How to Make a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter From Scratch

by Kaitlynn Fenley

This homemade gluten-free sourdough starter recipe makes it easy to make gluten-free sourdough bread. You only need a few ingredients and one week to make your gluten free sourdough starter from scratch.

Does Sourdough Starter Work With Gluten-Free Flour?

Yes! You can make a sourdough starter from scratch or adjust your regular starter to gluten-free flour feedings. Note that changing a starter fed with gluten-containing flour works well, but it won’t be safe for people with celiac disease.

The main differences you can expect with a gluten-free starter vs. a regular starter:

  • The starter will be thicker and chunkier after feeding & fermentation. Gluten-free flour is not as smooth.
  • There are more funky smells when first getting a GF starter going. Just keep discarding and feeding in the beginning; the smells get better.
  • There is almost always a semi-thick dry layer on top of the starter after feeding & fermentation. It’s just a dried-out layer, and you can scoop it off.

Sourdough Starter for Gluten-Free Bread

When it comes to sourdough, everyone likes to focus on the wild yeasts, but a sourdough starter isn’t all yeast; it’s a mix of yeasts, lactic acid-producing bacteria, and acetic acid-producing bacteria.

In wild sourdough starters, yeasts ferment wheat carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Then, bacteria in the sourdough starter metabolize the alcohols into acetaldehyde and then into acetic acid… making it sour. 

There are many ways to feed a sourdough starter, and no one way is “correct.” Sourdough starters can be thicker and drier or thinner and more hydrated. You can also use almost any type of flour to feed a sourdough starter, but here we will focus on feeding a starter gluten-free flour.

Microbes in Gluten Free Sourdough Starters

Many different types of microbial metabolism and fermentation happen simultaneously in starters.  Yeasts make bubbles and visible expansion in a starter, but bacteria make all the flavor. When more good bacteria are present, they can help boost yeast populations by feeding them usable acids and eliminating waste products (alcohol).

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “discard and feed.” The point of discarding and feeding your sourdough starter is to replenish the microbe’s food source so that the accumulation of waste products does not kill the yeast and bacteria.

Ingredients and Tools to Make a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

  1. Flour: I’ve used various mixes of gluten-free flours, and there are a few that I really enjoy. *See GF sourdough starter flour mix discussed in the section below.*
  2. Water: Filtered water is best, but you can use tap water if you have good tap water. I use tap water that I filter through our water filter pitcher.
  3. Starter Cultures: To ensure a bubbly starter immediately, I suggest using Cultures For Health Gluten Free Sourdough Starter cultures. You do not have to use starter cultures, but they help significantly with GF starters.
  4. Glass Jars and Cloth: I like using a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar with a cloth cover to grow my sourdough starter. The mixture needs access to air so a loose lid or cloth lid works best. I usually secure a cloth lid to the jar with a rubber band. I use two jars and switch back and forth between feedings, so I always have a freshly clean jar.
  5. Kitchen Scale: If you frequent our blog, you should already have one of these on hand. If you’re going to experiment with different flours for your GF sourdough starter, you should use your kitchen scale for measurements. Some flours are denser, so you must weigh them for recipe consistency.
  6. Environment: Temperature is critical when growing healthy yeast and bacteria in a sourdough starter. Your kitchen temperature should be between 68-78 degrees F, and it can be warmer or cooler, but the rise time will be affected. Warmer temperatures make it rise faster and cooler temperatures make it rise slower.

How to Feed a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter (thinner, hydrated)

When starting your sourdough starter, it’s best to start with a thinner starter in the first seven days. You may not see your starter hold a rise for long, but it’s better for getting the microbes established.

The best ratio to get things going with a gluten-free starter is 1:2. For example, that would be 50 grams of gluten-free, 100 grams of water, and 50 grams of established starter.

Gluten-free sourdough starters fed 1:2 flour to water usually rise and bubble up in 4-6 hours, then fall back down to look flat. Some may form a watery layer on top.

How to Feed a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter (thicker, dry, that holds a rise)

So many people email me saying, “I fed my starter 8 hours ago, and I see bubbles, but it didn’t rise.”

It most likely did rise; it just fell back down.

If you want to feed your starter before bed or work and see it 8 hours later, still risen and bubbly, you need to make a thicker starter. If you want to snap pics of your starter and expect it to look like the ones on Pinterest and Instagram, you need to make it thicker.

