Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sourdough starter discard to worry about. Particularly when you first get a sourdough starter going, you may end up with a lot of discard. And if you’re anything like me, you just don’t have the heart to throw it out!
I’ve put together a list of 16 different ways to use up leftover sourdough starter, in both common, and not so common ways. You can feel good about reducing waste, and hopefully discover some new ideas along the way. And NOT ALL of the ideas are recipes, (because let’s face it; sometimes, you just don’t want to cook with it!)
First things first, if your not in the mood to do anything with it, but don’t want to throw it out, you can:
- Freeze it – it can stay in the freezer for up to a year if covered well enough until you are in the mood to deal with it. If you are discarding regularly, you can freeze it in small portions, depending on how you are going to use it up. (Check out my article here for instructions on how to freeze it properly)
- Refrigerate it – it will be fine for at least a few months until you are ready to use it. It’s also pretty easy to keep adding any discard to it on a daily/weekly basis until you have enough of it for a particular recipe.
Secondly, if you are finding that you are ending up with too much discard too often, it might be worth changing up your sourdough feeding routine so that you are not overwhelmed. Check out the section at the end of this post where I go through some handy tips on looking after your starter in a way that leaves only the occasional discard to worry about.
Now, here are a few novel ways to use it up if you don’t want to use it for a recipe:
- Add it to your compost pile – sourdough starter is surprisingly good for your compost heap. All the friendly bacteria are an excellent way to add extra nutrients to your soil. Simply dump any excess starter into your compost heap and you’re good to go.
- Add it to your skincare regime – Yes, you read that correctly. Lactic acid bacteria and probiotics in skincare is all the rage now. According to this study, the type of bacteria found in sourdough starter is good for skin. Try adding it to a mixture of natural yogurt and honey, to be used as a facial, or body mask. It will give your skin a good dose of good bacteria to help balance it out. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it 😉
- Give it away – Sourdough discard can be given away to someone who wants to start maintaining their own starter. If your friend takes it home and gives it a regular feeding schedule, it will be ready to use far quicker than if they were to make one from scratch.
And finally, let’s get into some recipes! I’ve decided to list out the not so obvious recipes first just to keep things interesting. It may open up your mind to some other possibilities…
NOTE: I plan to add some of these recipes in much more detail to my Recipe Section, and each recipe I add, i’ll be sure to add a link from this post for you.
Batter for Fried Foods
This is one of my favorite ways to use up sourdough discard. In fact, I love it so much, I make extra sourdough starter just to use it up in this way! Sourdough Starter, when paired with some spices makes an awesome thick and crispy batter when it is fried.
Simply make a thick batter like consistency (by adding either flour, water, or nothing if it is already like a thick batter), and add whichever spices you like to go with the food you are frying. For onion rings, I like to add:
- ground black pepper
- onion powder
- garlic powder
For bananas, I add a little cinnamon and some honey. Delicious and gooey!
NOTE: Just before frying, add some baking powder to the batter and mix well. Then simply coat the food in the batter, and deep fry.
Check out my fish batter recipe here to see how I use it to make a Friday night meal for the family. It’s a very versatile batter recipe that can be used for all sorts of foods, not just fish or onion rings. I’ve used it as a batter for a whole host of ingredients and it tastes great for both sweet and savory foods. Try coating the batter on some of these foods before frying:
- onion rings (one of my favorites!)
- king prawns
- sliced eggplant
- zucchini strips
- potato fries
- sliced bell peppers
- apple slices
- sliced bananas
QUICK TIP: Drain the fried food well before serving. For more tips, check out my fish batter recipe here.
Sourdough discard can be mixed with herbs, spices, salt and pepper and then dumped as dough balls into a hot bubbling gravy or soup to create awesome dumplings as an extra addition to any stew like meal. It’s brilliant for adding bulk to your main meal to help it stretch further and add extra flavor and texture. The larger the dumplings, the longer you will need to cook them for, but it will only require around 10 minutes or so.
QUICK TIP: The mixture needs to be quite thick, so if necessary, add some extra flour.
If you’re feeling really inventinve, make balls of filling such as meatballs or falafel and coat these with some flavored sourdough starter before adding them to a bubbling hot stew.
