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Easiest GF Sourdough Starter

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Hand beside small bowl of gluten-free sourdough starter.

The Easiest GF Sourdough Starter began as an experiment, I’ll explain in the post. This recipe includes a video, new instructions and a printable 1-pager to help you create a smaller portion. Nothing goes to waste in the process! All you need is GF brown rice flour, water, fresh lemon juice, a small bowl, a cover and a chopstick. Within 7 days, you should have a lively bubbly starter to use in a recipe.

Ingredients to make gluten-free sourdough starter: brown rice flour, water and lemon juice.

The Easiest GF Sourdough Starter

I’ve never been too fond of discarding when creating a GF starter. When making a new sourdough starter, you need to remove a little at some point in the process. Doing so helps to strengthen and increase the wild yeast activity. Once you have an established starter, you shouldn’t have to discard if you plan your baking schedule accordingly. Maintaining your starter by refreshing it regularly, if you don’t bake with it often, is essential.

This smaller portion includes a zero-waste process. The few times you need to remove a little, keep it to make something else such as pancakes, crackers, discard chips, pizza crusts, flatbreads, etc. If you can’t use it right away, keep it in the fridge for a few days until you’re ready.

How-To YouTube Video

Watch this video to see how straightforward it is to make the Easiest GF Sourdough Starter.

Mixing GF brown rice flour, water and lemon juice for sourdough starter.
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Why Lemon Juice

This starter was an experiment. I was trying to see if I could create a mock sourdough starter by adding fresh lemon juice to sour a flour and water mixture. I wanted to bake sourdough crackers without an actual fermented wild yeast mixture to compare.

The mixture was gritty; for that reason, I didn’t feel like baking with it. I left it on my counter for a couple of days, and to my surprise, it was transforming beautifully into a new starter. At this point, I continued with the process, fed it smaller amounts trying not to remove too much. Within a week, I had the most pleasant sweet smelling GF sourdough starter.

The lemon juice helps to set the right acidity in the sourdough starter without making it smell or taste like vinegar, which can happen when creating and maintaining a sourdough starter.

Cultures for Health has an article about manipulating the sourness of sourdough, read it here.

Lively bubbly gluten-free sourdough starter in small bowl.

The 7-Day Process

Please note that both starters with or without lemon juice will transform into wild yeast. The difference is the smell and taste of the starters. My favourite was the one with lemon juice. It gave the mixture such a pleasant aroma!

Day 1 – GF sourdough starter process
Day 2 of 8: gluten-free sourdough starter step-by-step process
Day 2 – GF sourdough starter process
Day 3 – GF sourdough starter process
Day 4 – GF sourdough starter process
Day 5 of 8: gluten-free sourdough starter step-by-step process
Day 5 – GF sourdough starter process
Day 6 (am) of 8: gluten-free sourdough starter step-by-step process
Day 6 – GF sourdough starter process
Day 6 (pm) of 8: gluten-free sourdough starter step-by-step process
Day 6 evening – GF sourdough starter process
Day 7 of 8: gluten-free sourdough starter step-by-step process
Day 7 – GF sourdough starter process
Day 8 of 8: gluten-free sourdough starter step-by-step process
Day 7/8 – GF sourdough starter process

Ready to Use on Days 7 or 8

Your GF sourdough starter should be lively and ready to use on Days 7 or 8. If yours looks bubbly and active on Day 7, go ahead and add some to a recipe, but please, whatever you do, don’t forget to save a little to continue the process if that is what you plan to do.

All the details are in the recipe’s instructions below and this condensed printable 1-pager

Small bowl of lively active GF sourdough starter

Tested Until Perfect

When experimenting while testing new recipes, I take a lot of notes. I encourage you to do the same, especially for any GF sourdough recipes. 

For the Easiest GF Sourdough Starter, I even got a few amazing ladies to test my new instructions. Thank you, Kathy, Kelly and Silvia for helping me out!

Kelly graciously shared her experience and pictures of her 8-day progress.

