The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why don't we share ideas as to what to do with left-over sourdough starters?

cfmuirhead's picture

Why don't we share ideas as to what to do with left-over sourdough starters?

May be it is the recession!  But I find it hard to throw out half or more of a perfectly good starter when I refresh it and it is not the right time to bake bread.  Like many busy people in small households, baking more than once a week is not always realistic. Many will say that it is not a lot of money down the drain (litterally!), yet these pictures of starving children shown by the nuns of my childhood come back to memory and I just can't throw these nice living yeast organisms down the drain to end their lives in a pumping station somewhere on a a coasline.

So, I did some research, including The Fresh Loaf forum and found a few like-minded souls kind enough to share their ideas.  I came up with pizza crusts ( and focaccia (  Someone mentioned pancakes but I have not sourced a recipe yet.

Yesterday, a nice rainy day in England, after making Shiao-Ping's 'Molase and  Rye Bread' - a success - I studied those recipes and set to work making 2 pizza crusts which used 100g of my large jar of left-over.  The dough balls were left to 'mature' in the fridge overnight and I folded the dough this morning - it looked great.  One ball is now in the freezer, for another day, and the other in the fridge to be baked shortly.

The focaccia recipe gave me some concern as I calculated the hydration to be 30%.  A quick note to the author to sort this is awaiting an answer but I checked in some of my recipe books and assessed that the hydration should be around 60-62% so I might just work out the recipe using this factor.

At the moment, every time I refresh my starters (I had 3 going last week), I throw the left over in a big Kilner jar in the fridge and - when I think of it - add in a bit of flour and water to keep it alive.  It is proving to be very resilient as the pizza crust experience has proven.  The only little problem is that if one keeps starters at different hydration, it is difficult to know for sure the hydration of the bulk resulting.... that is where experience in making dough must come in useful.

I am sure there are more ideas out there.  Please share them with us.

PiperBaker's picture

I've had really good luck with english muffins using the "discard." Some milk powder, some honey and just enough flour to make a workable dough/batter and you're good to go.  This weekend I actually shaped the balls and stuck them in the freezer for later in the week (since we just got too busy).  I moved them to the fridge last night, pulled them out this morning and let them do a little rise and we had fresh english muffins with breakfast.

Also, somewhere on this site is the 1-2-3 formula (1 part starter (about 100% hydration), 2 parts liquid, 3 parts flour, then about 2% salt) which makes great bread with your leftovers.

Since we're 100% whole wheat people, and have a long supply chain, I can't stand to waste any of it, so I have to get creative with how to use the leftover (when I don't get lazy and just leave it in the dough).

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Have you made the english muffins with whole wheat? How were they? I'd love to know if you did anything special and if you used 100% WW.


ejm's picture

It was this very problem of having to throw away so much of the starter that prompted me to accidentally-on-purpose murder my starter. But before I committed the crime, these are some of the really successful things I made using the left-overs after feeding:

  • crackers (made with sesame, poppy and flax seeds and left-overs from feeding wild yeast)
  • crackers: faux Stowe (made with flax seeds, pepitas, rosemary, pecans and left-overs from feeding wild yeast)
  • onion rings (using wild yeast starter leftovers)

The onion rings were particularly good....


P.S. I also added the leftovers to muffin batter, pancake batter - anything that didn't HAVE to rise.

ericb's picture

sourdough waffles.

You can stop there. No reason to search further. They are perfect, and best enjoyed with a dollop of freshly-whipped cream.

King Arthur Flour's website has the only recipe you'll ever need.



summerbaker's picture

I like to try other SD experiments, but if the amount of starter in my fridge gets completely out of hand I always turn to the KAF waffles.  BTW if, like me, you don't always have buttermilk on hand it works fine with milk - just has a milder flavor.


pmccool's picture

You can tap into a number of previous discussions on the topic by typing "discard" (minus the quotes, of course) in the search box on the left-hand side of the page, near the top.

You'll also find some "been there, done that" advice against dumping starter or batter or dough down the drain.  Your plumber may love you for it, but your pipes won't.


Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

It does make good compost but I usually find something more useful to do with it. How about has anybody tried to make doggy cookies? Mine are on a wheat free diet but could be useful for some?

cfmuirhead's picture
cfmuirhead PMcCool, ericb, ejm and PiperBaker for sharing your ideas, some of which with links to recipes.  I can see my jar of discards will empty out faster than I can refill it.  Great! Good baking to all. 

