Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

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Sourdough bread has been rising in popularity in the last few years, but did you know that it can be made gluten-free? I’ve been perfecting this recipe for a bubbly, active gluten-free sourdough starter for a few months, and it works so well for making gluten-free sourdough bread. This is a simple combination of flour, water, and wild yeast from the environment that creates a live fermented culture. This preferment is what gives bread a nice, fluffy rise without the use of commercially prepared yeast.

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter in glass jar.

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter Recipe

The idea of creating a gluten-free sourdough starter may seem a bit overwhelming, but it’s a lot easier than you think. You need just two ingredients to get started and a few minutes each day to feed it. Within about two weeks, you’ll have an active sourdough preferment that you can continue to feed and use in all your favorite gluten-free sourdough recipes.

Although the process is quite easy, there are a lot of things to note when you’re getting started, such as proper temperatures, the right tools to use, how to know if it’s working or if you need to start over, and so on. Through extensive testing, I’ve come up with a guide that takes all of the guesswork out of it.

Read this post in its entirety before getting started and keep it handy to reference!

Ingredients

  • Whole Grain Gluten-Free Flour: There are a few different types of gluten-free flour that can be used (for example: brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, millet flour, etc.), but the most important thing is to avoid options with added starches, gums, and other additives. For this recipe, I used brown rice flour.
  • Filtered Water: Regular tap water can have chlorine in it, which inhibits the growth of good bacteria, so it’s best to use filtered water. Do not use distilled water since that won’t have the minerals needed.

Supplies

  • Food Scale: A lot of measuring is required. Be sure to use a food scale rather than guessing or estimating quantities.
  • Glass Jar: A 1-quart glass jar should be large enough. A clear, straight-sided jar is best so that it’s easier to scrape down between feedings. Extra ridges in the jar can be a breeding ground for mold.
  • Wooden Spoon: Some experts say a wooden spoon is needed and others say stainless steel is fine. Some warn to stay away from metal or stainless steel utensils because sourdough is made with acid that will react to the metal. Experts are split on if this matter, but we recommend sticking to a wooden spoon to be safe. 
  • Silicone Spatula: Use a flexible one to scrape down the inside of the jar at each feed. 
  • Colored Tape or an Elastic Band: This will be placed on the outside of the jar to measure growth between each feed. Choose something that’s easy to move along the jar and won’t fall off easily. 
  • Clean Towel or Food-Safe Plastic Wrap: The sourdough starter will need to be covered in between feedings. Do not seal the jar completely. You need air to grow the yeast, so a light cover will maintain airflow.
tools for gluten free sourdough starter on a marble counter.

Tips and Notes

  • The amount of flour and filtered water needed for this recipe varies depending on how long it takes to build a strong active sourdough starter. Depending on the time of year, the temperature in your house, and other factors, it could take 2 full weeks to see a good rise. This recipe calls for 3 pounds of gluten-free brown rice flour to start, but you may not need all of it. 
  • Store the jar in a warm, draft-free area. Do not place this by a window, a door, a cold exterior wall, or in direct sunlight (too much heat will kill the yeast).
  • For the first week, the sourdough starter is going to smell bad. This is normal! As long as there isn’t mold growing in it, it’s still good. It takes at least a week (usually two weeks) before it starts emitting a pleasant, yeasty bread scent. 
  • When you switch from twice-a-day feedings to once-a-day feedings, it’s normal for the activity level to decrease. You may see less rise and not as many bubbles. This is normal and usually lasts 2 to 3 days after switching to once-a-day feedings. Just keep going with the 24-hour feeds and your starter will start to become more active again. 
  • Keep the mouth of your jar, the lid area, and any ridges inside the jar clean. Use a slightly damp clean cloth to wipe the inside of the jar down after every couple of feeds. If you leave old starter to dry out and stick to the inside of the jar, it could be a breeding ground for mold.

What Happens If I Miss A Feed?

A sourdough starter can be quite forgiving. If you miss a feed by a few hours or even a day, just pick up where you left off. You may see a decrease in activity at first, but it’ll pick up within a couple of days after regular feedings are resumed.

