Easy Sourdough Starter Recipe Using Yogurt Whey

Sneak Preview: Make this Sourdough Starter Recipe using yogurt whey. After 5-10 days, it should be bubbly and strong enough to bake a loaf of sourdough bread. You can collect yogurt whey from store-bought yogurt, but if you’re a Greek yogurt maker, this is a great use for leftover yogurt whey.

jar of fully developed sourdough starter made from flour and yogurt wheyPin

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Making a sourdough starter is not complicated. I used to think so, but now I know better. I’ll show you my easy way of using yogurt-whey and all-purpose flour to make a sourdough starter.

Are you thinking to yourself, “What is yogurt whey?” and where do I buy it?

Yogurt whey is different from the whey protein powder many people throw into their smoothies. Whey protein powder is more often made with egg whites.

Happy Bakers Speak Up

“Thank you so much for the easy to follow instructions! I’ve tried lots of starters with varying success, but yours has been the easiest and most successful recipe! My starter was bubbly and strong in no time. I love that there is so little waste! I did save the discard and made the best tasting crackers. Thank you so very much for sharing this great method with us!”–CASSIE

Why Use Yogurt Whey To Make a Sourdough Starter? u

Yogurt whey is loaded with lactic acid, an important component of sourdough starter. Although a sourdough starter can be made with straight water and flour, adding whey to the initial flour/water mixture will boost the bubbles and fermentation from day one.

Some people claim that yogurt whey imparts a unique flavor to your sourdough bread. But you will only use whey the first day you stir together a starter mixture, so it won’t be long before the whey flavor is unrecognizable. If you use yogurt whey as a substitution for water in a bread recipe, your bread probably will taste different.

As you build the strength of your starter, you will discard half, then three-quarters of the starter every day before adding more water and flour. The original dose of whey will be quickly diluted.

Where Do I Find Yogurt Whey?

Many of my readers make Greek yogurt at home, so it’s already in our refrigerators.

You might think you’ve never seen liquid yogurt whey for sale at the grocery store. But you have.

Oftentimes, you’ll see a small amount of whey collecting on top inside a container of commercial yogurt. The whey is waiting to be poured out or stirred back in before eating. Yogurt whey looks clear in the yogurt container, but a large quantity looks yellow.

If you buy yogurt to harvest whey, look for these three things:

  1. Plain yogurt, not flavored or sweetened in any way
  2. No additives that cheaper brands use to make their yogurt look and feel thicker
  3. The freshest yogurt you can find

How Do I Separate Yogurt Whey From Commercial Yogurt?

Buy a pint of regular unflavored yogurt at the store. Strain it through a paper coffee filter placed inside a sieve or colander. It may take 1-2 hours to obtain enough whey. You only need 40 grams or 3/8 of a cup (3 tablespoons).

straining whey out of yogurt using a colander and a paper coffee filter.Pin

What Do I Need To Make a Yogurt Whey Starter?

igredients needed to make whey yogurtPin
  • Flour, yogurt whey, and filtered water (See FAQs below for substitutes)
  • Mason glass jar (quart-size) or a medium ceramic bowl
  • Cover such as a flat metal canning lid for a Mason Jar or a glass lid that fits loosely
  • Warmth–to encourage your starter to bubble–preferably 75-85˚F
  • Time–4-7 days, depending on the environment

Do I Have To Add Whole Wheat Flour and Rye Flour?

Absolutely not, but I highly recommend it. I call them “vitamins” for my starter. Along with the whey, they will supercharge your starter because whole-grain flour naturally carries more wild yeast. Without it, your starter may take a little longer to get up to speed.

How Do You Make a Sourdough Starter with Yogurt Whey?

Day One

Adding the water and whey for the starter.Pin
Add 3 tablespoons (40 gr) of yogurt whey and 3 tablespoons (40 gr) of filtered water (or tap water) to a qt-size measuring cup or a medium bowl.
Adding the flour to the starter using a  digital scale.Pin
Add ½ cup (60 gr) of all-purpose white flour.
sourdough starter mixed together with all ingredients included.Pin
Stir the flour and water together, ensuring all flour has been moistened. Transfer the mixture to a clean glass jar.
Marking the original level of the starter with a rubber band.Pin
Cover the jar with a flat lid and slide a rubber band to show the original starting point for your starter.

