World’s Best Pancake Recipe: starter discard rescue recipe

pancakes1A secret to a great pancake recipe: For the home baker who keeps a sourdough starter, every time you feed that starter you have to reduce the quantity or face possibly ending up with an Olympic sized pool’s worth of starter.

When you are baking maybe three loaves a week, and even if you refrigerate the starter for a week or two, the excess starter is a reality. So what do you do with this excess? You would rather not just toss it in the garbage and definitely not down the drain (unless you enjoy keeping your plumber’s wallet well-padded) so what’s to be done?

Well, PANCAKES are one delicious and easy way to use this extra starter up.

For anyone who wonders if there’s something better you can do with that extra quarter cup of flour that may go into the compost bin each time you feed your active starter, here’s an AMAZINGLY YUMMY pancake recipe that you can make using your excess starter (when it’s not going to making loaves, obviously). Simply save up a couple of feeds’ worth of excess starter and when you have enough, in this case about 1/2 cup for ~8 pancakes or waffles, mix up a Saturday morning breakfast batch of pancakes. Even if it’s Tuesday night; nuthin’ wrong with pancakes for dinner. After all, pancakes are really just another form of bread but with some egg added.

If you haven’t accumulated a half cup of starter (full cup for a double batch) but are looking for pancakes tomorrow morning, just take your current excess and build it up to about a half-cup when also you feed your starter tonight. Your “excess” starter will then be ready to use in the morning.

Sourdough Pancakes or Waffles
Serves 2 to 4
(about 8 pancakes)
95 g (3/4 cup) flour*
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
122 g (1/2 cup) milk
1 egg
145 g (1/2 cup) extra*¹ sourdough starter
28 g (2 Tbsp) melted butter
Serves 4 to 8
(about 16 pancakes)
190 g (1½ cups) flour*
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
245 g (1 cup) milk
3 eggs
290g (1 cup) extra*¹ sourdough starter

56 g (1/4 cup) melted butter


  • Sift together the first four (dry) ingredients into a bowl.
  • Beat eggs and milk together in a separate bowl. Whisk in sourdough.
  • Add wet to dry ingredients, mix just until well incorporated.
  • Let rest about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, turn the oven on and then off as soon as it gets to 90-100 ºF (this should only take a couple of minutes), set a plate in the oven to warm.
  • After 10 minutes, gently mix the melted butter into the batter.
  • Spoon out and cook on a hot griddle or waffle iron. Add a bit of milk if the batter is too stiff.
  • Stack finished pancakes onto your warmed plate in the oven while finishing the rest.
  • Serve with butter, syrup or your favourite toppings.
  • You can use All-Purpose flour or a mix of All-Purpose and Whole Wheat if you wish.

*¹ “extra” refers to either accumulated excess/discard starter you’ve collected for a bit or even “fresh” excess you made just yesterday specifically for pancakes. I often feed my starter more than normal the day before I plan on making these pancakes so I have a full serving of starter ready to use.  Do not, however, use the discard from a starter you’ve just made from scratch; at this early stage (first 1 or 2 weeks), you risk adding very questionable beasties. Toss this into the compost; you’ll have plenty of excess starter soon enough once the baby starter gets going fully.

FOR WAFFLES: Use just under 1/4c batter each but your particular waffle iron will dictate how much you will need.

FOR EXTRA FLUFFY WAFFLES: Separate egg yolks and whites. Beat the yolks with the milk and add with sourdough to dry ingredients. Let rest; add melted butter then fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake in a hot waffle iron or on a griddle.

18 Replies to “World’s Best Pancake Recipe: starter discard rescue recipe”

  1. Will have to try this! 🙂 Thanks for sharing and also the tip about discarded starter has really clarified things for a newbie trying to figure this all out. Cheers.

    1. Hi PP, I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the pancakes. Give the waffles version a go sometime too (separate the whites and fluff them up) for a wonderfully light batter. Even if you don’t have a waffle iron, you can make light, fluffy pancakes.

  2. Pingback: Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Sourdough Pancakes - Skye's Life
  3. What is a good sourdough starter to use. I feel like i’m having a hard time finding a good one.. I like things really sour.

    However I’m going to try this tonight with my early sourdough starter.

    1. Jen:
      For the pancakes, I use leftover sourdough from regular feedings where I don’t use up the excess in bread baking. This is sort of the point of the recipe: what to do with your excess sourdough. Make your own starter (see the post “Starter From Scratch” for instructions); you don’t need to “find one”. You can then control how sour it is – or not – by how you keep and feed it.

  4. If using a mix of unbleached and whole wheat flours, should the whole wheat be hard or cake and pastry?

    Can buttermilk be used (made from buttermilk powder)?