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter in glass filled to the top of the jar

Do I Have To Throw Away The Discard?

No, there are still lots of uses for discard! Although the discard won’t be good for bread, you can use the discard to add a distinct tangy flavor to biscuits, muffins, cookies, and pancakes. Store the discard in the fridge if you plan to use it later for another recipe.

What Is The Liquid On Top?

If your starter starts to get a liquid forming on the top of it, it’s likely hooch (a naturally occurring alcohol). This sometimes starts to form if it’s been too long between feedings. Pour it off and continue feeding as normal. 

What Are Signs That It Has Gone Bad?

Once your starter has mold growing in it, you’ll unfortunately have to discard it all and start over again. If it starts changing colors or getting a pink, white, green, brown, or black layer over the top, it’s time to throw it away and restart.

However, if you see a bit of mold on the jar only, wipe it off carefully and transfer your starter to a new clean jar.

Storage Instructions

Store gluten-free sourdough starter in a clean, covered jar at room temperature indefinitely. If you plan to feed it less often, store it in the refrigerator.

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter in glass jar with tape on the jar

While some patience and measuring are required, once you get the hang of this gluten-free sourdough starter recipe, it’s easy to keep it going. You’re just two weeks from a lifetime of delicious gluten-free sourdough bread!

More Gluten-Free Bread Recipes to Try!

5 from 1 vote

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Recipe

Prep: 10 minutes
Feeding Time: 14 days
Total: 14 days 10 minutes
gluten-free sourdough starter in a glass jar with a lid
Learn to make delicious and fluffy homemade sourdough bread in just a few weeks with this simple gluten-free sourdough starter recipe.

Ingredients 

  • 1400 grams whole grain gluten-free flour, I used brown rice flour
  • 1400 grams filtered water

Instructions 

  • Weigh the empty glass jar. You’ll refer back to this weight daily so make sure you write the number down and have it near your prep area.
  • Day 1 First Feed: In the clean and dry glass jar, add 50 grams of brown rice flour and 50 grams of room temperature filtered water. It’s okay if you’re a few grams above or below 50 grams each when doing the daily feedings. The consistency should look like a thin paste that’s a bit thicker than pancake batter. Add a little extra water or flour if needed. Stir well with a wooden spoon, then use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Place the colored tape or elastic band at the height of the starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm location in your home away from direct sunlight. 
  • Day 1 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 1 First Feed): Stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Add an additional 50 grams of brown rice flour and 50 grams of room temperature filtered water. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set the jar back in a warm location.
  • Day 2 First Feed (12 hours after Day 1 Second Feed): Repeat steps of Day 1 Second Feed.
  • Day 2 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 2 First Feed): Repeat steps of Day 1 Second Feed.
  • Day 3 First Feed (12 hours after Day 2 Second Feed): Stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Discard all but 100 grams of the starter. This is where your math comes in handy. Let’s say your jar was 730 grams. When you stir and discard all but 100 grams of starter, your food scale should now read approximately 830 grams (730 grams for the jar, plus 100 grams for the starter in it). Now add an additional 50 grams of brown rice flour and 50 grams of room temperature filtered water. Using the math, the 730 jar plus the 100 grams of starter in it plus the 50 grams of additional brown rice flour plus the 50 grams of additional filtered water, the weight of all would now be around 930 grams. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set the jar in a warm location in your home. 
  • Day 3 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 3 First Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.
  • Day 4 First Feed (12 hours after Day 3 Second Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.
  • Day 4 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 4 First Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.
  • Day 5 First Feed (12 hours after Day 4 Second Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.
  • Day 5 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 5 First Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.
  • If you’re seeing good bubbles and a rise in your starter (almost doubling in height between feeds), then move onto Day 6 Feed instructions. If you aren’t seeing a good rise yet, don’t panic! Continue with Day 3 First Feed instructions until you’re seeing bubbling and height in your starter. The amount of time it can take to see a good rise is dependent on a lot of factors, including time of year, temperature inside the home, type of flour used, temperature of water used, etc. Be patient and keep going even if you aren’t seeing a lot of activity yet. If you’re seeing absolutely no activity (no bubbles, still a very loose consistency before feeds) after 5 days, it’s probably time to start over.
  • Day 6 Feed (24 hours after Day 5 Second Feed): It’s now time to move to once a day feeds. Stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Discard all but 100 grams of the starter. Add an additional 100 grams of brown rice flour and 100 grams of room temperature filtered water. Using the math, the 730 gram jar plus the 100 grams of starter in it plus the 100 grams of additional brown rice flour plus the 100 grams of additional filtered water, the weight of all would now be around 1,030 grams. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set back in a warm location.
  • Day 7 Feed (24 hours after Day 6 Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 6 Feed.
  • Repeat the steps of Day 6 Feed every 24 hours until you’re seeing the starter double in size within 4 to 6 hours after feeding. It should also have a pleasant, yeasty bread smell. Now, it’s finally ready to use for baking a loaf of gluten-free sourdough! This could take another full 7 days of daily feeds so be patient.
  • Once your starter is at the maintenance phase, it can be stored in the fridge and will need weekly feedings.
  • For Weekly Maintenance Feeds: Stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Discard all but 100 grams of the starter. Add an additional 100 grams of brown rice flour and 100 grams of room temperature filtered water. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover lightly and place back in the fridge.
  • Before Baking: Remove the starter from the fridge, let sit at room temperature, feed as normal (100 grams each of starter, flour and filtered water) then let sit for 4 to 6 hours until you see peak rise. If the starter hasn’t peaked within 12 hours, do another feeding (100 grams each of starter, flour and filtered water).

