Beginner Guide: Sourdough Discard

What is Sourdough Discard?

Sourdough discard is a by-product of maintaining or “feeding” a sourdough starter. When feeding a starter, flour and water are combined with some starter and the fermentation cycle begins. Once your starter doubles and peaks, it’s active and ready to be used. But, what if you don’t use any or all of your starter when it’s at its peak height? As the starter continues along the fermentation cycle, it starts to fall and eventually becomes inactive. You could feed all of the inactive starter and make it active again, but this usually results in way too much starter. Instead we “discard” the extra we are choosing not to re-feed. Discard literally means to throw it away. But, many people don’t like to waste that “discard” by throwing it away, so we find ways to use it in recipes instead.

Sourdough discard can be added to recipes that have been specifically created for their use. Some of my favorite recipes are ones that have been made for use with sourdough discard. Discard crackers, brown butter chocolate chunk cookies and these super popular discard rolls…I’m looking at you!

Click for more information about a Sourdough Starter and how to maintain one.

How do I store sourdough discard? How long does it last?

Sourdough discard should be stored in the refrigerator. Every time I discard some of my starter, I’ll add it to a sourdough crock I have sitting in my fridge. I like the look of the crock, but you can use any Tupperware with a lid to store discard. The longer the discard sits in your refrigerator, the more fermented and “sour” it gets. I don’t like to use discard that is more than one week old in discard recipes . After about a week, the discard can become very sour and impact the flavor of the discard recipe. If you like a strong fermented flavor, you might be okay with letting the discard sit longer in the refrigerator. Typically, if I haven’t used up all my discard after one week, I will throw it away and start fresh the next week.

My personal discard routine:

I add discard to the jar continuously throughout the week, baking with it as time allows. Monday morning I clean out my discard jar from the fridge by making crackers or something else, or I throw it out and start with a clean jar the next week.

Is there anytime I shouldn’t use discard?

The only times you really shouldn’t use discard are these:

  1. When you are making a sourdough starter from scratch (before the starter is predictably rising and falling). You do not want to use the extra discard during this time. In that early phase, the discard is full of bacteria and yeast that have not yet achieved a symbiotic relationship and wouldn’t be good for you to eat. At this stage, you might feel like throwing out the discard is wasteful. However, consider the fact that you are in the process of creating a beautiful starter that will last forever – and that in the meantime the discard is simply not usable.
  2. Your discard has sat in the refrigerator for a long time and you don’t like the taste of it. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more fermented it will get. This can result in a flavor that is very strong and acidic. As long as the discard does not grow mold on it, you can use it, however I prefer to bake with a younger discard in most of my recipes.

How do I use discard in a recipe?

As you become more experienced with sourdough and baking with discard, you might develop a feel for how to use it in different recipes. However when you are starting out, I recommend to look for a recipe that is made specifically to use sourdough discard. Sourdough discard recipes will use a different method of leavening bread than sourdough – often using instant yeast or baking powder/baking soda. As a side note, most often discard recipes will call for 100% hydration discard. This means that the discard comes from sourdough starter that has been fed equal weights of flour and water. Add the discard in the recipe and follow the instructions.

I prefer using a fresh/young discard in sweet recipes and an older or more mature discard in savory recipes. Sweet discard recipes I’m usually using the discard for moisture and to use up excess so I don’t waste. Savory recipes I tend to use it more for the flavor or don’t mind a little extra “tang” in my baked goods.

What is the gray liquid on top of my sourdough discard?

Hooch! It’s the byproduct or waste of the bacteria and yeast after they’ve digested all the flour in the sourdough starter. If you see this in your sourdough starter it means your starter is hungry and needs to be fed. It often shows up on discard left in the refrigerator. Pour the hooch into the sink, stir up your discard and use the discard. Or, if you really like that sour tang, mix it up into your discard and use it.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have extra Levain. Can I add it to my discard jar?

Yes! Typically a levain is built for a specific dough with unique properties and so there won’t be much left over. If the levain is 100% hydration, you can add it directly to the discard in the fridge. If your levain is not 100% hydration or has other ingredients (like sugar or extra flour), it can still be added to your discard jar but may perform differently in some discard recipes. You may need to increase or decrease the amount of liquid or flour in a recipe if your discard is not 100% hydration.

I accidentally used up all my sourdough starter but I have discard. Can I save it?

Yes. Take a little bit of discard from your jar. Feed it as you would a sourdough starter. Continue this process for a couple of days until the starter is rising and falling predictably again. This is your new sourdough starter.

How can I substitute discard in a regular recipe?

If you have a favorite recipe that you want to substitute discard in, you have to do a little bit of bakers math. You’ll need to know the total grams of flour and liquid in the recipe and the total grams of flour and liquid in the amount of starter that you want to replace with discard. Subtract the grams of discard (flour and liquid) from the flour and liquid in the original recipe and try it out! I have a post that details this whole process. If you want to sub a little discard into waffles or pancakes, go ahead and do it. Using 1/4-1/3 cup of 100% hydration discard is not going to affect the texture of waffles or pancakes and will only add a yummy flavor.

Check out these delicious Sourdough Discard Recipes

Sourdough Discard Scones

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A master-recipe for the best sourdough scones. Add in your favorite mix-ins or enjoy these plain with a little sprinkle of sugar on top. We love sourdough scones and this…

Sourdough Blender Crepes

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Quick, easy and delicious these sourdough blender crepes can be whipped up in no time. Use up your sourdough discard and make delicious crepes. You’re going to love them!

Sourdough Snickerdoodle Cookies

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Soft, tender and filled with cinnamon sugar these sourdough snickerdoodle cookies are delicious. Quick to whip up and made with sourdough discard, you’re going to love them.

Ham and Cheese Sourdough Scones

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Ham and cheese sourdough scones are light, tender and oh so yummy – perfect to use up some leftover ham and sourdough discard. Add a favorite cheese and some fresh…

Sourdough Blondies

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Chewy, gooey sourdough blondies are one of the most delicious treats. Sourdough blondies are made with simple ingredients and yummy mix-ins, toffee and chocolate chips in this recipe. Using sourdough…

Lemon Blueberry Sourdough Scones

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Lemon blueberry sourdough scones are tart and delicious filled with fresh blueberries, sweet lemon and sourdough discard. These are the perfect scones for an afternoon snack or morning breakfast. Enjoy!

Want more in-depth Sourdough instruction?

Check out my online sourdough classes or take a class in person.

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