'Real' Sourdough Starter - Better Batter Gluten Free Flour

‘Real’ Sourdough Starter

A note: we get about three emails a week complaining that this is not ‘real’ sourdough because it starts with yeast. Yes – We agree… When we say ‘real’ – what we mean is […]

A note: we get about three emails a week complaining that this is not ‘real’ sourdough because it starts with yeast. Yes – We agree…

When we say ‘real’ – what we mean is that this sourdough starter can be kept alive and used in sourdough recipes – even slightly adjusted real gluteny ones. If you know gluten free you know this is as close to ‘real’ as it can get with gluten free. Gluten Free flours do NOT take well to the traditional process required to make actual real-real sourdough starter.

So please, please please understand what we mean when we say ‘real’ – it’s meant nicely, with a ton of love, and hours of labor to try and get you something acceptable. And if you have a method of making actual real sourdough starter with our flour that works consistently, and doesn’t require the first step to use yeast, please please share!!!



We get asked all the time if you can make sourdough bread with Better Batter Gluten Free Flour – the quick answer is yes. The long answer is… yes, if you feed your sourdough starter regularly. 🙂  Our sourdough starter will work anywhere sourdough starter is called for in the millions of recipes on the web, but we’re also going to start providing recipes for you here, because we love you, and that’s just how we roll. Please follow the instructions below for easy starter that will be ready to use in about 2-3 days.

This recipe can also be used to substitute anywhere yeast is called for – just sub in 1/4 c starter for every pack (or 2 tsp) of yeast in a recipe and continue as usual…

4 c room temperature water

2 c (8oz or 227g) Better Batter Gluten Free Flour

1 package active dry yeast

Combine all ingredients and place in a clean (preferably sterilized) glass gallon jar or very large glass bowl with lid. Please do not use a metal bowl (even stainless steel!) as this will affect the flavor of your starter and may be dangerous by leaching out heavy metals!

Your starter will be about the consistency of pancake batter – if it is too thick, add a little more water. The initial starter is thinner than it will eventually be, but it is important as the first step in the process to have this be thin.

Cover lightly with a lid and allow to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours – you want gas to be able to escape. You will now remove about 2 cups of the starter (you may use immediately in a bread recipe or other recipe, although it will not be very sour).

“Feed” your starter by adding:

1 c room temperature water

1 c Better Batter Gluten Free Flour

Allow to sit for an additional 24 hours.

At this point your starter should be very bubbly and smell something between yeasty and ‘winey’ – it may even smell of acetone. This is okay, and can be remedied by feeding every 12 hours instead of every 24 hours.

At this point you may begin using your starter, remembering to feed it at least every 24 hours. Alternatively you may put it, covered, in the fridge to keep it dormant, and then let it come up to room temperature and feed it before using.

You will always top your starter off (“feed” it) before using! Sometimes you will add equal parts water and Better batter – if it starts to get thicker than pancake batter you will switch the ratio to one part BB Flour and two parts water – the key is to keep this the texture of thick pancake batter!

Note: If your starter turns pink or gray, or develops spots of fuzzy mold on the surface, discard immediately!! This is a sign that the acid and bacterial balance in the starter has overwhelmed the yeast and you are in the danger zone for pathogens!! Don’t freak out, however,  if your starter smells like acetone, cheese, or wine/beer – these are all normal to sourdough starters and specific to your particular kitchen’s microenvironment.

Your sourdough will taste unique and distinct from every other one on earth – be proud of your artisinal product!!

25 Responses

  1. LaurieHanan

    I made this according to your recipe, and it stank. It was horrible. Regardless of the smell, I made bread with it, and the bread tasted fine. But I could not get the smell of the starter out of my mind, and it put me off eating the bread. So I finally bought some San Francisco sourdough starter online (cost $5.98 with shipping). I used it with Better Batter flour and the smell is delicious, sour and yeasty. I’ve kept it alive for several weeks now, and made several sourdough loaves using your recipe. I’m very happy with it.

    • Naomi

      sounds like the ambient yeast in your house was not good – every house has it’s own microclimate, so the natural yeast will have it’s own flavor. Sometimes NOT good. What a BRILLIANT idea to get some San Fran starter – you are one resourceful gal!!!!

