Making your own sourdough rye starter is as simple as mixing together water and flour. Using rye flour in your sourdough guarantees a happy, stable starter.
The resulting starter is better than a regular sourdough starter, and you'll be able to bake amazing homemade bread like this flaxseed meal sourdough loaf or these amazing crunchy sourdough baguettes.
What is a sourdough starter?
A Sourdough starter is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. In short, a SCOBY. Yes, just like in kombucha brewing.
The main difference between the two SCOBYs is the type of bacteria that dominates.
In a sourdough starter, the dominant microbe is lactobacillus. Lactic acid-producing bacteria.
The lactic acid produced here is what gives this sourdough a distinctive sour taste, as well as some acetic acid produced by Acetobacter, is also naturally present in the environment.
When flour gets mixed up with water, naturally-occurring amylase in the flour breaks down starches into sugars that the yeast can consume. The bacteria, being opportunistic, then also starts consuming some of the starches the yeast cannot metabolise or ferment.
One of the by-products of this process, maltose, then gets metabolised by the yeast and the yeast then gives us wonderful carbon dioxide gas which leavens our bread naturally.
A perfect example of neighbours helping each other to be happy and co-exist in harmony.
Bread Baking Set
Electronic Kitchen Scales
Sourdough rye starter generally is healthier and easier to work with than a regular white flour starter.
Rye flour has less gluten, which makes the starter more fluid and less stretchy for starters.
Secondly, it has more nutrients that the yeast wants and needs to feed on.
If you dive into sourdough science, you would realise that it is all about balance.
Balancing how the yeast and microbes react with one another depends on water, flour, temperature, pH level, minerals, enzymes, tolerance, and so forth.
You need to provide a happy home for a healthy culture of yeast and bacteria.
They all need to be happy in there and tolerate one another. Otherwise, they will revolt and not do what you want them to do.
Rye makes this process simple, stable and in most cases quicker.
- Water - Filtered water works best. Some tap water contains chemicals that might hinder fermentation.
- Rye Flour - Regular rye flour. Do not use malted rye flour. Although it will still work, it requires a different recipe.
- White Flour - Unbleached is best. I have had readers make it with all kinds of flour, including gluten-free. For this recipe, all-purpose and bread flour both work.
- Wholemeal flour (optional) - I add this, but you can just use white flour.
- Important: Sterilise a 500 millilitre mason jar or any other adequately sized non-reactive container before you start. Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid. Also sterilise any spoons or equipment you may use. This is to make sure no unwanted bacteria gets into the starter.
- Day 1: Mix together 15 grams unbleached white flour and 35 grams rye flour with 50 grams filtered water. Close the container with a tight-fitting lid and place your starter at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Day 2,3,4,5: feed your starter with 25 grams rye flour, 25 grams unbleached white flour, and 50 grams of water. Close the container. Leave at room temperature and repeat this for 3 more days.
- Day 6: Your starter would have risen and fallen. You should now have 500 grams of rye sourdough starter. You remove 200 grams of this and make these sourdough crêpes or freeze it, leaving you with 300 grams of starter. Add back 50 grams rye flour, 50 grams white flour, and 100 grams water. Leave closed at room temperature.
- Day 7: your starter is ready to bake with. Alternatively, store it in the fridge for later use and feed it once a week.
Tips for success
- Make sure your equipment and hands are 100% clean to avoid any bad bacteria.
- Use unbleached flour and filtered water for best results.
- Cold temperatures will slow down the process, while warm temperatures will speed it up. Aim for room temperature around 22 °C or 71 °F.
If you are actively baking with your starter then keep it at room temperature and feed it every time you remove some starter to bake with.
Baking once or twice a week? Store it in the fridge and follow my sourdough care instructions below.
If you hardly ever bake, then store it in the freezer in small amounts, so you can pull it out and feed it when you do eventually bake.
Taking care of your starter
The most important thing to understand about sourdough is that it is a living culture of bacteria and yeast. This means that it depends on food to survive.
You need to feed it, look after it and know what it likes and don’t like. If kept at low temperatures (around 5 °C or 41 °F) the fermentation slows down and at higher temperatures speeds up.
If you are not ready to bake with it, you can store your sourdough starter in the fridge feeding once a week with 25 grams flour and 25 grams water, or you could freeze it to completely halt fermentation until you are ready to use it.
It’s also important to understand when your sourdough starter is too sour or the microbes are overpopulated. Yes, even in sourdough starters there are overpopulation issues.
Bread baked with over sour starters will have an unpleasant sour/bitter note to it and worst case won’t even rise properly as the yeast does not get enough maltose from the lactobacillus and won’t produce much carbon dioxide(CO2).
The structure also becomes too sticky and basically, the whole thing just sucks at that point.
To prevent this, we remove up to 50% of our starter for other uses.