Use Sourdough Discard as a Sauce Thickener
Sourdough Discard can be used as a sauce thickener for things like gravy, bechamel, or cheese sauce. It will add a bit of a tang to your sauces, so to counter balance this, I add in a little honey. Here’s the method I use when adding it to thicken sauces:
Step 1 – Add around 1/4 cup of sourdough starter to a pint of cold milk/cream in a pan.
Step 2 – Begin heating through while whisking thoroughly at a medium heat. Once the sauce has heated through it will begin to thicken. Continue to stir until you have reached a consistency you like, and then remove from the heat. Once off the heat, you can stir in:
- herbs (optional)
- a knob of butter
Step 3 – Mix through until all ingredients are combined.
White Sauce is delicious served over vegetables, or fish. You can use it in a fish pie, poured over pasta bake or simply as a dip, with some fries.
TIP: Adding a little honey(or other sweetener of your choice) to the sauce, to offset the acidity of the sourdough starter. This will help to enhance the flavor.
Use the same method as above, except also add some grated cheese of your choice along with the other ingredients at the end. Cheese sauce is delicious when paired with roasted vegetables, and makes an awesome dip too.
Gravy can also be made using the same method as the white sauce, except with meat/vegetable stock (or bone broth) instead of milk. Remember to use cold stock to begin with, and continue to whisk while it’s heating through.
Gravy can be used to pour over a Sunday roast, in pie fillings, or added to stews.
BONUS TIP: Turn your sourdough gravy into a gourmet sauce, by putting in a blender and blitzing with the following ingredients: tomato paste, Italian herbs, olive oil, cumin, salt. This sauce makes a delicious condiment to a main meal!
Dry it Out and Use it up!
Excess sourdough starter can be dried out and used up in a number of ways. Drying out starter is an excellent way to keep a ‘back-up’, but it can also be used up in recipes. (see how to dry sourdough starter in my article here). Simply blitz the dried starter into a powder and use it up in the following ways:
- Use it as a flour in some of your other baked goods as a flavor enhancer. Simply replace part of your flour with the powdered sourdough discard (around 5% so as not to change your recipe texture too much).
- Use it to flour surfaces or flour your bannetons. (Check out my recommended bannetons and other essentials here) It’s also good for extra flour when you are scoring your bread.
- Use it up as a crunchy topping in your salads (full of probiotics to keep your gut happy!)
- Use it to coat root vegetables like potatos, sweet potatos, carrots, or parsnips before roasting in the oven for an extra crispy coating. (Once you have coated your veg with oil/fat, coat them in the powdered sourdough starter before roasting).
Sourdough Pizza Muffins
Sourdough discard mixed into eggs and milk give a wonderfully flavored crust-less quiche type mixture. I call them pizza muffins because they have a pizza like flavor and are a wonderful snack that can be eaten hot or cold. The basic recipe requires these simple ingredients:
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 2 cups of flour
- 2 cups grated cheese ( I use cheddar)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- herbs, spices and seasoning
Simply whisk up the mixture until thoroughly combined. You can then add any number of ingredients and flavors of your choice, such as:
- bell peppers
Pour the mixture into muffin molds (only about half way) and bake for 20 minutes on gas mark 6 (400 F / 200 C).
QUICK TIP: If you want an even distribution of veggies, place them in to the muffin molds and add the mixture on top. I like to roast the vegetables first for a sweeter flavor!
Yorkshire puddings, (also known as popovers depending where you live) made from sourdough discard are an excellent way to use up some of your starter. They are traditionally used as a side to pot roast, as it’s a really scrumptious way to soak up that lovely gravy (which was made with your sourdough discard of course!)
Here’s an easy recipe for sourdough yorkshire puddings.
Step 1 – Preheat the oven to 450F (230C) with a muffin pan inside it like this one. (Amazon link)
Step 2 – Add the following ingredients to a bowl:
- 1/2 cup sourdough discard
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- salt to taste (I use 3/4 teaspoon)
- 1/2 cup flour
Step 3 – Whisk together the ingredients until well combined. If you’d like, leave to stand for an hour for the sourdough to ferment, but this is not necessary for the recipe to work. You should have the consistency of heavy cream. (If needed, at this point you can add extra milk or flour)
Step 4 – Carefully take the muffin pan out of the oven, and quickly coat the muffin pan with butter/oil/or any fat of your choice.
Step 5 – Pour batter into each muffin section about halfway up, and place the muffin pan back into the oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until risen and golden brown.
