What is Sourdough Starter Discard and How to Use it

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by TheFarmChicken

bubbly starter in jar

You have begun the sourdough starter process and have questions about sourdough discard. What is it and what can you do with it? Knowing what sourdough starter discard is and its place in the sourdough world is an important part of the sourdough journey. We are going to look at the ins and outs of sourdough starter discard in this post, What is Sourdough Starter Discard and How to Use it.

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What is sourdough starter discard?

Sourdough Starter Discard is inactive starter that you discarded (either when it was active or inactive) from your main sourdough starter/sourdough starter jar. For example. You feed your starter, it grows, doubles, and becomes active. You use 260g for a recipe and still have leftover starter in your jar. You would discard this, down to about 140g left in the jar. That is sourdough starter discard.

In Short:

Sourdough Discard = Excess sourdough starter; a mixture of flour and water

The difference between active starter and discard:

I would say the best way to differentiate between discard and active starter is that active starter is starter that has doubled and peaked whereas discard is any starter that is not the main starter and is not being used in an active sourdough recipe as a leavening agent. It has lost its leavening power and is a portion of the starter being discarded for later use (as an inactive sourdough starter) or thrown out.

Discard vs Active Sourdough Starter
Sourdough Discard vs Active Sourdough Starter

The different processes for sourdough starter discard; before and after feeding:

There are generally two different ways to manage sourdough starter discard.

  1. Discarding before you feed your unfed starter.
  2. Discarding after the starter has doubled. (My personal favorite way.)

Either method works. It really is a personal preference. For me I like to feed Agnes (my starter), wait until it is active and doubled, use it in the recipe I want, and discard everything but a little; like 140g from the jar.

The reasons behind discarding your sourdough starter:

There are a couple reasons why discarding your sourdough starter is important. Let’s take a look at why:

  1. It is good for the overall health of your sourdough starter and the wild yeast.
    1. This is because without discarding once in a while your sourdough starter could be overtaken by bad bacteria because it becomes too acidic.
  2. If you didn’t ever discard you would soon have so much starter you wouldn’t have room for it! Discarding allows you to keep your starter at a manageable size.
  3. Discarding your starter also allows you to maintain a healthy sourdough starter without having to bake something if you don’t want to or have the time.
    1. Think about this. You have a busy schedule, and you haven’t touched your starter for 2-3 weeks. You don’t want it to die but you don’t have any time to bake with it. Simple: feed it, let it double and discard. You can do it quickly and it will keep your starter happy until you are able to devote the time to it again.

Sourdough Method for No Discard:

This method requires more planning and weighing but is very doable.

  1. Say you are making these New York Style Sourdough Bagels. That means you need 250 grams of active sourdough starter.
  2. If you have 140 grams of sourdough starter in your jar you should feed this portion of your sourdough starter 125 grams flour and 125 grams of water. This would equal 250g of starter while still having 140 grams left…resulting in no need to discard any after using 250 grams for the recipe.
  3. You did it! You don’t have any sourdough starter that need to be discarded to maintain the health of your starter.
  4. Repeat for each recipe you make!

Tips for baking with sourdough starter discard:

  1. The longer it is in the fridge the tangier the flavor will be. This means it may add more tang to your baked goods the longer you have discard in the fridge.
  2. For best results, take your sourdough discard out of the fridge for awhile before baking with it. I do bake with cold starter sometimes and recommend it when making Sourdough Buttermilk Biscuits.

Pin it for Later:

Pin Image for sourdough starter discard

What can I use my sourdough starter discard in?

There are so many creative ways to use your discard. Quick breads, tortillas, donuts, biscuits, etc. I have a post that has all of TheFarmChicken discard recipes in one spot. Make sure to check that out for inspiration and my favorite sourdough discard recipes.

It is easy to end up with a lot of discard if you do a lot of baking in a week. You can use it up quickly though. One way I like to use it up is by making a double batch of tortillas. They freeze great and then we have a little stash for breakfast burritos, quesadillas, etc.

I have a delicious recipe for sourdough discard banana bread coming soon!

Where do I store sourdough starter discard?

You can simply put your leftover sourdough starter discard in a bowl with a lid or any airtight container. Then just place it in the fridge for later use. This is a great way to store any sourdough discard you don’t plan to use in the next day or two.

You could also put it in a jar, but you would want to mark it so that you know for sure which is your discard jar and which is your active sourdough starter jar.

Do I have to discard my sourdough starter?

You can maintain your sourdough starter without having to discard. This takes more thought and planning when baking with your starter though and requires you to make something every time you feed it.

How long is sourdough starter discard good for?

  1. No more than 1-2 days if left out at room temperature.
  2. In the fridge it can be stored for 1-2 weeks.

You always want to use your nose and eyes as the final judge on if your sourdough discard is still good. Give it a smell, if it has a harsh, acidic smell I wouldn’t use it. Look for any black liquid or anything else that doesn’t look normal and if it has any of that I wouldn’t use it then either. You will truly just want to discard it at that point.

How often should I discard?

In a healthy strong starter, you can discard leftover sourdough starter each time you make something as long as there is still a little, 140 grams of starter, in the bottom of the jar.

Otherwise, you can do it less than that too if you are looking for a sourer starter but as a general rule each time you feed it is a good idea.

What are the benefits of using sourdough discard in your baking?

From working with discard in my recipes there are a couple of things sourdough discard contributes:

  1. Tangy Flavor – In some but not all discard recipes you can taste the tangy flavor.
  2. Moisture

Can I use discard that is from the making/establishing of the sourdough starter?

I wouldn’t. The beginning of the process of making your own sourdough starter the starter is much more acidic and won’t work as well as an established and healthy starter. I would wait at least 7-10 days before using the discard of a new starter.

Other helpful sourdough starter resources:

  1. How to Use a Sourdough Starter: A Complete Guide
  2. Sourdough: How to Use a Gram Scale + YouTube Video
  3. TheFarmChicken Discard Recipes

TheFarmChicken Sourdough Bread Recipe

Shop these helpful sourdough tools:

More FAQ’s

Do I have to store discard in the fridge if I don’t use it right away?

It can be out on the counter for 1-2 days but I wouldn’t leave it out much after that. Then you would want to store it in the fridge and it can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

What do you do with the discard every day when starting it?

When you are first starting out with sourdough starter it is truly discard. I wouldn’t start using your discard until your sourdough starter is well established.

Can I bake with cold sourdough discard?

Yes, you can and for certain things like biscuits I would recommend it but other sourdough discard recipes it is helpful for your starter not to be cold. It will incorporate better into what ever you are making.

I hope the next time you work with your sourdough starter you are confident with how to use and work with the sourdough discard. Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for stopping by and welcome to the world of sourdough… discard!

Mariah N | TheFarmChicken
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
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