Like make another starter, or to give some starter to a friend or whatever you like really. This brings us to the most important rule about a sourdough starter.
What you take out, you have got to put back in.
In most cases, this will be a simple 50-50 split of flour and water.
For instance, if you had a 200 grams starter that was too sour, you would remove 100 grams of starter and add back 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour.
As mentioned before, it is not advised or necessary to throw away the “too sour” starter as you can still cook with it, freeze it or make another starter with it.
Frequently asked questions
Sourdough starter is added to bread by a baker ratio of between 10% and 25%. Although sourdough bread is the most common thing to cook with it, you could also use it to make sourdough buns, croissants, pancakes and sourdough crêpes.
If you made a rye starter, you can continue feeding it with a mix of regular unbleached white flour and rye flour. Otherwise, simply feed with regular flour.
This is called the hooch. It's a sign that you haven't fed your starter lately, and he is hungry. Some people throw out this liquid, while others including myself prefer to stir it back in before discarding 30-50 per cent of the starter and refreshing with new flour and water.
Something has gone wrong. Throw it out and start over. Always use clean utensils and equipment at all times.
Mould is a bad sign and better to throw it out even if it smells fine. Make sure you use clean equipment when feeding your starter, and never dig around in there with unwashed hands.
This site contains affiliate links. I may earn a tiny commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. By bookmarking these links you help support the upkeep of this site.
If you found this post helpful or have learned something, comment, subscribe, and follow me on social platforms for more tasty recipes.
Sourdough Rye Starter
- 165 g (1 ⅓ cups) white bread flour - unbleached
- 165 g (1 ⅓ cups) rye flour
- 350 g (1 ½ cups) water
- Day 1: Mix 15 grams white flour, 35 grams rye flour, and 50 grams water together. Let it sit in a closed container for 24 hours at room temperature.
- Day 2,3,4,5: Feed with 25 grams white flour, 25 grams rye flour, and 50 grams water each day and keep it at room temperature.
- Day 6: Remove 200 grams starter. Add 50 grams white flour, 50 grams rye flour, and 100 grams water. Leave at room temperature.
- Day 7: The Starter should be nice and bubbly and ready to use. If you do not intend on baking straight away then move your starter to the fridge and feed once a week just like you did on day 2.
- Many elements play a part in fermentation. Your starter might take longer or less time than stated in the recipe.
- You can use the sourdough discard for sourdough crêpes or simply freeze it for future use.
- Discard some starter when it gets too sour and feed with 50/50 flour and water.
Hey, Charlé. Hope you are well and keeping healthy and safe. I love that you are sharing your professional expertise for us mere mortals to strive to become better cooks. I'm learning and enjoying this SO much. THANK YOU!
I'm about to start making your starter, but am slightly confused about the end bit. In step 6, is the starter ready to use to bake the sourdough, immediately after one adds the 50g Rye, 50g White and 100g water?
Appreciate your advise and keep the advice coming. Love it. Stay safe. XX
Amazing to hear from you! All great thanks)) I thought I'd start sharing a bit yes)) Every day learning myself too. Such is cooking. Never boring)
You need to go to the unmentioned 7th step and just let it sit out for one more day. Your starter will be ready to use on the 7th day. Kind of biblical that I just realised)))
Anyway, contact me on Instagram when you start and I will run you through the whole process day by day until you finally bake your bread. I'm doing recipe support daily even with those that use other peoples recipes so would love to help you!
Stay safe xxx
I was wondering what your thoughts on using ground flaxseed in the starter, as addition to rye flour? I have been trying to use different elements besides or with rye to make a heartier starter. Also, have you used beer with baking? I’m trying a mix of half water and half IPA beer when making Sour dough. So far I’ve had great results. Thanks for your time!
Hi William, It makes a great starter and also stabilises the bread when you bake with it. Flax has similar properties to xanthan gum when used in bread baking. So, it kind of acts as second gluten in a way that helps trap and evenly disperse the gas inside the loaf giving you a more even crumb. I really enjoy baking with beer too. Especially with dark beers and IPA.
Hi, thanks for an easy-to-follow guidance on sourdough starter! Could you tell us more how to “revive” the 200 g of the starter from the freezer to get it ready for baking? Thanks!
Maria, your welcome! Glad to help. The yeast will be a bit sleepy when it comes from the freezer. So, just feed once or twice and a little trick to jumpstart. Add 1 teaspoon of honey. Gives the yeast some easy food and you’ll be baking in no time!
Hi Charlé, I've started and followed your instructions and it's only day 2 and my sourdough starter has already doubled. I live in Perth and it's currently very hot and sometimes humid. Does it mean my starter will be ready before 7 days? What advice do you have? Do I keep going until I get to day 7?
