This gluten-free sourdough starter, made with whole-grain brown rice flour, will give you the benefits of sourdough without the gluten. It’s easy to start, and it makes delicious sourdough baked goods!
You know there’s a great love for sourdough when people all across the real food arena unite in asking the same question:
Can you make a gluten-free sourdough starter?
1 in 5 Americans eats gluten-free for various reasons, so the question isn’t surprising. So, in an attempt to answer this question, there’s been another food project in my kitchen for the past 10 days. I’m trying yet again to capture wild yeast from thin air.
The consistency of my gluten free sourdough starter looks a lot like cream of wheat…you know, the breakfast cereal? But thinner (and smellier). It definitely doesn’t look like the “soupy flour” mixture from the ordinary sourdough starter.
In fact, just about everything was different about this gluten-free sourdough starter, except three things that stayed the same:
- It only required flour and water.
- Even with an extra feeding, it wasn’t much work.
- It was a success!
So, to answer the question, yes, my dear sweet gluten-free friends, you can!
Note: Be sure to read through the entire tutorial and additional recipe tips before starting your gluten-free sourdough.
INGREDIENTS FOR MAKING YOUR OWN GLUTEN-FREE SOURDOUGH STARTER
- brown rice flour
- cold (or room temperature) filtered water
Note: Chlorine or hard water can hinder the growth of your sourdough starter. Use filtered water to avoid those issues found in tap water.
Make sure to have a large bowl (approx. gallon-size) with a lid for the first week as you establish your gluten-free sourdough starter.
GLUTEN FREE SOURDOUGH STARTER RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS
Step 1. In a large bowl, combine ½ cup of flour with ½ cup of water and stir until all the lumps are gone. The mixture will be very thin and soupy. Lightly cover the bowl with a lid, leaving it cracked so that air can flow freely. If bugs and insects are an issue, you may cover the bowl with cheesecloth instead and secure it with a rubber band.
Step 2. Place the bowl in a warm area where it can sit undisturbed. This could be outside on a patio, on a kitchen counter, or in a pantry cabinet. Put it somewhere you can see it so that you remember to feed it!
Step 3. Every day, for the next seven days, feed the starter three times a day at approximately the same time. For best results, try to feed the starter at even intervals. For example, 6 am (or when you first wake up), 2 pm (just after lunch), and 10 pm (right before going to bed).
Step 4. At each feeding, feed the starter ½ cup of flour with enough water to mix thoroughly, usually ¼ to ½ cup, for a total of ¾ to 1 ½ cups of flour mixture each day. At each feeding, stir well, re-cover, and allow it to sit.
Step 5. The starter may or may not go through a bubbly stage and if it does, it may not be very noticeable. The starter may smell foul around days 2-4, very much like rotten eggs.
The smell is not an indication of contamination; rather, it is the natural smell of wild yeast combined with brown rice flour. The smell should subside and become pleasant by day 6-7.
Note: Once established, the gluten-free sourdough starter will go through a bubbly and frothy stage and eventually subside. The starter will smell like yeast and/or wine, but the smell should always be pleasant. If the starter ever smells sour or rancid, or if you see any white, orange, or pink film or mold, it has been contaminated and should be thrown away.
VISUAL PROCESS OF SOURDOUGH STARTER GLUTEN FREE
- This is what the starter looks like when it’s first mixed together and what it looked like after one full day of feeding. No noticeable changes.
- We have wild yeast! There are some large bubbles and some small bubbles visible through the side of the bowl.
- The surface will look like cracked clay. There may or may not be visible bubbles on the surface of the starter.
- Good news! The yeast is multiplying at an exponential rate. There are more of the larger bubbles and even more of the smaller bubbles.
- Again, the surface will look like cracked clay, and it may or may not have visible bubbles on the surface of the starter.
- You will notice that as you stir, the starter will lack the stringy, spongey feel that traditional sourdough has. This is normal. The starter may begin to have an odor. Keep feeding as directed.
- The bubbles begin to become equal in size and evenly distributed throughout the starter.
- Odors should subside and the starter should smell like sweet yeast by day 7.