Notes

  • The amount of flour and filtered water needed for this recipe varies depending on how long it takes to build a strong active sourdough starter. Depending on the time of year, the temperature in your house, and other factors, it could take 2 full weeks to see a good rise. This recipe calls for 3 pounds of gluten-free brown rice flour to start, but you may not need all of it. 
  • Store the jar in a warm, draft-free area. Do not place this by a window, a door, a cold exterior wall, or in direct sunlight (too much heat will kill the yeast).
  • For the first week, the sourdough starter is going to smell bad. This is normal! As long as there isn’t mold growing in it, it’s still good. It takes at least a week (usually two weeks) before it starts emitting a pleasant, yeasty bread scent. 
  • When you switch from twice-a-day feedings to once-a-day feedings, it’s normal for the activity level to decrease. You may see less rise and not as many bubbles. This is normal and usually lasts 2 to 3 days after switching to once-a-day feedings. Just keep going with the 24-hour feeds and your starter will start to become more active again. 
  • Keep the mouth of your jar, the lid area, and any ridges inside the jar clean. Use a slightly damp clean cloth to wipe the inside of the jar down after every couple of feeds. If you leave old starter to dry out and stick to the inside of the jar, it could be a breeding ground for mold.
  • To store: Store gluten-free sourdough starter in a clean, covered jar on the countertop in a warm, draft-free spot indefinitely or in the refrigerator for fewer feeds. Do not place this by a window, a door, a cold exterior wall, or in direct sunlight (too much heat will kill the yeast).
  • Mama says, “Make sure to always check your labels!”

Additional Info

Course: Baking
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @mamaknowsglutenfree or tag #mamaknowsglutenfree!

How To Make Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter Step-by-Step

an empty jar on a scale that reads 731.

Weigh the empty glass jar. You’ll refer back to this weight daily so make sure you write the number down and have it near your prep area.

flour and water in a glass jar on a scale that reads 837.

Day 1 First Feed: In the clean and dry glass jar, add 50 grams of brown rice flour and 50 grams of room temperature filtered water. It’s okay if you’re a few grams above or below 50 grams each when doing the daily feedings. The consistency should look like a thin paste that’s a bit thicker than pancake batter. Add a little extra water or flour if needed. Stir well with a wooden spoon, then use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Place the colored tape or elastic band at the height of the starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm location in your home away from direct sunlight. 

overhead view of bubbling gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar.