I normally stick it in the fridge once it gets bubbly if the weather is hot. So you feed it. Let it get bubbly then stick it into the fridge until the next day. Repeat a few times and then ready to use.
When you bake rye bread with this sour
Do you bake with STEAM IN THE OVEN
Yes. There’s very few breads that go without steam. I even start burger buns in steamy oven for first 2 minutes.
hi! I'm planning on making this but wanted to ask. Wholemeal flour is basically the same as wheat flour? I googled it and it said it's interchangeable. Thanks for your help. 😛 Gonna buy the missing ingredients asap!
It is indeed. Whole meal is just less refined that white wheat flour.
Stumbled across your page in the states when looking for information on rye starter and I am thankful I did! This step by step guide is wonderful, so thank you so much for the content! My only question is - once the starter is well established, do you have to always feed it some ratio of rye flour in your weekly feedings if that’s how you started it? Or is it ok to feed it just organic all-purpose on occasion?
Sometimes I add a feeding of rye, the rest of the time just white flour. I feed once a week and add rye every other week. This is not a rule set in stone though.
Can you use only rye flour without any white flour
Yes, no probs. Just know that it will be a bit more active and have more amylase than a mixed or simple white sourdough. Also, the gluten will be much much weaker. Not a bad thing. Just means your bread will have a different character and you need to use less low gluten flour plus keep an eye on over-proofing.
Hello after the starter is made what recipe do I use for the actual bread bit? Is it the no knead rye sougherdough?
I live in the desert southwest. Adding equal amounts of water and flour makes a very stiff starter. Because our flour is so dry, I think I may need to add more water. What kind of consistency are we supposed to have for the starter? Should I add extra water, and if so, any idea how much?
Just add a touch more, won’t be criminal if it’s not 50/50 exactly. I’ve made starters by just eye balling it and no idea how much was in it. If it seems too dry. Simply add more water.
Hi can you recommend the best way to sterilise my jars, spoons and equipment? Can I just rinse them all in boiling water?
Sure you can.
I am at my 7th day with the starter
It’s looks bubbly and smells great.
Now I’m ready to bake your sourdough bread, the recipe asked for 90grams rye flour starter,
After I took 90 grams starter from my main starter , i accidentally fed my base starter instead of 45 grams mix flour and 45 grams water,
I fed with 90 grams water and 90 grams mix flour (rye and white)
Did i destroy it? or if I let it rest for 24 hours and tomorrow discard 90 grams and put in the refrigerator the main starter .
I hope you understand my issue to reply back
It will live and life will be good for you both.
I am on day 5 of the stater and it still is not rising although it smells good. Are there any tricks to getting it to rise?
What temp is it?
My house stays at 70F....I think that must be too cool for this starter, it went bad on me and I had to toss. I have redone the starter and kept it in a styrofoam cooler with warmed towels around and over it, it seems to be doing much better. Actually I have the pre-ferment in there now to work overnight and plan to make your Borodinsky rye bread tomorrow. I can't wait to try it!
My starter was bubbly on the second day, but smell is just awful, repelling. I keep feeding it (did it twice, today is the 3rd day), it rises, then falls, all bubbly, but the smell gets worse. Room temperature is average.
Should I keep on feeding it or is it ruined already?
If it smells repelling then throw it away. Something went wrong. It should have a healthy alcoholic beery, yeasty kinda fermenting smell but should not be off putting.
Hi,do you always seal glass jar tight after feeding it,day 2,3,4,5, etc? thanks
Not too tight, but close.
My sourdough starter looks great and I’m ready to bake bread. Once I take my 100g of starter out for the recipe, do I feed my starter 25g rye flour, 25g bread flour and 50g water, then put in fridge if I’m not making another? It seems I have a lot of starter and wasn’t sure if I should keep that much. Thank you for such an easy starter recipe to follow!
Yes that’s correct. You could also freeze part it if you only bake once in a while.
If I leave my starter out after day 7 and do not put it in the fridge, how much should I discard and feed on a daily basis?
Depends on many things. Best stored in fridge to avoid those variables. Could range from once in two days to twice daily. Temperature and microbes in the starter all play a role.
You mentioned malted rye flour requires a different recipe. Could you please post that recipe as malted rye flour is what I normally have in my pantry.
Thanks! Love your website!
675g WB bread flour
100g malted rye flour
40g cocoa powder
5g caraway seeds
5g coriander seeds
8g dry active yeast
This recipe is pretty easy and don’t require sourdough or a long ferment. Comes out pretty much the same. Also, in this recipe the coriander seeds and caraway are blended together in a grinder.
To make it you mix everything together for 8 minutes in mixer. Then proof once, deflate, shape, proof in molds and bake at 200C for 10 minutes then turn down to 170 for about 25 min or until the internal temp reads around 90C.