I am pretty new to sourdough starters. I decided about four months ago to make one and came across Fresh is Real on YouTube, so I gave the brown rice starter a try. It took me a couple of attempts and a few bags of brown rice flour, but I finally had a decent starter and made a delicious loaf of the wild yeast bread. A couple of weeks later, my starter molded for some reason, so I had to throw it out. The thought of starting over seemed a little daunting, but when I heard about making a smaller batch, I decided to give it a go. This method was much easier with not having to feed it so often in the beginning. There were a couple of days in the process that I wasn’t sure if it was going to work or not, but by day 5, things starting looking great. Day 6, I questioned myself again. On day 7, it was nice, bubbly and active. This method gave me my confidence back, and I can’t wait to get baking! ~ Kelly Price, Southern California

GF sourdough starter process Days 1 to 8 with picture of baked gluten-free sourdough loaf

Step-by-Step Printable 1-Pager

All the instructions are in the recipe card below. To make things easier, I also created a condensed step-by-step Printable 1-Pager that’s easier to follow.

Graphic showing step-by-step instructions to make GF sourdough starter

Click the 1-Pager graphic above or use this link to get a printable copy

Previously on FiR

The last few recipes on Fresh is Real included gluten-free sourdough starter. If you’re reading this post to help you make your first homemade starter, don’t forget to come back and try more sourdough recipes!

Homemade rectangular gluten-free sourdough crackers with seeds.
Easy Sourdough Crackers
Sourdough Snacks:

Sourdough Discard Crackers
Easy Sourdough Crackers
Sourdough Cereal Snack

Sourdough Treats:

Gluten-Free Sourdough Brownies
Hot Cross Sourdough Buns
GF Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Troubleshooting Videos

If you have additional questions you can watch these two other helpful videos on gluten-free sourdough starters.

 
 

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Hand beside small bowl of gluten-free sourdough starter.

Easiest GF Sourdough Starter

  • Author: Chantal | Fresh is Real
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 7 days
  • Yield: 3/41 cup (+/-200g) 1x
  • Category: Bread, Sourdough
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Cuisine: Gluten-Free, Vegan, Plant-Based
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

A smaller portion recipe to help you to create the Easiest GF Sourdough Starter—in only 7 days! If you’ve already made one in the past, but it got mouldy or dry, this zero-waste method will be perfect for trying! One cup of GF brown rice flour, fresh lemon juice, water and a little patience are all you’ll need to get it going!

Don’t forget to print out the step-by-step 1-pager to help you along the way!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup GF brown rice flour (120g)* 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Water (spring or filtered), room temperature

Useful Tools:

  • Cover (bowl/plate, plastic/fabric wrap)
  • Small soup bowl (1-2 cups)
  • Chopstick (wood or plastic)
  • Small silicone spatula

Instructions

Before you begin, please watch the how-to YouTube video!

DAY 1 – 
To a small bowl, combine and mix 6 tablespoons of brown rice flour (50g), 1/4 cup of water (60g/60ml) and 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. Cover the bowl and place it in a warm spot in your kitchen. 

DAY 2 – 
During the day, uncover the starter, smell it and stir the mixture. Use a soft spatula to keep the sides of the bowl clean. Cover it and keep it in its warm spot. 

DAY 3 – 
Repeat Day 2. Uncover the starter, smell and stir it. Clean the sides of the bowl with a spatula to prevent mould. Cover the starter and place it somewhere warm. 

DAY 4 – 
In the morning, uncover and smell your starter. Add 1/2 tablespoon of brown rice flour and mix. Adding more water might not be necessary. If your mixture is too thick, add a touch of water, mix and cover. Check on it later in the evening and stir it. 

DAY 5 – 
Early in the day, remove half the starter**, feed it 1/4 cup of brown rice flour (or heaping spoonful), and enough water to stir. At this point, the mixture might be thin, that’s ok. Cover the bowl and let it ferment/rise.

A few hours later, you can add a spoonful of brown rice flour and mix if the starter is too thin. Don’t add more water if you don’t need it. Later in the evening, you can expect your starter to be fluffy, bubbly and lighter in texture.

DAY 6 – 
First thing in the morning, uncover and smell your starter. Remove a spoonful of starter**, feed it a heaping spoonful of brown rice flour with enough water to stir and cover.

DAY 6 – 2nd feeding (pm): Don’t remove any starter, add a spoonful of flour, a little water, mix and cover. A few hours later, check on the starter and stir it if you wish. 

