Q & A: Sourdough Vs. Yeasted Bread

I got an email question in regard to sourdough and yeasted bread from Karen.

I just made the sourdough starter and then made the sourdough bread (from Nourishing Traditions). It was a bit dense and chewy. It reminded me of European breads but lacked a bit of their flavor. I was wondering if you have a recipe for sourdough bread that is your “standby” which your family enjoys. I have made my bread with fresh ground whole wheat but used Saf yeast to make the bread. I did let the bread sponge or rise three times but I guess that is not as good as sourdough. My family wants the “old way” of bread making back.

Thanks, Karen, for bringing up this important topic. It has been one that I have been studying about recently. I have heard that many people have not had the greatest results with Nourishing Tradition’s recipe for sourdough bread. It is more dense, perhaps because it uses rye.
My experience

I personally have two sourdough starters (using whole wheat). One was given to me from a friend who made the starter herself (made with no yeast at all). It has been amazing. I have been able to to make everything from well risen bread loafs, to.. get this… whole wheat sourdough danish pastries that turned out great! Regardless, it has been an super riser, and I haven’t even missed my yeasted bread. The other sourdough starter I have, I purchased from Fermented Treasures (their New England one). I have also been very happy with this starter. It isn’t very sour at all, rises extremely well, and is easy to maintain. So don’t give up! It can be done. I used to make yeasted bread every week (or more). I have always enjoyed making bread, so it has been wonderful to have an opportunity to continue to make it with sourdough.

While I am sure that Karen already knows the pro and cons of yeasted and sourdough bread, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with everyone else what I have learned about it. If anyone wants to put there two cents in on this topic, please do so! Just leave a comment on this post.

Point one to consider: Phytates

Can you reduce the anti-nutritional phytates in a normal “yeasted” bread? The answer is yes and no. If you 1-grind your own flour 2-keep the temperature at 113 degrees 3-do several rises and 4-keep the ph level acidic , you will reduce a lot of the phytates.

Amanda Rose, at Rebuild from Depression has an excellent free course on phytates that shares her research on this topic. It included this quote about yeasted bread.

“But a study of phytates in recipes used typically by home bread bakers found a much less satisfying result for phytate loss: whole wheat breads lost only 22-58% of their phytic acid from the start of the bread making process to the completed loaf (McKenzie-Parnell and Davies 1986). In fact, studies of phytate loss in wheat breads vary quite a bit.”

On the other hand, making a yeastless sourdough will combine all of the needed elements to reducing the phytates in your flour dramatically. Sourdough naturally has lactic acid in it, which breaks down phytic acid for you. This has been exciting news to me! I have been using it in a delicious pancake recipes, and look forward to trying new baked good recipes, allowing the sourdough starter to break down the phytic acid instead of buttermilk (which I can’t have).

But I would be remiss to not point out that you can make a yeasted bread that is soaked. This method has you soak the flour with buttermilk (in Nourishing Tradition’s recipe) to remove the phytates and then make into a yeasted bread. This, Sally Fallon considers is a bit of a compromise, but is definitely better than a typical method of making yeasted bread.
Sue Gregg also uses the same method, which she calls the two stage process which uses vinegar in water to soak. Download her recipe here.

Which brings us to ……

Point two to consider: Commercial yeast Vs. Sourdough yeast

Here are two quotes to consider from Nourishing Traditions

“The history of bread making is a good example of the industrialization and standardization of a technique that was formely empiric….It was simpler to replace natural leaven with brewer’s yeast. There are numerous practical advantages: the fermentation is more regular, more rapid, and the bread rises better. But the fermentation becomes mainly an alcoholic fermenation and the acidification is greatly lessened. The bread is less digestible, less tasty and spoils more easily” Claude Aubert Les Aliments Fermentes Traditionnels

“Baking with natural leaven is in harmony with nature and maintains the integrity and nutrition of the cereal grains used… The process helps to increase and reinforce our body’s absorption of the cereal’s nutrients. Unlike yeasted bread that diminished, even destroy’smoisutre much longer. a Lot of that information was known pragmatically for centuries; and thus when yeast was first introduced in France at the court of Louis XIV in March 1668, because at that time the scientists already knew that the use of yeast would imperil the people’s health, it was strongly rejected. Today, yeast is used almost universally, without any testing; and the recent scientific evidence and clinical findings are confirming that ancient taboos with biochemical and bioelectronic valid proofs that wholly support that age-old common sense decision”. Jacques DeLangre

I also thought that this quote from Classic Sourdoughs, by Ed Wood was enlightening.

