Hand holding jar half full of sourdough discard

What Is Sourdough Discard & How To Use (Not just recipes)

Are you just starting out on your sourdough journey? If so there is a lot of talk out there of things you just may not know what it means. One of those may bring up the question what is sourdough discard? 

Well, we are going to take a deep dive to hopefully explain it to you as well as give you some ideas on how to use it.

What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough bread is the product of a natural leavening agent. It’s a very old way to make bread and was a primary means of survival in times of famine and scarcity.

The word “sourdough” refers to the natural wild yeast and bacteria that are found in flour and air naturally, and the process of using this natural yeast starter to leaven your bread.

A Sourdough Starter Is More Than Just Yeast – It’s a Living Organism!

How Is Sourdough Starter Started?

It is really a pretty easy process. There are a few different ways to get a starter started. They even sell sourdough dehydrated culture.

The most used way to make a new starter from scratch is to measure out a few grams of flour and then add the same amount of grams of water. Then mix the mixture of flour and water together until it is like a paste.

Then the next day add to it 2 times per day. Repeat that for a total of five days. Then on the 6 the day you start discarding when you add new also known as feeding. 

If you are wanting to make your own sourdough starter and are looking for a step-by-step be sure to check out our post on How to start sourdough starter and maintain it.

What is Sourdough Discard?

Sourdough Discard is the byproduct of sourdough starter. This is the dough that has been fermented in your sourdough starter, but that hasn’t been used for baking. 

Discard is simply the portion of the starter that is now inactive because it has not been fed. However, you could feed it for it to become an active starter again.

It is also a great source of nutrients and yeast cultures. 

What’s The Difference Between Sourdough Discard And Sourdough Starter?

The active starter is the amount of flour mixture that you keep feeding with more flour and water. It is normally fed at least once a day (works best when it is twice a day) when it is left on the counter. However, if you keep it in the fridge you can cut the feeding down to one to two times per week.

Starter almost looks like it is alive with all the air bubbles throughout. When warm enough you do have to watch to make sure that it does not bubble over the container.

Whereas the discard is the mixture that is not fed and is removed before each feeding. Because it is an unfed starter it looks different and not as lively. It will not be full of air bubbles like the active sourdough starter is.

Why Is There Sourdough Discard Anyway?

When feeding your starter you have to remove some or it will very quickly become very large and you will have a lot of excess starter.

If you are someone who does a LOT of baking then keeping a large starter is fine. However, if you are someone that only bakes a loaf of bread or two a week then there is no need to keep a large batch of starter and to have to keep feeding it.

Not only would you run out of space to keep such a large stater it can also get very costly as it will require a lot of flour to keep it fed.

What Happens When You Have a Mature Starter?

When you have a well-established sourdough starter you can reduce the amount of starter you keep. As well as being able to store it in the fridge and not have to keep it on the counter like you do when you are just starting your starter. 

By being able to keep as little as say 10 to 20 grams of starter active it requires a lot less flour. So you do not have to such large amounts of discard.

You can also get away with a lot fewer feedings cutting the discarded amount part of the feeding process down even more. To feed it less, it is best to cover the container and place it in the fridge and then only feed it 1-2 times per week. 

Then when you do need to bake with it, simply take it out of the fridge about 12 hours before you want to mix your recipe. This allows it to come to room temperature to wake it back up.

At this time you will also want to give it a large feeding with fresh flour and water to bulk it up for the recipe you will need it for as well as allow you a touch extra to be able to store it back in the fridge when you are done mixing your recipe.

How Should Sourdough Discard Be Stored?

Sourdough discard should be stored in the fridge until you are ready to use. That is unless you will be using it within the next 24 hours. If using it within 24 hours, it can be stored at room temperature.

It can be stored in a glass container if the lid can pop off if needed. That is because while it is discard, it can still have a build-up of gasses from the fermentation process that can make it expand if it is a new discard.

So if you put it in a tightly sealed glass container such as a glass jar with a screw-on lid, you do run a risk of it cracking. 

However, if it has been in the fridge for a few days without being fed, you are normally safe to use a glass container with a screw on top.

If you need to store it for a longer time you can freeze it! Because it will be frozen you don’t have to worry about it expanding. So you will want to make sure you store it in a freezer-safe container. It also needs to be an airtight container as well to reduce the risk of freezer burn.

Container To Use: 

  • New discard – a plastic container with a top or a glass container with easy pop of top.
  • Older discard – well-sealed plastic or glass container.

How Long Can You Keep Sourdough Discard?

When it is stored properly in the fridge it will last for a week to a week and a half. After several days of it not being fed it may get a clear liquid on the top. That is what is called hooch.

You should not drain it off before using, simply stir it back into the mixture before using it. That is full of all the sour goodness.

However, know when it does get to this stage it has much more of a tangy flavor and may not work well for some recipes, so use it accordingly.

If you leave it too long it now has dark liquid on the top the acidity levels will be really high. A good option to use it at that point would be to compost.

When Can You Use Sourdough Discard?

Depending on what you are using it for or what the recipe calls for, discard can be used from the time you remove it from the starter.

It typically works best for things like muffins, English muffins, pancakes, and other baked goods the fresher it is. 

When it is a little older and has developed that more tangy sour taste, a great way to use it in things like flavored crackers and savory bread.

How to Use Your Discard:

Some hear the name discard and think you just have to toss it and it is just wasted. That is so not the case! There really are just as many ways if not more to use your starter discard as you use your starter.

While it will all depend on how much starter you maintain as to if you have a lot of discard or not. There is a way to use it no matter the amount of discard you have!

You can simply save it up in a discard jar in the fridge until you have enough for the recipe you are wanting to use it on. 

Or if you really don’t want to make anything with it there are other ways to use it too.


A good use and maybe the best way to use sourdough discard is in recipes. There are a wide variety of discard recipes out there too.

You can make things such as quick breads, bread recipes, sourdough scones, sourdough pancakes, sourdough brownies, sourdough discard crackers, and sourdough pizza crust just to name a few delicious recipes to use your discard on.

​Feed Plants: 

With all the healthy good bacteria that are in the discard, it makes for a great way to feed your plants. Simply mix your discard with water and water/feed your plants with the mixture.


The easiest way to reuse some of your leftover sourdough discard is to simply add it to the compost pile. It will help to speed up the composting by adding healthy needed organisms to the compost. Then you will get to use the compost n the garden and nothing is wasted.


Give a little discard starter to your friends. They can either feed it to have a starter of their own or they can just use it to make their favorite sourdough discard recipes. You can either give it to them in the form that it is in or dry it out and store it until you are ready to give it to them.

Feed Chickens:

If you have some backyard chickens, discard makes for easy ways to give them a healthy treat. Simply mix a little discard with some seed or over some fruit and grains before giving it to them. Just keep in mind that it should be a treat and not meant to replace their normal food as it will not have all the protein and calcium that they need.

Improve Skin:

If you are into using natural skin care then sourdough discard may be something to try. Simply mix a little discard with some yogurt and honey and use it as a face mask.  

The sourdough will cleanse your skin and nourish it at the same time. 

It is also said that if you use the more acidic discard it helps to get rid of the bacteria that causes acne. Which helps to reduce the irritation caused by pimples.

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