No matter how long you may be on your sourdough journey, you probably have wondered at some point “What is discard?” Or “Is discard the same thing as a sourdough starter?” Or “How long does sourdough discard last?” Know that you are not alone. Find all that you need to know about sourdough discard, how to best use it, and more!
Whether you are a seasoned sourdough baker or just in the first stages of making a sourdough starter, you will quickly become familiar with the process of discarding. It is a must in order to maintain a healthy starter with lots of bubbles and activity.
Once your starter is mature enough to make bread, you can save your discard for plenty of delicious creations.
Honestly, I love making sourdough bread, and can’t get enough of fermenting dough, but I find using my sourdough discard in family-favorite recipes just as fulfilling.
Let me share with you all my best tips and tricks for sourdough discard.
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What is Sourdough Discard?
Sourdough Discard is an unfed sourdough starter, or in other words, the part of your starter that you remove before feeding your starter. It is fermented flour and water with plenty of healthy probiotics. Many home bakers make the grave mistake of throwing this portion of the starter away. But, I am here to tell you that this isn’t necessary.
Why do you have to discard sourdough?
Discarding some of an active sourdough starter is an important part of the feeding process.
In order to keep a sourdough starter healthy, active, and at a manageable size, it is crucial that you discard, or remove, some of the unfed starter before the next feeding.
If not, the starter will either grow to an unmanageable amount, since you need to feed it at least the same number of grams of flour and water. Or, it won’t be sufficiently fed, therefore, causing the starter to become weak.
Discarding half of the sourdough starter allows you to feed your starter enough flour for proper nourishment for the fermentation process while keeping it in smaller amounts for less waste.
Do you have to throw away sourdough discard?
Good news, you don’t! There are many wonderful and different ways to put your unfed starter to use. There are sourdough discard crackers, sourdough lemon cake, sourdough brownies, sourdough banana bread, or even using it in a compost pile, to name a few! There is no need to toss discarded starter.
Instead, I am going to be sharing with your how to best use and store your discard for zero waste.
When should I start keeping sourdough discard?
It is best to wait until a new sourdough starter is at least a week old. By then, your young starter should be bubbly, active, and passes the float test (where a scoop of starter floats in a cup of water. This shows that our leavening agent is ready to bake a loaf of bread!).
These signs demonstrate that wild yeast and good bacteria found in the fresh flour have been captured and the new starter is progressing well in the fermentation process.
Again, once the active starter is about a week old, you can start saving and storing your sourdough starter discard.
How to Store Sourdough Discard:
There are three main methods of storing extra starter – on the countertop, in the fridge, or in the freezer.
The moment you remove extra sourdough starter from your jar, it becomes sourdough discard. This discarded sourdough starter can be used in delicious, no-wait recipes immediately. Therefore, if sourdough bakers know that they are going to make a discard recipe soon, they like to keep it on the countertop.
To do so, it is best to create a discard jar. I love using a wide-mouth mason jar with this reusable rubber lid. It is easy to scoop out and add additional discard into, plus it’s easy to clean.
Store your fresh discard in a jar with a lid loosely on top at room temperature for 36-48 hours. The discard will continue to ferment, so it is important to keep the lid on loosely to keep out impurities, while also allowing oxygen to escape.
If you don’t plan on using your fresh discard within that time frame, it is best to store it either in the fridge or freezer.
Keeping a jar of discard in the fridge is my favorite method of storing sourdough discard. Simply place your discard in an airtight container, like a glass jar, in the fridge.
Even though you are no longer feeding the discard, it is still fermenting. However, the cool temperatures of the fridge slows down the fermentation process immensely.
Therefore, you can store discard indefinitely, but I suggest using discard within 1-2 weeks.
Over time, the discard will become more sour-tasting as it continues to ferment and develop lactic acid. That’s why I like to use fresh discard for more sweet recipes, and older discard for more savory recipes.
Before each feeding, I will remove my discard jar from the fridge, add my discard, give it a quick mix, and then place it back into the fridge. Whenever I need discard, I scoop out what I need and put back what I don’t use for another day.
If you find yourself with a surplus of discard that you won’t be able to use within 1-2 weeks, freezing is a good option for you.
First, scoop the excess starter into a freezer-safe container, and place it in the freezer indefinitely. When ready to use, remove the discard from the freezer, thaw on the countertop, and use once it has returned to room temperature.
What happens if you let sourdough discard sit too long on the counter?
As discard sits at room temperature, it will continue to ferment which increases its acidity levels. If it sits past 36hrs, it will most likely run out of flour to feed on. You will then run the risk of exposing your discard to harmful bacteria. If you see any streaks of pink or orange on your discard, this is a sign of mold and it is best to toss it.
How long does sourdough discard last in the fridge?
Sourdough discard will last indefinitely when stored in the fridge, but the longer it sits, the sourer it becomes. Therefore, I like to use my discard within 2 weeks. I’ll typically use fresher discard, 2-3 days old, for sweet treats, since the sour flavor is milder, whereas I will use older discard, 1-2 weeks, for savory recipes. This allows the sour taste to truly shine.
As the discard continues to ferment, it may produce a dark layer of liquid on top. Don’t be alarmed, this is called hooch. Hooch is a by-product of the fermentation process. You can either pour that down the drain or stir it into the discard for a more tangy flavor.
Can I combine sourdough discard from different days?
Yes, you can! I have a designated jar in the fridge that I add in discard from different days. Pour in your discard, give it a quick stir, and seal it with a lid. Discard will last up to two weeks in the fridge.
Why should you bake with sourdough discard?
Though discard won’t give you as many gut-healthy benefits as a fully-fermented baked treat would, there is still a touch of fermentation! So that has to count for something, right?
Plus, adding leftover sourdough discard brings that familiar tang to all your family-favorite recipes.
Finally, one of my favorite reasons to use discard is that it makes the most light and airy baked treats. Just like lemon juice or buttermilk, sourdough discard acidity prohibits the formation of gluten, which can make bread and cakes tough. Instead, sourdough discard helps baked treats to be light and tender. How awesome is that?
How to use sourdough discard:
Oh my, where to begin! There are so many lovely ways to incorporate any amount of discard into your sourdough baking. From Hawaiian Banana Bread to pizza dough, English muffins, quick bread, cinnamon rolls, and so many more recipes!
Here is a list of my favorite sourdough discard recipes:
- Sourdough Rhubarb Cake
- Sourdough Lemon Cake
- Fried Chicken Tenders
- Sourdough Pie Crust
- Sourdough Crepes
- Sourdough Flatbread
- Blueberry Crumb Cake
How do you know if it is bad?
It is best to use your sight and your sense of smell when determining if your sourdough discard has gone rancid.
Common signs of mold are streaks of grey, pink, or orange in or on top of the liquid or bits of fuzz. Don’t waste your time trying to scoop out the harmful bacteria on top, as the bad bacteria is most likely already in and throughout your entire discard. It’s a good idea to just toss it and start saving discard in a new jar.
As your discard continues to ferment in the fridge, it will become sourer in taste and in smell. But, if the smell is putrid and reminds you of intense nail polish remover or dirty gym socks, it’s best to rid of it. No one wants pancakes that taste like smelly feet.
Can you use your discard to make another starter?
Absolutely! I was gifted my first starter by my sister-in-law using her sourdough discard. All she did was remove a small amount of starter and I feed it equal parts of filtered water and all-purpose flour to produce my own mature starter. So simple, but what a meaningful gift to pass forward.
Plus, if your main starter goes rancid, you can start over again by feeding some of you saved sourdough discard. Problem solved!
Happy storing discard!