“It is important to understand the basic differences between the wile yeast of sourdough and the commercial baker’s yeast in most other breads. First sourdough yeast grow best in acidic doughs, while baker’s yeast does better in neutral or slightly alkaline doughs [Remember that, for reducing phytate content, acidic condition are important, if not the vital part to the equation]. Baker’s yeast is a single species, with hundreds of strains and varieties, while sourdoughs are usually leavened by one or more species in the same dough, none of which is baker’s yeast. Bakery’s yeast is a highly uniform product that produces an equally uniform texture in bread dough. The wild yeast are anything but uniform, and they vary from country to country. But the most impressive difference between the two yeast types is that a single package of instant dried yeast produces just one batch of bread, while the same amount of wild sourdough culture produces loaf after loaf for the lifetimes of many bakers. “

Point Three to Consider: Other Benefits

Health issues aside, here are a few other advantages I have learned to enjoy with sourdough.

Better taste

While some may have to adjust their palate a little to the sourness and depth of sourdough bread, I love it! Perhaps it was easier for me, because I grew up eating sourdough bread. You can also control the sourness in your bread, to some degree. I have friends who purposely make their sourdough not sour. While my family makes their extra sour! But sourness aside, sourdough has a depth of flavor that is truly gourmet.

Better keeping properties

Sourdough, like stated in one of the quotes above, keeps much better than yeasted bread. It stays a lot more moist, and won’t grow stale, unless you leave it unwrapped. These is a huge plus for me!


Not only do you not have to buy yeast, but my “daily” bread does not even contain oil (oil is used not just for flavor, but to keep bread moist, something sourdough doesn’t need) or honey. In it is the sourdough starter, salt, flour, and water. That’s it! It is very frugal, but has a full flavor. While my yeasted whole wheat bread needed oil and sweetener to taste good, sourdough’s fuller flavor doesn’t always need those add ins (though they can be nice in certain breads).

All to say, I make sourdough bread for my family for the many, many reasons above and we love it!

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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    • Susan says

      I am fairly new at this, wanting to make a complete rye sourdough starter and bread, it worked great. I ground my own rye, 1 cup fresh ground to 3/4 c water. and in a couple days, it was well on its way. It’s looking beautiful in my fridge right now. I am planning on making rye sourdough crackers with it next. So you can do it, it seemed as easy to me as any other starter.

      • Susan says

        Oh, and just to say I don’t have a mill of flour grinder. I had a nice cuisinart coffee grinder with a grind preference and it worked fine for the Vollkornbrot. It probably doesn’t grind as fine as a mill, but it did it.

        • Jesse says

          I worked in a artisan bakery that “specialized” in rye sourdough crackers or “crostini”. Our recipe would call for both rye starter, sourdough starter and little bit of saf gold yeast. The cracker was mainly whole wheat with just a touch of white flour. With a finished dough temp of 79 degrees, the dough had no problem rising even with it being loaded with lots of nuts, currants and raisins. We would: bake loaves, let them cool, slice them, and throw them back in for a second bake.

  1. Autumn Edmonds says

    Great, now I really have to keep baking sourdough bread…I was ready to give up, but no chance for that now that you have informed me that it’s so good for my family. 😉 I would love to come see your baking of sourdough firsthand sometime kimi, my sourdough has not turned out exactly to my liking yet. Great post. Thanks.

  2. Kimi Harris says

    Many sourdough experts claim that rye has properties that lend themselves well to sourdough (this is why Sally Fallon recommends it in her book, I think). However, the two starters that I use were made with wheat flour (started with white flour), and they have been wonderful. So I can’t personally vouch for rye. 🙂

    You are welcome to come make bread with me, but I am afraid that we would have to use store bought flour because my grinder has been giving me troubles! It has been grinding it to coarse sometimes, which makes the gluten not develop in the bread. ARGH! Before I used this grinder, I never had problems, but now I sometimes have loaves not turn out quite right. 🙂

    But I was curious, what exactly has been happening with your bread that you don’t like? Was it taste, texture, rising time?

