Want to save your sourdough for long-term preservation, to share, or to travel? Learn how to make a dehydrated sourdough starter and the steps to rehydrating your starter too.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Dehydrated Sourdough is an excellent way to prepare your favorite sourdough starter for traveling, to mail to a friend, or preserve it during a big move. It is also a good idea to keep ready-to-go batches on hand that are shelf-stable and that don’t need to be fed.
It is as simple to rehydrate as starting a new batch and takes just 24-48 hours to dry even without a food dehydrator, and just a day to reactivate. So it's worth the time investment to try drying it out for various reasons.
How to Make Dehydrated Sourdough Starter
Before can dehydrate it, you'll need to make a batch of sourdough starter.
- 1 batch active sourdough starter
- 1 large baking sheet
- Silicone mat or parchment paper
- Silicone spatula
Lay the silicone mat or parchment onto a baking sheet. Silicone mats work the best for this and are easy to clean, as well as they create less waste.
Spread sourdough with a spatula as thin as you can. The lighter it is the quicker the starter will dry.
Place the pan in a cool, dry place. Avoid putting any heat on your sourdough or it will kill the starter.
Now if you have a dehydrator, you could spread it on the fruit roll sheets and dehydrate it that way, but you don’t need one to dehydrate sourdough.
Check it after 24 hours. If the starter still has moisture on the underside, this is a good time to flip it so it dries evenly.
Continue to allow it to dry until it is crisp and dry. If using a food dehydrator will want to check it about every 6-8 hours.
Break the dried starter up into small pieces. You can also place them into a food processor and get them more like crumbs or even a powder.
Store in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Tip: Bake up a sourdough discard recipe as another way to use extra sourdough starter.
Serve sourdough discard biscuits alongside your favorite grilled meat.
Or whip up sourdough discard tortillas to serve with chili.
My kids love these sourdough discard banana muffins too.
To reactivate the sourdough
Mix ¼ cup of dried sourdough with ¼ cup of warm water.
Allow to sit undisturbed until the pieces have dissolved into the water, about 3 hours or so.
Stir in another ¼ cup of warm water and ½ cup of unbleached flour, be sure to mix it well.
After four to six hours, you should start to see your starter coming back to life.
Mix in ¼ cup of warm water and ¼ cup of unbleached flour, and allow this to sit covered for another 2-3 hours or until your starter has doubled in size.
Your starter is now reactivated and ready to use in your favorite sourdough recipes.
Why dehydrate sourdough
A dehydrated sourdough starter can be a great option for various reasons.
First, it offers longevity. When stored properly, a dehydrated sourdough starter can last months or even years. And this makes it a great backup if your active starter dies or even if you want to take a break from regular feedings.
Second, it's portable. It’s inconvenient to carry a jar of active, bubbling starter if you're camping, traveling or moving.
On the other hand, a dehydrated starter is lightweight and non-perishable, making it travel-friendly. (And it’s really handy for hearty camping recipes too!)
Third, sharing with friends or family who live far away is easy. Just send a dehydrated starter through the mail without worrying about spoiling or making a mess.
The only caveat is that a dehydrated starter needs to be rehydrated and reactivated before use, which can take a few days. But overall, it's a great tool in your sourdough baking toolkit.
Freezing vs. dehydrating sourdough starter
Both freezing and dehydrating sourdough starters are effective methods for long-term storage, but they have unique advantages and considerations.
Freezing sourdough starter
This is a simple process.
Just place some of your starter in a freezer-safe container, leaving room for expansion, and then pop it into the freezer.
When you're ready to use it again, thaw it at room temperature and feed it until it's back to its bubbly, active state. This process typically takes less time to revive a frozen starter than a dehydrated one.
However, there's always a risk that a frozen starter might not revive as expected, especially if stored for a long time because freezing kills some of the active good bacteria in the yeast.
Dehydrating sourdough starter
This process involves spreading your starter out and allowing it to dry completely, then breaking it up into flakes or grinding it into a powder, as described above.
Store dehydrated starter at room temperature. It doesn’t take much space, a bonus if your freezer is crowded with venison stew, rabbit stew, or rhubarb desserts like mine, is.
It's also easier to share or mail to others. However, reviving a dehydrated starter generally takes longer than reviving a frozen starter, sometimes up to a week, as it needs to be rehydrated and then fed to get it active again.
I’ve found that freezing sourdough starter works best when I’m in a hurry and know I’ll reactivate the starter within a couple of months.
However, if freezer space is at a premium, you need to store it for more than sixty days, or you want to share your starter with others, dehydrating might be the way to go.
Learn more about making, using, and safely storing your sourdough starter with this useful resource from FoodSmart Colorado.
- 1 Batch Active Sourdough Starter(link to her recipe)
- 1 large baking sheet
- Silicone mat or parchment paper
- Dehydrator (optional)
To Dehydrate the Starter
- Lay the silicone mat or parchment onto a baking sheet. Silicone mats work the best for this and are easy to clean, as well as the fact that they create less waste.
- Spread sourdough with a spatula as thin as you can get it, the lighter it is the quicker the drying time will be.
- Place the pan in a cool dry place, if you have a convection oven you can place it in there with only the fan on. You do not want to put any heat at all on your sourdough, this will kill your starter.
- Now if you have a dehydrator you could spread it on the fruit roll sheets and dehydrate it that way but you don’t need one to dehydrate sourdough.
- Check it after 24 hours, if it still has moisture on the underside this is a good time to flip it so that it dries evenly. Continue to allow it to dry until it is crisp and dry. If using a food dehydrator will want to check it about every 6-8 hours.
- Break the dried starter up into small pieces, you can also place them into a food processor and get them more like crumbs or even a powder if you prefer.
- Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
To Reactivate the Sourdough Starter
- Take ¼ cup of dried sourdough and combine it with ¼ cup of warm water.
- Allow to sit undisturbed until the pieces have dissolved into the water, about 3 hours or so.
- Stir in another ¼ cup of warm water and ½ cup of unbleached flour, be sure to mix it well.
- After 4-6 hours you should start to see your starter coming back to life.
- Mix in ¼ cup of warm water and ¼ cup of unbleached flour, and allow this to sit covered for another 2-3 hours or until your starter has doubled in size.
Your starter is now reactivated and ready to use in your favorite recipes.