These are best served fresh from the oven. Enjoy as a side with soups, breakfast, stews, pot roast, or any other main meal.
QUICK TIP: Yorkshire puddings also make a great base for other fillings/toppings, such as pizza fillings or chicken pesto. They make a great tasting snack or side dish to a main meal. Simply add your favorite toppings onto cooked Yorkshire puddings, and pop in the oven for a few minutes.
Indian Bhaji/Pakora: Sourdough Style!
These Indian style pakoras are a little recipe I adapted using my mom’s traditional Indian bhaji recipe. Traditionally, bhaji’s use gram flour as the base to make a batter, but I tried it with some sourdough discard in addition and they came out great! Here’s the recipe:
Step 1 – In a large bowl add in the following ingredients:
- 1 cup sourdough discard
- 2 cups gram flour (chickpea flour)
- 2 tablespoons of yogurt
- 1 finely chopped green chilly (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 grated ripe banana
- a handful of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
- 1 finely chopped green onion
- 1 grated white onion
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- a pinch of ginger powder
- a pinch garlic powder
Step 2 – Mix it all up until well combined
Step 3 – Spoon out individual blobs into hot oil and deep fry until golden brown in color.
QUICK TIP: These go really well with some ‘raita’ (an Indian yogurt based condiment).
Any Type of Flatbread
Any flatbread, including any that require yeast, is perfect for using up sourdough discard. I use it regularly to make:
- Soft tortilla
- pita bread
For my go-to sourdough chapati recipe, click here. The chapati’s come out so fluffy! And simply using a different flour also means you can switch this recipe to flour tortilla instead!
How to Add Sourdough Discard to a Regular Flatbread Recipe
You can use up sourdough discard in your usual favorite flatbread recipe too, and here’s how:
Step 1 – Add sourdough discard to your recipe when you are combining the flour and water ingredients. Remember to use less flour and water than the original recipe requires, to adjust for the extra you have added in from your sourdough discard.
Step 2 – Continue your recipe as normal. If you’d like to ferment it, then simply leave it on the counter top for a few hours to get the lovely flavor of sourdough to develop, and to get the health benefits of converting it to sourdough. For more information on how to convert any recipe to sourdough, check out my article here.
Sourdough Impossible Pie!
What sort of pie is impossible you might ask?! This is a novel and super simple way of turning ordinary casserole dishes into pie’s, without the hassle of making a pie crust first! Simply mix together the following ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
- 3 eggs
- salt to taste
The mixture can be poured over any filling of your choice, and baked in the oven. A beautiful pie crust will rise to the top of your dish while the filling stays nice and moist underneath. Sounds impossible right? It works, and it’s really cool. Some good fillings would be stews, casseroles, or anything else that would taste good in a pie!
Add Sourdough Discard to Cake and Muffin Recipes
This is a pretty tasty way to use up sourdough discard. There are a ton of different recipes online that can show you how to make good cakes, muffins and even crackers, that help use up excess sourdough starter.
It’s actually pretty simple to use sourdough discard for a recipe that you already know and make. I’ll explain the principle here and then list out a number of different recipes ideas you can use it for.
How to Add Sourdough Discard to a Cake or Muffin Recipe
Most cake type of mixtures will contain flour, and a liquid such as water or milk. Your sourdough starter also contains a mixture of flour and water. So guess what? All you have to do is replace the flour and water/milk from the recipe with your sourdough discard. You can use as much or as little sourdough starter as you like, but just remember to keep the recipe ratios the same.
Here’s an example of ingredients used in a regular cake mixture:
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
If I wanted to use up 1 cup of sourdough discard, I would add it in to the mixture, and make sure that I take away 1/2 a cup of milk and 1/2 a cup of flour from the original recipe. So now, my converted recipe would look like this:
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sourdough discard
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
The more starter you add, the stronger the flavor change will be, and there is no need to change the method in any way either. Using this method of conversion can give you all sorts of possibilities, without having to find a new recipe that is specific for sourdough starter discard. Here’s a list of a variety of treats that you can easily use up sourdough discard with, using your regular recipes:
- Carrot Cake
- Banana cake
For more detailed information about how to convert any recipe to sourdough, check out my article here.
