Five Tasty Ways to Use Discarded Sourdough Starter

If you, like me, have been sucked into the sourdough bread craze and are nurturing a starter on your kitchen counter or in the back of your fridge, you probably hate tossing the discard — even though you know it’s important to keep your bread baby manageable.

By dumping that discard down the drain, you’re both sending dollars down with it and likely gumming up your sink disposal. (And forget tossing it into the trash — after a few days, the smell will take over your kitchen.)

Sharing it with friends who want to cultivate their own batch is typically option No. 1, but their enthusiasm will run out way before your discard does. Luckily, you have more delicious options to choose.

If you’re the sort who likes to play in the kitchen and experiment with recipes, Cultures for Health (my go-to site for learning to make any fermented or cultured foods) has a few suggestions. A recipe generally works well using discarded sourdough, they say, when it meets the following:

  • The hydration called for in the recipe matches that of the starter;
  • Sourdough starter is included for flavor and sourness, and not for fermenting the grains or for leavening;
  • No leavening agent is required.

As much as I love to bake, I still prefer to follow someone else’s recipe, so I’ve gathered five here to help you put that gloppy leftover mixture to good use.

In this article

    Pancakes or Waffles

    Google sourdough pancakes and the results are almost overwhelming. But this one-bowl recipe by Tastes of Lizzy T might make you forget about ever making bread out of your starter again.

    I found, just as Lizzy says in her post, that they were “soft … fluffy … just barely sweet.” And for me, the sourdough flavor was a perfect complement to pure maple syrup, so make sure you’ve got some of that on hand too. (Sourdough waffles are also pretty common. I don’t have a waffle iron so I haven’t tried them at home, but even the folks at Saveur magazine say sourdough produces some of the “lightest, crispiest waffles they’ve ever eaten.”)

    Banana Bread

    When I began my search for discard recipes, the first one I came across was for this sourdough banana bread by Cultures for Health. I happened to have two overripe bananas and a cup of discard on hand and thought I’d give it a shot.

    This particular recipe intrigued me because I like my banana bread heavy on banana taste and light on any other added spices or flavors. It was easy to prep and baked up like a dream. While it was a little tangy for my taste (which may just have to do with my particular starter), my husband really enjoyed it, and I would definitely bake it again.

    Soft Pretzels

    I’m a sucker for a soft vendor-style pretzel, and frozen ones don’t quite cut it, so this King Arthur Flour recipe has been sitting on my to-attempt list for a while. One of the benefits of this recipe is that you can use your fridge-starter cold, versus some recipes that call for feeding the starter, bringing it to room temperature, and/or resting it on the counter overnight before use. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples, but you’ll need to pick up powdered milk and coarse pretzel salt.

    Pizza Crust

    Homemade pizza really is the best. When it comes to adding in sourdough to the crust, it can be used simply to add flavor, or to help the dough rise. I’m leaning toward ease (and therefore flavor) here, and sharing this Genius Kitchen recipe, which requires just a short 30-minute rest after you’ve mixed it up.

    One thing to note: Many of the discard-based recipes out there call for one cup of excess starter. This one needs 1½ cups. If you don’t have enough from one feeding cycle, you can collect and store discard in the fridge separately from your main starter until you have enough. Do know that the longer you keep it this way, the more sour the batter will be.


    They sound fancy, and you could serve them with afternoon tea, but more likely this British staple will just take the place of your toast or English muffins at breakfast. I’m a big fan of Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini website, and what’s particularly great about this crumpet recipe is that she also offers up a suggestion for hacking DIY crumpet rings out of empty tuna cans. Once you’ve got those, all you need is excess starter, sugar, salt, baking soda, vegetable oil, and some options for toppings (apple butter, almond butter, and marmalade are some of my favorites).

    If you’re not ready to take on a whole recipe, here are two more pretty easy ways to do something productive with your discard:

    • Compost it: While it’s not necessarily the most exciting option, it’s worth knowing that, yes, you can compost discard. The folks over at King Arthur Flour say the simple mixture of flour, water and microbes is a great accelerant, and can be stirred right into your bin. (Feel free to whisk some cold water into it to thin the consistency a little if you want to make adding it into your compost easier.)
    • Make a loaf of bread — in a bread machine: When I don’t have time to commit to baking up a gorgeous boule, but still want some sourdough bread for the week, I pull out my bread machine. It feels a bit like cheating, because machine recipes call for extra yeast, and there’s very little work involved on my part, but it’s still dang tasty. If you own a bread machine, make sure it either has a sourdough or European setting, or alterable cycle programming. It’s also worth noting that bread machines can help cut down the hands-on time for standard loaves. Thanks to advice from my starter-baby momma, JL Fields at JL Goes Vegan — who regularly posts lust-worthy photos of her sourdough loaves on social media — I use my machine to mix and knead my dough, before transferring to a bowl for the rise period.

    Got any favorite recipes for your sourdough discard? Share them in the comments!

    Kirsten Akens

    Contributor for The Simple Dollar

    Kirsten Akens is an award-winning journalist and editor based in Colorado Springs, Colo. In addition to her work for the The Simple Dollar, her bylines can be found in a variety of online and print publications, including O – the Oprah Magazine, People, and Lifehacker.