Every sourdough baker is constantly plagued by what to do with their sourdough discard. Let’s talk about how to reduce your discard and how to use what discard you do have! 

Sourdough Discard Overview

Continuing on with our Sourdough for Beginner Series, it is time to talk about that pesky sourdough discard. If you followed my tutorial about how to start a sourdough starter from scratch, then you are likely finding yourself with a jar of discard on hand and wondering what to do with it. Dealing with sourdough discard is one of the main reasons I hear from people about why they do not want to keep a starter.

I’m here to tell you that it can actually be a very simple solution. The main thing we are going to talk about is how to reduce your sourdough discard so you don’t even have that much to deal with. But even so, you will still have some discard so I’m also going to give you some easy things to do with it!

A jar filled with sourdough discard

What is Sourdough Discard?

Sourdough discard is the portion of your sourdough starter that you get rid of when you do a feeding. The reason we do this is because every time you feed your starter you must give it enough flour and water so that it is sufficiently fed. If you were to feed the entire starter every feeding, then your starter would get bigger and bigger and you would need to feed it a larger quantity every time.

How to Reduce Your Sourdough Discard

I often hear the question “Do I really need to discard my starter?” The answer to that is not a simple yes or no answer. The function of discarding some starter is to actually reduce waste down the road. The more starter you keep, the more flour and water you will have to feed it.

However, there are ways to reduce your sourdough discard so you have very little or sometimes none at all. The first way to reduce your discard is to store it in the refrigerator and feed it every 7-10 days. If you will not bake with your starter often then this is a good option for you.

Mixing a small amount of starter with a small amount of flour and water for a "microfeed"

But weather you are storing your starter in the refrigerator or out on the counter top and feeding it every day, you can also reduce the amount of discard. On days when I will not be baking with my starter, I like to do what I call “micro-feedings.” A micro-feeding is where you keep a very tiny amount of starter and then feed that with a small amount of flour and water.

I typically keep 5 grams of starter and feed that with 15 grams of flour and 15 grams of water when I do a micro-feeding. This means that I only have 35 grams of total starter the next time I go to feed it. If you are baking the next time you go to feed, you will likely only have a very small amount to discard (or maybe even none at all) depending on how much you need for your bake. If you aren’t baking, then you still have a very small amount to do your next micro-feeding.

How to Save Your Discard

The best way to store your sourdough discard for future use is in a jar in the refrigerator. I put a date on a jar and every time I feed my starter, I add the discard to my discard jar. Then I can use it it recipes later.

I typically start a new jar about every month. I’m sure the discard will last longer than a month in the refrigerator before it starts going south. But remember, sourdough discard is unfed starter and it will not live indefinitely the way a fed sourdough starter can.

Ways to Use Your Sourdough Discard

Even when you make efforts to reduce your sourdough discard, you will still have some to deal with. You never want to wash it down the drain because it will definitely clog up your pipes. But if you absolutely don’t want to do anything with it, you can throw it in the trash.

Dried sourdough starter broken up into pieces for backup storage

However, if you would like to make the most of your sourdough discard there are a few things you can do with it.

  • You can add your starter to your compost if you are someone who already composts.
  • You can put some in a jar to gift to a friend so they have their own starter to bake with.
  • You can dry some of your starter out so that you have a backup on hand if you ever accidentally kill your active starter. This is a very easy process and you can check out this article for helpful information on how to dry your starter.
  • And my favorite way to use my sourdough discard is to put it in other baked goods!

How to Bake with Your Sourdough Discard

There are a lot of recipes out there that are already written specifically to be made with sourdough discard. A bit of googling will bring up many delicious options, like these Sourdough Discard Crackers.

However, if you have a favorite recipe that you would like to use some of your discard in you can try to modify it. Remember, your sourdough discard is equal parts flour and water. So you will want to reduce the flour and the liquid in the recipe you are adding it to to accommodate for this.

Pouring sourdough discard into a muffin batter

Editing a recipe to utilize your sourdough discard works best in things like muffins, pancakes, waffles, quick loaf breads (like banana bread and zucchini bread). These things are very forgiving and easily edited. It also works well to add some into a bread that is leavened with dried yeast. It adds the sourdough flavor without the fermentation time needed to make actual sourdough.

There really isn’t a set ratio of how much discard to add into your recipe. I typically add about 120 grams of sourdough discard. This means you need to reduce the flour and water in the recipe by 60 grams each, which works out to be 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water. My favorite recipe to use my discard in is my basic muffin recipe.

This does mean that if you want to make something like sourdough cookies, or brownies that don’t typically have a liquid ingredient in them, you will need a specific recipe written to be made with sourdough. If the recipe you are using doesn’t have milk or water in it, you can’t really easily edit it to account for the liquid in the sourdough starter.

Whatever you decide to do with your sourdough discard, don’t let it take over your life! If anything, it’s okay to toss it. I try not to very often and since I do micro feedings I really don’t have to. But don’t let sourdough discard be your reason for not making a sourdough!