Add Leftover Sourdough Starter to Other Dough Recipes
You can literally add sourdough discard to any kind of dough and it will enhance it’s flavor and rise. As you are only using it up as discard, you don’t have to change the fermentation/rising times, you simply add it in (just as you do with cake mixtures), and continue with your regular recipe. Here are just a few ideas of dough that will take on some sourdough discard well:
- pizza dough
- pasta dough
- cinnamon rolls
- pastry dough
- pie dough
- yeasted bread dough
- sourdough bread dough
Add the discard in at the initial mixing/kneading phase for a unique twist to your usual recipes!
These are a novel and different way to use up sourdough discard. Great for breakfast or a snack to take out with you. It’s super easy to make, and they keep really well in an airtight container.
Step 1 – Mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl:
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 cup dried fruits
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 2/3 cups chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
Step 2 – Pour the mixture out into a medium sized baking pan like this one, and press down.
Step 3 – Bake in a preheated oven (350F / 175C) for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Step 4 – Once completely cooled, cut into bars or squares and enjoy!
These granola bars are pretty versatile, and work well with a whole host of different flavors, such as dates, chopped nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, flax seed, etc.
Sourdough Pancakes, Waffles and Crepes
Pancakes, waffles and crepes are a classic way of using up sourdough discard. It’s easy and fun, and always a hit with the kids. Here’s my take on a basic sourdough pancake mixture:
Step 1 – In a large bowl, whisk together:
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups sourdough discard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Step 2 – Once all the ingredients are mixed through, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of baking powder into your pancake mix and fold the mixture until combined.
Step 3 – Pour a layer of pancake mix into a greased, hot skillet and cook for 4 or 5 minutes until you see bubbles forming. Flip the pancake over and cook for a further minute or so until cooked through.
Step 4 – Continue until all the mixture is used up. Enjoy with your favorite toppings. (Mine are fresh cream and strawberries, or a classic lemon and sugar sprinkling. Delicious!)
QUICK TIP: Add some chopped bananas or blueberries to your pancakes as you cook them for a gooey and sweet texture and flavor.
The same recipe can be used in a waffle iron to make great tasting waffles, or thinned down with a little extra milk to make crepes. Pancakes, waffles and crepes are so versatile, and they go well with both sweet and savory fillings.
How to Avoid Having So Much Sourdough Discard
If you are finding that you are left with too much sourdough starter to know what to do with, it’s time to change up your feeding routine. Here are my top tips:
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s actually completely unnecessary to discard sourdough starter at every feed. Many people start off discarding at every feed when their starter is still new. While this may be necessary when your starter is a baby, it doesn’t continuously need to be fed in this way.
In fact, once your sourdough starter has become mature and strong. All you have to do is add more flour and water to it at every feeding, mix and that’s it! There is no need to discard any of it at all. A mature starter holds enough friendly bacteria and yeasts in it to keep it strong, without the need for any of it to be discarded.
If you’d like to learn to make great sourdough with me, click here to learn about my online sourdough bread baking course. I take you from beginner, to sourdough bread baking like a boss!
Keep a Tiny Amount
Only keep a very tiny amount of starter, so that you only need to feed it a tiny amount. Then, whenever you need to use it, simply feed it the amount you will need, nothing more. That way, you will only have a small amount at any given time.
With this method, the only way you will have excess sourdough starter, is when you planned to bake but didn’t end up baking. It will only be an occasional discard that you have to worry about, rather than a regular concern.
Keeping your sourdough starter in the fridge will mean you will need to feed it less often. I keep mine in the fridge for weeks at a time without feeding it at all. And it hasn’t let me down so far. Refrigerated sourdough starter only needs to be fed once a week at the most.
Here’s what I do when I plan to bake soon:
Step 1 – Take it out of the fridge, feed it a little flour and water, and leave on the counter top.
Step 2 – The next day, (as long as I can see it is active), I will feed it the amount I need for my recipe.
Step 3 – The day after that, it is time to mix my dough. I use up the extra amount of starter I made, and am left with a small amount again, ready to go back in the fridge.
Using these tips will help you to only have as much sourdough starter as you need. And only have discard leftover when you planned on baking but didn’t get that chance.
Your starter will stay strong and usable as long as you keep feeding it. But what if life takes over and you're no longer getting enough time to bake sourdough bread as much as you used to. Can you...
Everybody loves receiving gifts. But you know what's even better? Getting a gift that you REALLY want! I've been given a few bread baking gifts in the past. And every now and then, you get that gift...