Yumarama's picture

1) Keep your starters small. You don't need to keep and refresh 2 cups of starter, it will be fine reduced to a mere 15g of old in your 1:2:2 ratio Then when you do reduce for the next feed, you're discarding just a couple of tablespoons of flour.

2) Keep your starter stiffer. It will live in the fridge much, much longer without needing re-feeding as often.

You can still use the discard from these two other maintenance methods for waffles. etc., but you'll just have a lot less of it.

Salome's picture

That's what I do as well. I'm wondering, how low can you go? Is there any reason that a culture would become less resistant if you'd only keep about 30 g? (6 g starter, 12 g flour, 12 g water or something like that?)

subfuscpersona's picture

English muffins were mentioned as one way to use extra sourdough starter.

For links to actual recipes and instructions see...



Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Sitting here eating an "egg mcmuffin" with canadian bacon, egg, tomato (can't wait until the garden ones come on), and whole wheat white fresh english muffin.

I put these in the oven at 350for 15 minutes each side on a cookie sheet (checked them at 10 minutes and not ready to flip), instead of on the griddle. I think they came out much better than my last batch and I got to drink my coffee while they baked. I'll never make them on the griddle again!

sephiepoo's picture

I also keep a plastic container (a dart quart container, like the kind you get from chinese restaurants for soup) of starter discard in the fridge.  Both of my starters are at 100%H and I only keep about 1c of each starter.  I've recently found a recipe for Sourdough Biscuits that's fantastic, plus it uses 1c of discard :) My new favourite.  It doesn't use the leavening power of the starter, but just uses it for flavour.

Sourdough Biscuits


  • 1 c apf
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 c shortening or butter
  • 1 c starter


Stir together the dry.  Cut in the fat until it's the size of peas, and then stir in the starter. You can add a little water or milk if the dough is too dry (or more starter, if you're using a higher hydration starter).  Turn onto a lightly floured board and gently knead a few times until all the flour is mixed in.  Pat lightly until the dough is 1" thick and cut out biscuits (2-3" around).  Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 425F for 12-15 minutes until slightly brown.

You could also add cheese or other mixings into the biscuits, but don't overwork the dough or they'll be tough.  If you're using a stiff starter, I'd suggest dissolving it in some water first before mixing it into the dry mixture.  At least the recipe is pretty forgiving :)

cfmuirhead's picture

Thanks to Rainbowz - I will follow your idea for the starter; the problem arises if I go away for a few weeks - and no, I do not take my starter with me! - then I need to have a bigger qty if I do not want to find it inactive when I return.  The idea of 15 g would work well most of the time.

Thank you also to subsfusopersona and  sephiepoo for the recipes.  Will try for sure.

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I know some people who dry starter on their vegetable dehydrator. Seems to work very well. When they get back from vacation they simply crumble it into a bowl and add water, feed and leave out, give it a few feedings and it's back to life. I have some frozen but haven't tried bringing frozen back to life yet, just heard that this works too.

apprentice's picture

Some more ideas in this thread:

I posted there about Rose Levy Beranbaum's suggestion, which has become part of my routine. What I do is keep a fairly stiff baby amount of rye starter in a 250 ml covered plastic container in the fridge. I refresh it with 1 scant T of water and 1 heaping T of flour once a week. It's my "chef" or "mother" and I take very small amounts from it to build levains, converting to a wheat starter and/or a more liquid version as needed.

By the time the little container is getting full, I'm usually craving a certain rye bread that is my staple bread of choice. It doesn't call for a starter, just a soaker with coarse rye meal. But Rose says that any loaf can benefit from having a bit of starter added. I agree. She recommends 75 grams/loaf with an additional 3/16 tsp salt to balance the flavour. I make two loaves, and happily my excess of mature culture is usually about 150 grams by that time. I pop that into my dough with an additional 4 grams of salt. Perfect! I am careful to leave 1 to 2 T of mature culture behind that I can refresh and tuck back in the fridge to be the *mother*.

When I was away for an extended period last year, all I could think to do was freeze a bit of my starter and hope I'd be able to get it going again. It worked! Going back to square one with it, however, I ended up with lots of "discard" sourdough. Into containers it went, 150 grams each, and then to the freezer. I still have a couple left to throw in straight dough breads. The trick is remembering to take them out of the freezer!

