Learn how to travel with sourdough starter when you travel by car. Whether you plan to go on vacation or visit family, learn the best way to travel with your starter.
Having your sourdough starter will allow you to prepare healthier digestible meals while traveling, save you money, and allow you the opportunity to share some of your starter with friends or family.
In this post, I’ll discuss how to travel with your sourdough starter by car, tools to remember to bring, benefits of taking it on the road with you, easy recipes while traveling, other methods of traveling with sourdough starter over long distances or by airplane, or learn what to do if you want to leave your starter at home when you’re on vacation.
What to do Before you Plan to Travel
If you have some old starters in your fridge, that is a good safety net to make sure nothing happens to your precious starter.
My best recommendation to make sure that you return to a still healthy starter, is to refresh your sourdough starter by discarding and feeding. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “refreshing”, you can learn more about this care step in this post.
You should do this refreshing step 24-48 hours before you travel. After refreshing, in 6-12 hours you should have an active sourdough starter. Tuck this thriving batch of sourdough starter in the coldest part of your fridge; this is usually an upper shelf and towards the back of the fridge.
No need to hire a house sitter to care for your sourdough starter. This recently refreshed healthy starter will be fine for several weeks.
If you will be gone more than two weeks, then plan to give your beloved sourdough starter a little love by doing two consecutive refreshing processes: refresh, wait for it to become active sourdough starter, refresh that batch, wait for it to become active sourdough starter a second time.
See the full video about how to travel with sourdough here:
How to Travel with Sourdough Starter by Car
Traveling with your sourdough starter is not as intimidating as it might seem.
In the previous section you learned about make sure you leave a healthy starter at home. This is important just in case you take your starter on the road and something happens. Then, even in those worst case scenarios you’ll have a batch of healthy remaining starter safe at home.
To take sourdough starter on the road, take an extra jar of old liquid starter discard (if you have that much starter leftover on hand) or take a tablespoon of your recently refreshed healthy starter and put it into a second clean jar.
Put your travel jar of starter (liquid starter discard or the recently refreshed portion of the healthy starter you put in the fridge), and put it into your cooler or a small insulated bag (a reusable lunch bag will suffice) with an ice pack. The cool temperature environment will keep the activity of the starter under control while you are traveling to your destination.
Note: I don’t recommend refreshing your starter before you leave or traveling with a recently active starter since it could easily over expand leading to leaking or the lid of your glass jar popping off from the fresh gases building up. If you are traveling over mountains or changing elevations, the higher altitude or changes in elevation create a more likely scenario for a live starter over expanding.
Tools to Bring when Traveling with Your Own Sourdough Starter
Here are some recommended tools to make some basic sourdough recipes with your sourdough starter if you are camping, staying in a vacation house, or staying with friends or family:
- Your own sourdough starter as prepared like previous section described
- Second clean jar or other kind of container
- Food scale
- Mixing bowl or two
- All-Purpose Flour and/or Bread Flour
- All-purpose flour is great for continuing your regular schedule of starter care and making discard recipes like some of the ideas in the next section
- Bread flour is important if you plan to make bread while you are away
- A plastic bag or other kind of container for your preferred salt
- The spoon, spurtle, or danish dough whisk you use to stir your starter with when you feed
- Dough scraper
- Bread pan and/or Dutch oven if you plan to make bread
- Bread knife (I highly recommend finding a way to bring your own if you plan to make bread, most people or vacation kitchens don’t have the best quality knives which may result in injury, which is not a good way to spend traveling time!)
- Bread lame if you plan to make bread
- Baking sheet
- Spatula (for pancakes)
- Large pan (for pancakes or English muffins)
- Parchment paper
- Plastic wrap
- Water filter
- Other ingredients needed for special recipes, here are some common suggestions:
- baking soda
- baking powder
- unsalted butter
- salted butter
- sugar in a plastic bag or other kind of container
- favorite or commonly used spices
If you are going to a well stocked kitchen, you might not need all of these items or if you don’t plan to make bread then you won’t need the pans, knives, or tools needed to make bread. These are just some recommendations as you make your travel necessity list for your trip.
What to do with your Sourdough Starter When you Arrive
The first thing you will do when you arrive at your destination will be to refresh your sourdough starter by taking a small amount of your sourdough starter (if you brought a large amount of liquid starter discard) and putting it into a second clean jar then feeding it with equal parts in weight of water and flour.
Let this refreshed batch sit at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours to become active on the next morning or next day (depending on when you do this simple process).
Note: If you only brought a small amount of starter like a tablespoon, you can feed it directly into the same container with the equal parts water and flour.
If you have a large amount of the liquid starter discard, this can be used in one of the sourdough discard recipes mentioned below.
4 Benefits of Taking Your Sourdough Culture on the Road
Here are a few reasons why sourdough starter is a good thing to pack up for your trip:
- You can continue your regular schedule of care to ensure you have a thriving sourdough starter
- You will save money by cooking breads or meals you would otherwise have to purchase (Make your own batch of scones instead of buying one at a specialty bakery for $5)
- You can avoid indigestion and other digestive problems by making healthier foods that your body is used to
- Have sourdough starter to share with the friends or family you are visiting
And bonus, if you have young kids, you will have less stressful meals out by baking with your sourdough!