If using a Mason jar, lay a flat canning lid on top. You don’t need the metal collar for now. If you don’t have a lid for your glass jar, throw a tea towel or plastic wrap loosely over the bowl or jar to keep out foreign objects such as dust or small flying insects.

A warm place to set your starter--close to the puck lights under my upper cabinets.Pin
Find a warm place in your kitchen that stays around 78-80˚F (27˚C).

I put mine close to my lights installed under the upper cabinets. The temperature is crucial in making a sourdough starter and sourdough bread. You need a quick-read digital thermometer. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you buy a good one, you’ll use it daily if you cook or bake a lot.

Let the starter sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

Day Two

Bubbles appearing in starter after 24 hours.Pin
After 24 hours, hopefully, you will see some bubbles. Whether you see them or not, continue with the plan.

Stir the starter. Remove half of the starter mixture and throw it away. It won’t have a good flavor yet, even for “discard” recipes. Add 40 gr of water and 40 gr of flour to the remainder of the starter left in the jar. Let it sit in a warm location for another 24 hours.

Day Three

More bubbles in the starter after 48 hours.Pin
More bubbles.

Repeat Day Two.

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Day Four

refreshing yogurt starter on Day 4.Pin
Three-quarters of the starter was removed and replaced with more water and flour.

Stir the starter. Remove approximately three-quarters of the starter mixture until you have only 25 grams of starter left in the jar. (I make a note of the weight of an empty jar. Add 25 grams to that number.) This will look like a tablespoon or so. Add 25 grams of water, 25 grams of flour, a pinch of rye flour, and a pinch of whole wheat flour.

Stir to moisten all flour. Place the mixture back in a warm location.

Day Five and Six

Repeat day four, but do it twice a day every 12 hours. Your starter should be quite active by now, rising more each day, then falling back to the rubber band level eventually.

Day Seven

If your starter matures within 4-5 hours, it is probably strong enough to make bread. From now on, it’s your preference to refresh the starter every 12 or 24 hours.

If your starter takes more than 5 hours to mature, continue with the twice-daily feedings. You may need to find a warmer location for your starter to incubate if your starter isn’t active by now.

If you are not ready to make bread just yet, store the starter in the fridge. Remember to refresh it (Step 4) about once a week.

Ready To Make Bread?

  1. Four to five hours before making bread, discard all but one tablespoon of the starter. (Eyeball it.)
  2. Add 60 grams (¼ cup) of filtered or tap water and 60 grams (½ cup) of unbleached all-purpose flour to the starter, along with a pinch of rye and whole wheat flour (optional). Stir, cover, and let your starter sit in a warm place.
  3. When the starter mixture bubbles up to its full potential (double or triple in size) after 2-6 hours, measure the starter you need for your recipe. You can try the float test, although it’s not always reliable. Drop a small spoonful of starter into a bowl of water. When your starter is ready, it should float.
  4. Replenish the starter with 1 tablespoon of the remaining starter (discard the remainder), ¼ cup of water, and ½ cup of AP flour. Stir and set aside in a warm place.

If you don’t want to make another loaf for several days, wait until the starter begins to grow (an hour?), then refrigerate. It’s best to use or refresh your starter at least once a week. Once a month is a minimum.

If, at any point, you see mold or funky colors appear in your starter, throw it away and start over again.

A Quick Guide To Making a Sourdough Starter with Yogurt Whey

Pin it to remember it.

infographic about making a sourdough starter using yogurt whey.Pin

FAQ About Yogurt Whey Starter

Why is my starter not doing much?

More often than not, the temperature is not warm enough for the yeasty bodies to feel like eating. Try to keep the temperature as close to 80˚F as possible without going over, especially during the first three to four days.

Why do I have to throw out some of the starter?

