Free shipping on orders over $75 for US customers!

Take the guesswork out of backyard chicken keeping with MY Printable Bundle

Take the guesswork out of backyard chicken keeping with MY Printable Bundle

How To Convert Any Yeast Recipe To Sourdough

yeast to sourdough conversion

Sourdough bread has been a staple in cultures around the world for centuries, valued not only for its unique flavor but also for its health benefits and versatility in the kitchen. Sourdough baking is also rising in popularity.

My feed is filled with novice bakers, new homesteaders, and people from around the world sharing their sourdough creations. My mom even mentioned that she wanted to get into baking sourdough. This made my heart happy because I have been on the sourdough grind for the past few years.

I created my sourdough starter by following this recipe, and the rest has been history! According to tradition, you are supposed to name your sourdough starter, and I haven’t. If you have any sourdough starter name suggestions, send them my way.

While traditional sourdough recipes often call for a sourdough starter as the leavening agent, many bakers wonder if they can convert their favorite yeast recipes to sourdough. I have been on a journey to convert my old yeast recipes to sourdough, and I have had great success.

The answer to that question is yes, you can use your sourdough starter in place of yeast. In this blog, we'll explore how to do just that.

Understanding Sourdough Starter

Before diving into the conversion process, it's essential to understand what a sourdough starter is and how it works. A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented by wild yeast and beneficial bacteria.

What is neat an exclusive to a sourdough starter is that it will absorb yeast and bacteria from your surroundings to make it even more beneficial for your gut microbiome. Store-bought yeast isn’t able to do this as it is not local to you and your environment.

This mixture of water, flour, and local yeast and bacteria creates a natural leavening agent that gives sourdough its characteristic rise and flavor.

Creating a sourdough starter is a straightforward process that involves mixing flour and water and allowing it to ferment over several days. Once established, a sourdough starter needs regular feeding and maintenance to keep it healthy and active.

Funny story: you do see online people sharing how they have neglected their sourdough starters and they have to start over or try to revive it—I have been there. When I was starting my sourdough journey, I neglected my sourdough started that it had completely dried in the fridge.

Yes, dried completely.

There wasn’t any mold surprisingly, so I just broke it up, added water and flour and started daily feedings and discards. Soon, my starter was revived and it is the same starter I have today! She is tough, resilient, and I’m happy I was able to quickly revive my sourdough starter years ago.

Why Convert a Yeast Recipe to Sourdough?

There are several compelling reasons why you might want to convert a yeast recipe to sourdough. Firstly, sourdough offers a depth of flavor and complexity that is unmatched by commercial yeast. Truly, sourdough can either have a hint of sour, a lot of sour, or just a small essence of sour depending on the process.

The fermentation process of sourdough results in tangy notes and a nuanced taste profile that can elevate any baked good. Sourdough is often touted for its health benefits, including easier digestion and increased nutrient availability.

This is because sourdough is a fermented food and fermented foods are beneficial for the gut microbiome. Sourdough has increased antioxidants, less phytic acid so it’s easier to digest, a lower glycemic index, and does not spike your blood sugar.

The fermentation process also helps break down gluten making sourdough products sometimes more digestible for gluten-sensitive individuals. Sourdough is all-around a lovely health food tool.

Additionally, sourdough bread tends to have a longer shelf life compared to yeast bread, thanks to the natural preservatives produced during fermentation. This means you can enjoy your homemade bread for longer without worrying about it going stale.

This also means that you can avoid store-bought bread that is loaded with lab-made preservatives. Part of my homesteading journey has been transitioning away from store-bought foods and to from scratch foods. You taste and feel the difference.

One reason I love baking with sourdough starters over store-bought yeast is because it allows you to be more self-sufficient. If yeast isn’t available at the stores, you have a leavening agent already.

I remember going to the stores in 2020, and yeast was not on the shelves—completely sold out. This inspired many people to start a sourdough starter. I had already had mine, luckily.

By converting yeast recipes to sourdough, you not only enhance the flavor and texture of your baked goods but also potentially boost their nutritional value.

You can experiement with new flavors and decide what works best for you and your family. Some children don’t like the taste of sourdough and prefer a homemade yeast bread with a mild flavor instead.

Converting Yeast Recipes to Sourdough

Converting yeast recipes to sourdough requires a basic understanding of sourdough fermentation and how it differs from using commercial yeast.

While the process may seem daunting at first, it's entirely achievable with a bit of practice and experimentation. I feel like practice and experimentation are just a part of homestead life. Take it or leave it.