  3. Candace says

    Thanks, Kimi.
    I’ve tried the wheat before and wasn’t real happy with my results. I think I’ll try the rye and see how that goes.
    Maybe I should purchase a starter.

  4. Rebekah says

    So if you purchase a starter do they give you instructions on how to feed it?? I want to do sourdough so bad and I have tried to make my own starter but I can’t get it to work. My mom makes sourdough but she feeds hers with sugar and potato flakes. I wonder if I could use it and just feed it whole wheat flour.

    • malka says

      hi rebekah, i use a sourdough that is now 12 months old with great success. i started mine with good old unbleached white flour and equal amounts of filtered water. 1 quarter cup of water to same amount of filtered water. twice a day you must feed it the same amount of flour and water for 4 days. after 4 days remove 1 half cup and throw away, then add same amount of flour and water back in to sourdough. do this once a day and it will last for as long as you want it. you will find a liquid on top, dont worry, just stir it back in, i use plain white flour because once it is up and running then you can use your starter with any flour you desire, i use the same recipe for all my sweet and savoury breads, good luck and keep persevering, malka.

  5. Kimi Harris says

    I have been very happy with the starter I bought. It has an excellent taste, and came with easy to understand instructions. I will probably be doing a post next week on starters, btw. 🙂

  6. Carrie says

    Here’s a question in 2 parts:

    1. I made my own sourdough starter using yeast, water and whole wheat. But, after that it only gets replenished with WW and water, then sits exposed to the air for 24 hours before going into the fridge. I have been assuming that the quantity of baker’s yeast I started with has been going down as I used the starter and has been replaced with wild yeasts – since I’ve not added any more bakers yeast. I figured that ‘cheating’ with bakers yeast was just a quick way to get started, but that eventually I would have a mostly-wild-yeast starter. It has become gradually more sour as the weeks have gone by. Could this be correct?

    2. However, my bread recipe calls for using the starter as well as more yeast to make the bread. I guess I need to get a recipe that uses only starter. Will ‘any’ sourdough starter work with ‘any’ sourdough recipe? Or do I need to start all over with a new wild-yeast starter and the recipe that goes with it? If I can use just any recipe, I need to find one! In the mean time, I guess I can try upping the amount of starter I use while decreasing the amount of bakers yeast I use, to see if I can get rid or it entirely. My loaf wasn’t rising enough to suit me, so I did increase both, and it made a big difference.

    Thanks for any comments you can give!

  7. Kimi Harris says

    More excellent questions! I think I will be doing a post next week that will answer some of these questions more in depth. But here is a quick answer to your questions. 🙂

    I also used to think that if you jump started your starter with baker’s yeast, that amount would lesson as time went on. But, just like wild yeast will grow and multiply, so can your baker’s yeast. In fact,they can kind of wage war against each other, and if the commercial yeast wins, you will have a dead starter. According to my sourdough book, it ruins the texture of the bread regardless. Now, I think some people would disagree with that, but that’s what the sourdough experts seem to agree on. 🙂

    This could even be why you aren’t liking how your sourdough bread is turning out!

    So there is an answer to your first question, back later to answer your second. 🙂

  8. Carrien says

    I have been looking a really long time for a tutorial in starting a real honest to goodness sourdough starter. Everything I have found starts with yeast.

    Could you ask your friend for me?

    And I like it sour, it has more flavor that way.