Janknitz's picture

Every week I bake a loaf of multigrain bread.  It uses the discard from my weekly feeding of my starter that otherwise lives in the fridge, so there is no waste.  I feed it exactly the right amount so that the discard is exactly the amount I need for my weekly loaf of multi-grain.  If I want to make other things with my starter, I feed accordingly in between the weekly loaves. 

This way I very rarely have wasted discard.  If I know I will have discard for some reason (like building it up for a formula that calls for more starter), I try to plan to use the discard on something else like English Muffins or pizza dough.  On the rare occasions when I actually have to "throw away" my discard, I line a bowl with a paper towel to take out the discard, and then wrap it up in the towel and put it in my compost bucket.   

One other suggestion to avoid throwing away precious starter--give it to a friend, like Amish Friendship Bread.  Include a recipe.  I save old wide mouth jars for this purpose and print out instructions on how to feed it along with the recipe.  You need to pick a friend who has at least some rudimentary bread baking skills, so it's not for everybody, but it is certainly a nice thing to do!

Scottyj's picture

Good Idea Janknitz  just started my starter and was thinking what am I going to do with the throw away. Well now I know.I am on day 4 /5 of the starter. and it is doing just fine.


Scottyj's picture

And here is a question for you. Do you have to throw away the starter or can you just feed it? I ask as I have a 1.5 leter jar that I am going to use for the starter to live in. I would like to have more starter to use and replace it as I use it. I do alot of baking as I am out of work and it gives me something to do in between looking for work.

Thank you in advance.


Janknitz's picture

is that the more you keep, the more you have to feed it.  If you have 25 grams of starter, you should feed it at least an amount equal to it's own weight.  So you can see the amount of feeding quickly increases.  Eventually you will HAVE to discard or soon you will have a bathtub full (and it costs some money as it grows to keep feeding a lot of starter). 

Better to keep it a manageable amount so there is less waste.  You might look around at recipes and decide which one has the most starter you will probably ever need and keep it about that size (don't forget to factor in an amount kept back for the "mother"). 

Some real sourdough recipes will surprise you--they use less than 10 GRAMS of starter--that's about 1 tsp worth.  So large volumes are not necessarily useful. 

And don't forget you can keep a manageable amount of starter (I typically keep back 60 grams and feed it 1:1:1 so it's 180 grams total in storage, my recipe uses about 120 grams) and build up the discard to whatever volume you'll need in as little as 8 hours (depending on how active your starteris,  the ambient temperature and how much you need). 

Paddyscake's picture

and use up an extra starter :

  • of course waffles and pancakes, but for next day consumption
  • sourdough english muffin bread, easier than the muffins, when you're lazy
  • sourdough banana bread or any quick bread
  • sourdough crumpets (I've saved the recipe, but haven't tried them yet)

Be happy to point you in the right direction if you're interested in anything.


Scottyj's picture

I had some one time a long time ago. Please, oh please point me in the direction of that recepie. As I remember it was the best that I had, had in a long, long time.

And yes I can be very lazy.

Thank you in advance.


Paddyscake's picture

This is from Mike Avery's Sourdough Home blog. Mike used to be a regular contributor here, but we haven't seen him fo a while. This is a great recipe.

When you toast it, you'll wait to pop it down a second time for a bit. I always toast my english muffins this way too..I like them browned a bit.




Scottyj's picture

Thank you for the site. This will help out a bunch.


xaipete's picture

Sylvia and I, and probably a few others, are hooked on the onion rings.


PJ Hamel's picture
PJ Hamel

I've had good success making simple yeasted batter breads. Just use 1 cup starter to replace about 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup liquid (adjust to the consistency of your own starter). Just made a cottage cheese-dill batter bread yesterday - works great...

KAF bakers's picture
KAF bakers

We have several recipes for left-over starter on the King Arthur Flour web site. Here's the link to that page  Molly @ KAF

xaipete's picture

The Sourdough Ciabatta looks excellent! Do you think you could make pizza out of this dough?


Janknitz's picture


I made the sourdough english muffins on the KAF recipe site this week, and they were the best ever!  It's a very nice dough to work with.  I cut the recipe in half and got 16 muffins, so be forewarned if you make the full recipe (though they go quickly because they taste so good!).