There are a few things to consider when you are using your sourdough starter in place of yeast: the amount of flour and water used in the recipe, the amount of yeast used in the recipe, what other leavening agents are used in the recipe, and the time that is needed for rising and proofing.

General conversion rule: 100g of sourdough starter can be used in place of 1 packet (7g, 2 1/4 tsp, or 1 1/2 tbsp) of commercial yeast. You will add this 100g of sourdough starter instead of the yeast. Do not add both!

You can adjust the amount of sourdough starter you need to use based on the amount of yeast used in the recipe. Again, this will take some trial and error with your individual starter.

You need to consider the amount of flour and water in the recipe because you will have to account for the amount of flour and water in your sourdough starter. Afterall, a sourdough starter is simply flour and water with some bacteria and yeast sprinkled in.

General rule: You will want to reduce the amount of flour in the recipe by 50g and the amount of water by 50g. This is because you are using 100g of sourdough starter (50g of water + 50g of flour.)

If you add more sourdough starter, you will need to remember to subtract whatever extra you add from the flour and water in the recipe. You will simply add the sourdough starter along with the flour and water in the recipe and continue on with the recipes instructions.

Special consideration: If the recipe uses a strong leavening agent like baking soda, you may need to lower the amount of sourdough starter that you use. For example, if a recipe calls for 100g cup of sourdough starter, you might start by using 50g to 75g of starter when baking with baking soda.

The overall bake time of the recipe will have to be extended to account for the proofing or fermentation process of your sourdough bread.

General rule: You will need to double the time needed for rising the yeast recipe to accommodate for the sourdough rising. Depending on temperature and the recipe, it may take longer to rise.

A sandwich bread recipe may only take a few hours to rise while the sourdough substitute can take upwards of six hours to rise. You will get the hang of the process as you experiment with different recipes.

Tips for Successful Conversion

Successfully converting yeast recipes to sourdough requires careful attention to detail and an understanding of the factors that can affect the fermentation process. One essential factor to consider is temperature; sourdough ferments best in a warm environment, so be sure to keep your dough in a draft-free area with consistent temperature.

I like to let my breads rise by my woodstove as I have the best luck with them rising uniformly and quicker than if I had set them on the kitchen counter.

DO NOT try to substitute sourdough starter for yeast in bread recipe that you will be using in a bread machine. The bread machine won’t account for the extra rising time and you will end up with a mess.

Additionally, it's crucial to use high-quality ingredients and follow the recipe instructions closely. Even small deviations can affect the final outcome of your bread. Again, this will take practice to learn what works for you and your sourdough starter.

Example Conversion Process

To illustrate the conversion process, let's walk through an example of converting a basic yeast bread recipe to sourdough. Here are the ingredients to my traditional homemade bread that uses yeast:

  • 2 cups warm water (110F/45C)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose or bread flour

You will want to substitute the one packet of dry yeast (1 1/2 tbsp.) for 100 grams of sourdough starter. You would want to use a kitchen scale to get precise flour and liquid measurements. In this case, six cups of flour is roughly 720g, so you would need to subtract 50g resulting in 670g of flour you would need to add. Two cups of water is roughly 480g, you would subtract 50g resulting in 430g of water you would need to add.

Again, you will have to account for longer rise times in this recipe. It is this simple, but practice makes perfect.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I use any type of flour to create a sourdough starter?

While all-purpose flour is commonly used, you can also use whole wheat flour or rye flour to create a starter.

2. How often do I need to feed my sourdough starter?

It's recommended to feed your starter every day or every other day, depending on the ambient temperature and activity of the culture.

3. What if my sourdough bread doesn't rise properly?

Poor rise can be caused by several factors, including underfed starter, improper fermentation conditions, or overproofing. Adjusting these factors can help improve the rise of your bread.

4. Can I convert sweet bread recipes to sourdough?

Yes, you can convert sweet bread recipes to sourdough by adjusting the fermentation times and sugar levels to suit the sourdough process.

5. Is sourdough bread healthier than bread made with commercial yeast?

Sourdough bread offers several potential health benefits, including improved digestion, increased nutrient availability, and a lower glycemic index compared to bread made with commercial yeast.

Final Thoughts On Sourdough Instead of Yeast

I hope you found this guide helpful for how to use your sourdough starter in place of yeast in a recipe. Sourdough starters can enhance your baking by giving a depth of flavor and enhancing the nutritional profile of whatever you are baking.

Using a sourdough starter helps you become self-sufficient and less reliant on outside systems as compared to relying on just packets of yeast.

Yes, you do need water and flour to keep your sourdough starter fed and happy, but you can factor those into your food storage. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you. Happy homesteading, friends!

How To Convert Any Yeast Recipe To Sourdough