Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? (2024)

Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard - are they really different things, or just one of the same? If you're just beginning your sourdough journey by making your own sourdough starter, you might be wondering what sourdough discard is? And whether it's the same as sourdough starter or something completely different?

It's a question I get asked on a daily basis in my Facebook Group of over 140,000 people.

Sourdough discard is the unfed portion of your sourdough starter that you remove before you add fresh flour and water. Because of it's unfed state, it's not used to bake the delicious bread you know as sourdough, but more often than not, used insourdough discard recipes.

Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? (1)

Now, as with most things related to sourdough, there's always a bit more to it, so if you'd like to know more about the wonder that is sourdough discard, you'll find the answers to all your questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sourdough Discard

Is sourdough discard the same as starter?

Sourdough discard is not exactly the same as the active sourdough starter. The starter is a mixture of flour and water that captures wild yeast and bacteria over time, creating a leavening agent for bread.

On the other hand, sourdough discard refers to the portion of the starter that is removed and discarded before feeding the remaining starter during regular maintenance. It contains some of the fermented mixture but may not be as active as a fully refreshed starter.

Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? (2)

Can sourdough discard be used as starter?

While sourdough discard can't replace an active starter in a recipe that relies on a robust leavening agent, it can be revitalized and used to create a new starter. By feeding the discard with fresh flour and water over a few consecutive feedings, the microbial activity can be restored, eventually turning it into a viable and active sourdough starter.

If using sourdough discard in place of active sourdough starter, you will generally need to use some commercial yeast to add leavening power, unless the starter your discard is from is very mature and you allow extra fermentation time.

What is the point of using sourdough discard?

The use of sourdough discard serves both practical and culinary purposes. Practically, discarding a portion of the starter during regular feedings helps maintain a manageable quantity, preventing the starter from growing excessively.

Culinary-wise, sourdough discard can be used in various recipes such aspancakes,waffles,muffins, sourdough pasta andquick breadslike sourdough banana bread to impart a tangy flavor, reduce food waste, and add complexity of flavor to your baked goods. Remember, you can't use the discard from your homemade sourdough starter for the first 7 days.

You can use sourdough discard in all kinds of sourdough discard recipes, including theseno wait sourdough recipes,overnight sourdough discard recipesandsourdough discard recipes that use up a lot of discard.

What happens if you don't discard your sourdough starter?

If you don't discard a portion of your sourdough starter regularly, the quantity of the starter will increase, and it may become impractical to maintain.

Additionally, the microbial balance within the starter may shift, potentially affecting the flavor and leavening capacity of your sourdough.It becomes very acidic when you don't discard your starter and this can affect gluten development and oven spring.

Regular discard and feeding help keep the starter healthy, vibrant, and ready to contribute to successful and flavorful sourdough bread.

You can read more aboutwhy you must discard sourdough starter here.

Does Sourdough Discard have the same benefits of Sourdough Starter?

Technically, sourdough discard has the same benefits as sourdough starter, since they are both wild yeast ferments. In terms of beneficial lactic acid bacteria, natural yeastsacetic acid and colonies of microbes, they are both full of them.

The difference is that because sourdough discard is unfed, and you generally use it in recipes that also have a quick leavening agent added, you don't get the long fermentation benefits of discard like you do when using active sourdough starter.

You can find more information on this topic in this article - are sourdough discard recipes really healthy?

Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? (4)

Can You Use Sourdough Discard To Start Another Sourdough Starter?

Technically, yes you can use sourdough discard to start another starter, however I advise against this unless you have a mature sourdough starter that you are wanting to share with family and friends. Then you can portion off a little discard that they can feed.

If you have a young sourdough starter, using the discard to start another sourdough starter is pointless, since then you are using even more flour to essentially feed two immature starters. You're better off using all your resources tocreate one healthy and active starter, rather than maintaining two starters.

Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? (5)

Can sourdough discard be stored for later use?

You canstore sourdough discard in the fridgefor up to 2 weeks. It's fine to leave it on the counter for up 24 hours, however if you aren't planning to use it straight away it's always better to store it in the fridge.

You can continue to add sourdough starter from different days to the same jar.

Can sourdough discard be frozen for later use?

Absolutelyyou can freeze sourdough discard for later use.It's best to freeze sourdough discard in small portions (like 50 to 100g) so that you can thaw only what you need for a particular sourdough recipe.

The caveat here is that if you are creating so much sourdough discard that you need to freeze it to keep up with it, I would advise that you need to reduce the amount of flour and water you're feeding your sourdough starter, and thus the overall size of your sourdough starter.

