal parts of King Arthur Measure for Measure GF Blend and water

🔑 Sandi says: This article was written when I made my old sourdough starter. It didn’t survive after a long vacation a few years ago, and I started my new starter using a pre-made sourdough starter. I found this Gluten Free Sourdough Starter from Cultures for Health quite amazing. My starter took off in a big way. I fed it brown rice flour and it was doubling in size by day 4!!! If you want to jump-start the process, I can’t say enough good about using this sourdough yeast.

Start with the right tools; read My Favorite Sourdough Tools for a full list of equipment.

Sourdough Starter Prep Instructions:

Why Water Quality Is Important:

I always use purified water when making sourdough or baking with yeast. Chlorine and chemicals in our tap water can kill your yeast and inhibit the rise. If you want the best rise, you must use purified water that doesn’t contain these chemicals.

Day 1:

  • Mix together equal parts of a gluten free flour blend and water in a clean bowl or quart-sized mason jar. I used a 1/4 cup flour to 1/4 cup water ratio. If your gluten free flour blend is starchy, you will want to use a little more water. You want the starter to have the consistency of a slightly thick pancake batter. Stay away from using pure starch sources such as tapioca and potato.
  • Leave the starter in a bowl or mason jar at room temperature. Cover the bowl with a towel. See FAQ for cold season tips. If your house is cold or winter, you must take steps to keep your starter warm.
  • You can use Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 GF Blend , King Arthur Measure for Measure GF Blend., GF Jules Gluten Free Flour Blend, or individual flour like brown rice, millet, or sorghum. I find brown rice flour starters perform much faster than a blend.
Mixing the bread dough with starter batter.
Your starter batter consistency after mixing.

Day 2:

Feed the starter 2-3 times a day. I use 1 TBSP of flour to 1 TBSP of water, a 1:1 or a 1:2 ratio, depending on which blend you use. Again, be sure to use filtered water and stir the starter well. I keep my starter in my kitchen bay window in warmer months, but I ensure a clean kitchen towel covers it so no sunlight gets in.

Bubbling sourdough starter in a big glass bowl.

🔑 Sandi says: If you see clear liquid on top of your starter, this is called hooch. This means you need to feed your starter. See the Recipe FAQ for more details on hooch. You will want to drain off that liquid before feeding the starter.

Days 3-4:

After 3-5 days, your mixture should start to smell sour and have bubbles. Congratulations! You are almost there.

If your bowl or jar starts to get full, feel free to discard some of the starter. In Sadie’s original recipe, she didn’t write about discarding any of her starter. Taking some discard out of your starter before feeding is good because it helps your bacteria become stronger.

You can use the discard to make these Gluten-Free Discard Crackers or these Gluten-Free Sourdough Discard Biscuits if you choose to discard. We also love these Gluten-Free Sourdough Discard Muffins.

A bowl full of bubbling sourdough starter.

Day 5:

This is what my starter looks like now! It is thick and creamy looking with lots of little bubbles. It still has the consistency of pancake batter.

Use this sourdough gluten free starter to make this homemade Gluten Free Sourdough Boule.

How To Store Your Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter:

If you love sourdough bread and want to continue making it regularly, your best bet is to keep your starter in the refrigerator unless you use it frequently during the week. The starter will still need to be fed to survive. The refrigerator’s cold slows the fermentation process, and it sort of puts your starter to sleep. I do not recommend storing your starter in the fridge until it is at least 3-4 weeks old; even older is definitely better.

A good guide to know if your starter is old enough to be refrigerated is whether your starter doubles within 2-4 hours of feeding it; it is ready to go into the refrigerator.

  • Do not store your sourdough starter in a metal container. Store in a glass or ceramic container. I store mine in a quart-sized mason jar. (These are my favorite because they have plastic lids!)
  • You will want to discard, then take out some discard before feeding the starter. The amount of discard depends on how much starter you have. If my jar has 1/2 cup total starter, I would discard 3 TBSP. (I keep discard in a separate container to use it in gluten free discard recipes.) Fed the starter before putting it in the fridge.
  • If the starter is on the younger side, feed it in the refrigerator every 4-5 days. As the sourdough starter ages, you can feed it less often, once every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. I feed mine by adding 2 TBSP of flour to 2 TBSP of purified water. Stir it well so the flour is incorporated in. If your blend is starchy, you can use 3 tablespoons of water.
  • Cover it with the lid and place it in the refrigerator.

When you want to bake with your starter, take the starter from the refrigerator the night before. Feed it (2 tablespoons flour and 3 tablespoons of purified water) and cover it completely with a clean kitchen towel. Again, see the Recipe FAQ if it is cold in your house or winter.

You can use some of your starter to bake sourdough the next day, then discard it, feed it, and put it back in the refrigerator.

Bubbling sourdough starter in a jar.