    Thank you.

    1. Hello Carol,

      The WW flour could probably be either, as long as the bulk is “regular” flour so you aren’t too low on gluten, which cake and pastry flours avoid. Gluten is what helps trap the little air bubbles, in this case from the baking soda.

      As for using buttermilk, go for it, wether from a carton or made from powdered. The acidity is going to help activate the soda.

      Hope you enjoy them!

  5. Thank you for a fantastic recipe! Family loved it! The fluffiest pancakes ever. Substituted vegetable oil for the butter just because it was easier than having to melt the butter.

  6. Thank you. This is a keeper! I made blueberry pancakes with this recipe today and they were excellent and I was able to use some of my sourdough discard…..I hate to waste it. I used my white flour starter, and white hard whole wheat flour. So nice. I like the two amounts for the recipe too. Today I made the small recipe because I’ll not have time to make them again for a few days, but when I do have time, I’ll make the larger recipe and have them 2 days in a row. Loved them! (we use real maple syrup and homemade butter)

  7. We are newbies using sourdough but already have a large excess of starter in the refrigerator, and wonder if starter discard could be used exclusively for pancakes using no regular flour at all.

    Also, Could the baking powder be omitted altogether If the starter is allowed to sit out a couple hours before (or maybe after?) mixing in the milk, egg, butter, & sugar?

    1. Pancakes are one of many things you can make with exhausted sourdough starter, so you may want to look at other possible uses. You can use your starter to make crackers too, for example. These need little levitation from the starter so it’s usually in there mostly for flavour but I’d recommend using the starter as just PART of the recipe in either case; you still need good fresh flour anyways.

      Whether you could use JUST the starter to make pancakes, I don’t think that’s a good idea since the starter has probably chewed through the flour pretty much to exhaustion. This means the flour is already all “used up” and your pancakes won’t have the same texture as you’d expect if you were adding the starter just as a flavouring and, minimally, for it’s leavening properties.

      I would also suggest you review how much starter you keep on hand and adjust that amount to be as minimal as you can be. When I was making bread at home (I own a bakery now so get all the bread I need there) I kept a huge 50 grams of “mother” starter on hand so even if I did need to discard some between basic feeds where PJ would get put back into the fridge after being fed, the amount of excess was very small. From the 50 grams I kept, I’d use 10 for the next feed, leaving 40 grams of starter which is 20 grams of water and 20 grams of flour. A couple of feeds would be adequate to make a decent batch of pancakes or, really, just go into the compost bin if pancakes weren’t on the menu any time soon.

      You aren’t trashing flour when you compost it, you’re repurposing it. And it’s already done it’s job feeding your starter anyway so this is a second purpose: feeding your compost with starter is actually a good thing for it.

      So to close, no I don’t think you’ll get good results using JUST old, eaten up flour in the starter for pancakes. It will have no structure and the pancakes will be very disappointing not to mention THAT MUCH sourdough may not be all that tasty anyway, even if the structure was good.

      Too much of a good thing…

  8. A big thank you for this recipe!
    It’s perfect ! I don’t like to waste my sourdough so it a very good solution: easy to make and you don’t need to wait.
    You can eat it with sugar but I ate it more like a blinis with Greek yogurt, smoked trout, cucumber and a little bit of lemon juice. Definitely a keeper !

  9. These did not work for me.i tried it with gluten free 1 to 1 flour and my gluten free sourdough. They came out very chewy. :/

    1. Substituting the primary ingredient in any recipe can lead to disappointing results, of course. I am sorry you had this experience with gluten free flour. I appreciate your trial and sharing this with others so they can avoid the issue you ran into.

      Thanks for the heads up.

  10. I tried a few different sourdough discard pancake recipes and this is the best combination of simplicity and deliciousness!

  11. I love this recipe, thanks so much for posting it. The pancakes come out so fluffy and delicious. My whole family looks forward to when I have excess starter so I’ll make these pancakes.

    I do have a question: Could I make the batter the night before and keep it overnight in the fridge, then cook the pancakes in the morning?

    1. Hi Dawn,
      You can make the batter the night before, although the baking soda may be a little less active after spending all night with the sourdough which is acidic. Acids are what activate baking soda to emit carbon and raise your pancakes.

      But you will probably have great tasting pancakes anyway. You could hold the egg whites back until the morning, get them whipped to stiff peaks then fold that into the batter. This will make sure your pancakes are nice and fluffy.

      I’d recommend giving it a try on a small batch initially to see if you like the final product. Flavour-wise it will be essentially the same. The thing in question may be the texture of the cooked pancakes.

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