  9. Chris says

    I’ve been making the sourdough cheater’s bread from Nourishing Traditions, using the same rye-based starter featured in the same book. My starter took from the get go; I simply followed the directions in the book. I use a Vita-Mix to grind the flour. It’s a flavorful loaf that is much denser than commercial bread, and tastes delicious with blue cheese and honeycomb, or grassy olive oil and naturally fermented balsamic vinegar. You cannot make a sandwich out of it though

  10. Kimi Harris says

    Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂 It sounds delicious. I think that I like a dense, more heavy loaf (although people are often looking for the lighter, fluffy ones)

  11. Gina says

    Hi Kimi,

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I have just recently switched over from yeasted bread to a sourdough starter. My question is do you have to use white flour to freshen up the starter? I use whole grain spelt flour in everything I bake. Can I use that instead? I am not too keen on using white flour, how do you reconcile that with the starter? Thank you so much in advance for your help.

  12. Kimi Harris says

    You don’t have to use white flour for your sourdough starter. I have used all whole wheat (or rye or spelt) with good success. If your starer is all white four, you may want to slowly transition it, because I have heard that you can “stress” your starter by changing flours to suddenly. So maybe start half and half at first, and then after a few times of doing that, go to 100 percent spelt. But you can certainly start your sourdough starter 100 percent whole wheat, spelt, or rye and just keep it that way. Hope that helps!

  13. MizSteaks says

    Kimi And Carrien,
    The website Breadtopia.com has wonderful videos on step by step making sourdough bread. I am following the video on making a wild starter for whole grain sourdough breads and it is working very well. Color me excited!

  14. says

    Like you, Kimi, I found NT about 4 years ago. I had been using Sue Gregg cookbooks for years. I also found the NT sourdough instructions to make terrible bread that was nearly impossible to cut and so sour it curled our teeth.

    I started looking around the web and found http://www.sourdoughhome.com. There are terrific instructions for starting and managing a wild sourdough starter. So I thought I’d pass it along.

    Thanks for motivating me to get back into sourdough. I sort of let it drop when we got the cow and I became pregnant with #4 (all in the same month!!). After #5 comes in a couple of months, I’ll start working on the sourdough again!

  15. Emily says

    I love your website and just found it a few weeks ago. I found a new book out called Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads that has many recipes that utilize soaking and long fermenting techniques. He has two ways to make a sourdough starter- one using fruit juice and another using a mash technique. I tried it and easily made my own starter.

  16. Lemon says

    I have been following this thread, and cannot seem to find it, but how does one make a sourdough starter? Please excuse me if I am totally silly

  17. Lydia Seals says

    I’m new to this site but am familiar w/ Nourishing Traditions. I am interested in starting a sourdough but want it to be healthy. The only ones i know of have lots of white sugar in them. Any tips on starting a good one? I’d like to try the Everyday Bread shown on this site. How do I make that starter?

  18. Lucy Seton+Watson says

    I made a sourdough leaven from strong white flour plus yogurt and a few raisins, no yeast, from directions in Dan Lepard’s book, *The Hand-made Loaf*. It has worked very well for making delicious sourdough bread (c. 70 % white, 30% wholemeal, and I use a mixture of wheat and spelt and extra wheatgerm) ever since. For weeks, I mean. It was slow to get going, and if you stop feeding the leaven it takes about a week to get it going again. But the bread is delicious. Adults really appreciate it but my children like it too. Try that.

  19. says

    I am so thankful that I came across your website. I am desperately trying to get a handle on the sourdough thing. I have made a starter using white flour which I loathe. I use fresh ground flour for our baking needs. But since my previous attempt with fresh flour failed I thought I would try store flour. yuck. However I do not think this one is working too well either. Can you recommend a starter recipe? Or should I just buy one and transition it to fresh flour?????

  20. Sandra says

    I have been trying to make ww sourdough bread from wild yeast starter also whole grain. It falls in the loave pan and is heavy. Do you have any suggestions? I do knead the my bosch for 8 min.

    Thank you

  21. April says

    So when you add the sourdough starter to the flour to make the loaf – does it break down the phytates in the flour while you leave it to rise for several hours? Is that better than soaking the flour in an acid base and baking the bread with yeast?


  22. star says

    i finnaly got a recipe that works to make sourdough bread ,witout a starter e.t.c.
    just press grapes to get a 15 oz juice and let it ferment at 85 f. for days in a closed plastic bottle then put the sour juice in the dough along with couple spoons raw honey ,let sit overnight at 85 f. its all done ,but im not yet succeeding at whole einkorn or whole kamut flour ,can anybody help?