Sourdough Discard Recipes for Travel
Here are some recommendations for easy sourdough discard recipes to make while traveling or even camping:
- Sourdough Discard Pancakes or waffles
- Chicken and Sourdough Discard Dumplings
- Sourdough discard graham crackers
- Overnight Sourdough Discard Sheetpan Pancakes
- Sourdough Discard Crackers
- Sourdough Discard Plain Sweet Scone
- Sourdough Discard Berry Scone
- Sourdough Irish Soda Bread
If you want to learn more about what sourdough discard is or why you would want to use it, check out these posts:
Sourdough Bread Recipes for Travel
If you plan to make bread here are some ideas:
- No Knead Sourdough Bread
- Sourdough Country Bread (loaf or boule)
- Easy Sourdough Pizza Method
- Better Sourdough Pizza Recipes
Other Methods of Traveling with Sourdough Culture
There are two other common methods of traveling with sourdough starter. These are more often used when traveling very long distances or traveling by airplane:
- Dehydrating your own sourdough starter
- Take a recently used batch of liquid starter (refreshed in the last 1-2 days, ideally) and spread it into a very thin layer on a sheet of parchment paper with a spatula.
- Leave this at room temperature for several hours or overnight.
- By the next day it should be completely dry with no wet spots.
- Break the dried starter into small pieces and put into a plastic bag or other kind of container. This will be good to use for a few weeks if kept at room temperature, but will last for months if stored in a dark cool place like a fridge.
- To refresh dried starter, put into a clean jar with a small amount of water about 30g. Break apart with a spoon and let sit for 6 to 8 hours to rehydrate. After it’s hydrated and showing signs of activity, feed it with 45g water and 60g white flour and let it sit 6 to 12 hours until it gets bubbly. You may need to refresh it (discard and feed) a second time to get the activity you’re looking for in a healthy starter.
- Creating a small, very stiff starter–this is great if you don’t have the time or tools to dehydrate your starter and was the way I flew from California to the Sourdough School in the UK with starter!
- Take a tablespoon amount of healthy starter and put it into a small to medium sized bowl. Add a tablespoon of all-purpose or bread flour and mix.
- Use your hands to get the flour and starter completely mixed. Add a pinch more flour to make sure the stiff starter dough mixture is not sticky. It should become a dry lump of dough. How much flour you use will depend on the amount and stage of your sourdough starter.
- Put this dry lump of sourdough and put it into a sandwich sized ziplock bag or other type of container.
- If you do this right before leaving home, pack into your bag or carry-on. If you are preparing it a few hours before travel, put in the fridge until you are ready to go.
- Because it is a small dry, non liquid food item, it should get through TSA (transportation security administration) without a problem. For any worst case scenarios, you could also put it double bagged (double bagging gives extra insurance against leaking) into a checked bag. Don’t be surprised if TSA leaves a note in your bag because they had to take an extra look at your precious cargo. 😉
- When you arrive mix the dry sourdough with about 3 T. or 45g water and about 2 T. or 20g of white flour. Mix well until the dry sourdough is broken apart and completely combined with the other ingredients. Let it sit at room temperature for 8 to 14 hours until active and bubbly. *Note to create enough starter for 100g of starter for a recipe with enough left over, increase the amounts to 5 T. or 75g water and 4 T. 40g white flour.
Let’s Hit the Road with Sourdough!
Sourdough is made for travel. If the pioneers traveling across the country in covered wagons and Klondike prospectors traveled with sourdough and successfully cooked in their rudimentary conditions, so can we!
So I hope this took some of the intimidation out of the process as you plan your next trip!
I would love to see photos of you traveling and baking with your sourdough! You can tag me on social media @livingbreadbaker
Share this post with your baking friends who love to travel or are going a trip soon.
Comment on this post if you have any other questions or need clarification.
Need more sourdough help?
A competent guide is the big difference from floundering in sourdough with information overwhelm to having confidence and ease in your sourdough baking.
If you are just getting started in sourdough, I’d love to support you with my books or online courses.
My Intro. to Sourdough online course is comprehensive with video tutorials for each stage of the process to help new or aspiring sourdough home bakers gain a solid foundation for sourdough, the traditional way, to learn all the basics, language, techniques, and the process from start to finish to make sourdough bread. My teaching is straight forward and makes the whole process seem simple. I have helped launch hundreds of eager sourdough bakers onto their own inspiring sourdough journeys.
I also have a Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course, which is my strategy for busy weeks to have sourdough on hand ready to make into country bread, sandwich loaves, English muffins, pizza, bagels, and more! This course is great for absolute sourdough beginners to just get familiarity with sourdough or for veteran sourdough bakers who need to simplify their baking schedule.
If you are just starting on your sourdough journey, you can get my free Quick Start Sourdough Guide to begin learning some of the key terms and concepts in sourdough. Learn the difference between the sourdough stages of active sourdough starter and sourdough discard as well as how to care for a starter.
Perfect for new or experienced bakers, I have a full Sourdough Time Planning Workbook with 8 templates ready to fill in and a baking journal. The 8 templates include 4 different ways to make classic sourdough country breads, 3 time planning worksheets for enriched sourdough bread depending on serving time target, and a blank template. The baking journal goes over baker’s percentages and how to take notes on your sourdough bakes.
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