Can I compost sourdough discard?

Yes you can add your sourdough discard to the compost heap. It's a welcome addition to any compost heap because it's teaming with natural microbes.

It is also fine to place into a bokashi bucket. Sourdough discard is also a wonderful fertisiler for indoor and outdoor plants. You can find instructions forusing sourdough discard in the garden here.

Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? (6)
Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? (2024)


Sourdough Starter vs Sourdough Discard: What's The Difference? ›

When you feed sourdough starter, you must remove a portion of the starter to make room for the flour and water you're adding to the mixture. Sourdough discard is the portion of starter that gets removed as part of its routine maintenance.

What is the difference between sourdough discard and sourdough starter? ›

The difference is that because sourdough discard is unfed, and you generally use it in recipes that also have a quick leavening agent added, you don't get the long fermentation benefits of discard like you do when using active sourdough starter.

Can you use sourdough discard as starter? ›

Absolutely! A jar of sourdough discard serves as an insurance policy against starter death. If you have some discard on hand, remove a spoonful of it and feed it fresh flour and water in a clean jar. You should have a bubbly starter ready to bake with after a couple of feedings, depending on the discard's condition.

Can you use an active sourdough starter instead of discarding? ›

Absolutely you can! Active starter can be used in the same way as sourdough discard in sweet or savory baking.

What happens if you don't discard sourdough starter? ›

If you don't get rid of the excess, eventually you'll have more starter than your feedings can sustain. After a few days, your daily 1/4 cup flour and water won't be enough to sustain your entire jar of starter, and your starter will be slow and sluggish, not much better than discard itself.

What's the point of using sourdough discard? ›

It adds a delicious flavor and imparts moisture to recipes which keeps bakes tasting fresher for much longer. You can also use sourdough discard to ferment recipes which makes them healthier and easier to digest.

How long can you keep a discard starter? ›

You can store mature sourdough discard in the refrigerator indefinitely. As long as there is no mold, it is good to use. It may develop a grayish liquid on top called “hooch” which can be poured off before use or stirred in. If you stir it in, the flavor will become more sour.

Why discard half of sourdough starter? ›

If you don't discard your sourdough starter, it will grow too big and be unmanageable. Not to mention you will go through an unmentionable amount of flour.

Do you feed discard before putting in the fridge? ›

After you use it, feed it, put it back in the fridge. Try that once or twice and see how your bread tastes. If you like it better, it's another way to go about things, otherwise, sticking with what works for you now is not a bad thing! I keep my discard in the refrigerator.

What to use instead of sourdough discard? ›

Ingredients and Substitutions

Sourdough discard: If you don't sourdough discard saved up, feel free to use active sourdough starter. If you don't have a strater, add 56 grams of flour and 56 grams of water to your dough.

When can I bake with my sourdough starter? ›

You should feed the starter equal or greater than its weight after discarding a portion. You should wait at least 2-4 hours or until the starter is at its peak before you use it in your baking.

Can you keep sourdough starter indefinitely? ›

Dried sourdough starter lasts indefinitely, and can be brought back to life with water and flour when you're finally ready to bake again.

Is sourdough discard the same as starter? ›

Sourdough discard is after the starter has peaked, and it has started to come down. It is the portion that you would typically throw away before feeding again. Once you have an established + healthy sourdough starter, you can start to use your sourdough discard in recipes! That way, you don't have to ever throw it out.

Can I leave sourdough discard out overnight? ›

As long as your kitchen isn't too warm (I'd say 78°F or higher) your starter/discard will be fine stored at room temperature for at least a few days without feeding. The flavor will get more acidic the longer it sits.

Do you discard starter every time you feed it? ›

It would be best if you discarded some portion of your starter each time you feed it unless you want to continue to let it grow.

Should you save your sourdough discard? ›

Store it for future baking: You can store sourdough discard in an airtight container in the refrigerator for future baking with sourdough discard recipes. When you're ready to use it, let the discard come to room temperature before using it to bake. I will keep sourdough discard in the fridge for about one week.

How many times do you discard sourdough starter? ›

Room-temperature storage: Feed twice a day

Room-temperature starter should be fed every 12 hours (twice a day) using the standard maintenance feeding procedure: discard all but 113g, and feed that 113g starter with 113g each water and flour.

Can I use sourdough discard straight from the fridge? ›

Can I use my sourdough discard straight out of the fridge to refresh my starter? Yes! You do not need to warm it up first. Just grab what you need and do your refreshing!

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