Sourdough & Sprouted Breads

Why you should eat sprouted grains or sourdough bread.

One of the many reasons that I started using sprouted grains and making sourdough bread was because of my daughter, Maci. She had terrible intestinal pain every time she ate. She had terrible gas and bloating and was pretty miserable. We had gone to doctors and they were not able to help. So I started to do research on my own and found a wealth of information. This is the result: Maci has been pain free for years. No pain, gas, or bloating and, she is completely healed. One of the things that helped her tremendously was sprouted grains and sourdough breads.

As part of my fermented food journey, I discovered that grains are not the same as they once were. For thousands of years, sheaths of grain would be cut by hand, stacked in the fields, and left to be gathered the next day. The morning dew would cause the grains to sprout, thereby unlocking the nutrients and deactivating the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, making the grains easy to digest. Then the workers would gather the grains and take the seeds off the stalks to be used. Today we have combines that remove the seeds instantly, never allowing the grains to sprout.

Our baking traditions have changed, too. Sourdough starters used to be the standard mode for rising breads. The bacteria and yeasts in the starter transform the wheat in the flour in the same way that sprouting does—releasing nutrients and creating a more digestible product. This process of making sourdough bread, doesn’t use sprouted flour, but bread made this way has the same benefits as bread made with sprouted flour. This transformation is dependent on letting the dough culture for many hours at room temperature. It takes at least seven hours for these dramatic changes to occur. In contrast, breads made with instant yeasts allows the bread rises so quickly, that it never has a chance to be transformed.

The Benefits

I have found that most people’s bodies struggle to digest grains. Yet these same bodies flourish with grains that have been sprouted or are made with a sourdough culture.  They are both considered low glycemic, which is a wonderful benefit. The pancreas needs huge amounts of B vitamins to deal with stress. Once a grain has been sprouted most bodies recognize it as a vegetable rather than a starch which requires digestive enzymes not pancreatic enzymes. Therefore, eating sprouted grains does not stress the pancreas. In 2008, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ruled that sprouted grains are more akin to vegetables than to whole grain.

Phytic acid, which is a known mineral blocker, is present in the bran (the coating of nuts and seeds) of all grains and inhibits the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. This inhibitor can neutralize our own digestive enzymes, resulting in the digestive disorders experienced by many people that eat unsprouted grains. Yet, phytic acid is broken down in the sprouting process and also, complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas are broken down during sprouting. 2

In addition, the sprouting and sourdough process produces changes to the composition of the grain in numerous ways that make it a more beneficial food. This process produces vitamin C and increases the content of vitamins B, B2, B5 and B6. Carotene, which is converted to vitamin A, increases dramatically – sometimes as much as eight-fold.  Sprouting or using a sourdough culture also inactivates aflatoxins, which are toxins produced by fungus and are potent carcinogens found in grains.

Sourdough Versus Sprouted Bread

If I had to choose between sprouted bread and sourdough bread, I would choose sourdough bread. I still love sprouted breads too, but sourdough bread is pure joy for me. I use a long slow overnight method to make my sourdough bread. This allows for even more benefits the longer it ferments. Longer fermentation breaks down the bread making it even more digestible, and the taste is unique and like nothing else.

When you use a sourdough starter to make bread it deactivates the inhibitors and increases the bio availability of nutrients. This is similar to what sprouting your grain does; only this is through starter cultures that are loaded with good bacteria and yeasts. Sourdough also imparts a delicious flavor like nothing else.

I also like that sourdough uses yeast that has all the benefits of years of developing lactobacilli and many other healthy organisms instead of commercial made yeast which is used in making sprouted bread. Commercial yeast is a single kind of organism that raises the bread very quickly and transforms grain into something that’s even less good for you. Sourdough is two organisms: wild yeast and bacteria, in symbiosis. The yeast and bacteria transform the grain to make it healthier, easier to digest, and resistant to getting moldy or stale. I have seen many who had gluten problems do fine with long rise sourdough bread. The magic seems to occur when you let the rising time reach seven hours or longer. This is the amount of time it seems to take for the cultures to do their work while imparting a delicious flavor.This transforms the bread, allowing your body to digest it easily.

Sourdough bread is hands down my favorite cultured food to make. I love taking a warm loaf from the oven. You will love it, and so will your body.

Don't use sprouted flour to make Sourdough Bread

Don’t use sprouted flour to make sourdough bread. The bread has already been broken down by the process of sprouting and the sourdough culture won’t have what it needs to transform the bread. Since both process are similar in their ability to transform the bread, it’s important to use regular flour to allow the sourdough culture to have the nutrients it needs to make you delicious bread.


