These days it seems like everyone has a sourdough starter. And everyone is making bread.
But once you jump on the sourdough bandwagon, you quickly learn there’s more feeding and discarding than actual baking. Especially if you’re baking bread more than once a week, and don’t refrigerate your starter.
As much as I love sourdough, there’s only so much bread one can eat.
I hate throwing away perfectly good raw ingredients, so, rather than pitching the discard, I’ve been saving it in a separate jar in the fridge.
It didn’t take me long to find all kinds of delicious treats to make using the excess sourdough discard. I looked high and low for the tastiest ways to use that extra starter. Here are my top eight picks to take you beyond bread.
I wanted to incorporate recipes that played up the tang that sourdough is known for as well as recipes that toned it down a bit. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that sourdough does magical things to baked goods. The slightly fermented culture makes everything tastier and seems to improve the overall texture of baked goods.
Grab your starter and let’s get going.
1. Ultimate Sourdough Banana Bread
It’s called the ultimate sourdough banana bread for a reason. The addition of sourdough starter to this perennial favorite results in a super-moist loaf that’s dense without being too heavy. I couldn’t taste any sourdough tang in the finished banana bread, but rather the discard seemed to improve the texture.
My favorite way to eat banana bread is by grilling it in butter in a cast iron skillet. And this bread crisped up beautiful and golden. The slices didn’t crumble apart, as so often happens. The bread was equally good, slathered in fresh butter. I was thinking about slicing the banana bread up into cubes, freezing them, then mixing them into homemade vanilla ice cream. However you enjoy this banana bread, I can assure you, it won’t last long. This recipe is a keeper.
2. Sourdough Pizza Crust
I’ve always preferred to make our pizza crust rather than starting with something premade. But since discovering this sourdough version, it’s become my go-to pizza crust recipe, ousting my old favorite. Whether you prefer thin and crispy or a deep-dish pan style, this sourdough pizza dough is up to the task. Chewy and crispy with a great crust, it makes for an authentic pizzeria-style pie right at home.
As with a lot of sourdough recipes where you are making dough, the flavor improves if you let it sit (covered) in the fridge for 24 hours before making the final product.
This dough freezes beautifully, too. Simply wrap the ball of dough well, and toss them in the freezer. When you want pizza, take a dough ball out of the freezer in the morning and let it thaw on the counter. If you’ve got discard that you don’t want to waste, but don’t necessarily want more baked goods right away, this is a great way to use it up.
3. Sourdough Discard Crackers
I was surprised at how simple it was to make these tangy, crispy crackers. Out of all the recipes I tried, this one is the easiest and quickest, despite the longer baking time.
The recipe states to spread the batter into a thin layer, I did anywhere between ¼” to 1/8” with success. Just keep an eye on them towards the end of the baking time as they go from almost done to burned really fast if you aren’t paying attention. I start checking mine around the thirty-minute mark.
The thinner crackers were great for snacking without putting anything on them, light, crispy, almost like a chip. However, spreading the batter a little thicker made for a more substantial cracker that you can load up with a spread or other toppings.
While the recipe calls for Herbs de Provence, and those are the crackers pictured, I also tried Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper seasoning, and everything bagel seasoning. They were all smashing! Once you get the actual cracker recipe down, go nuts with your herbs and spices. Next up on my list to try are rosemary and sea salt, and curry crackers.
4. Sourdough Peanut Butter Cookies
Oh man, this is another instance where the fermented yeast in the sourdough culture resulted in magical things happening in the end cookie. These cookies puffed up nicely, but still maintained that dense texture I love in peanut butter cookies. They weren’t too peanut buttery; I’ve had some cookies that where it felt more like I was eating a ball of peanut butter, rather than a cookie. There were dangerously snackable and disappeared before I could share them.
For best results, keep the cookies small. I used this cookie scoop to make the perfect-sized portions shown here. The recipe notes that a more potent sourdough starter will give you more tang in your cookie. I used one of my well-established starters, and the flavor was still peanut butter with just a hint of that sourdough tart. Delicious!
5. Sourdough English Muffins
Also known as a morning butter delivery device, this right here is my favorite sourdough discard recipe. A toasted English muffin with butter melting into every little nook and cranny makes me weak at the knees. Up until recently, I settled for the pasty, powdery store-bought variety. Let me tell you, I was in the dark, my friends. Who knew how amazing homemade English muffins could be? I also had no idea that you grilled them. I always assumed they were baked, like bread.
Making English muffins from scratch takes time; I’m not going to lie. But they are absolutely worth the effort. I highly suggest following the note in the recipe that suggests making the dough and letting it rest in the fridge for 24 hours. It makes that great sourdough tang come through. I cut the dough both ways that were suggested, rolling it out and using a biscuit cutter, and simply slicing the dough into 24 pieces. Go with the slicing, it’s so much easier, and you are working the dough less. And don’t skimp on the cornmeal!
A note about using cast iron
If you are using cast iron (I use my double-griddle), let it heat up for several minutes before you start cooking the muffins. The key for cast iron here is low and slow; I kept my temperature towards the lower end of med-low. Start at a lower temperature than you think you will need and cook only one as a test.
You need to make these at least once so that you know what you’re missing. Oh, and a British friend assures me there is nothing English about English muffins.
6. Sourdough Pancakes
If you ask my kids who makes the best pancakes, my name will undoubtedly not be on that list. I don’t know what it is, but pancakes elude me. So, when I tell you that this recipe produces light, fluffy and tender pancakes, you know it’s the real deal.
As soon as the batter hit the griddle, these pancakes puffed up perfectly and had a lovely golden hue. They’re light and airy on the fork, which is dangerous when you look down and realize you’ve eaten six of them, and find yourself going back for more. Oops.
Yeah, this is another instance where the sourdough version has replaced the regular version in my house. Hands down, these are the best tasting pancakes, even better than buttermilk.
7. Raised Sourdough Donuts
I love homemade yeast donuts. I grew up helping my grandmother make donuts and enjoying the fruits of our labor in her kitchen. And while nothing compares to my Grandma Besemer’s recipe, this one comes pretty close.
I used canola oil to fry with after reading this article about the best oils to fry donuts. The donuts came out perfect! Also, I broke my candy/frying thermometer a couple of weeks ago and found myself wondering how to gauge the oil temperature. A quick Google search and I found that using a popcorn kernel is a great way to check oil temperature without a thermometer.
And as always, when doing any kind of frying, be extremely careful.
A recipe for glaze is included, but I’ve always preferred cinnamon and sugar. Mix ¼ cup of powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon until well combined, then use a fine-mesh strainer to sprinkle the donuts gently. Enjoy!
8. Homemade Sourdough Pretzels
Yeah, look, I’m not going to lie; soft pretzels are really just a utensil for eating mustard or melted cheese. And no matter which of those two condiments you prefer, these sourdough pretzels fit the bill. I appreciate that these are authentic soft pretzels, requiring a quick dip in a boiling water and baking soda bath before going in the oven. This extra step results in a lovely shiny and golden outside, much like a good bagel.
I couldn’t find pretzel salt for the life of me and used coarse Kosher salt. The substitution worked just fine. All in all, these were incredibly delicious, chewy and tangy – the perfect combo for dipping in mustard. Aside from using up leftover discard, the pretzels were a whole lot of fun to make. Grab the kids and give these a go.
I’m hoping the next time you feed that hungry sourdough starter, you’ll consider making one of these delicious treats with your discard. If you didn’t find anything that appealed to you here, just remember that sourdough starter is simply water and flour. Try experimenting with recipes that call for water and flour and replacing equal amounts with sourdough starter. You just might discover the next amazing sourdough recipe combo.