What Is Sourdough Bread and What Makes It Sour?

Even though you may bristle at the idea of eating something with the word “sour” nestled so prominently in the title, sourdough bread is unequivocally one the best breads. Sourdough is naturally leavened bread, which means it doesn’t use commercial yeast to rise. Instead, it is made with a starter—a fermented mix of flour and water,, which we’ll explain a little later. In fact, let’s get started right now. 

What is in sourdough bread?

Here’s what’s in sourdough bread: flour, water, salt. But that can’t be it, can it? It tastes so complex! You caught me. There is more to sourdough bread than those ingredients, but it’s not something you buy at the grocery store. Instead of store-bought yeast, true sourdough bread is made with sourdough starter, which is a fermented mix of flour and water that contains two kinds of bacteria (Lactobacillus and acetobacillus) as well as yeast. That’s what gives it that subtle, yet notable tang. Also, if the baker was wearing loose jewelry, there might be a watch or earrings in the bread, too, but that’s a rare case. 

What is sourdough starter? 

Sourdough starter is basically a live fermented culture of flour and water. Essentially, you mix flour and water together, then let the mix sit out and ferment, capturing and cultivating the natural yeasts found in the air. Since sourdough starter is alive, you need to feed it with fresh flour every so often. It’s essentially a pet that lives in your fridge. It’s not cuddly, but it does make great bread as well as pancakes, pizza dough, and more. If you want to make your own sourdough starter, try this recipe from King Arthur.

best sourdough bread

Best Sourdough Bread

What’s the best sourdough bread you can buy? We tasted a bunch of the top brands on the market to find the best sourdough bread you can get at the grocery store.

Is sourdough bread gluten free?

Sourdough bread is not gluten free, however it is true that many people with gluten-intolerance, or afflictions akin to it, are able to ingest sourdough with little to no repercussions. This is because the methods used to make sourdough break down some of the gluten in the flour so it is easier to digest. For this reason, sourdough is thought to be “low-gluten” rather than entirely gluten-free. A gamble for some, but that’s the thing about gambles…sometimes they pay off! And the taste of a well-made sourdough will have you saying “jackpot!” 

Is sourdough bread vegan?

Yes, nearly all sourdough bread is vegan-friendly. Some non-vegan ingredients, including dairy, honey, and eggs, can sometimes be used in sourdough recipes, but it’s by no means commonplace. 

What does sourdough bread taste like?

Thanks to the bacteria in sourdough bread, it has a tangy, suitably vinegar-like flavor with a mild yogurt-like flavor. This unique flavor makes sourdough a good pairing for rich foods like butter and eggs, or as the base for a BLT sandwich. 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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