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Rye Sourdough Starter

This rye sourdough starter recipe will walk you through every step of making your own rye-based starter from scratch. The instructions are clear and easy to follow so you can start baking with your new starter in no time flat!

I've been having so much fun with my 24-hour sourdough starter. That thing is resilient, I mean, I forgot about it in the fridge for 4 months and I was able to revive my starter in just a couple of days.

In the past few weeks, I've been dabbling in rye sourdough. If you liked my bread machine rye bread recipe, you'll be totally digging this rye sourdough series!

This rye sourdough starter recipe is dedicated to digging it!

Rye sourdough starter in a mason jar.

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Tips + Tricks

No. 1 --> If you're already rocking a strong sourdough starter, be aware that this one is a bit different. Due to the rye flour, the flavor is slightly more acidic and it will smell different.

No. 2 --> This is a stiff(!) starter. You can see from the photos that even at 100% hydration this starter holds its shape and resists spreading when freshly fed.

No. 3 --> Once you become acquainted with your new rye sourdough starter and are happy with the outcome, you may want to consider building in a backup! Check out this how to store sourdough starter guide to learn how to preserve a rockstar starter in case something awful happens!

No. 4 --> Rye sourdough starter does not rise and fall like a standard sourdough starter. It rises, but due to the density doesn't tend to fall as much. Be aware of that when judging if your starter is fed and active or hungry and dormant.

Why Make Rye Sourdough Starter

I know what you're thinking: I've already got a wheat sourdough starter, why do I need another one with different flour?

Well, the answer is simple. Flavor!

The composition of the grains is very different. Rye, especially dark rye, flours have more nutrients and different starches than an unbleached all-purpose flour, this gives the yeasts in the starter more and different foods to eat, resulting in a deeper flavor profile.

If flavor isn't enough to entice you to the dark (rye) side, then how about considering that rye starters activate and ferment quicker than their wheat-based counterparts. Delicious bread faster? Sign me up!

Another added bonus of rye is that it holds on to moisture better than modern grains. This generally results in a loaf that can hang longer on the counter before drying out.

Rye starters, due to their low gluten content are also easier to maintain because they aren't as "glue-y" as wheat starters, and they actually bounce back from missed feedings better too (Not that I would ever miss a feeding or anything!)

Key Ingredients

Rye Flour: I use Rogers Dark Rye Flour. It's somewhat coarse and contains both the grain and the bran, but not the endosperm of the grain. This is a delicious, additive-free dark rye flour that I can easily get my hands on!

One thing to note is that there is no standard "grading" for rye flour, what one company calls dark rye flour another may call whole grain rye. When in doubt, check the ingredients label. Mine specifically calls out rye flour and rye bran.

Labeled ingredient photo.

Yeast or Nah?

This is a personal choice. I personally love to add that extra bit of yeasty boosters to my starters when they are new. For a couple of reasons:

  • I am patient but not that patient. It helps me to use my starter within 3 days.
  • Can't fail. Seriously! Even if you got the most sterile flour ever, you could swing it with commercial yeast!

You can choose to add it or not. If you choose not to add it, omit it from the first mix, and be prepared to feed your starter for 6+ days before it's active enough to bake with.

How To Make Rye Sourdough Starter

DAY 1:

  1. In a small glass bowl mix the warm water and yeast with a wooden or plastic spoon. Set aside for a couple minutes to rehydrate the yeast.
  2. Stir in the rye flour. It will be sticky and dense. This is normal.
  3. Either cover the container with a clean kitchen towel or transfer it to a large glass jar and lightly cover.
  4. Set the starter in a warm spot, free of temperature swings, and drafts to ferment for 24 hours.

DAY 2:

  1. After 24 hours, stir down the bubbles and discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g rye flour and 50 g warm water. If you notice a layer of liquid (hooch) on the bottom of the jar, stir this in before discarding.
  2. Once the fed starter is fed, bubbly, and doubled in volume it's ready to use! This will take about 6-12 hours depending on your kitchen temperature and starter.

DAY 3 + Onward:

  1. Discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g rye flour and 50 g warm water, transfer to a clean jar. Or save any amount of starter you like, but it must be mixed at a 1:1:1 ratio of starter: water: flour to keep a 100% hydration starter.
  2. Store as desired.