My daughter named our starter Winifred, or “Freddie” for short. It is a tradition to name your sourdough starter. What will you name your starter?

📢 Sandi says: Do not pour starter or clean starter containers with starter residue in the sink!!! Sourdough starter can be like cement. If you use a spoon to stir the sourdough after feeding, use a paper towel to wipe the spoon off first. If you are changing to a clean jar, fill the jar with water and use that to water plants outside. The starter is good for plants, but not good for your kitchen pipes!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best flour to make a gluten-free sourdough starter?

My opinion has changed over time. I exclusively use brown rice flour now for making and feeding my starters. It is cheaper to use than a 1:1 blend, and it activates and stays active much better because there is no starch or gum to slow the fermentation down.

Can you switch flour types mid-way?

Yes, you can switch flour types. Fermentation may slow for a day or two, depending on whether you use a blend or single-grain flour, but it will pick up again!

When I moved from a 1:1 blend to brown rice flour, my starter exploded and almost overflowed over the sides of my jar. It tripled in size. I plan to use some discard to make Gluten Free Sourdough Pizza tonight with it.

Is it necessary to discard some starter before feeding the starter?

There are definite benefits to discarding some of the starter as it makes the bacteria in your starter a lot stronger. If you use the starter to make bread or other recipes several times a week, I find you don’t have to discard some because you are using it often. If you only use the starter once, or a week or less, discarding it is a good idea.

How do I know if my starter has gone bad?

If your sourdough starter has been exposed to bacteria, it can go bad. The easiest way to tell if your starter is still good is to open it and smell it before each use. Also, look at the starter to make sure it is still bubbling.

If it smells like unbaked bread, it is still good and can be baked. If you notice a foul odor, mold growing, or a pink or orange tint, it hasn’t gone well and should be discarded.

What is the liquid on top of my starter?

The liquid that forms on top of your sourdough starter is known as “hooch.” When you see hooch in your starter, that indicates that the sourdough needs to be fed; the development of hooch is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern.

Simply drain off the hooch before you feed the sourdough starter. You may notice the hooch smells like alcohol, which is also expected. (See the photo below of hooch!)

Can I freeze a gluten free sourdough starter?

Yes, you can freeze the sourdough starter. If you freeze the starter, you will not have to feed it. When you are ready to bake the bread, you must give the sourdough starter a week before the dough is active again. You must begin the feeding process once you remove it from the freezer.
Freezing the starter is an excellent idea if you don’t have the time and effort to keep feeding it. I recommend freezing.

How do you keep a starter warm during the colder months and winter?

When I first wrote this post, I created my starter in the summer when it was warm. Keeping a starter warm in the colder months is a challenge! Some people store it in their oven or microwave oven with the oven light on. This provides some heat. Heat is important, especially when you are trying to get a starter going!

I made my current sourdough starter in the winter months. I store mine on the base of a Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker my mother-in-law gave me. I have two dish towels folded under my jar to keep the starter from getting too hot.

Hooch on a sourdough starter.
You can see the water “hooch” here. I am guilty of not feeding my starter, Alfred, often enough.

This sourdough starter, aka levain, is popular in my Gluten Free Crescent Rolls recipe. Don’t forget to check out the next step…making the sourdough bread!

Gluten-Free Sourdough Recipes To Try:

Love This Recipe?

If you made and enjoyed this recipe, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a comment below. Please include which flour blend you used. This will help others know this recipe is delicious. Thank you!

A close up of the bubbling sourdough starter.

How to Make a Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

Sandi Gaertner
An easy tutorial to make your own homemade gluten free sourdough starter.
5 from 16 votes
dairy free allergen icon
an egg free allergen icon
gluten free allergy icon
nut free allergen icon
soy free allergy icon
A vegan icon.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 5 days
Total Time 5 days 10 minutes
Course Gluten Free Bread Recipe
Cuisine American
Servings 1 starter
Calories 100 kcal

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Making a gluten-free sourdough starter is chemistry. This is one recipe wehre it is IMPORTANT to read my whole recipe post, not just the recipe card. It is full of tips and tricks that would be too lengthy to add here.

Day 1

  • Mix together equal parts of a gluten free flour blend and water in a clean bowl or quart-sized mason jar. I used a 1/4 cup flour to 1/4 cup water ratio. If your gluten free flour blend is starchy, you will want to use a little more water. You want the starter to have the consistency of a slightly thick pancake batter. Stay away from using pure starch sources such as tapioca and potato.
  • NOTE: I highly recommend using filtered or bottled water. Chlorine and chemicals will kill the beneficial bacteria you are trying to grow.
  • Leave the starter in a bowl or mason jar at room temperature. Cover the bowl with a towel. See FAQ for cold season tips. If your house is cold or winter, you must take steps to keep your starter warm.