You can feed a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of flour to water for a thick starter. So, for example, for a very thick starter, that would be 100 grams of gluten-free flour, 50 grams of water, and 50 grams of established starter. It will be very thick and may dry out a little on the top, but you can see it hold a rise.

three small jars of gluten free sourdough starter covered with beige cloth lids.

The Best Gluten-Free Flour for GF Sourdough Starters

There are two GF flour blends I recommend for this starter recipe:

  1. A mix of Bob’s Red Mill 1:1, organic corn masa, and sorghum (see recipe right below this)
  2. An even mix of brown rice flour and buckwheat

This sourdough starter recipe does work well with feeding 100% Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour. I suggest a brown rice flour and buckwheat mix if you have a corn allergy.

My favorite mix of gluten-free flour for feeding my GF sourdough starter is a simple mix of:

I usually make this mix, then store it in an air-tight glass container for future sourdough starter feedings.

NOTE: Cornmeal is not the same thing as corn masa. Masa is a finer grind made from corn that has gone through nixtamalization (a process where you soak corn with lime before grinding). Masa is used for dough, while cornmeal is more like polenta, and you must cook it for it to absorb water. You must use corn masa in this recipe, not cornmeal.  

gluten-free sourdough starter in a round glass jar, covered with a beige cloth and rubber band.

Can Gluten-Free Flour Rise with Yeast?

Yes, gluten-free flour can rise with packaged yeast or wild yeast from a sourdough starter. And with the right bread recipe, the rise is beautiful!

Here’s the thing about gluten-free flour rising with yeast, though: you MUST shape the bread before allowing it to rise. This is NOTHING like glutinous bread dough. There is no punch-down, no stretching or folding, no pre-shaping then shaping, and only one rise.

I chose the loaf-pan method for our gluten-free sourdough bread recipe, and it allows for higher water content and no need to try and shape something that includes no gluten to hold everything together.

How to Discard and Feed Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

You discard and feed a gluten-free sourdough starter like a regular one. See the section above on the best gluten-free flour for sourdough starters.

The feeding ratio is adjustable in these instructions. I suggest following the 1:2 ratio for the first 7 days; then you can adjust to a thicker starter that holds a “photo-worthy” rise longer.

Step One (Day 1)

  1. In a bowl, combine:
    • 50 grams of gluten-free flour
    • 100 grams of water
  2. Use a spatula to combine the flour and water. Stir until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Scoop the mixture into a clean glass jar.
  4. Loosely set a lid on the top or secure a breathable covering to the jar (i.e. cheesecloth) and leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.

Step Two (Day 2)

  1. Stir sourdough starter mixture.
  2. Add in 50 grams of organic, gluten-free flour
  3. Add 100 grams of water.
  4. Mix and scrape down the sides. Replace a breathable lid. Leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.

Step Three (Days 3-7, Feeding and Discarding)

  1. to a clean bowl, add the following:
    • 50 grams sourdough starter mixture from day 2
    • 50 grams of organic, gluten-free flour
    • 100 grams of water
  2. Stir until evenly combined, and scoop into a clean jar.
  3. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 24 hours.
  4. Discard any remaining original starter mixture. Or you can find fun ways to use sourdough starter discard, like this muffin recipe.
  5. Repeat every 24 hours through day 7.

Step Four (The Night Before Baking)

You can feed your starter however much you need to here. If you plan to bake five loaves, for instance, you can feed your entire starter 150 grams of flour and 300 grams of water in a large bowl and cover it.

  1. 8 hours before starting a baking recipe, in a bowl, combine:
    • All of the starter
    • 100 grams of organic, gluten-free flour
    • 200 grams of water
  2. Stir until evenly combined.
  3. Scoop the starter into a large jar.
  4. Place the breathable lid on the jar and allow it to ferment for 12 hours.

Day 8 (Baking Day)

  1. If your starter is bubbly and smells sour, it’s ready to use.

How to Make Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread

CLICK HERE for the best and easiest gluten-free sourdough bread recipe

I developed our gluten-free sourdough bread recipe with four priorities in mind. I wanted this bread to be:

  1. Soft but sturdy and easy to cut
  2. Full of sourdough flavor
  3. Extremely easy to make with minimal ingredients
  4. No eggs so that it is more food allergen accommodating

I can say that I nailed it. Our gluten-free sourdough bread recipe checks off all my standards. It is delicious, soft yet able to hold together, egg-free, and straightforward.

Seriously, this gluten-free sourdough comes together in just 5 minutes. Then, let it ferment and rise before baking.

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter Problems

With gluten-free sourdough starters, the troubleshooting is about the same as regular sourdough starters.