Day 1 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 1 First Feed): Stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Add an additional 50 grams of brown rice flour and 50 grams of room temperature filtered water. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set the jar back in a warm location.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar with tape on the side.

Day 2 First Feed (12 hours after Day 1 Second Feed): Repeat steps of Day 1 Second Feed.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar with tape on the side.

Day 2 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 2 First Feed): Repeat steps of Day 1 Second Feed.

overhead view of gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar on a scale.

Day 3 First Feed (12 hours after Day 2 Second Feed): Stir with a wooden spoon. Discard all but 100 grams of the starter. This is where your math comes in handy. Let’s say your jar was 730 grams. When you stir and discard all but 100 grams, your food scale should now read approximately 830 grams (730 grams for the jar, plus 100 grams for the starter in it). Now add an additional 50 grams of brown rice flour and 50 grams of room-temperature filtered water. Using the math, the 730 jar plus the 100 grams of starter in it plus the 50 grams of additional brown rice flour plus the 50 grams of additional filtered water, the weight of all would now be around 930 grams. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set the jar in a warm location in your home. 

overhead view of flour, water, and gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar on a scale.

Day 3 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 3 First Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.

overhead view of flour, water, and gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar on a scale that reads 945.

Day 4 First Feed (12 hours after Day 3 Second Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.

bubbling gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar.

Day 4 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 4 First Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.

overhead view of flour, water, and gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar on a scale that reads 945.

Day 5 First Feed (12 hours after Day 4 Second Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.

bubbling gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar.

Day 5 Second Feed (12 hours after Day 5 First Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 3 First Feed.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar with tape on the side.

If you’re seeing good bubbles and a rise (almost doubling in height between feeds), then move on to Day 6 Feed instructions. If you aren’t seeing a good rise yet, don’t panic! Continue with Day 3 First Feed instructions until you see bubbling and height in your starter. The amount of time it can take to see a good rise is dependent on a lot of factors, including time of year, temperature inside the home, type of flour used, temperature of water used, etc. Be patient and keep going even if you aren’t seeing a lot of activity yet. If you’re seeing absolutely no activity (no bubbles, still a very loose consistency before feeds) after 5 days, it’s probably time to start over.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar on a scale next to a bowl of starter discard.

Day 6 Feed (24 hours after Day 5 Second Feed): It’s now time to move to once a day feeds. Stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Discard all but 100 grams. Add an additional 100 grams of brown rice flour and 100 grams of room-temperature filtered water. Using the math, the 730-gram jar plus the 100 grams of starter in it plus the 100 grams of additional brown rice flour plus the 100 grams of additional filtered water, the weight of all would now be around 1,030 grams. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover the jar loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set back in a warm location.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar on a scale that reads 1049.

Day 7 Feed (24 hours after Day 6 Feed): Repeat the steps of Day 6 Feed.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar with tape on the side.

Repeat the steps of Day 6 Feed every 24 hours until you see the starter double in size within 4 to 6 hours after feeding. It should also have a pleasant, yeasty bread smell. Now, it’s finally ready to use for baking a loaf of gluten-free sourdough! This could take another full 7 days of daily feeds so be patient. Once your starter is at the maintenance phase, it can be stored in the fridge and will need weekly feedings.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar with tape on the side.

For Weekly Maintenance Feeds: Stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Discard all but 100 grams. Add an additional 100 grams of brown rice flour and 100 grams of room-temperature filtered water. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Use the spatula to scrape down the inside of the jar. Move the colored tape or elastic band to the height of your starter. Cover lightly and place back in the fridge.

gluten free sourdough starter in a glass jar with tape on the side.

Before Baking: Remove the starter from the fridge, let sit at room temperature, feed as normal (100 grams each of starter, flour, and filtered water) then let sit for 4 to 6 hours until you see peak rise. If it hasn’t peaked within 12 hours, do another feeding (100 grams each of starter, flour, and filtered water).

    About Cheryl Johnson

    My name is Cheryl Johnson and I love food—lots of it! For 10 years, I owned a recipe and party planning blog, where I developed and photographed hundreds of recipes. After selling that blog in 2019, I decided to open up a bakery in my city. My bakery specialized in big over-the-top treats (think two-pound stuffed cookies).