  23. says

    I make bread using no knead method with instant yeast and leave the dough for 24hours and a few days in the fridge before baking it. Would this process ferment the dough and reduce phytates?
    Thank you

  24. Mike says

    I made a sourdough starter (rye) using the instructions in the book “Nourishing Traditions”. Using just flower and water. It took 5 days for the starter to start bubbling. After these 5 days I decided to test it. I made whole meal flower bread, white bread, hot cross buns, spelt fruit muffins and rye pancakes. All from the same starter. I could not believe it the hot cross buns turned out better than when I made them with yeast and they tasted fantastic, light and fluffy.
    Give it a go it’s not that hard.

  25. HB says

    When you add the sourdough starter to the flour to make the loaf – does it break down the phytates in the flour while you leave it to rise for several hours? Is that better than soaking the flour in an acid base and baking the bread with yeast?


  26. Heather says

    The Fermented Treasures site for the sourdough starter isn’t available. Do you have another source for the starter?
    BTW, I love your site! It has really expanded my vision of cooking with grains!

  27. john says

    I really don’t want to learn how to bake bread. I do want bread without phytates. Is it possible to make sourdough bread in a bread machine.

  28. says

    I have been working at sourdough for about 2 months now, and I think I finally figured it out just today with my first successful loaf that is not as dense on the inside as my first ones. I was having a hard time figuring out how moist to make the dough. Then, the last time I had a moist dough, I let it rise and it dribbled out of the pan…I was getting close to giving up, but I think I got it. I think it is something you have to persist with and learn from each “failure” batch what to do. Eventually you will get it…I am working on spelt starter now, so hopefully that will turn out well. Good luck to you all!

  29. Suzanne DeGroot says

    hi there,

    just wondering if you would be willing to pass on your friend’s recipe for the sourdough bread starter made from whole wheat – i am currently in the middle of trying one i grabbed from online somewhere – but its not working as I had hoped.


  30. N. Peterson says

    To make a sourdough starter, mix equal parts flour and water in a jar, I use about 2 tbsp of each. The following day, remove half and replace with fresh water and flour. Repeat the process for about 5 days. It should start to bubble and smell yeasty. Once it gets going, you can start adding more water and flour until you have about a cup of starter at a time.

    To make the bread, I followed a no-knead method from a video online:

  31. shannon says

    I’m finally ready to start making sourdough. I was expecting to catch some wild yeast but checked out a couple of sourdough books at the library and was surprised I could make a starter with yeast. So, is it as beneficial as wild?

    • otto says

      I would say that with bought yeast you would have as much chance of increasing the amount of that yeast.
      Use this link to find a foolproof method for culturing wild yeast. the first time is tricky because in our homes today we have generally few wild yeast strains around but with time you can and will build up that colony.

  32. Grace says

    I followed the starter instructions from this site: http://www.simplebites.net/the-health-benefits-of-sourdough-bread-recipe-whole-grain-sourdough-bread/ . It worked great, with these changes: I used only 1/2 cup of water and flour each day, since I didn’t need a huge amount of starter in the end. I added a tablespoon of honey the very first day like one of the commenter’s in the site suggested. I mixed the starter with the new flour and water in a separate bowl every other day, then cleaned out the jar before returning the starter to it (I’m terrified of mold, though probably too much so). By the fifth day I had a bubbly starter that made two fantastic loaves of bread and a wonderful batch of sourdough pancakes, and is now sitting in my fridge, hopefully waiting for my next baking day. I did use local whole wheat flour, not freshly ground flour, since I don’t have a grinder, but it’s my understanding that fresh flour should possibly work even better?

  33. Liz Hardwick says

    Can I suggest reading Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley (www.breadmatters.com) a terrific section on different sourdoughs and every imaginable flour – also one of the best chapters on Gluten Free Baking ever.