You don't need to cook them on the griddle as long as the recipe says.  Mine were well done with 2 minutes on the first side, 3 minutes on the second side, and then 3 minutes on the first side again.  I stuck my thermometer in the sides of the muffin to measure the temp and it was well over 180 at that point. 

bwaddle's picture

When I have extra starter, I use a spatula and spread the starter on a flattened cereal box liner. Pop it in the oven - only heated by the pilot - and leave it overnight. The next day I put the flakes into a morter and grind it up a bit. Then into a glass jar with a little piece of paper towel to absorb any moisture still lurking. I keep a bit for myself in case of a power outage, and then share the rest.


Pablo's picture

I keep a small 80% hydration starter going on the counter, feeding 2x/day - very yeasty and volitile.  The discard from feeding I work a bunch of flour into so it has some food and stick it in the 'fridge.  When I make bread I use the counter starter for lift and the refrigerated stiff starter for flavour.  Anyway it uses it up in bread and makes me feel good.


gcook17's picture

 Here's the formula I came up with for turning discarded starter into pizza dough.  Where it says "levain" in the formula you can substitute "discarded starter".  Since the starter doesn't have that much structure the dough comes out pretty extensible which makes it easy to form your pizzas.  It's OK to leave out the malt.  If you use it, then it should should be diastatic malt powder.  Quantity is in ozs. but of course you can change it to whatever you want.  I generally use 10 oz. of dough to make a 12" pizza.  It freezes OK for a week or two.


  Total Formula Levain   Final Dough
  % Quantity % Quantity % Quantity
Bread Flour 100.0% 32.5    100.0% 9.28 100.0% 23.2
Water 77.0% 25.02    50.0% 4.64 87.8% 20.4
Yeast 0.2% .06     0.3% .06
Salt 2.0% .65     2.8% .65
Malt 0.5% .15     0.6% .15
Oil 5.0% 1.62     7.0% 1.62
Levain         60.0% 13.93
Total 184.6% 60. 150.0% 13.93 258.5% 60.00



Pablo's picture

What to do with 200g 83% hydration rye starter?  Mix with 840g white flour, 660g water, 18g salt and 150g shredded Asiago cheese.  I basically followed the 5 fold session Traditional method that's been floating around except the dough was a bit warm so I shorted the rest time to 45 minutes (and it was getting late).  Baked 450 15 mintes, 350 45 minutes and voila!  Discard au Fromage:

le crumb

Delicious toasted with over-easy eggs this morning.  The pan surface was 350F, we now know thanks to Mr. IRT




xaipete's picture

Those look great, Paul.


Pablo's picture

Thanks for the French Pamela.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Works very well!  Especially with cold weather looming outside.  Do eliminate any vinegar in the soup recipe.  Mix a little soup into a few tablespoons of discard to thin out and then stir into hot boiling soup.  

A totally unrelated topic...  A tablespoon of Peanut butter and roasted onions into Pea soup is also a great improver!  That and a nice slice of toasted garlic bread!


clazar123's picture

I tried this only once but it was pretty good.I just use the discard as a flour/water. I add baking soda and paking powder as the leavening agent.It added a great flavor! I will be experimenting more this weekend.

I have another thread on this looking for biscotti recipes using sourdough.Please share any recipes.

bwaddle's picture

Unfortunately, I left my dog treat recipe in Lubbock; but, here's my best shot at it. I've had great success with these; I'm a dog's best friend!

2 1/2 cups flour (I use whole wheat and rice flours)

2 T olive oil

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 cup shredded carrots

3/4 cup shredded cheese

1/2 cup dried parsley or cilantro

1/2 cup dried onion flakes

1 T minced garlic

2 T molasses

water - enough to make a mess - about a cup or so

Roll out to about 3/8" thickness. Cut into squares or use a bone cookie cutter. Use a spatula to transfer pieces to a lightly greased sheet pan. Bake a 325 for about 20 minutes. They should be dry and crispy. If not, cook them a little longer; or, if you are in a dry climate, let them sit out. I store them in plastic bags.

None of these measures are absolute. My brain has a few hole in it.



Thomas Mc's picture
Thomas Mc

Wall spackle,

paper mache,

make a dough for kids to play with,

batter for frying chicken,

an extra loaf of bread to give to a neighbor.




VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

This won't use up a lot of starter, but they're very good!  Makes 4-6 servings.

Do the night before:

2  1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups lukewarm water

1/2 cup starter

Beat till smooth. Let sit in a warm place overnight.

Next morning Add:

2 TBSP sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 TBSP melted butter

Then beat in:

2 eggs

1 cup applesauce

1/2 tsp cinnamon

After it is all mixed, right before cooking gently fold in:

1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 TBSP water

Don't stir after that.