If you encounter any issues with your gluten-free sourdough starter, check out this article: The Most Common Sourdough Starter Problems and How to Fix Them.

Print

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter From Scratch

It’s easy to make gluten-free sourdough bread with this homemade gluten-free sourdough starter recipe. You only need a few ingredients and one week to make your gluten free sourdough starter from scratch.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Sourdough
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. The feeding ratio is adjustable in these instructions. I suggest following the 1:2 ratio for the first 7 days; then you can adjust to a thicker starter that holds a “photo-worthy” rise longer. Please read all of the recipe notes.
  2. Step One (Day 1) In a bowl combine 50 grams of organic gluten-free flour, Cultures For Health Gluten Free Sourdough Starter cultures (optional) and 100 grams of water.
  3. Use a spatula to combine the flour and water. Stir until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Scoop the mixture into a clean glass jar.
  5. Loosely set a lid on the top or secure a breathable covering to the jar (i.e. cheesecloth) and leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.
  6. Step Two (Day 2) Stir sourdough starter mixture.
  7. Add 50 grams of gluten-free flour and 100 grams of water to the starter mixture in the jar. Mix and scrape down the sides.
  8. Replace a breathable lid. Leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.
  9. Step Three (Days 3-7, Feeding and Discarding) to a clean bowl add 50 grams sourdough starter mixture from the previous day, 50 grams of gluten-free flour and 100 grams of water
  10. Stir until evenly combined, and scoop into a clean jar.
  11. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 24 hours.
  12. Discard any remaining original starter mixture. Or you can find fun ways to use sourdough starter discard.
  13. Repeat steps 9 through 12 every 24 hours until you reach 7 days.
  14. Step Four (The Night Before Baking) You can adjust the amounts here and feed your starter however much you need to. 8 hours before starting a baking recipe, in a bowl combine: All of the starter, 100 grams of organic gluten free flour, and 200 grams of water and stir until evenly combined.
  15. Scoop the starter into a large jar with plenty of room for tripling in size. Place the breathable lid on the jar allow it to ferment for 8-12 hours.
  16. Put 50 grams GF starter aside and continue feeding as in days 3-7 for your next baking day. Use the rest for your bread recipe. Click Here for my gluten-free sourdough bread recipe.

Notes

  • I use a mix of 1:1 gluten-free flour, corn masa flour, and sorghum flour. Please see the body of this blog post for details on the flour blend ratio I use to feed my GF sourdough starter.
  • It is best to use organic flour. If you are using my flour mix recipe from the body of this blog post, make sure you are using corn masa in the flour blend.
  • This recipe was tested using two different flour mixes. If you use a different type of flour, your starter will be a different consistency and texture. This sourdough starter recipe does work well with feeding 100% Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour. You can also use a mix of buckwheat and brown rice flour if you have a corn allergy.
  • You do not have to use Cultures For Health Gluten Free Sourdough Starter cultures, but it helps significantly, especially if this is your first time trying a GF sourdough starter.
  • The type of flour you use will influence the flour-to-water ratio you should use. Whole grain flour works well with a 1:2 flour-to-water ratio. White flour works best with a 1:1 and 2:1 flour-to-water ratio. 
  • You may notice some early watery separation. This is normal and means you need to adjust the flour-to-water ratio. Add more flour to your feedings to thicken the starter if it is watery.

Keywords: sourdough, gluten free, bread, starter

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48 comments

Julie Brown September 30, 2021 - 9:27 pm

This looks amazing! However, I live in New Zealand therefore cannot get Bob’s Red Mill flour. What exactly is that, please, so I can try to get the equivalent?
Thank you! Julie

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 1, 2021 - 8:11 am

Hey Julie, the ingredients in Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour blend are: Sweet White Rice Flour, Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Whole Grain Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Flour, Xanthan Gum

Reply
Jennell November 3, 2022 - 10:37 am

Hi! I have a sensitivity to gluten, corn, white potatoes, dairy, and eggs. Is there a specific flour mixture that you recommend I use to make this recipe?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley November 3, 2022 - 3:13 pm

Hi! This starter recipe also works well with brown rice flour and buckwheat

Reply
Ashlee October 31, 2021 - 8:01 am

I started the process last night and am so excited to see and taste the results! Is there a way to keep the process going so I don’t have to start from scratch each time? Or is it best to make a new batch each time?

Thanks!

