How to Dehydrate Sourdough Starter

It’s a great peace of mind to have a backup for your own sourdough starter. Thankfully it is very easy to dehydrate sourdough starter!

dehydrated starter in a container

What is Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter is a living thing, consisting of flour, water, and a mixture of yeasts and bacteria. It’s similar in a way to a kombucha scoby or milk kefir grains. No sourdough starter is exactly alike, as it changes based on how it is fed, what it is fed, and what the natural bacteria and wild yeast are in your particular area.

Sourdough starter is used to make sourdough bread, pancakes, buns, brownies, you name it! Sourdough baking covers just about anything you could want to make.

This starter has to be fed regularly (given fresh flour and water) to keep it alive. When it is fed, it will expand and get bubbly. It is this action that allows sourdough starter to raise baked goods with out the use of yeast. 

Why Dehydrate Sourdough Starter?

Back Up Starter

The main reason you might want to dry sourdough starter is for long term storage/an insurance policy for your starter. Sourdough starter is pretty tough and can handle a lot of abuse, but it can still spoil or get compromised. I had my first ever starter for example get spoiled in the fridge when a pan of thawing meat got knocked into it. There’s no coming back from that one!

Properly stored dry starter will be viable for years and takes up very little space.

loaf of sourdough bread rough and tumble farmhouse

Share or Sell Starter

Sharing fresh starter is always great, but sometimes it is nice to be able to give someone dried starter to begin their sourdough journey. It’s less stressful. They can keep that stashed in their cupboard or freezer until they feel up to dipping their toes in the sourdough making process.

It also can be mailed easily this way or even sold. I even have dried starter available in my own homestead shop.

Take a Break

Sourdough starter can take extended breaks into the fridge for months at a time. But maybe you have just plain had it with sourdough for a good long while. If you want to take a long break say a year or more, then drying down your starter might be a good way to hold onto all you’ve built with your starter, but give yourself a good break. 

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Two Methods to Dehydrate Sourdough Starter

This is a very easy process and can be done a few ways. The simplest is the aid drying method. The next easiest is with a food dehydrater. Let’s cover both!

Air Drying Sour Dough Starter

This is a very simple process that anyone can do. It does take a couple of days to complete but will give you perfectly useable dried starter chips. 

You will just need active sourdough starter, parchment paper or silicone mat, a spatula, and a cookie sheet.

Activate Your Starter

I typically feed my starter the night before I plan to dehydrate it.

dehydrated starter

In the morning, place the parchment paper on a baking sheet. 

Use the rubber spatula to scoop out a big blob of active starter.

Spread this thinly across the piece of parchment paper.

Place the cookie sheet somewhere safe, away from dust, and with good air flow.  You can let it dry in your oven but remember it is in there and don’t preheat it on accident!

I stuck mine on top of the fridge.

Allow it to sit at room temperature for around 48 hours. This will vary depending on how warm your house is and what the humidity is.

When the starter is properly dried down, you should be able to smoosh the parchment paper together on either side and the starter will easily break into small pieces.

Be sure to check it thoroughly, especially any thicker spots, to make sure it is completely dry. You can optionally run the pieces through a food processor. However I have found that you can smash it up into small enough pieces. 

If it all looks good, store it in an airtight container, such as a glass jar. It is completely shelf stable and will keep for years! I like to stash mine in the freezer for extra assurance that it will stay healthy in its dormant state. 

Food Dehydrator Method

I have found for best results it is a good idea to use your food dehydrator if you have one. It takes much less time and makes the process much quicker and also reduces the chance of any kind of contamination from dust, cats, whatever.

This method works exactly the same as the air dry method, except we are adding in a dehydrator.

Feed your starter the night before you intend to start the drying process.

In the morning, use a rubber spatula to scoop out a big blob of starter. Spread this out on either a piece of parchment paper cut to fit your dehydrator, or you can use the fruit leather drying insert that come with many dehydrators. 

Place the sourdough starter in the dehydrator. Turn it to the lowest setting of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This should be the same setting you use for herbs. 

Allow the dehydrator to run until the starter is dry. This will vary based on the temperature and humidity in your home. It takes mine about nine hours to dry completely. 

After it is thoroughly dried, you should be able to crumble it in your fingers. Pay special attention to any thicker areas of starter and make sure they are completely dried. 

After they are dried, you can store it in a mason jar or other airtight container. It is shelf stable and can go right in your cupboard. It will last a very long time. Years! You can also keep it in the freezer if you want to be extra careful. 

pinterest graphic for dehydrating starter rough and tumble farmhouse

​​How to Activate Dehydrated Sourdough Starter

If you ever need to create a new starter out of your dried sourdough starter, you can easily wake it up by beginning to feed it flour and water. Here is a step-by-step guide to the whole process.

Why Does this Work?

Dehydrated starter is simply transitioning active starter to a dormant state. Think about commercial yeast. That comes in a dried at almost powder form. By feeding it warm water and a little sugar, that yeast wakes right up and starts growing. 

Dehydrated starter works the same way. By getting it back into a regular feeding schedule, that old starter will wake right back up and be ready for bread recipes, english muffins, you name it!

Can you Dehydrate Starter in the Oven?

Nope! Just like yeast will die off if exposed to high temperatures, you can kill the living cultures in your starter by exposing it to too much heat. Unless your oven gets to less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a no go. Room temperature or the 95 degrees setting on a food dehydrator are your best bets.

Where to Buy Dehydrated Sourdough Starter

Check out my friend Jamie over at Sourdough on the Farm for her starters. Soon I’ll have dehydrated starter available in our online farm stand! Additionally, dried starters of many different varieties can be purchased. San Fransisco sourdough starter is pretty famous. You can buy this starter that apparently traveled across the Oregon trail in 1847. That’s the cool thing about sourdough starters. They have a story and a history that keeps you connected with generations before.

​Talking Sourdough

It was an honor to be a guest on the TrailBlazher podcast and chat with hosts Jan and Erin. As you do on podcasts, we went down a bit of a rabbit trail talking sourdough and “Yeasty Beasties”. You can take a listen to us talk sourdough and all things homestead on this episode of the podcast. 

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