Now that you have one and you know how to feed your sourdough starter, you'll find yourself with a good bit of sourdough discard. The good news is, you can put this discard to good use! In this post, we'll walk through how to use your sourdough discard, which can add a wonderful flavor and additional lift to your recipes.
Before you go further in this post, you will need to have a sourdough starter. If you do not have one, you have a few options: you can make one, you can buy one, or you can get one from a friend or neighbor. Check out this post for an in-depth guide on how to feed sourdough starter.
As always, I do include a few affiliate links in this post for products I truly use and love. This just means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of those links, I'll earn a little money (at no cost to you) to keep the kitchen up and running, which I promise to use to create more fun content like this! One of those affiliates is with Amazon, which requires a very clear disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you have any questions about affiliates, please reach out!
What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is what you have leftover after you feed your sourdough starter.
A sourdough starter is a live fermentation of flour and water, which creates natural yeast and good bacteria. Sourdough starter is used to create many artisan breads and baked goods. You likely know it for its signature "sour" flavor that it lends to sourdough bread.
When you feed sourdough starter, you measure out a portion of the starter, then add fresh flour and water. The portion of the starter that you didn't use is the discard. You can either literally discard this (compost or trash), or use it in sourdough discard recipes. It has fermented, so it has natural yeast and will be an added lift to your baking recipes.
What can you do with sourdough discard?
Once you have sourdough discard, there are a few things you can do with it:
- Discard it: As the name suggests, you can literally discard it. DO NOT put this down your sink drain as it will harden into something close to cement and will clog your pipes. Either compost or throw the discard in the trash.
- Use it immediately for baking: If you are going to bake something right away (same day), you can keep the discard at room temperature until you're ready to bake. Check out a few of my favorite sourdough discard recipes here.
- Store it for future baking: You can keep sourdough discard for up to one week. After the one-week mark, there is a chance of bad bacteria growing in the discard, so it should be literally discarded. After feeding your starter, store the discard in an airtight container (marked with the date, if you need the reminder), and use it sometime in the next week. When you're ready to use it, let the discard come to room temperature before using it to bake.
- Give it away: If you want to give someone some of your sourdough starter, you can give them discard! Feed your sourdough starter as normal, then give away the discard to a lucky friend or neighbor. Make sure to leave them with instructions on how to feed it (based on the recipe you used to make it).
In this post we're going to talk about more about how you can use the sourdough discard for baking.
How to store sourdough discard
If you are going to use the discard immediately (within the same day) as your feeding, you can keep the discard at room temperature. It will then be ready to go when you start your recipe.
If you are going to use the sourdough discard for future baking (within one week), store the discard in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This could be in a sealed jar (I love these Weck jars) or container. Feed your starter as often as you like and accumulate the discard until you're ready to bake. When you are ready to bake, remove the discard from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
You can keep sourdough discard for up to one week. If needed, mark the date on the container in your refrigerator. After one week, there is a higher chance of the discard growing bad bacteria, and it should be discarded (either compost or trash). DO NOT put the discard in your sink drain - it will harden to something close to cement and clog your drain.
Why should you bake with sourdough discard?
Baking with sourdough discard helps to eliminate some of the waste of a sourdough starter (if you have one, you know how much flour you can go through!). It also adds a great slightly sour flavor and additional lift to your baked goods.
When you are baking with sourdough discard, it should always be at room temperature (to help the dough rise), and unfed (i.e. this is the discard, not the fed part of your starter).
How do you know if you can use sourdough discard in a recipe?
There are specific recipes that call for sourdough discard, but you can use sourdough discard in any recipe that uses flour and water (and ideally, uses yeast or rises).
Every sourdough starter - and therefore, every sourdough discard - is different. You can use different recipes to make and feed your starter, and your starter will also change with the season, room temperature, and even where you're geographically based (we all know about the challenges of baking at altitude, right?).
Because of that, you'll need to know the ratio of your sourdough discard. For mine, I used this King Arthur Sourdough Starter recipe to make it, and I feed it with a 1:1 ratio (1 part water, 1 part all-purpose flour). With that information, I know that I can add sourdough discard to a recipe and assume that it is half flour and half water, replacing some of those ingredients in the recipe.
Here is an example: A bread recipe calls for 1 cup water and 2 ½ cups flour, among the other ingredients. If I want to add sourdough discard to the recipe (and it's not a listed ingredient), I could add 1 cup of sourdough discard, and then use only ½ cup additional water and 2 cups of additional flour. This is because the 1 cup of sourdough discard I added is made of up ½ cup flour and ½ cup water. See it?
As long as you know the ratio of your sourdough starter, you can use that to replace the ingredients in the recipe with the same ratio.
When should you not use sourdough discard?
There are a few instances when you should not use sourdough discard:
- If it's been longer than one week. If your sourdough discard is more than one week old, it's time to scrap it. Either compost or dispose of the discard in the trash (not in the sink drain).
- If there are signs of mold. Mold on sourdough discard can look like traditional grey / green fuzzy mold, or more likely, it may show itself as pink or orange streaks. If you see this, do not use the discard. This should be either composted or thrown in the trash.
- If the recipe does not call for yeast. If you're wanting to add sourdough discard to a recipe that does not call for yeast, you might want to think twice. This could work, but you could also make something "bready" when that doesn't really make sense. I tried to make sourdough discard donuts, and they really just turned into bready donuts. Normally, donuts don't need yeast, so when I added the discard to the recipe, it made them quite dense and bready. Not to say that this will never work, but something to watch out for!
I'm not a health professional, but if I feel like my sourdough discard looks "off," I'd rather be safe than sorry! Don't be afraid to throw some of your discard away. You'll always have more!
Sourdough discard recipes
Below are a few of my favorite sourdough discard recipes. We're adding more all the time, but leave a comment below if there is something you'd like to see that we don't have yet!
See more sourdough discard recipes →
Sourdough Discard FAQ
You may see a murky liquid form on the top of your sourdough discard, especially if it has been sitting a while. This is the hooch (completely normal and harmless) and means that your discard is hungry. Before using your discard, pour off this liquid. There is no need to mix it back into your discard.
You can keep sourdough discard for up to one week. After that point, there is a higher risk of bad bacteria, and you should either compost or throw it away.
I recommend feeding your starter once per week. Check out this post for an in-depth guide on how to feed sourdough starter.
Yes, you do. Since the discard is unfed and less active than your starter, you'll still need to use yeast. This will also help keep rise times under control. If you've ever made sourdough bread, you know it's a multi-day process. By using sourdough discard plus yeast, you're helping the dough to rise quicker, and significantly cutting down that rise time.
Using sourdough discard in a recipe will give it a slight sour tang (like sourdough bread), and give it an additional lift from the natural yeast. If you make a plain focaccia, and then you make the same recipe but add sourdough discard, the sourdough discard version will be fluffier and rise more than the original version.