Sourdough Recipes

These are some of my favorite sourdough recipes

Sourdough Recipes

Donna's Sourdough Starter

Get My Sourdough Starter

Donna’s Sourdough Starter

Sprouted Recipes

These are some of my favorite sprouted recipes

Sprouted Recipes


  1. J. Quinn, Essential Eating (Waverly, PA: Azure Moon Publishing, 2003): 33.
  2. S. Fallon, Nourishing Traditions (Washington, D.C.: New Trends Publishing, 1999): 112.
81 Responses to "Sourdough & Sprouted Breads"
  1. Donna,

    I just made my first patch of your sourdough bread with your starter and it tasted AMAZING! I haven’t eaten bread in months so it was wonderful to have some again. I did have a question though, I found that after only 2 pieces of bread that my stomach ached?? I know when i first started eating cultured vegetables that my stomach ached but i knew it could be from die off so i kept eating in small amounts and I feel so much better now, I know the probiotics are killed in the baking process and was wondering if there was a similar reason that my stomach could ache? I want to keep eating the wonderful tasting bread any suggestions??

  2. I purchased my starter from you, fed it..etc. It makes fantastic pancakes, but not bread. The bread is dry and dense, just doesn’t seem to rise much. Now that I have been using my starter for a while, I am wondering if I have done something wrong, it is sticky and gooey, not fluid like it used to be. Is this okay? Or have I done something wrong? Thanks for your help.

  3. Sorry- one last question. What is wrong if it has bubbles, but doesn’t rise much in the jar if at all? What should I do? Thanks again! Sheila

  4. What should the starter smell like? Mine has been very strong smelling; alcohol-like, and almost “fruity” smelling. That doesn’t seem correct. Also, do you say that my sourdough starter should be stored in a container with a screw on lid versus the glass jar with a glass lid that “sits” on top, (it isn’t a tight seal)? At times the starter smells like “bread” (does this make any sense to you- I hope;)) Thank you for your response!! Sheila

      • I use organic hard white wheat flour that I have ground from the berries, sometimes organic spelt, sometimes organic hard red- again, flour I’ve ground from the berries. Is that okay?

      • What does it mean when it smells those certain ways? It’s underfed or overfed? Do I need to always use the same kind of four to feed it? I guess from what you have said, it seems okay. I have a loaf of your 5 minute sourdough recipe ready for it’s second rise right now on my counter! So thrilled to try it. How do you come by your recipes? I wouldn’t know what to try to experiment with one to find out if it worked!

        • If is smells like alcohol than it is running out of food it needs to be fed again when it like this. You can change your flour if you wish.

          I just make up my recipes not sure just kind of pops in my mind and I experiment.

  5. Can you ruin your sourdough starter by having it in the oven with just the pilot light on?? I still have some original starter in the fridge so I can replenish it and start over if I did something to it. I made beautiful bread that rose and tasted great but my last two batches did only bubble and the culture did not rise much if at all. I had it sitting in the oven with the pilot light on because the house is rather cool during the day while we are gone.

  6. When making Donna’s Sourdough Bread, I follow the ingredients list omitting the quarter cup of oil. I find the dough can barely be mixed it’s so dry. Even adding an extra cup of water still results in a solid, barely pliable lump…not at all as fluid as it looks in the picture. The problem is not my cup of starter, it’s quite fluid. Suggestions? Thanks!

  7. confused about the sourdough bread. I was reading your sourdough bread recipe in your book. it calls for sprouted flour. but on your website you say not to use sprouted flour for sourdough because it has nothing to feed on. is this just for the starter or the whole bread recipe?

    • That is an error that the publisher did and we are trying to get it corrected in future printing. You do not need to use sprouted flour you should use regular un sprouted flour to make sourdough bread.

      • You say that I do not NEED to use sprouted flour for sourdough. Does this mean that I SHOULDN’T or just that it doesn’t change the digestibility factor? I was assuming that sprouted sourdough was better than plain sourdough because the wheat berries had been through even more of a pre-digestion period.

        • You should not use sprouted flour for sourdough. It is already broken down and the culture will have nothing to do and result in a bread that does not rise very well.

          • I’m currently using sprouted flour for my sourdough (bread and starter) and I’ve been able to make the most wonderful sourdough bread. Bogus! Of course you can. Don’t let your sprouts get too long (no more than 1/8th inch or 1/2 grain length). Dehydrate at a low temp (100-110F) in dehydrator.