Two reasons:
1. In the beginning, the bacteria count will likely be out of balance. It takes a few days for the good bacteria to take over. Removing part of the starter also removes a good deal of the waste products that make sourdough bread too sour. You will know by the smell who is winning the war.
2. If you were to keep all the flour and water you used in this process, you would need a much bigger jar. As it is, you only need a pint-size glass jar.

When I look at other starter recipes, they use much more flour and water.

I don’t like to waste flour, even though I use the cheapest all-purpose flour I can find. The smaller amounts work fine. When you actually begin to use the starter for baking bread, you can increase the amount of flour and water to produce the amount of starter required in the recipe you chose. Likewise, if you need more “discard” for a specific recipe.

I see pictures of other people’s starters overflowing the jar. Why doesn’t mine look like that?

Some people use a jar that’s too small and wait until it overflows before taking a picture. After a week, more or less, your starter should double or triple in size before it starts to fall. Choose a jar that will accommodate plenty of rise if your starter is active and strong.

Another reason a starter may overflow in a jar is the proportion of water to flour. If your starter is too “liquidy,” it may grow faster and higher, but it may not be strong enough to support a loaf of bread. High humidity and higher temperatures also make this more likely.

When can I start keeping and using the sourdough discard (the part you throw away before feeding each day)?

I would wait for at least 6-7 days. One way to know if your starter is ready is to smell it. Does it smell sour and slightly sweet, or is it pungent and sort of like fingernail polish remover? If you are a new baker, this can be hard to judge. But if you keep smelling your starter every day, you will develop a sixth sense regarding the health of your starter.

Can I make a sourdough starter with plain yogurt instead of yogurt whey?

Yes. On the first day, add one tablespoon of yogurt to enough nonfat milk (reconstitute powdered milk or use fresh) to measure ½ cup. Add ½ cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour, a pinch of whole wheat flour, and a pinch of rye flour. Follow the recipe directions going forward.

Can I substitute tap water for filtered water?

Generally, yes, as long as your water is not heavily mineralized.

Can I substitute other flour for all-purpose flour?

Yes. Just about any flour will work. Organic flours are excellent if they are available to you and you don’t mind the price. Whole wheat and rye flour are other choices that make a great starter if you like the taste. Because of the cost and my affinity for white flour, I add only a pinch of rye and whole wheat to my starter as “vitamins” to keep my starter full of energy.

Why do some starters develop big holes as they mature, while others produce many smaller bubbles? Does it matter?

Large holes tend to develop in thicker starters. Starters with more water in proportion to the flour tend to have smaller holes. Starters can be thick or thin depending on the ratio of flour to water used to maintain it. Some people use equal amounts (by weight) of water and flour. Others use more flour (by weight) than water. The more water you use, the faster the starter rises and the more often you will need to refresh your starter.

Parting thoughts: Looking for a Sourdough Sandwich Bread you can make with your bread machine? Try this Sourdough Bread Machine Sandwich Loaf. Check out my three-ingredient Sourdough Bread Machine Recipe – No Yeast for a classic sourdough loaf. If you want to test your starter, this Chewy Sourdough Dinner Rolls recipe is the easiest.

Recipe Help at Your Fingertips: For questions or suggestions, email Paula at saladinajar.com. If you need help, I’m happy to troubleshoot via email (faster than leaving a comment). Attach pictures and as many details as possible for the best advice.

Ripe sourdough starter made with yogurt whey in a jar next to a kitchen towel.Pin
Yield: 1 batch

Sourdough Starter Made with Yogurt Whey

Make this Sourdough Starter Recipe with yogurt whey. After 4-7 days, it should be bubbly and strong enough to bake a loaf of sourdough bread or add to almost any bread recipe you want.