  2. blanphere

    My started turned into a mad scientist experiment over night! I used a gallon jar, with a loose fitting lid. It blew the top off the lid and oozed out on to the counter! YIKES!

    Question is…can I still use what is left in the jar, or have I lost the essential good goo at the top? I hate to waste good stuff! It smells wonderful, and is light as air! I wanted to make French bread for breakfast tomorrow 🙁

    Any advice?

    • Naomi

      wow – you must have both active yeast and a warm environment! lol. Yes you can use what’s left.

    • TammyTrayer

      Blanphere – I had the same problem… I set it on the counter and walked away to return to it oozing ALL over the place… I even transferred it to a glass bowl and it just continued to grow… Was a little afraid to leave it unattended overnight!! 🙂

      I wondered if it had something to do with either our elevation or our heat…

      Can’t wait to make sourdough pizza tonight… Thanks Naomi for all you do!! Your recipes and products are amazing… I have been baking flaky pastries lately and LOVING it….


  3. Meran

    FYI, I had that very same starter in english muffins. No ill effects..that recipe had milk and a egg..
    So, I have no idea why that day I had a response! (posted so that others won’t avoid sourdough because of my earlier response)
    I think it may just have been what you said Naomi, the carbon dioxide.

    • Naomi

      funny how things work, isn’t it, meran? sometimes I get hives after eating something I SHOULD be okay with and then the next 4 times I’m fine and then BOOOM – I react. Food *sigh* can’t live with it… can’t live without it.

  4. Meran

    I have two different sourdough starters going at this time.. one is potato based, the other store bought yeast based.. both are over 1 month old.. and everyone I know calls the clear liquid on top ‘hooch’ for a reason 😀

    My questions are these:
    why are you not feeding or even starting with some small amount of sugar???


    why don’t we ever start with acidophilus or other good bugs when we’re putting it all together? I know it’s to collect the local yeast.. but wouldn’t that help, like the yeast we add does?

    ps. will be trying your waffles with the potato yeast since that is my largest amount..

    pps. also, I’ve noticed I’m having gastric upsets with sourdough starter! and it’s not ‘pink’ nor smelling bad at all

    • Naomi

      Good questions!
      1)I find that the simple starches in the flour mix make sugar a non-essential. 🙂
      2) I’m all for adding probiotics – I’ve done it! I have added raw apple cider vinegar to starters before as well as probiotic powder. Both have the effect of ‘hurrying up’ the fermentation 🙂 I think the reason most people don’t do it in a natural sourdough is that the bacteria would overwhelm the yeasts at the start. For a ‘cheater’ starter that uses yeast, I don’t find that it hurts – but I also don’t find it necessary 🙂

      ps Let me know how you like the waffles 🙂

      pps hrm – if you’re eating your sourdough warm out of the oven it may still be giving off carbon dioxide – this causes stomach upset in a lot of people and can be solved by allowing the bread to cool for a minimum of 20 minutes and really a recommended hour before eating…

      • Meran

        it was the lovely warm pancakes.. they tasted heavenly and were quite risen! (I adapted a recipe, didn’t use yours).. I reheated them the next day, and again, was upset.
        Of course, it’s beginning to be obvious I’m having more than the usual problems. gut wise. May have to get off the grains entirely, including rice and corn 🙁
        James is the Waffle Lover.. but he won’t be shy about if he likes it or not LOL.. we do add a rice malt (GF of course)

        • Naomi

          it could be grains – it could be dairy (I found out the hard way I’d developed a casein intolerance exactly this way!) – or eggs etc….

        • sharongraylac

          Hi Meran,
          I just read your note, and couldn’t resist chiming in… Do you by chance eat your pancakes with maple syrup or other sweet topping? Sometimes the sugar itself can upset some folk’s bellies, often making us think it’s a grain issue. Sugar can also make it difficult to digest otherwise nourishing foods. Just a thought… 🙂
          I hope you feel better, either way!

  5. CBzzz

    Uh-oh…. with the addition of a 20th century invention (packaged yeast), this is a Hybrid Sourdough recipe, not Real Sourdough. (Means a lot to purists)LOL

    Also, if the sourdough smells of acetone.. it definitely went bad and must be discarded. You are correct in that each person’s environment (wild yeastie beasties specific to their locale) will influence their own sourdough flavor, but acetone smell is a big indication of it going bad and isn’t a locale flavor or smell. Researching online the non-GF sourdoughs will explain that without getting into the long version here. (grin)

    Congrats on coming up with a Hybrid Sourdough Starter that works!….