  8. Hi donna,
    My niece gave me some of her sourdough starter i brought home with me in September. I have yet to make anything with it. However, I thought all I needed to do to keep it alive was to feed it equal parts of flour and water once a week and keep it in the fridge. Since I’ve wanted to have enough to make some bread I kept waiting for me to accumulate more before I used it for my bread. Which the bread recipe I have calls for 2 1/2 cups of starter. Ok, so I have been only feeding it 1/4 cup of flour and water each week and putting it in the fridge afterwards. It still bubbles and has a large amount of liquid on top. Well, I have gone longer than a week or so to feed it. Is it ok? And I had heard that you are suppose to dump the brown liquid off before feeding it, so this is what I was doing for the most part. Discard the liquid, added 1/4 cup flour and water, mix in, put back in fridge. Sometimes I would do 1/2 cup flour and water. I guess I didn’t realized I could be doing a larger amount of flour and water so I could accumulate more starter quicker, because I still don’t have a whole ton of it. My question is, you said to discard a cup of the starter each time you add to it? Is that necessary or is it ok to just keep adding to what I have and not discard any?? And since it’s been over a week, should I set it out and feed it a larger amount of the flour and water and leave it sit out to revive it? I just want to keep it alive and start making stuff with it. I guess it’s been a little intimidating to me to start anything with it! Thanks for your help!

  9. Very nice recipe. My wife is a baker and makes sourdough bread every week. We have tried many recipes but never with sprouted grains. We will absolutely try this. Thanks again!

  10. Thank you SO much for sharing all your knowledge! I have been researching sourdough b/c we have sensitivities to gluten and I would love to have fresh bread in the house again. One of the things I’ve been reading is that many people with gluten sensitivity are really sensitive to the presto use sprayed on the grains (glyphosate, I think? Something like that). This toxic chemical can do supposedly irreversible damage to the gut (I don’t believe anything is irreversible). Do you know anything about this and if organic flours are safe from this?

  11. I have bought a wondermill and am grinding my own wheat berries. I find the ground wheat very moist trying to make bread/ sourdough recipes the dough becomes very wet- like a cake mixture rather than dough. What can I do to make it more like dough without adding too much flour? Do I reduce the water in recipes? thanks

  12. Wheat can be sprouted and ground up, and the moist, ground wheat made directly into bread without drying it out into flour first. There are recipes available on the Internet. I have a great recipe that works well and tastes better than any bread I’ve ever eaten anywhere. In fact I have a couple of recipes: one for 100% sprouted wheat bread (no flour used except for a dusting on the counter when I knead the dough) and the other for a “hybrid” bread made of part regular bread dough using flour, and the rest sprouted wheat. Even this bread tastes better than ordinary whole-wheat bread, and it makes the best toast in the world.

  13. Donna, I recieved my starter and fed it the sprouted grain flour. In your video say say not to use sprouted flour for sour dough. Am I doing this wrong. What flour should I feed it with?

  14. Donna, I have fed my starter 2 times now and I have lots of bubbles but no rising. I just found out I have to leave the house for 2 days in a few hours. Do I just put it in the fridge or feed it again and then put it in the fridge? Thanks…Bev

  15. Hi Donna,
    Do you have a link for anyone that has/sells sourdough starter in or around Toronto, Ontario, Canada?


  16. I found that when I made sourdough bread with your starter using whole wheat white flour it was tough and hard to knead. When I used white flour, it was not. My family and I are loving the bread. I’m getting ready to bake the one using whole wheat white now so I will see if it turns out. Should I add more water when making bread using whole wheat white? Thank you!

  17. Hi Donna,
    When feeding a sour dough starter to activate it do i keep adding flower and water morning and night without taking away any starter or do i take out a cup each time to add the flower and water and what do i do with the rest. Ive been feeding it for three days now and it is not rising but it has a few bubbles.I now have 5cups of starter.THANKS

  18. Hi Donna!
    I received your sourdough starter last Wednesday, 1-8-2014. When I opened the little jar starter blew out powerfully. I put the remaining starter in a glass jar and began to feed it water and flour as directed. Some bubbles were apparent the next day but the mixture isn’t rising. I’ve fed it twice a day since then, seen bubbles but no rising in the jar. I have so much volume of mixture now that I split it into two jars last night and fed both jars with water and flour. I used a ‘new’ bag of King Arthur unbleached white flour last night. This morning, one jar has zero bubbles. The other jar has bubbles but no rising. Both showed some separated liquid near the top of the mixture. What the heck am I doing incorrectly?
    I’m considering tossing the mixture in the jar with no bubbles at all. Taking the second jar with some bubbles but no rising and reducting the volume to 1 cup and feeding it 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. I don’t have much hope at this point though. I bought your book (it’s great!) and I’ve searched your blog and others for more specific troubleshooting. So far, I can’t find anything but ‘keep feeding it, it is hard to kill’. Thank you for any help you can offer! Best regards, Dale 1-13-2014

    • You not doing anything wrong. If it is bubbly and you have fed it for a couple of times it is ready to use. Sometimes rising depends on the type of flour and warmth.
      Here is what I would recommend. Take 1/2 cup of the bubbly starter add a half up flour and 1/2 cup of water so now you will have 1 1/2 cups and make your bread with a cup of this it after it has sat for 8 hours. Save the rest of the starter and add another 1/2 cup of flour and water to it and store it in the fridge or let it ferment again if you like. Your bread will rise just watch it and the optimal time is at least 5 hours or longer for the first rise and then the second rise can be only an hour or two. Let me know how it does. Its ready to use if you have been feeding it since Wednesday and let me know how it does. You an email me if you need more help. donna@

