Rye Sourdough Starter Recipe

This rye sourdough starter can change your life. Seriously. It not only creates a traditional rye bread with all the flavor of classic bread but it yields health benefits as well when compared to commercially made wheat bread. Here’s how to make it.

Rye Sourdough Starter Recipe

It’s not hard to make a rye sourdough starter from scratch. Some sourdough starters rely on wild yeasts that live in the air, others on acid-producing bacteria present in buttermilk, yogurt, pineapple juice, and the like, and still others start with commercial yeast or store-bought starters. Fact is, none of these additives is necessary. All it really takes to build a delicious and robust rye sour culture, or starter, is some whole-grain rye flour, water, a warm place, and patience. [Editor’s Note: And when your traditional rye sourdough starter is complete, the very first thing you’re going to want to do is use it to make Galician rye bread.]–Stanley Ginsberg

Rye Sourdough Starter Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 7 D
  • Makes enough to bake bread

Ingredients

  • Day 1: Make the Rye Sourdough Starter
  • 2.5 ounces (70 grams) whole grain rye flour, preferably organic
  • 2.5 ounces (70 ml) warm water (105°F or 41°C)
  • Days 2 to 7: Refresh the Rye Sourdough Starter
  • 2.5 ounces (70 grams) whole grain rye flour, preferably organic
  • 2.5 ounces (70 ml) warm water (105°F or 41°C)
  • 2.5 ounces (70 grams) Sour Starter from the preceding day
  • Days 8 and Beyond: Maintain the Rye Sourdough Starter
  • 2.5 ounces (70 grams) medium or whole-grain rye flour, preferably organic
  • 2.5 ounces (70 ml) warm water (105°F or 41°C)
  • .25 ounces (7 grams) rye sourdough starter

Directions

  • Day 1: Make the rye sourdough starter
  • 1. Start with equal amounts of organic rye flour and water by weight. Dump them in a nonreactive (glass, porcelain, stainless-steel, plastic) container, mix by hand into a stiff paste, cover, and let stand at room temperature (68 to 72°For 20 to 22°C) for 24 hours.
  • Days 2 to 7: Refresh the rye sourdough starter
  • 2. The next day, discard all but 70 grams of the culture and mix the remainder with the refresh ingredients, cover, and let stand. Repeat each day, discarding all but 70 grams of the preceding day’s culture.
  • 3. The most important point to remember at the early stages is to feed the sourdough starter, or culture, daily. Even when it shows no apparent fermentation, the yeast is busy multiplying and consuming nutrients at a very high rate. By the second or third day, it will swell, show bubbles, and give off a clean sour smell. Over the next few days the activity will become more and more vigorous and the smell more intense. Occasionally the yeast normally present in whole grains fail to establish itself in a new culture; if, after 3 or 4 days, the culture darkens, develops a mold, or smells bad, dump the whole batch and start over. After a week, the culture, or sourdough starter, will be ready to use or to be stored refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple days. [Editor’s Note: If storing the sourdough starter for more than a couple days, you’ll need to maintain it, which we explain how to do just below.]
  • Days 8 and Beyond: Maintain the rye sourdough starter
  • 4. In a perfect world—or working bakery—sourdough starters are refreshed daily. That said, daily feedings demand both a degree of dedication and abundant flour supplies that are impractical for all but the most committed home bakers. The author suggests refreshing your starter every 36 hours or so.
  • 5. Mix the rye flour, water, and rye sourdough starter by hand until incorporated. Cover and ferment at room temperature (68 to 72°F or 20 to 22°C) overnight or for 10 to 12 hours. The sponge will be very bubbly, have a clean sour smell, and will have tripled in volume. Store refrigerated in an airtight container and it will last indefinitely.
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Comments
Comments
  1. Dona K. says:

    I know, maybe I’m a tad frugal, but I hate the thought of throwing out about a pound of perfectly good (if a tad young) starter (about what you’ll end up with by the end of the week). How about saving each day’s 2.5 oz, stick it in the fridge, and use it mid-week and end of week for bread? It won’t be a ‘full-up’ starter, but should still provide a little extra flavor for a couple loaves of bread. If that’s too much baking for you, you could lob a couple days worth of starter slag into a zippy bag, toss it in the freezer, then defrost it at a later date for a loaf. Just let it thaw, add a little more flour and water, proof overnight, and it’s good to go the next day. Just saying, no reason to chuck it out.

  2. Patty k says:

    How would I maintain the starter over time? Frequency of feeding etc.
    Thanks

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Patty k, this information has been added to the instructions under “Maintain the rye sourdough starter.” Good luck!

      • KM says:

        This article is so informative and well written but I’m still confused between “refresh every 36 hours” and “stick it in an airtight container in the fridge to last indefinitely”

        So do you still refresh it every 36 hours indefinitely? Or can you ignore it for weeks/months between using it for a recipe?

        Thank you!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          KM, thanks for asking for clarification, I added a note that hopefully helps to clarify. Greatly appreciate your feedback. You can stick it in the fridge and not do anything with it if you intend to use it to make bread within a couple days. You’ll need to refresh it every 36 to 48 hours or so if you want to keep the starter alive for weeks, months, even decades! I hope this helps!

  3. Rick Bradley says:

    I’ve made all of our bread for several years now but have always shied away from sourdough because of the starter maintenance and waste. Dona Ks suggestion helps with the latter. Each recipe I have calls for a starter using the flour the bread will be made from. Is it possible or desirable to grow a generic starter then use it for rye, red fife, or whatever unique flour you want to use?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Rick, baking is such a precise science, I suggest you try this or a different starter and stick with the bread recipe suggested for starters. Then, as you become more comfortable and experienced with various doughs, you can explore a little. But the relative densities and moistures and such all play into the resulting bread’s texture as well as taste.

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