DAY 7 – 
What to expect: Today, your starter might be ready. Smell it! Does it have a yeasty aroma? A little sweet? Can you hear popping bubbles when you gently stir it? Ultimately the goal is to make the starter very active by feeding it one more time and build it up to create enough starter for whichever recipe you plan to bake. This smaller portion creates about 3/4 to 1 cup (+/-200g), which is enough for some recipes. 

  • TIP 1: If you need more than 1 cup of starter for a recipe, consider transferring your GF sourdough starter in progress to a bigger bowl or clear glass jar before the next feeding. Doing so will give the starter extra space to grow. 
  • TIP 2: If you want to bake on Day 8, feed your starter later on Day 7, before your bedtime is great! Doing so will hopefully make the starter lively by the morning.
  • TIP 3: You will need to keep a heaping spoonful of starter to continue the starter process. To reduce waste, save the Day 7 discard (instructions below) as the start of the next sourdough starter batch. 

DAY 7 – 
Instructions: Before you go to bed, remove a heaping spoonful of your starter and put it in a new bowl to make a fresh batch of starter***. 

To the first bowl, add a heaping spoonful (or more) of fresh brown rice flour with enough water to stir, cover and let it ferment overnight. Remember: You want to feed it enough flour and water to transform the mixture into a full bowl of wild yeast for the recipe you’re making. If you need to create more than 1 cup of active GF sourdough starter, the feeding will require more flour and water.

DAY 8 – First thing in the morning:
Today, the starter should hold its rise and be active. You will hear bubbles popping if you stir it gently. Now is the perfect time to add some to a GF sourdough bread recipe. 

You can make the Gluten-Free BBQ Sourdough or continue to feed and build up the new starter to create even more for a bigger loaf like the Wild Yeast Bread


Notes

*You’ll need approximately 1 cup of flour to create a small bowl of GF sourdough starter. Use organic flour when possible. Depending on the GF sourdough bread recipe you are baking, you might need extra flour to make more starter.
**You can keep what you remove to make pancakes, crackers, or quick flatbreads.
***Saving the discard from Day 7 will help you continue the process. With this new bowl, feed it a generous amount of flour and water, mix and ferment. Once active, you can use it or refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake again. Ready to bake? Take it out of the refrigerator and feed it more fresh flour and water and give it time to get active. You might not need to discard. But if your starter was left in the fridge for 1-2 weeks without refreshing, it might work faster to remove a little before you feed it. If you refresh it regularly and bake with it often, you shouldn’t have to discard any. Remember to feed your starter the amount of flour and water it needs to create enough starter for the recipe you want to bake. If you don’t use it often, it will be important to refresh it once in a while, every 1-2 weeks will be best for this smaller portion, if not it might dry up. 

Additional Notes: If you see mould, don’t take a chance, throw it out and start over. Make sure to use clean tools. Scraping the side of the bowl with a soft spatula helps to keep bowl tidy and clean. If your cover gets too messy, switch it for a new one. Lastly, have fun with the process and watch out for fruit flies—they love starter!

Keywords: Bread, Gluten-Free Bread, Gluten-Free Sourdough, Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter, Fermented, Fermentation, Wild Yeast, Sourdough Bread

17 Comments

  1. Hi, Chantal. I am Nita from Indonesia. This is my fifth day with my brown rice flour. But my starter has some white spot with little patch in my starter surface, the smell is a little strong alcohol and yeasty. Is it oke or my starter has a mold? Thanks

    View Comment
    • Hi Nita! Is it possible that we chatted on Instagram? If you have little white spots, it’s most likely mould. I’m afraid that you will have to start over. It’s not worth taking a chance if your starter is affected by bad bacteria.

      View Comment
  2. Hi Chantal I started a brown rice starter 6 days ago feeding once or twice a day with a spoon of flour and once a tsp of honey. It’s not doing much yet, so today I’m going to discard half and feed it flour. Do you think it might be useful to add some lemon juice at this stage or is it too late? I get a very small rise when I feed it, it’s not completely flat, but nowhere near doubling. Thanks for all your encouraging videos X

    View Comment
    • Hi Tamara! If you’re on Instagram or Facebook feel free to send me a picture so I can help you. It sounds like it’s doing well. I wouldn’t necessarily add lemon juice at the end. How did it go after your discard half and fed it yesterday? It won’t necessarily double in size. As long as it grows, smells good, you can hear bubbling activity when you stir it a few hours after a feeding, it’s probably ready.