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Kaitlynn Fenley November 1, 2021 - 11:20 am

yes! you can keep the process going just as you would for a regular sourdough starter. Check step 12 in the recipe. When you bake with your starter, just keep 50 grams set aside so you can continue to discard and feed daily. 🙂

Reply
Jenna December 25, 2021 - 9:22 pm

Thanks! Just to clarify, we would need to feed daily after the first batch, yes? Can it be left for a few days and then fed or stored in the fridge?

Any suggestions on what to use the discard in?

I have all the ingredients and I’m ready to finally do this!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley December 26, 2021 - 8:41 am

Yes, it needs to be fed every 24 hours. No, you cannot leave it for a few days without feeding it at room temperature. If you want to “hibernate it” in the fridge, feed it, cover it with a solid lid, then store it in the fridge for up to two weeks before feeding again. When you’re ready to use it again, just take it out of the fridge and discard/feed every 24 hours.

Reply
Laurie January 24, 2022 - 6:40 pm

Hey, have an issue with buckwheat starter, the top always turns pink I assume it’s a yeast? even when I sterilise my equipement and use filtered water, this contamination always ends up happening. I can see that some of your starters are Pink. Just wondering if you may have run into the issue and if it is a problem, really.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 27, 2022 - 7:45 am

Might be the type of buckwheat you are using. Some have a reddish hue. I’d have to see a picture to tell. My starters are not pink, they are purplish blue because they are made from blue corn masa.

Blake Spencer January 9, 2022 - 11:31 am

I have a very old and very hardy sourdough mother and I started feeding some of it with brown rice flour. It’s bubbly and happy. It is possible to covert this starter to gluten free if I keep feeding it brown rice flour? Do you know how long it will take?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 10, 2022 - 2:33 pm

Yes, you can transition it. It will never be 100% gluten-free, in the food safety meaning of “gluten-free”… But after about 10 feedings there will only be trace amounts of wheat.

Reply
Rebecca October 17, 2022 - 12:15 pm

Can I collect my discarded sourdough starter for several days before using it in one of your recipes that uses sourdough starter discard?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 17, 2022 - 6:52 pm

yes! just keep it in the fridge until you have enough

Reply
Melinda February 27, 2022 - 8:48 pm

Just started your recipe! I’m so excited! I’m on day 3 though and I noticed that the starter has a pink hue. I used the exact brand of flours list….is this normal??!! Lol

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley March 1, 2022 - 2:24 pm

Did you use the blue corn masa? or just the 1:1 flour. If you used the blue corn masa, it will look light purplish pink.

Reply
Melinda March 2, 2022 - 10:21 am

Ah ok! Ya I used your flour mix recipe that you shared in the blog. It’s hard to tell if it’s more pink that blue/purple hahaha. This might be a weird question but does this recipe create a different type of sourdough smell? If it was the bad bacteria kinda of pink would the smell be bad as well? I can’t really tell if the smell it’s giving off is normal or not 😉
Thank you!

Reply
Sarah May 19, 2022 - 8:43 pm

Is it ok to use regular yellow corn masa? I cannot find the blue available.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley May 20, 2022 - 3:18 pm

yes, absolutely!

Reply
Kate June 6, 2022 - 2:21 pm

Is there any way to speed up the process ? What if I’m a few hours late on some of the 24hr feedings? I work 12 hrs so one day I may be a little later/earlier on the feedings. Is that okay?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 6, 2022 - 2:26 pm

Sure! add in a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar or kombucha or fermented vegetable brine to speed it up. Just feed it once a day, it doesn’t have to be exact on the hour.

Reply
Kate June 7, 2022 - 10:30 am

Thank you!! I also don’t have the sorghum or blue corn flour. Just King Arthur’s 1:1 GF. I hope it comes out the same. :/ is there any regular bread flour you suggest with lower gluten content? Or just stick with the GF mixes you mention here??

Reply
Morgan July 20, 2022 - 5:50 am

Hello! I am making you GF sour dough and can’t wait to try it! On day 3-7 do I get a new jar each day? I’m confused what to do those days.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley July 20, 2022 - 9:37 am

yes, you add everything to a clean jar each day.

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Morgan July 20, 2022 - 5:16 pm

Do I continue to also feed the starter? I am so confused. Sorry!

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Crystal October 22, 2022 - 8:11 am

I do not have the corn masa is there anything I can substitute for it?
TIA
Crystal

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Kaitlynn Fenley October 24, 2022 - 10:13 am

This sourdough starter recipe does work well with feeding 100% Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour.

