Switching Sourdough Starter to a New Type of Flour

Q. I purchased a sourdough bread starter that is accustomed to white flour but I’d like to use whole wheat flour. How do I switch the sourdough bread starter over to whole wheat flour?

A. All of our sourdough bread starters can be converted to be used with a wide variety of flours. We recommend that you initially activate the starter and establish the starter with whatever type of flour it is accustomed to (generally white, wheat or rye flour). Once the sourdough starter is clearly healthy (bubbling happily) and has gone through at least a week of regular feedings, split the sourdough starter in two and put half in a safe place in the refrigerator. Start feeding the second half with the new flour. Within a few days/feedings, the sourdough starter will be fully converted. This method of splitting the sourdough starter allows you to convert the sourdough bread starter over to a new flour type but also gives you a back up in the refrigerator as there can be a learning curve when working with new flour types.

Please note, the best flours for feeding sourdough are white flour, whole wheat, spelt and rye.  Brown rice flour can be used but starters fed with brown rice starter tend to be less robust and require more regular feedings (minimum 2-3 times a week).

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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  1. Linda Crawford says

    I am a celiac and lactose intolerant and require a gluten-free and dairy free diet. I am so tired of hard, flavorless breads and am hoping I can use coconut flour or almond flour from the beginning to get the starter to bloom. Are the starters gf and lactose free? I can use about any that is gluten-free, but I would like to use whatever makes the bread the most tender inside without being dry or raw tasting. Do you have any gluten-free recipes or tips? Thanks for your help in my search for an edible homemade bread. Linda Crawford

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      Great question! Since you are celiac, I would actually recommend using the book The Art of Gluten-free Sourdough Baking to make flavorful sourdough bread with great texture. The book includes an easy method to make a gluten-free starter using water kefir or kombucha for the necessary bacteria. Besides being easy, this method also allows you a way to make a starter each time you need one rather than having to maintain a starter (gluten-free starters are particularly difficult to keep alive long term).

      We do carry a brown rice starter on our website and it would be an option but we always want to disclaim that it is grown in a facility where wheat products are processed. While great care is taken to prevent cross contamination, ultimately it is always a possibility. Using the method in the book above though would mean no risk at all to you.

  2. Dona says

    From my readings I thought you were to soak the flour and starter mix for 8 hours or overnight??? I’m confused.

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      It depends on several factors including the amibent temperature and your specific sourdough starter. In general, a warmer ambient temperature will speed the process so as we move into the warmer season it’s important to keep a close eye on your starter and halt the process when the starter gets quite bubbly and rises. Specific starter characteristics matter too. Some sourdough starters proof more quickly than others (that is the yeast and bacteria consume the flour and water creating gas and thus causing the dough to rise more quickly than do other strains). There is a danger in allowing your starter to proof too long in that if it runs out of food to eat, it can start producing waste product and become too acidic.

      If you’re new to working with your specific strain of starter, I’d recommend feeding it in the morning to keep an eye on it. Make a note of the time you start and the time it appears to be proofed. That may be 4 hours, 8 hours, or even 12 hours. It just depends on your starter. Once you get a feel for the length of time your starter needs you may very well be able to leave it overnight.

  3. says

    What is your experience with whole white wheat flour?

    I am planning to purchase a package of your whole wheat starter because I have tried for about a month to get my whole white wheat starter to catch with no luck.

    I have previously made a wonderful, happy unbleached, enriched flour starter but wanted to go whole wheat.

    Can I have the lovely compromise of whole white wheat or is it simply a difficult flour to feed a starter with?

  4. Melissa says

    I understood that the point of souring was to increase the nutritional value of whole grain flour by reducing phytic acid, so how does souring benefit white flour?

  5. Patricia says

    If I am somewhat gluten intolerant, can I use my 15-year old starter (made with A/P flour), to make a more tolerable starter with other flours? I have done it, by using only a tsp. of my old starter and feeding it for several days. I cannot determine if it is ok for me to eat bread made with it.


    • RosalynRosalyn says

      Patricia, try it with some extra starter and see how it goes. You can usually convert a starter by slowly feeding it with the new flour until the new flour completely replaces the old one.

  6. diana says

    I am interested in making sourdough bread using almond flour. I understand I would need to use white or whole wheat in the initial starter but has anyone successfully used almond flour to make sourdough bread?

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