Rate this recipe

(5 stars if you loved it)

5 from 7 votes
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 0 minutes
Incubation time: 7 days
Total time: 7 days 1 hour


What you need on day one:

  • 3 tablespoons water–filtered or tap 40 gr
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt whey 40- gr
  • ½ cup all-purpose white flour 60 gr
  • 1 pinch whole wheat flour (optional)
  • 1 pinch rye flour (optional)


  • DAY ONE: Add 40 gr of water, 40 gr of yogurt whey, and 60 gr of unbleached all-purpose flour to a small bowl or a one-pint measuring cup.
  • Stir together well with a plastic spatula, ensuring all flour is moistened.
  • Transfer the mixture to a clean glass pint jar or a small ceramic bowl. Cover loosely. Set aside in a warm place. The optimum temperature is 78-80˚F (25-26˚C). If it’s colder, it will take longer for the starter to get going. Much warmer, and the yogurt bacteria could die or at least, take a siesta.
  • DAY TWO: Hopefully, you will see bubbles. Even if you don’t, stir the starter, remove half of it and throw it away. Stir in 40 gr of water + 40 gr of AP flour + a pinch of rye, and a pinch of WW flour. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
  • DAY THREE: Repeat Day Two. Note: If you still aren’t seeing bubbles, move your jar to a warmer location.
  • DAY FOUR: Discard 75% of the starter. Add 25 gr of water and 25 gr of AP flour + a pinch of rye, and a pinch of WW flour. Stir and Cover. Do this in the morning and evening.
  • DAY FIVE: Repeat day four.
  • DAY SIX: Repeat day five.
  • DAY SEVEN and after: If your starter doubles in 4-5 hours, start making bread. If not repeat day 4 until it does.
  • Maintenance: Continue twice daily feedings until the starter doubles in 4-5 hours, then switch to once a day. When you need a break, place the starter in the fridge. Refresh at least once a week when storing it in the fridge. When you are ready to make bread again, remove it from the fridge, and repeat day 4 for 1-2 days to get your starter back up to speed.


The nutritional information is based strictly on the ingredients used the first day of establishing this starter.


Serving: 1batch | Calories: 245kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 23mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 3mg

All images and text ©️ Paula Rhodes for Salad in a Jar.com

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for the easy to follow instructions! I’ve tried lots of starters with varying success, but yours has been the easiest and most successful recipe! My starter was bubbly and strong in no time. I love that there is so little waste! I did save the discard and made the best tasting crackers. Thank you so very much for sharing this great method with us!

    1. Hi Cassie, Thank you for the kind words and 5-star rating. Now I’m thinking I should try making crackers.

  2. I’ve been following this starter recipe (on day 6 now) and just noticed there’s a discrepancy in the instructions. In the top part it says on day 4 to discard all but 25g of starter and then add 40g of flour and 40g of water, and repeat this on days 5 and 6 twice a day. However, in the quick guide below that, and in the recipe below that, it says to only add 25g of water/flour twice a day. Would love clarification on which is correct, because I’ve been following the top part (adding 40g of flour/water 2x a day) and my starter seems to have died, although it could be for another reason! Thanks so much x

    1. Hi Abby,
      Sorry for the confusing directions. I have clarified the amounts in the post to match the quick guide and recipe. In reality, it doesn’t matter. However, you would use more flour when adding 40 gr of flour and 40 gr of water when it’s not really necessary.

      Did your starter begin to bubble within the first three days? Has it ever bubbled? Unless it got too hot, it is probably still alive. Sometimes, starter can fool you. Keep following the instructions for a few more days and see what happens. Hopefully you are letting it sit in a warm spot that stays around 75-80˚F.

      1. Thanks so much for your swift reply and clarification, Paula! It did bubble the first few days, but I just realized today that I swapped unbleached flour for bleached flour on day 4… perhaps that’s why it stopped doing its thing 🙁 Do you recommend starting over? It’s ever so slightly bubbling, no rise. I am keeping it warm! Thanks again x

        1. Using bleached flour shouldn’t kill your starter, but it might make it slightly less active. I do not recommend starting over. Sometimes, starter will stall at about the 4-5 day mark, but then picks up again. As long as it bubbles–even slightly, it is alive. How is the smell?

          1. It’s bubbling ever so slightly! It smells faintly like paint to me..