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?

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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? ›

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.

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

Only a small portion of the sourdough starter is reserved and fed during each feeding, the rest is referred to as discard, since typically it is thrown away. In efforts to reduce waste, discard is often collected from multiple feedings and stored in the fridge until enough is allotted to be used for discard recipes.

What exactly is sourdough discard? ›

Sourdough discard is the portion of starter that gets removed as part of its routine maintenance. Photography by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne. Sourdough discard is the portion of starter you don't feed during routine maintenance. You can choose to dispose of it or bake with it.

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 to sourdough starter if you don't discard? ›

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 is the benefit of 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.

Can discard become starter? ›

One of the amazing benefits of sourdough discard is that you can use it to create new starters, which are known as levains. These off-shoots from the mother starter can be used to experiment with different types of flour or given as a gift – there's nothing quite like sharing an entire ecosystem with your loved ones.

Can I feed my sourdough starter without discarding? ›

Do I have to discard my sourdough starter? 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. Eventually, you need to discard the used “food” (flour and water) that's been used to sustain your starter during the last fermentation period.

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.

How to tell if sourdough discard is bad? ›

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.

How long is sourdough discard good for? ›

You can use old sourdough discard if it's been stored in the fridge, however, you really want to use it up within a week - 2 weeks max. It's better to use "fresh" discard in a sweet sourdough discard recipe. Use older discards in more savory recipes.

Do you feed discard in the fridge? ›

You can keep it in the fridge like you're saying, give it a feeding once a week, then when you want to use it for bread, take it out the day before and give it two feedings, once in the morning and once in the evening. After you use it, feed it, put it back in the fridge.

Is discard the same as starter? ›

Sourdough discard is the unfed portion of your sourdough starter that you remove before you add fresh flour and water.

Can you refrigerate sourdough discard to use later? ›

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 long can sourdough starter discard sit out? ›

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.

Is eating sourdough discard healthy? ›

Sourdough discard recipes not only reduce waste but also offer health benefits, making them a wonderful addition to a balanced diet. The fermentation process of the sourdough starter increases the availability of certain nutrients and can help improve digestion.

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.

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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