      • Thank you Donna for your reply! I found more warmth was what was needed too. My kitchen is apparently cooler than I realized. When I fed the two batches again I sat them nearer to the stovetop while preparing dinner. Oh my did the starter begin to bubble and rise. Yeah! I had to refrigerate them for a week, fed them again, and right now have a beautiful bowl of active starter on the counter and am about to begin making your recipe for sour dough bread. And your recipe for rolls to throw, and sour dough pancakes. In my determination to keep your starter alive I now have FOUR batches of starter to use up and can’t bear to throw any away. I am so relieved to tell you I did not kill your starter!!!! Thanks again for all your hard work and passion to share! I’m spreading the word. Dale

  19. My niece married into the Davis family in Cleveland, Ohio. They own the Davis bakeries and have the No. 2 Sourdough Rye bread in the country (commercially). With the information you provide people can do this at home. I hope more people understand the need for probiotic foods. We ourselves ferment almost everything we eat. Our kitchen sometimes looks like a laboratory. Keep up the food work.

  20. My starter is thin &watery, not gooey, i think I might be putting in too much water , will that mess things up 🙁 Although I took some out and made another mixture with flour , sourdough starter and water , that one is gooey

      • Donna,
        Thanks for the help. I got your Sourdough Starter last week, fed it, left it out for a day, then put it in the fridge. A few days later, I retrieved it, fed it again, and – after 24 hours – made some bread.

        The dough did not rise as I thought it should after about 6 or 7 hours sitting out, and the subsequent 2½ hours of proofing. Bread is heavy, did not rise correctly, but tastes fine.

        Sourdough Culture has been sitting out in 77ºF room, been fed every 24 hours, has a few bubbles showing after alcohol on top is stirred in, and smells nice. Otherwise, I am not sure I have handled it correctly, and my bread is not what it should be.

        I am not much for baking, but a good cook otherwise. This is my first attempt at Sourdough Bread, so good advice is welcome!

        • You need to feed the starter twice a day every 12 hours and this is why it isn’t rising your bread. Feed it in the morning and at night 1/2 cup starter, 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup flour and let it set for 8 to 12 hours and then use or feed again.

  21. Hi Donna!
    Do you ever use a bread machine for mixing/baking your sourdough bread?
    I have ‘googled’ for some ideas, but they all seem more complicated than easy. I’ve been doing your refrigerator sourdough and love it! Now I’m trying to find an easy adaptation of this for bread machine use. This is for a friend who wants to make the refrigerator or even a quick sourdough, but he only has one good arm to use, and so I am trying to find an easier way for him to do it and thought the bread machine might solve the problem.

  22. Hi Donna,
    I have wheat berries from Montana that I would like to learn how to sprout and make my oun flour for bread, etc. Do you have a tutorial on how to do that that I missed?? Sure would love some help! I have pre-ordered your book but I’m not a probiotic membe….yet, lol! Thank you does not seem like near enough for all you give to us folks!

  23. Hi Donna

    Do you have any recommendations for buying sourdough bread online? I remember reading somewhere (I can’t remember whether it was on your site on another gaps/fermented foods site) that ideally the dough should be left to rise for at least 7 hours in order for the acids etc to be properly digested/fermented?



  24. Can I use sprouted flour I am finding at the store nowadays? Will I get the same digestibility ease? Thanks

  25. Hi,

    I see sprouted flour is available at my health food store. I also see recipes from the company website using their sprouted flour. Will I have the same digestibility as the sourdough? I assume ‘yes’ from my early learning here. Thanks.


    • You can use it wet sprouted grains to make sprouted bread and I am actually working on a recipe for that now.

      You don’t use sprouted flour to make sourdough bread because then the sourdough culture has nothing to transform. Always use regular flour that is not sprouted to make sourdough bread.

  27. Not having the starters in Greece, how is it Possible to make this at home.
    I make Waterkefir and Milk kefir Regularly at home. Is it possible to do starters from those.

    • We made our own sourdough starter. There are many recipes around. Just requires flour and water and a few days of regular feeding to develop an active culture. I’ve also heard that the culture will shift over time anyway if you take it to a new geographical region. Maybe you can try your own. I’m making water Kefir too and having lots of fun.

    • Correct. Similar things are accomplished in both just a different way to go about it. When you make sourdough you need to use regular flour and not sprouted. It needs to convert it and in sprouted it is already down.

  28. Just curious…..once you order a starter, will you then have one left over? Or is sourdough starter something that needs to be ordered every time?