      View Comment
  3. Hi Chantal… we’re late to the ‘learn how to bake bread in quarantine’ party… but just found your instructions and are excited to try it! Quick question… it is important to NOT use metal utensils when mixing and discarding from your starter? You mention using a chopstick, wooden spoon and spatula, so I was just curious if metal would react badly or ruin the starter? And if so, does that preclude me from baking in a stainless steel (All-Clad) dutch oven when I am ready to bake? Would and enamel dutch oven be best? Thank you!

    View Comment
    • Hi Ellen! I’m so happy that you’ve found my recipes! You’re never too late to the bread baking party! So happy to have you! It might be better not to use metal spoons or utensils to mix your starter. Some say that it can have a reactive effect on the wild natural yeast. I can’t say that I’ve experimenting much in this department, I simply use plastic or wood chopsticks or spoons when I mix my starter. I do use a regular spoon to add flour to my starter, and that’s fine. I just don’t use it to mix. As for the bread, I’ve never baked with a stainless steel (All-Clad) Dutch oven, if you do try it, let us know how it goes. Just make sure that your pot is ok in a very hot 450° F oven. And use unbleached parchment paper under your loaf (and to transfer your loaf) to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pot.

      View Comment
      • Thank you so much Chantal! I will avoid metal utensils and I will try it in the stainless dutch oven, since that is what I have. If I get good at this, I will invest in an enamel dutch oven. Fingers crossed…. Thanks again!!!

        View Comment
  4. Michelle Eisenberg

    HI Chantal, Thank you for this very easy recipe. It is so well written and very easy to follow. This is my very first starter it did well for about a week and now does not seem to be progressing much. It may have something to do with the fact that the temperature (which was very hot) has cooled off and perhaps it does not like it very much in comparison. We are on about Day 12 and the portion removed on Day 7 that was transferred to a bowl seems to be doing well.

    I appreciate so much the help that you have given. I also appreciate that in these difficult financial times we are not feeding huge quantities and discarding big quantities of flour and discard.

    I hop when everything is ready I can try some of your recipes and also find something to make with the portion that i discarded..

    View Comment
  5. Hi there, If I want to use Sorghum flour instead of rice flour, should I start with rice flour then switch to sorghum or can this recipe be done with all sorghum? Thanks!

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  6. Sangeetta Vyas

    Can I use Sorghum flour instead of brown rice ?

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  7. Sangeetta Vyas

    Oops just saw the previous comment.. got my reply.. Thanks..

    View Comment
  8. Jill Eberle

    Hi.. What breads can I make with this recipe? I see one has oat flour, which we are allergic. What are the other options? I saw you mentioned something about pancakes. Do you have a recipe?
    Thanks

    View Comment
  9. Hello,
    I started my sourdough 2 days ago. I saw bubbles this morning and got excited. But when I opened it at dinner time to feed it, I did not like the smell at all. It has a horrible foul wet rice smell. I guess, dump it and start again. Strange because it was a new jar that I washed and bottled water. I did use metal spoon to add flour and stir. I read the recipe somewhere here but did not see the lemon juice. Will try it next round. Any suggestions?

    View Comment
    • Hi! Did you use brown rice flour? I’ve had a strange smell with a GF millet starter once but kept at it and within a few days it smelled wonderful and a little sweet but mild with a pleasant yeasty aroma. Adding lemon juice does improve the smell if you’re not loving how the starter is smelling during the process. Was your flour fresh? Was your water spring water?

      View Comment

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Make sure the ingredients you purchase are prepared in a facility free from the top allergens YOU AVOID. Gluten-free products should be certified GF and clearly labelled. Consult your medical professional with your dietary questions.

Even certified gluten-free ingredients such as GF oats, corn, seeds, etc., can create health problems for individuals following a GF diet. Always consult a medical professional if unsure about ingredients for your needs.