  34. ChantalMM says

    I haven’t made a starter yet, as I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with the plethora of information out there, but I found what looks like a fantastic resource at http://www.carlsfriends.net. There was a man named Carl Griffith who had a starter that dates back to the Oregon Trail in 1847. He would mail it out in dried form for just the cost of postage to anyone who wanted it, and, since his death, a group of his friends has been carrying it on. On the website are recipes that people have made with this particular starter, so it looks like it would be great–a FREE, proven starter with tested recipes. The only reason I haven’t ordered it yet is that I’m not in the U.S. and need to get the right currency or postage.

  35. Hollie says

    How can you adjust the sourness in your sourdough? I have had a starter for a few months now and I’ve made bread, muffins and pancakes with it. However, my kids don’t love the really sour taste. I’m wondering how I can make it less sour?

  36. says

    Fantastic overview of sourdough bread v’s regular. I’ve been baking sourdough for a month now and I am blown away by how easy and tasty the bread is and my whole family love it. No more bloating tummy either, we can all enjoy pizza again. Thanks for your inspiration.
    Cheers, Lainie 🙂

  37. Christian Blackman says

    Nice article kimi, I am an ex baker turned amateur home sourdough baker and just thought I’d add my two cents on a couple of details, firstly in my experience I have never heard of anyone adding salt to the culture. Salt as well as being a great flavour addition to bread it is also used in bread to lower the water activity of the dough which in turn slows down the fermentation process.

    However when I start to make my dough and feed my culture I add salt to neither the beginning of the dough and NEVER in the culture. In fact I will sometimes wait 8 hours to possibly days without adding salt to it. I add the salt just before I believe the dough has had enough ambient temp prooving before I begin kneading the dough.

    As far as obtaining culture my Dad got his from a sourdough bakery he became friendly with (which he split and passed on to me) and if anyone is looking for culture they are the most likely places for finding the oldest cultures if your searching (perhaps offering to pay them may make them just break you off a piece and give it to you for free).

    The other advice I’d like to offer is about equipment and ingredients, making the best quality sourdough bread you need to start off with stone milled flour that is unbleached and pref organic, a handy piece of equipment I have is a hand crank stone mill and I buy whole grains and make a very bran rich wholemeal earthy toned flour. However this type of flour is not as gluten rich as strong bread flour so a mixture of about 50 50 is recommended to still get good “kick” in the oven. As far as salt I just use regular table salt but like anything the quality of the salt is up to the individual but granulated salt is recommended.

    The next piece of equipment I’d recommend is a banneton this is a sourdough bread prooving basket. This is an easy way to get nice uniform shape in your bread as well as a great prooving vessel.

    Then finally for the bake a good thick unglazed earthenware terra cotta tile. A pizza peel for sliding bread into your oven, a pump spray bottle mister and some semolina. Bake tile in a very hot oven (250 C – 300 C) for an hour and cover pizza peel in semolina and tip prooven bread onto peel, score bread to your liking and slide onto hot tile spray some water into oven to help from a more uniform and better quality crust.

    Anyways hope some of this was enlightening.



  38. Courtney says

    Anyone looking for a great starter, http://www.carlsfriends.net will ship dried starter to anyone who sends them a self-addressed, stamped envelope. There is no cost, just the price of the stamp. The starter came over the Oregon Trail and has been passed on and on. I sent an envelope, got my starter, and it rehydrated beautifully and is doing great!

  39. Red says

    I live in the Philippines and here the most readily available starch is rice, so i used that witha little flour for my starter. Been feeding it with rice, and it’s growing really well. I dont bother grinding the rice coz the yeast just eats it all up! Smells wonderfully yeasty and fruity!

  40. says

    I think the sourdough are more better then the yeasted bread, like the nutrition, test and also the availability is less compare to the yeasted bread.

  41. Virginia says

    I do not see here any recipe for sourdough starter in the way you are talking about. Can you please sent to me?

    Thank you

  42. Teretta says

    Where do you store your bread? I have a sour dough starter that I have started using and am so excited to get away from commercial yeast. The issue is where to store the left over bread? I have been storing it in a zip lock bag but we rarely because the texture changes. Do you store it in a bread box?


  1. […] Secondly, it is one of the most effective method of reducing phytates in your food. See my post on sourdough bread vs. yeasted bread for more information. Third, it is easy to use. Fourth, it is a very frugal […]

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