Reply
Stephanie December 3, 2022 - 7:54 pm

Can this starter be made with something other than corn masa? My husband has a corn intolerance that gives him gut issues. Do you think in the days of fermentation that there would be just trace amounts of corn left? (He feels ok if corn products are listed after the “contains 2% or less of:” on an ingredient list.)

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley December 4, 2022 - 8:07 am

If your husband has a corn intolerance, he shouldn’t eat anything with corn. You can also make this starter with buckwheat and brown rice flour.

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Jenna December 10, 2022 - 4:31 pm

How much will this make? If I want to make several loaves at a time, should I keep the discarded dough in the fridge to have enough?

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Kaitlynn Fenley December 11, 2022 - 7:40 am

If you want to bake a lot, feed it more the night before but in the same water to flour ratio. You don’t use discard in bread recipes.

Reply
Cassandra January 31, 2023 - 9:02 am

I don’t have sorghum flour. Is there anything you would recommend I use in its place?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 31, 2023 - 4:39 pm

Unfortunately, I haven’t tested any other GF flours, so I’m not sure what would work.

Reply
Norah February 7, 2023 - 4:21 pm

I have a probably dumb question. I’m super sensitive to smells so, I’m relying on my husband to rate the smell of the starter. For me, it smells awful and makes me gag. He just says it smells cheesy. I don’t so much smell vinegar, myself. Just overwhelming sourness. Is that normal? The funk is INTENSE

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley February 8, 2023 - 8:33 am

haha! Yes, gluten-free starters can be funky and funkier than wheat starters. Especially if you ever forget to feed it. It should smell sour, and cheesy smells are usual.

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Ashleigh March 15, 2023 - 4:11 am

Thank you! I did a 1:1 over the weekend and had no rise at all. Looks like peach fuzz mold was growing on top. It was a mason jar with cheesecloth in my kitchen…
I used the King Arthur’s 1:1 flour and bottled water.
What gives?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley March 15, 2023 - 3:48 pm

It might be the flour you are using. We’re you discarding and feeding it every 24 hours, or leaving it longer than that?

Reply
Brooke May 16, 2023 - 10:04 am

Thanks! Very well explained! Just how to keep the starter on hand for later use. I know people have it on hand and just add flour to it and bake over and over. It takes like more than a week to make started so I was confused here. Thanks again!

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Kaitlynn Fenley May 16, 2023 - 3:32 pm

It only takes a week to make the starter. You can keep it in the fridge when you’re not using it, then take it out and discard and feed again when you want to use it.

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Alesandra July 19, 2023 - 11:03 am

I am on day three of my fermentation of my gluten-free sourdough starter. There is water in the middle, a thick substance on the bottom and then on the top is a brownish blue green white fixed substance and it smells absolutely horrid. It says on day three through seven to take 50 mg of the starter out in Mr. flour and water and put in a new clean jar. But I’m not sure which of the three layers to take out. what is considered the starter?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley July 19, 2023 - 11:08 am

Not sure why it’s in layers and smells horrid. Did you tend to it on day 2? And what flour are you using?

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SR July 22, 2023 - 6:09 pm

Hi! Can I use King Arthur measure for measure gluten free flour mix for sourdough? If so how much do I use?

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Donna Miller July 27, 2023 - 7:48 am

You said this is not for celiacs. I am celiac. I use park flour because it has no grains. I’m allergic to rice and oats as well. Do you think the paleo flour will work as a substitute?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley July 27, 2023 - 8:07 am

I didn’t say that. The only thing I mentioned about celiac is that changing a starter fed with gluten-containing flour works well, but it won’t be safe for people with celiac disease.

Reply
Andrea September 9, 2023 - 11:27 am

I have tried this several times and I am confused by the directions. Step 1 is gluten free flour mix but all the other steps call for gluten free flour. It it correct that the mix you listed is only used on step 1?
Thanks

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Kaitlynn Fenley September 9, 2023 - 12:34 pm

The gluten free flour mix and gluten free flour are the same thing.

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Mary September 10, 2023 - 9:21 pm

My husband has Celiac disease and cross reacts to corn which has a component with a similar structure to gluten. This is a common cross reaction from what he has told me. I would love to see a starter I could make that does not use corn!

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Kaitlynn Fenley September 11, 2023 - 8:56 am

Thanks for this info! You do not have to use corn masa in this recipe, it’s just the GF flour blend I recommend. You can use an even blend of brown rice flour and buckwheat flour with good results.

Reply