The Trick to Making the Most Flavorful Waffles, Biscuits, & Pancakes

December 21, 2017

So you have a sourdough starter, and all the joy (and woes) that it brings. You know how to care for it, both in the fridge and on your counter. You know how to (or at want to know how to) turn that starter into a crusty, bubbly, tangy loaf of sourdough bread.

What you don't know (if you're like me, at least) is what to do with all that starter you have to discard each time you feed your bubbling, blurping baby. Do you pour it down the drain? Throw it into the compost pile? Sure, sure—but after a while, even if you're just a casual sourdough baker, all that starter waste starts to add up. (Guilt might ensue.)

Thankfully, we've rounded up a few ideas (culled from our community and elsewhere) for how to use up those leftovers, from breakfast to snacks to desserts. Adding a sourdough starter to your baked goods lends a lovely, yeasty tang—and reduces waste in the process. So get your starter going (if you don't already have one), and prepare to kiss starter-waste guilt goodbye:

A general how-to

There's no one way to substitute sourdough starter into a recipe, but here's a general rule of thumb:

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Before using your discarded starter, make sure it's well-fed and at room temperature. If you're adding or substituting sourdough starter into a recipe, be prepared to adjust the final product—adding a bit more liquid or flour—to reach ideal consistency. A thicker starter, that is, one with a lower hydration level, will require more liquid (such as milk or water) in the recipe. A thinner one, which has a higher hydration level, will require less liquid—or maybe even none at all. Basically, experimentation is the name of the game.

Now, get baking!

Waffles, meet sourdough starter. You two will be friends. Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Sourdough crackers are one of the easiest ways to use up your starter: Simply mix together one cup of starter with 1/4 cup of the fat of your choice (lard is recommended, but coconut oil or butter would work well, too). Add in one cup of flour, a pinch of salt, and then cover and leave the whole thing out at room temperature overnight to allow the starter to ferment. The next day, roll until very thin, top with more salt and all of your favorite cracker fixings (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, za'atar, etc.), and bake at 350°F until crispy and golden.

  • Substitute sourdough starter for some of the liquid in your next batch of banana bread and bask in the glow of a super moist, rich loaf. Would starter work in blueberry muffins and buttermilk biscuits as well? Most definitely!

  • Speaking of yeast, you can also use your starter in other yeasted baked goods, such as English muffins and crumpets. It also works well in a no-knead bread, which our hotline recommends whipping up by combining one cup of liquid (such as water or milk) in a bowl with a pinch of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon yeast. Let it sit until foamy, then mix with one cup of the discarded sourdough starter until a thin slurry forms. Add in 2 cups of flour and 1/2 tablespoon salt and mix until a sticky, shaggy dough forms, adding more flour or water if needed. Let the dough rise for about 2 hours, kneading once about halfway through. After that, the dough is ready to be used for pizzas, soft pretzels, or anything that makes use of delicious, yeasted, tangy dough.
There might be sourdough starter hiding in those pretzels! Photo by Bobbi Lin

How do you make use of your discarded sourdough starter? Give us some new ideas in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Alison Boydstun
    Alison Boydstun
  • AntoniaJames
A kitchen scientist and dog-lover. Someday I want to have you over for dinner.


Alison B. December 24, 2017
We make the dog soon hard mini breadsticks. Add in some cracklings, top with some coarse salt and we have one mighty happy pup
AntoniaJames December 22, 2017
May I respectfully point out that in order to substitute starter for flour and liquid in any recipe, one must be mindful of the hydration ratio of the starter itself? So, in this example:
"substitute 140g of starter for a packet of yeast and subtract 70g from both the water and flour components of the recipe,", the advice works only if your starter is made with equal amounts fo flour and water. More info on adapting bread and similar recipes in my response to this Hotline thread - -- scroll down to the answer formatted with numbered points.

And here's my adaptation of Sifton's sourdough pancakes, complete with metric measures, for those of us who prefer the convenience (no measuring cups to wash!) of putting ingredients directly into the bowl: which recipe I use several at least twice a month for waffles. (Did you know that extra waffles can be frozen and then reheated quickly on the waffle iron or in batches in a moderate oven?)
Happy Holidays, everyone! ;o)