Day 2

  • Feed the starter 2-3 times a day. I use 1 TBSP of flour to 1 TBSP of water, a 1:1 or a 1:2 ratio, depending on which blend you use. Again, be sure to use filtered water and stir the starter well. I keep my starter in my kitchen bay window in warmer months, but I ensure a clean kitchen towel covers it so no sunlight gets in.

Day 3-5

  • After 3-5 days, your mixture should start to smell sour and have bubbles. Congratulations! You are almost there.
  • If your bowl or jar starts to get full, feel free to discard some of the starter. In Sadie's original recipe, she didn't write about discarding any of her starter. I do take out some disard because it helps your bacteria become stronger.

Notes

  1. I have used sorghum, brown rice, and millet flours successfully. I also have used King Arthur Measure for Measure GF Blend, Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 GF Blend, and GF Jules gluten free flour blends to make a successful starter.
  2. I found my starter really likes brown rice flour and it bubbles really well using it.
  3. In order to give your natural yeast a chance, I highly recommend using purified water. Chlorine in tap water can kill your yeast, making your starter not grow.
  4. I include very detailed instructions how to store your sourdough starter in my article. Please refer back to that because it has a lot of important information.
  5. I include a very detailed troubleshooting section in my article. If your starter is having some trouble, please refer to the Recipe FAQ in the article.

SPECIAL NOTE

Please know that every gluten free flour blend has a different starch to grain ratio. If you use a blend I didn’t test, you may need to adjust your moisture levels in your baked goods.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 100kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 3gFat: 1gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg
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Nutrition Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the actual nutritional information with the products and brands you are using with your preferred nutritional calculator.

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70 Comments

  1. Hi! I am on Day 3. I used brown rice flour and filtered water. I followed your recipe to a T, except, used dough container, rather than glass jar/bowl? I live in south Florida, so kept in my kitchen bay window, no direct sunlight. My kitchen isn’t exactly warm? We have the AC blowing so my home is definitely at a comfortable 75 degrees! Should I move it closer to the stove or oven?? Towel attached to top with rubber band. It has slight bubbles, no hootch, smells fine, but definitely hasn’t started to “grow”?? It still looks like pancake batter. Is it ok? Do I continue to feed it 3 times a day with a 1:1 ratio??

    1. Hi Meghna, If you are starting to see bubbles and you don’t smell an off smell, it is fine. My guess it is a little slower given the air conditioning. I would continue to feed it 3x a day until it is getting pretty bubbly. You can discard some so the container doesn’t get too full. I wouldn’t use the discard in a recipe because it isn’t established yet.

      1. Thanks so much Sandi! I have never tried to make Sourdough before so I am completely new at this! It’s been 2 more days so now starting Day 5 and still nothing!! It looks the same as day 3. I feed it 3 times a day with Brown Rice flour and filtered water. It’s now started to gain a little hootch that I pour off every time I feed it, but it smells and looks fine, like thick pancake batter, but little to no bubbles and no “growth”/expansion or whatever it’s called! It sits in my kitchen window sill with no direct sunlight, covered with a cheesecloth in a 4qt restaurant grade plastic dough container. So plenty of space to grow!

      2. Hi Meghna, I am worried it isn’t growing, and I think it is too cold if you are running the air conditioning. Can you put it in the oven with an oven light on to keep it warmer?

    1. Hi Pam, Please give me a bit more info so I can help. What does your starter look like, how are you keeping it warm, and what flour or blend are you using to feed it? Did you use Cultures from Health or are you starting it from scratch?

    1. Hi Amanda, you will need to feed your starter twice a day every day until it is more established. Once it is established, it can be kept in the refrigerator and fed less often.

  2. In the recipe you said to add flour and water (3) times a day to the starter. How many hours in between each time?

    1. Hi May, it really depends on how fast it is growing. Right now is winter, and starting a starter can be tough when it is really cold. There is a good Facebook group called Gluten Free Sourdough Enthusiasts and they have been sharing tips on how to start a sourdough starter during the winter.

  3. In the description you say equal parts water to flour, 1/4c each. I use the measure 4 measure as well and will be using it for the starter. The actual recipe says 1/4c flour to 1/2c water. I’m sure I missed something but which is correct?

    1. Hi Sue, I find it really depends on the flour you use. For a single flour, like rice flour I do equal parts, but with 1:1, I find at first it is easier to use 1/4 to 1/2 ratio…because of the starch. You can do equal parts after the first mixing.

  4. You refer to your gluten free sour dough recipe to use with this starter but I’m not seeing it here??? Also I’ve read other starter recipes where you can leave starter in fridge 1-2 weeks before using it. Take it out day before needing, feed it and can use the following day. Remove starter needed then put master starter back in fridge. Yours refrigerated starter has to be fed 2-3 times/week???