What Does Sourdough Bread Taste Like?

One of the earliest recipes known to man is Sourdough bread, made up of Acid, Yeast, Alcohol, and Bacteria. Sourdough gets its name for obvious reasons, such as the taste. Sourdough bread is sour and tangy. The Sourdough starter is the main factor in how your Sourdough will taste once it’s baked. How much Sourdough starter you use in your Sourdough will determine your bread’s sourness. 

You have many ways to alter the taste of your Sourdough bread, like letting your dough rise, beginning your Sourdough starter early, or changing the quantity of starter you use. With so many ways to alter the taste of your Sourdough bread, you may need clarification about how to make your Sourdough taste as it should. 

How Would You Describe the Taste of Sourdough Bread?

As the name may give away, sourdough bread has a sour, distinctively tangy taste that comes from the natural acids in Sourdough starter. You may say that Sourdough bread tastes similar to yeasted bread. However, the yeasty flavor is typically less potent than other types of bread.

The flavor of your Sourdough bread can vary considerably from mildly sweet to excessively sour, determined by a few reasons, such as the following: 

  • How long you let your yeast and bread ferment. 
  • The recipe you use. 
  • How long you let your bread rise. 
  • The temperature of your ingredients. 
  • The ratio of ingredients used. 
  • What kind of starter you use, etc… 

Most commonly, Sourdough bread tastes anywhere from semi-sweet to exceptionally sour. You may try someone else’s Sourdough bread, which tastes completely different. Did you make your Sourdough bread wrong? 

No, this could be for several reasons. Frankly, there is no “correct” way to make Sourdough; it’s really up to your preference. There are ways you can change the taste of your Sourdough bread. 

What Gives Sourdough Bread Its Taste?

There are four main components of Sourdough: 

  1. Yeast.
  2. Alcohol.
  3. Acid.
  4. Bacteria. 

Each component is responsible for giving Sourdough its taste in its own way. The yeast provides a yeasty flavor with an aroma. Alcohol’s primary role is breaking down the yeast’s carbohydrates, putting the yeast to work, which also gives the flavor and aroma. Acids, mainly Acetic acid found in , give your Sourdough bread the distinct sour and tangy taste you’re used to. 


The alcohol in Sourdough bread, specifically ethanol, plays a substantial part in Sourdough bread. Ethanol is the byproduct produced through alcoholic fermentation. During the proofing process of your Sourdough bread is when the fermenting process happens. The yeast begins to work at this point. 

Alcohol starts by breaking down the carbohydrates from the flour of your Sourdough bread, turning them into carbon dioxide and ethanol, which makes the bread rise. When your Sourdough bread is baking, the ethanol evaporates, creating gas bubbles that make your bread rise. 

Most of the alcohol will evaporate in the baking process. However, there will still be tinges of alcohol staying in the Sourdough. Subsequently, these small traces of alcohol will help your Sourdough bread’s overall quality, flavor, and aroma. 


One of the primary ingredients of Sourdough bread is yeast which acts as a leavening agent, making the bread rise. Yeast is a single-celled microorganism of the fungi kingdom; there is a diverse range of species, with more than 1,500 yeast species worldwide. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the main species of commercially packaged baker’s yeast, the common yeast used in most bread and other dishes involving yeast. 

Common yeast strains you may find in Sourdough can include but are not limited to: 

  • Kazachstania unispora.
  • Debaryomyces.
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
  • Saccharomyces bayanus. 
  • Naumovozyma castellii. 
  • Kazachstania humilis, 

Every strain of yeast has a different environment and origin; they grow naturally on vegetables, fruits, grains, air, and soil. Consecutively, this means every variety of yeast will make your Sourdough bread just a bit different tasting. 


Another standard makeup of Sourdough bread is acids of sorts. There are two essential acids in Sourdough bread, acetic acid, and lactic acid. Acetic acid, commonly found in vinegar, is what gives Sourdough bread its sourness.

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The two varieties of bacteria in Sourdough bread include homofermentative and heterofermentative bacteria. The homofermentative bacteria and bacteria break down your sourdough bread dough’s simple sugars into lactic acid. Heterofermentative acids and bacteria break down the same sugars into lactic acid as well as acetic and carbon dioxide. 


Another main component of Sourdough bread is bacteria; no worries, it is the good kind of bacteria! There is roughly a 100 to 1 ratio of bacteria to yeast, so bacteria make up more Sourdough bread than yeast. As mentioned above, there are also homofermentative and heterofermentative bacteria.

Homofermentative bacteria break down simple sugars to form lactic acid, which contributes immensely to the sourness of your sourdough bread. Homofermentative bacteria will flourish in temperatures ranging from 86°F to 95°F or 30°C to 35°C. 

A few different homofermentative bacteria could include but are not limited to: 

  • Enterococcus.
  • Streptococcus.
  • Pediococcus.
  • L. Plantarum.
  • L. acidophilus.
  • L. delbrueckii. 
  • L. casei.

The other bacteria are heterofermentative, breaking down simple sugars to form carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and acetic acid. Carbon dioxide is what will help your Sourdough bread rise. The heterofermentative bacteria thrive at temperatures ranging from 59°F to 72°F or 15°C to 22°C. 

The most common heterofermentative bacteria can include but are not limited to as follows: 

  • L. fermentum.
  • L. Brevis. 
  • Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis.

