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How to Dry Sourdough Starter

I going to show you how to dry sourdough starter. Why? Because drying is the best way to preserve your sourdough starter for the long term.

an image of a jar full of dried sourdough starter chips

So you’ve jumped on the sourdough bandwagon, YAY! It’s so much fun, isn’t it?

But, there are times when real life interferes and you may not be able to bake for quite a while. Or maybe you want to share your starter with a friend who lives far away. Or maybe you just really hate to discard that discard.

The solution is this incredibly easy-to-do process for drying your starter. Once the starter is completely dried, your hard-won wild yeast goes dormant. The dried starter chips can then be stored indefinitely.

You can also pack some chips into a small envelope and mail them to a friend. I mailed some to my daughter who lives 3000 miles away. It’s a nice way to share from afar.

two photos showing fed and unfed sourdough starter ready for drying on a sheet pan.
I dried both a sourdough discard (left) and recently fed starter (right). Both dried well and were easy to revive. The discard did need an extra feeding before it was active enough to bake with.

FAQs about drying sourdough starter and preserving sourdough starter:

Can I dry sourdough discard or does the starter need to be fed?

I dried both a recently fed starter and sourdough discard which hadn’t been fed in over a week. I was able to revive both, but the dried sourdough discard did need an extra feeding before it was ready to use.

Can I use the oven to dehydrate sourdough starter?

Yes, but don’t turn on the heat. Use the convection fan without heat or just leave the tray in the cool oven with the oven light on.

Can I use a food dehydrator to preserve sourdough starter?

Yes. I used my dehydrator on the lowest temperature setting (90°F). It took about 8 hours for two trays of starter to dry.

Can I just leave the starter out in the kitchen to dry it?

Yes, it may take a bit longer but just leave it out at room temperature until it is completely dry and brittle. The time will vary based on the ambient humidity in your kitchen.

How long does dried starter keep?

Indefinitely.

How do I use dehydrated starter?

Add water and flour and wait for it to come back to life. Follow the instructions listed below. Also, you can grind the sourdough starter into a power which can be stored to rehydrate later or can be used directly in certain recipes.

a jar of dried sourdough starter chips behind a container of revived starter

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dried starter chips spilled from a jar

How to Dry Sourdough Starter

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 5 minutes
Drying Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 10 minutes
Difficulty: easy

Drying is the best way to preserve your sourdough starter for the long term.

Tools

  • Silicone Baking Mat or Parchment paper
  • Half sheet pan
  • Small spatula

Instructions

To dry the starter:

  1. Line the sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. The silicone mat works best so use it if you have one.
  2. Pour the starter onto the sheet pan and spread it out to a thin, even layer.
  3. Place the pan in a cool, dry place, uncovered. I put mine into the oven with the convection fan on and no heat. Alternately, if you have a food dehydrator you can use that on the lowest temperature.show a food dehydrator with a tray of sourdough starter inside
  4. After 18-24 hours check the starter. It should peel off the mat. If underneath the starter is still moist you can peel it off, flip over the pieces and leave them to continue drying. If using a food dehydrator check after 6-8 hours.
  5. The starter is ready when it is completely dry and crisp. The texture should be like a potato chip which snaps when broken into pieces. You should have half the weight that you started with. If you started with 12 oz of starter you will get 6 oz of dried starter. broken chips of dried sourdough starter on a silicone lined baking sheet
  6. Break the starter into chips and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
  7. The dried starter will keep indefinitely. The dried starter chips can be ground into a powder.

To revive the dried starter: (yield 9 oz of starter)

  1. Place 1/2 oz (14g) of starter chips or powder in a plastic or glass container. Pour 1 oz (28g) of warm water over the chips and stir to cover the chips with water. a plastic container with dried sourdough starter chips covered with water
  2. Cover the container and set it aside until all the chips have melted into the water. This usually takes about 3-4 hours. The starter will not look active at this point.
  3. Add another 1/2 oz (14g) of warm water and 1 oz (28g) of unbleached flour to the starter. Stir to combine. Cover and set aside for 4-6 hours. Now you should begin to see activity in the starter. a plastic container with rehydrated sourdough starter and flour being mixed in
  4. Add 3 oz (84g) of warm water and 3 oz (84g) of unbleached flour to the starter. Stir to combine. Cover and set aside for 3-4 hours or until the starter has doubled in size and looks quite active. sourdough starter in a plastic container with mark showing how much it has risen
  5. If after 4-6 hours the starter still seems sluggish, discard all but 3 oz of the starter and do one more feeding.
  6. Use in your recipe as needed.
  7. The amounts listed can be multiplied out to yield more starter.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Frances

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

Hi! Just embarking on a sourdough voyage for the first time. I'm making my first starter ever today and was wondering- would the discards made in the process of starting a starting be viable for drying and saving? Or is this only after you've got a good starter going? I'd love to waste as little as possible! Thanks!

Eileen Gray

Friday 4th of February 2022

No. Those discards shouldn't be used since the growing starter goes through some pretty funky stages. If you're using my method for creating a starter there isn't a tremendous amount of discard, especially during the first few days. You can also make and maintain a smaller starter for less discard overall. Have fun on your sourdough journey!

Kaytee

Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

My starter has been drying for 3 days now and is starting to turn grey. Is that normal? Or is it mould? :/

Eileen Gray

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

I've had this question before. If you read through the comments you'll see this response to Danielle. "...when I dried mine the top and bottom sides were different colors. The top got a kind of grayish/beige color and the underside was whiter. I’d be surprised if it would grow mold within 18 hours. Were you drying active starter or a more dormant discard? Discard can become grayish if it’s been unfed. Are there any off odors or does it just smell fermented? My first suggestion would be to let the underside finish drying and see what it looks like. I dried one of my trays at room temp for several days and didn’t get any mold at all. In the end, if you’re still nervous maybe you can just break off the discolored pieces and use the rest?"

KB

Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

What if I also use rye flour in my starter and not just unbleached?

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

I often do a feeding with rye flour when I'm making rye bread or bagels. It's no problem at all

Impatient_Teacher

Saturday 7th of August 2021

Superb article. Thanks for your effort to write it to help us.

Paul

Thursday 20th of May 2021

About 20, 25 years ago l bought what was claimed to be "oragon trail" sour dough starter. It arrived as a powder in the mail. The starter was weak. I messed around with it for a spellbut it was an underperformer. So, I dehydrated the starter, blended in into a powder, vaccumn sacked some small sacks with a foodsaver and tossed the lot into the chest freezer and moved on. About 3 months ago I removed a sac of the stuff. I used pineapple juice and water to revive it. It came back to life after more than 20 years in the slammer. It was sill sluggish but it was alive. So you can store this stuff long term, atleast the way I did it. Not sure about the freezing part but removing the O2 I think is a must. Iv had whole wheat flower stored in a sealed plastic bag with O2 absorbing packets stored in the freezer for 6 years, was still fine to use.

Eileen Gray

Friday 21st of May 2021

Fascinating!

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