    My recipes have been featured on local news stations, Woman's World Magazine, and more. I'm excited to continue sharing my love of food with all of you!

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    26 Comments

    1. Hi! 👋🏻 This will be a first for me baking with gluten free starter. My question regarding storing in the refrigerator after the starter is mature. Doesn’t it have to rise a little after feeding before it’s placed in the refrigerator? I have to do that with my non-gluten free starter. After I’ve fed it I wait a couple hours to see activity and then place in the fridge if I won’t be baking that week. That wasn’t mentioned here and so I genuinely am curious. Thank you

      1. Hi Elizabeth, we did not wait to see any activity before storing in the fridge, but you certainly could!

      1. Hi Taylor, there is no commercial yeast in this recipe. The yeast comes from natural organisms in the flour and develops over time as you continue to feed the starter.

    2. Hey Cheryl,

      Me again. I’m on day 6 (where you go 24 hours between feeds) and my starter rose half way then fell after 12 hours. Should I feed it since it’s fallen, or wait for the 24 hours mark?

      1. Hi Kimberly, it sounds like your starter may be ahead of schedule and you can skip to weekly maintenance feeds. You can also continue to feed every 24 hours at room temperature if you prefer.

    3. Hey Cheryl!

      I’ve never had success with sourdough before, but I’m determined to do it right this time. When the starter is established and is in maintenance mode and I’m ready to use it to bake with, do I discard all but 100 g, feed it and then use whatever the recipe calls for? or do I just feed it and then use what I need? Do I need to make sure there is at least 100 g left?Thanks for your help!

      1. Hi Kimberly, we recommend always leaving about 100g of your starter behind to keep it going!

    4. When you say before baking feed as normal what if it is not time to feed. Say I fed it on Sunday and feed it once a week and it’s now Wednesday? Do I take it out let it get to room temperature and then feed and discard again? Also can I stick back in the fridge when done. Thanks!

      1. You should always feed it just before you plan to bake with it! Depending on how active your starter is, that can be anywhere from 2-12 hours. You can stick the remaining starter back in the fridge when you’re don with it.

      1. Hi Cindy, on or around day 3, you may experience a “false rise” caused by bacterial bloom as your starter is working to get the good bacteria to overwhelm the bad. It may smell “off” during this time, but no need to panic! It should go back to normal within a few days, so continue to follow the recipe!

    5. Hi! Thank you so much for this recipe. When my starter is ready to use for baking can it be used with any gluten free flour? Or can I only bake with the brown rice flour that I’ve created the starter with?

    6. I had FANTASTIC bubbles on day 3 but since then it has not bubbled. What would have caused this? It was really warm that day but I have not had any rise since that day. What should I do? It’s day 5 so should I just throw it out and start over?

      Thanks in advance!

      1. Hi Kayla, starter takes time to get established. Unless you see mold, you are fine to keep going!

    7. Hello! I just did day 4 feed 1 on my new starter. I’m curious when you say to repeat the day 3 feed 1, does that also include discarding so there’s only 100g of starter left? Thanks!

      1. Hi Emma! Yes, you’ll start by discarding all but 100g of the starter before adding the additional flour and water.

        1. I am sorry, but I am confused on what you mean by discarding all, but 100 grams of the starter? Is it keeping a 100 grams in the original jar and transferring the rest into a new jar? Then, when Day 6 comes along and you say to add a 100 grams of starter to the 730 gram jar, are we adding the 100 grams earlier that we saved?

          1. Hi Adyson, you discard all but 100 grams, meaning the rest can be used in a discard recipe or thrown away. Keep the 100 grams in your jar, then add 100 grams to that at each feed. The empty jar itself (just the glass) weighs about 730 grams, so the recipe developer took that into account when writing the instructions. To simplify, you can “tare” your scale so that it reads “0” when the empty jar is on top of it.

    8. Hi Audrey. When the dough is ready and we are storing it for future use, is the jar kept sealed or still open to allow air flow?