- Approximately 2-3 hours after feeding, the starter should reach its peak and create a dome on top.
FEEDING SOURDOUGH STARTER
Once the starter is officially created, it enters maintenance mode. The frequency you choose for feeding sourdough starter is determined by how much starter you need and how often you plan to use it.
- Once a week: At a minimum, the starter can be kept in the refrigerator and fed once a week merely to sustain the life of the captured wild yeast.
- Daily: You can continue to feed it daily as you have been, and in another seven days, there will be enough starter for another batch of bread.
- Smaller amounts: You can also feed your starter as little as one tablespoon of gluten free flour and water for every two cups of starter – enough to continue daily growth but not produce a large quantity of starter. (One quart of starter would be fed with two tablespoons).
However frequently or infrequently you decide to feed your starter, the yeast thrives best when it’s fed regularly and consistently. Choose your time frame and quantity and stick with it as best as you can.
PREPPING THE REFRIGERATED STARTER FOR BAKING
Yeast grows incredibly slow at refrigeration temperatures, which is why you can get away with feeding it only once a week. In order for the yeast to successfully leaven a batch of bread, it must be “revived”, so to speak.
The steps are below, along with an example to help you better understand the time frame involved.
- Three and a half days before you plan to bake bread, remove the starter from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. (Monday night)
- Once the starter is at room temperature, feed with equal parts flour and water. (Tuesday morning)
- Feed the starter two more times that day, around lunch and again before bed. (Tuesday afternoon and evening)
- On the morning of day three, feed the starter again. If the starter domes after 2-3 hours, you are ready to bake bread. If the starter does not dome, continue feeding three times daily until there is foam and liquid. (Wednesday morning)
ADDITIONAL GLUTEN-FREE SOURDOUGH STARTER TIPS
- One 22 oz package of brown rice flour is the exact amount needed for this recipe. If you want to continue to feed your starter brown rice flour after the first seven days, wish to have a greater quantity of starter after the first seven days, or want to use brown rice flour to bake with your starter, you will need at least two bags of flour.
- Excess liquid did not collect on the surface of this gluten-free starter. If yours does, you can pour it down the drain or stir it into the starter.
- If your starter outgrows your bowl, you may split it between two bowls. Continue the feeding process, dividing the flour and water between the bowls (¼ cup of each, for each bowl).
- If you are culturing other items simultaneously, be sure to leave at least 3-5 feet of space between each item so the yeasts do not cross-contaminate. (Sourdough won’t make your kefir “bad,” but both cultures can weaken over time. Best just to keep them apart.)
- Always allow a bit of room for expansion by discarding some starter and leaving approximately ½ cup of starter to feed. This ensures you have enough yeast to continue fermenting at the same pace you have been. We made sure to test this gluten free starter discard in gluten free sourdough pancakes, and they were good!
- With the time involved in “reviving” refrigerated sourdough, it’s often easier to keep the starter at room temperature and reduce the feedings to only a tablespoon or two daily.
GLUTEN FREE SOURDOUGH STARTER FAQS
What is the best flour to use for gluten-free sourdough starter?
Is sourdough better for gluten intolerance?
Sourdough can be a good option for those with gluten intolerance, IBS, or gluten sensitivity. It contains a lower level of gluten.
Does sourdough bread have gluten?
Sourdough bread recipes made with wheat flour still has gluten, although it has a lower level of gluten. This gluten free sourdough starter contains brown rice flour instead, so it does not have gluten.
Can I throw leftover dough scraps back into my gluten-free sourdough starter?
While we don’t want to waste food, the dough tends to have other ingredients too, like salt, eggs, butter, etc. and that wouldn’t be a good environment for your starter.
Instead, freeze your dough scraps, and when you have enough, fry them up and coat them in cinnamon sugar for a homemade version of donuts.
MORE GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES
- Einkorn Pizza Dough
- Mini Chocolate Chip Scones
- Einkorn Coffee Cake
- Homemade Cassava Flour Tortillas (Gluten-free, Grain-free)
- Almond Crusted Chicken
- Healthy Thumbprint Cookies