Feeding + Storing Rye Sourdough Starter

daily to bi-weekly baker

If you plan on baking daily or a few times a week, you'll want to keep your starter at room temperature. This will keep it warm and active whenever you're ready for it!

To keep your starter alive, you'll need to feed it roughly every 24 hours. You can play with the feeding schedule a bit, once you get to know your starter and how hungry it is. The starter should be fed after the culture doubles in size and deflates, and ideally before hooch starts to form.

You'll know your starter has begun to deflate by the slide marks left on your jar!

weekly or less frequent

Not a huge baker? Don't have a lot of time to devote to the sourdough? Don't let this deter you. You can bake beautiful sourdoughs as frequently or infrequently as you like.

If you're an infrequent baker, keep your sourdough in the fridge! This slows down the fermentation time considerably and allows you to feed your sourdough only once every week or two. Due to the length of time between feeds, the refrigerated starter will likely have hooch forming on the top, this is totally fine, stir it in and feed as required.

If keeping your starter in the fridge, simply remove it from the fridge, stir and feed, and rest for 12-24 hours before baking.

More Great Sourdough Recipes

Brod + Taylor Proofing Box: I've been keeping my sourdough starter in my new Brod + Taylor proofing box. It is a great little tool for keeping a nice, consistently warm and humid environment around my starters! Since getting my proofer, I've noticed my starters are ready to be used after a feed within 2-4 hours, and my bread seems to have a higher rise!

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📖 Printable Recipe

Rye sourdough starter in a mason jar with a cloth lid.
Yield: 1 starter

Rye Sourdough Starter

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Rest Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 25 minutes

This rye sourdough starter is easy to make and will give your bread a unique flavor that’s sure to impress everyone in the family! Using this quick rye starter recipe you'll be able to bake with your starter in 24-48 hours.

Ingredients

day 1:

  • 50 g warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 50 g dark rye flour

day 2 onward:

  • 50 g warm water
  • 50 g dark rye flour

Instructions

    DAY 1:

    1. In a small glass bowl mix the warm water and yeast with a wooden or plastic spoon. Set aside for a couple of minutes to rehydrate the yeast.
    2. Stir in the rye flour. It will be sticky and dense. This is normal.
    3. Either cover the container with a clean kitchen towel or transfer it to a large glass jar and lightly cover.
    4. Set the starter in a warm spot, free of temperature swings and drafts to ferment for 24 hours.

    DAY 2:

    1. After 24 hours, stir down the bubbles and discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g rye flour and 50 g warm water. If you notice a layer of liquid (hooch) on the top of the jar, stir this in before discarding.
    2. Once the fed starter is fed, bubbly, and doubled in volume it's ready to use! This will take about 6-12 hours depending on your kitchen temperature and starter.

    DAY 3 + Onward:

    1. Discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g rye flour and 50 g warm water, transfer to a clean jar. Or save any amount of starter you like, but it must be mixed at a 1:1:1 ratio of starter: water: flour to keep a 100% hydration starter.
    2. Store as desired.

    Notes

    My starter is stiff!?


    This is totally normal. Rye flour can absorb more water than wheat flour. The starter will be quite stiff and hold its shape especially after being freshly fed.

    Yeast or not?

    You can choose to add it or not. If you choose not to add it, omit it from the first mix, and be prepared to feed your starter for 6+ days before it's active enough to bake with.

    feeding + storing rye sourdough starter

    daily to bi-weekly baker

    To keep your starter alive, you'll need to feed it roughly every 24 hours. You can play with the feeding schedule a bit, once you get to know your starter and how hungry it is. The starter should be fed after the culture doubles in size and deflates, and ideally before the hooch starts to form.

    weekly or less frequent

    If you're an infrequent baker, keep your sourdough in the fridge! This slows down the fermentation time considerably and allows you to feed your sourdough only once every week or two. Due to the length of time between feeds, the refrigerated starter will likely have hooch forming on the top, this is totally fine, stir it in and feed as required.

    If keeping your starter in the fridge, simply remove it from the fridge, stir and feed, and rest for 12-24 hours before baking.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    6

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 55Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 4gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g

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