    • Naomi

      HI, Chris!

      I’m so glad you popped in 🙂 nice to find another friend of real food~ 🙂

      I’ll do my best to address your points:

      1) Yes, you’re right – this IS a hybrid sourdough 🙂 No arguments there. This recipe was developed for ‘sourdough newbies’ – most of us who are purists know (darn tootin’!) how to develop and create a sourdough starter with water, flour, warmth and love – this can be done with Better Batter, but it’s a bit finicky, and because that’s really the deep end of the pool best left to committed experts, I’d decided to offer a cheater version.

      2) Acetone…. :-0 😉 we’d have to agree to disagree with one another on this count – there are tons and tons and tons of opinions out there by a large variety of persons who are indeed very dedicated experts. But In my opinion a lot of opinion are repeats of what people have learned from other people and believe to be true without basis. Because you’re a purist, and because you strike me as the type of person to pursue truth and excellence at all costs, I’ll give my opinion, too 🙂 and add to the cacophany

      My education in food science and subsequent/current readings of laboratory controlled studies having to do with spontaneous (ie: ‘real’) sourdough indicate that the natural byproduct of lactic acid fermentation once it reaches anaerobic fermentation, are (besides, lactobacillus species)alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters
      and sulphur.

      The amount of volatile esters in a sourdough is essentially determined by the strain of baccillus and whether it’s a monoculture or a mix of bacilli – “Buggies’ like Clostridium in particular will produce aromatic esters including lots of ‘hyde’s and ‘hol’s and ‘ates’ – things like butyric acid, acetic acid, H2 and CO2, butanol, acetone and ethanol – these volatile compounds contribute to the alcohol or acetone smell. These are particularly prevalent in long fermentation (24-48 hours) which is why I suggest dropping the feeding to 12 hours if the reader desires to reduce or eliminate the smell. In european journals, there are recommendations for how to actually increase the volatile compounds, which are actually considered flavor enhancers! Once again, to drive home my point – the smell and presence of these compounds does not indicate danger. <3

      A side note: Butyric acid – which in particular through a long and complicated interaction with other compounds, contributes largely to this smell – is a huge component of other fermented foods, like cheese and cultured butter. This is also why a subset of 'smells' encountered may remind people of cheese…. another thing not to be worried about.

      Almost universally that I've been able to find in recognized scientific journals (particularly in europe) the presence of these volatile compounds is considered safe – even encouraged! It's only on the homefront within message boards and communities where the myth of 'danger danger' over the smell of acetone or cheese in one's starter is encountered.

      • CBzzz

        Can’t let this go. Anything that starts with a modern day convenience like yeast in packets is NOT authentic real sourdough. It is a hybrid. No matter the names of the buggies, whatever. Nice is nice, real is real and this is a HYBRID sourdough starter. It is not real. It is possible to make sourdough starter with gluten free flours. I’ve done it! One does not need a modern convenience. LOL

        • Naomi

          Yes, as a great grandaughter of a guild-master European baker, and the daughter and grandaughter of Exaecutive chefs, I know what a real-real sourdough starter is. 🙂 IO made one for years and years when I was gluteny.

          FWIW, When we (we meaning I in this case) say ‘real’ – what we mean is that this sourdough starter can be kept alive and used in sourdough recipes – even slightly adjusted real gluteny ones.

          If you know gluten free you know this is as close to ‘real’ as it can get with gluten free. This sourdough starter is ‘real’ for gluten free, just like better batter is ‘real’ for gluten free flour – meaning it works properly, even though it’s not the same thing.

          In my experience, gluten Free flours do NOT take well to the traditional process required to make actual real-real sourdough starter and will NOT produce a natural starter that works in real sourdough recipes, no matter how hard you try. And trust me – in developing this recipe, I tried. Hundreds of pounds of flour tried. The makeup of the gf nutrients allowed all the ‘baddies’ to grow before the goodies took hold. Each and every time. I finally developed this recipe in response to that.

          However – if YOU have successfully done so, I would not only welcome your advice, I would post it for the world to see <3 I do love me my real-real sourdough.

          🙂 I know your comment was meant kindly. LOL does a word of good.

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