This step-by-step beginner grain-free sourdough starter recipe will transform your baked goods into something even more magical and nutritious!
- 1–2 cups cassava flour* (Substitutions in notes)
- 1 piece fresh pineapple, 1 x 2-in (organic if you can)** (Read notes below)
- Water (filtered or spring)
For this recipe, I simplified the instructions as much as possible to make it easier for you to try. Please have fun with the process! Your grain-free starter will need at least 7 days to transform into wild natural sourdough yeast.
To make the starter, you will need the following: 1 glass jar (med/large), large spoon, chopstick (or wooden spoon), coffee filter (or breathable cloth cover), a small soft spatula (optional but handy) and elastic (or string).
If you’ve never made a gluten-free sourdough starter or a grain-free one, consider watching the Easiest GF Sourdough Starter video to give you a general idea of what you can expect.
To a clean jar, add 1 heaping spoonful of cassava flour (approx. 1/4 cup (32g) with just enough water to stir. Mix well. Place your piece of pineapple right in the middle, cover your jar with a coffee filter or thin piece of cloth and secure it with an elastic. Place in a warm area of your kitchen away from direct sunlight for 24 to 48 hours. TIP: Depending on the size of jar you have, you could consider increasing the flour to 1/2 cup or two heaping spoonfuls with just enough to stir if you want to submerge your pineapple piece. Doing so might work faster.
Smell your mixture. If it smells nice, but there are no visible bubbles, leave it alone for another 12 to 24 hours. Ps. I often don’t feed mine on Day 2. It usually just needs more time. TIP: If your piece of pineapple is not completely submerged consider adding a bit more flour, water and stir.
Your starter should smell a little sweet and mildly yeasty. At this point, you can remove the pineapple piece (or other fruit) and feed it a heaping spoonful of flour with just enough water to stir. Cover the starter jar and return it to a warm cozy spot in your kitchen.
On the fourth day, you will have to judge if you should feed your starter or leave it alone for a little longer. I didn’t feed mine on Day 4 as it often needs a little more time. If yours smells good and but looks flat (not many bubbles), you can wait until tomorrow to feed it. If you decide to add a little flour and water that is fine too! If you do, cover the jar after you’re done and place it somewhere warm (away from the sun).
On the fifth day, take off the cover and remove a heaping tablespoon of starter. Place the discard in a bowl, cover it, and reserve it to make cookies, flatbread or pizza crust. You can keep it in the fridge if you can’t use it right away. Add 1-2 heaping spoonfuls of cassava flour to your starter jar and add just enough water to easily stir the mixture. Cover your jar and return it to its warm cozy spot in your kitchen.
Your starter might be close to being ready, but it can still benefit from another feeding to increase the bubbling activity. Remove one spoonful (heaping tablespoon) of the starter and keep it in a separate bowl for later. You can cover and refrigerate the discard (the portion you removed) if you’re not ready to use it. Next, add 1-2 spoonfuls of cassava flour to your jar with just enough water to stir the mixture. Finally, return the jar to its warm area in your kitchen or home until tomorrow.
Your starter might be ready to use by day seven. Mine is often ready in about one week. Signs that your grain-free starter is ready: bubbles appear at the bottom or throughout, it smells pleasantly yeasty and sweet, the texture is light and not compact, the mixture should be creamy, not gritty, you can hear popping activity if you move the starter with a spatula.
Some get excited and try and use it sooner but from all my GF sourdough experience, waiting one week is the average minimum. Making bread too soon (with a starter that is not at its peak of activity) could result in a denser bread. If yours doesn’t look like in the pictures just yet, consider continuing the process for a few more days. If you’re excited to bake, a wonderful recipe to try is the Grain-Free Sourdough Pizza Crust—it’s good! Plus, it won’t matter if your starter is not super active.
*For this grain-free starter, cassava flour was my grain-free flour of choice. You can try chickpea flour (or other legume flour), green banana flour, buckwheat flour (if you consume it in your grain-free diet), or even a combo of coconut/cassava/tigernut flour.
I haven’t tried nut or seed flour or potato/sweet potato flour, but they are worth considering if you have these ingredients in your pantry. Again, combining a couple of grain-free flours might work better. The Grain-Free Plant-Based Guide includes more helpful ingredient information.
It is important to note that you decide to try something other than cassava flour, your timeline and outcome might differ.
**If you don’t have fresh pineapple, consider trying a different piece of organic fruit. I like using pineapple because it works well. Examples of other fruits: apple, a few grapes, even a squeeze of lemon juice can help. Another tip, if you don’t have fresh fruit, is to include a little bit (even as little as one teaspoon) of a gluten-free sourdough starter (brown rice or sorghum). If you have maple syrup, adding even one teaspoon could be an alternative. Doing so will boost the activity of your grain-free starter. Making a grain-free can work without adding fruit/fruit juices (or other) but it could take a little longer than one week to achieve a lively starter.
Once you use some of your grain-free starter, don’t forget to feed it more flour and water to continue the process.
You can store your starter in the refrigerator in between bakes.
You might need to refresh your starter once you remove it from the fridge to get it active again to use in a recipe. The idea is to feed it again and give it time to get lively. If you haven’t fed it in a while, you might need to remove a spoonful before you feed it more cassava flour and water. Give it time, in a warm cozy spot in your kitchen to get active.
To keep your grain-free sourdough starter alive, even if it is refrigerated, you will need to refresh/feed it at least once per 1 to 2 weeks, even if you don’t plan to bake with it.
Trust your nose. If it smells awful, your starter might be bad. It might be best to start over. If it doesn’t smell right, you most likely won’t want to bake with it. A good active starter should have a pleasant, yeasty and sweeter aroma.
If you notice mold, it safer to start the process over in a new jar.
Once you have an active grain-free cassava sourdough starter, you can consider introducing another grain-free flour to the starter. It’s a great tip to know if you ever run out of cassava flour.
For additional gluten-free sourdough starter tips, you can watch my GF sourdough starter videos on YouTube or visit the gluten-free sourdough recipes on Fresh is Real. A lot of the information is similar and can be applied when making a grain-free sourdough starter.
Keywords: Grain-Free, Sourdough Starter, Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter, Grain-Free Sourdough Starter, Cassava Flour Starter, Grain-Free Sourdough Bread