How to Change the Taste of Sourdough Bread

You can take specific steps to alter the taste of your Sourdough bread, like adding rye flour, the age of your Sourdough start, or the temperature of your ingredients. You may need clarification on why your Sourdough bread has not turned out once! No worries, whether you mean to change the taste or not, knowing why your Sourdough tastes a bit different is helpful to know. 

Adding in Rye Flour

You may want to substitute for the flour, or you may want to add some flavor or texture; regardless, you should not add rye flour. Rye flour is rarely used in conventional commercial baking because it gives the final product a little gummy texture.   

Rye flour can give you an additional source of vitamins and fiber. Most artisan bakers will use rye flour excessively as it adds a bit of a nutty flavor, enhancing the flavor. Though, it may not be worth having gluey textured Sourdough bread. 

There are both pros and cons to adding rye flour. With its intricate carbohydrates and exceptional enzymes, it produces an impressive set of sugars. These sugars will create a higher ratio of acetic acids. The higher acetic acids cause your Sourdough bread to rise better and have a distinct sour flavor with added nutrients that are efficiently digestible. 

Not Enriching the Dough Too Much

Another problem you may be having is not enriching the dough enough. Enriching means adding other components like water, milk, butter, salt, or oil. Enriching your dough will soften the texture and bring extra fats that could either be bad or good. 

If you enrich your Sourdough dough too much, you result in a milder-tasting Sourdough bread. To ensure that you do not over-enrich your dough, only incorporate salt, water, and flour to achieve the best results. 

The Age of Your Sourdough Starter 

The age of your sourdough starter can hugely impact your Sourdough bread. Sourdough starter is one of the primary ingredients in Sourdough, hence the name. As your Sourdough starter sits, it ages; with age, your Sourdough will produce a more pungent sour taste. The sourdough starter that has sat for a while has had more time to ferment, so the acetic acids have developed more, giving a tart flavor. 

Once you begin your Sourdough starter, you must let it sit for at least 14 days for the best results. You can bake prior to the 14 days, but you most likely will end with Sourdough bread that doesn’t rise or is gummy and tight, not light and airy. That doesn’t sound very appetizing. 

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How Much Sourdough Starter You Use

Ratios in recipes, especially bread, are so important and play a massive role in the final Sourdough’s taste. How much Sourdough starter you use in your Sourdough recipe can either positively or negatively impact your final result. For the Sourdough starter, the less starter you use, the more sour your Sourdough bread will be in the end. More starter means more acetic acid, which delivers more of a tangy flavor to your bread. 

Too much or too little Sourdough starter can really ruin a recipe. A basic Sourdough recipe will call for roughly 10% of your recipe’s total amount of flour. Suppose your recipe calls for 4,000 grams of flour; you would take 10% of 4,000, which is 400. In turn, you will use roughly 400 grams of Sourdough starter. You can adjust the ratios as needed depending on your tastes and preferences. 

Temperature of Your Ingredients 

Temperature is another crucial aspect in giving the Sourdough its tanginess. The temperature of your ingredients can make a massive difference in the flavor of your Sourdough. Using warm water can be very beneficial in the Sourdough process. 

When you use warm water, roughly around 80°F to 85°F or 27°C to 30°C, it can trigger the yeast and bacteria more vigorously than cold water would. With warm water, you will achieve a more sour flavor. You will need to proof and rise your Sourdough dough around 80°F to 82°F or 27°C to 29°C. 

If you use really hot water in your recipe or proof your dough in scorching temperatures, it may kill your starter. You will ultimately end in a disappointing loaf of bread.  

Let Your Dough Rise

 Letting your Sourdough, along with many other breads, rise and proof before baking is one of the most critical steps. Allowing your dough to rise thoroughly will guarantee kneading, shaping, and rising while baking goes smoothly. Another main reason you let your bread rise is that it obtains the right texture and flavor with an airy feel. 

Your final rise of your Sourdough is the ideal time to prolong your fermentation process by letting it rise a little longer. Permitting your bread to ferment a bit longer will increase the sourness of your Sourdough. Opposed to some other breads, you can let your Sourdough rise in the fridge in the final rise to aid the rising process. 

One more thing you should ensure to do is to make your Sourdough starter 14 days ahead of time. Fermenting your starter in the fridge for 14 days before making your dough will give a perfect tangy taste to your Sourdough.  

What Goes Good With Sourdough Bread?

A standard rule you could go by is if you typically eat another kind of bread with it, Sourdough will be ideal to go along with it. You could simply spread a little butter onto a slice of Sourdough bread and eat it that way; some really enjoy eating Sourdough bread this way! You could have Sourdough bread along with soup, sandwiches or paninis, and types of pasta. Almost any other flavors complement the taste of Sourdough. 

A few dishes you could try Sourdough bread alongside could include: 

  • Tomato and Avocado sandwich with Sourdough as the slices of bread. 
  • Avocado toast. 
  • Kimchi Toast. 
  • Two Sourdough slices for a French Ham and Cheese sandwich. 
  • Bruschetta. 
  • White Bean and Spring Vegetable Stew. 
  • A piece of Sourdough bread topped with Peanut Butter, fruit jam, or jellies. 
  • Spread a bit of hummus on a slice of Sourdough bread.   

Final Thoughts

In summary, not all Sourdough bread will taste the same; there are possible things for you to try to alter the taste of your Sourdough bread recipe. Things like the temperature of your ingredients, starting your Sourdough starter ahead of time, or letting your dough rise could all be factors in the taste of your Sourdough bread. All in all, Sourdough bread has a distinctly sour taste with hints of tang. Do you like your Sourdough sour or more mildly sweet?