I’ve been enjoying baking even more than usual since I got my hands on some sourdough starter. Yeast certainly has its place in the kitchen, but using sourdough starter makes me feel like a serious baker. I’ve used my sourdough starter to make sourdough loaves, rye bread, ciabatta and the very festive Red Wine Loaf with Pine Nuts and Figs that I made for the holidays. Last night, I decided to make a household favorite – pizza. Only this time, instead of my regular yeast crust, I thought I’d make a sourdough crust!

Simplicity is the key when it comes to pizza. The sourdough crust recipes that I found online were exceedingly simple: starter, flour, salt and olive oil. In fact, after all the baking I’ve been doing, I was kind of taken aback by their simplicity. Most recipes listed amounts in cups rather by weight. I’ve gotten really accustomed to bread recipes being by weight (a much more accurate way of measuring ingredients) so this really stood out to me. Even more surprising was the fact that they all simply called for “starter.” What kind of starter? 100% hydration? 50%? Fed with what type of flour exactly? I guess I’m turning into a bit of a baking nerd.

I generally keep my starter at 100% hydration which means that I feed it with equal parts water and flour (by weight.) Some people prefer to keep their starter on the firm side by feeding it with a higher ratio of flour to water. Obviously, the hydration level of your starter impacts the amount of additional flour needed to make dough which is why I was surprised to see so many recipes calling for generic “starter.” Starting with 1-1/2 cups of 100% starter as the base from which to build my dough, I mixed in just under 1-1/2 cups of bread flour, a bit of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. The dough seemed a little stiff so I added small amounts of water until I had a nice, soft dough.

Many of the recipes I read said that, for sourdough pizza crust, rising wasn’t required and that the starter was only added for flavor. I was dubious so I ignored those recipes and let my dough rise anyway – seeing dough rise is one of my favorite aspects of baking! I put my dough together after work and, by the time dinner rolled around, it had nearly doubled in size. As I was rolling the dough out, I was struck by how much more elastic it was than my regular yeast dough. On the one hand, this was great because I was able to really stretch it thin without fear of ripping a hole in it. On the other hand, the elasticity made rolling it out pretty difficult – the dough really wanted to snap back into place. Eventually, I got it to relax (and I got the benefit of a workout in the process.)

I added my toppings: roasted red bells, olives, and Italian Field Roast. Then I baked my pizza on a hot stone in the oven. 12 minutes later, I had a crunchy, bubbly, beautiful pizza! Although the dough was made with sourdough starter, it didn’t have a sour flavor at all. You really have to work at developing that sour flavor and 2 hours of rise time isn’t going to do it (refrigerating the dough overnight would probably work.) The crust had a nice clean flavor and a good contrast of crunchy bottom and chewy interior. Robert said he could detect a difference between this and my yeast crust. I think both are good, with the sourdough crust having a slight edge over the yeast crust simply because it was easier to put together.

Sourdough Pizza Crust

1-1/2 cups mature 100% hydration starter*
about 1-1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
water, as needed

In a medium bowl, mix together the starter, most of the flour, salt and olive oil. Hold some of the flour back in case your dough doesn’t need it. If the dough seems too wet, add more flour. If it seems too dry, add a bit of water. Pour the mixture out onto a counter or work surface and knead until well-mixed and smooth (8 to 10 minutes.) Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each up into a ball shape. Place each ball in an oiled bowl, turning the dough around in the bowl in order to coat the surface lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size (depending on how active your starter is and other factors, this can take one to several hours.)

After the dough has risen, roll each ball out into a thin round, 12 to 14 inches in diameter. If your dough is very elastic and wants to spring back, roll it out some, let it rest for a few minutes and then try rolling it out again. Giving it a break between rolling helps it to relax. Your crust is now ready to be used in any pizza recipe!

Makes two 12- to 14-inch crusts

*100% hydration starter is starter that has been fed with equal parts water and flour (by weight.)


  1. hi there! EXCELLENT post! i happened upon your blog while browsing for some instructions on makin pizza dough from sourdough! a friend and i made a generic sourdough (from her homemade starter) earlier this week, and i used half for stickybuns and saved the rest for pizza! it’s been in the fridge and hasnt been allowed to rise yet. i was wondering if i even needed to let it rise at all? i went ahead and rolled it in some olive oil in a bowl and set it in a warm place to rest and rise a bit. any suggestions from this point on? :) thanks!!

    p.s. a few days ago i got my own starter started! i’ve done it before, but only used it to make muffins. i’m excited to get all nerdy and use it for everything! =D

    p.p.s. ooo, i see you’ve got a Part II to this post, so off i go to read. hehe!

    Comment by josey — February 13, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  2. I have some questions.

    Some recipes prebake. Did you?

    What was your crust like, once the pizza was baked: thin, medium or thick?

    How well would this recipe convert to general flatbreads, ie with no sauce?


    Comment by JN — August 22, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  3. Hi J. It’s been a long time since I’ve made this crust so I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can from memory. I did not prebake the crust. I think my crust was medium thick – that’s usually how I roll it out. Depending on what you are looking for, you could probably roll this crust out thinner or thicker, although I don’t think this dough could be used to make a super-thin crust pizza. I’ve never tried it, but I think this would be lovely as a flatbread. It has a really nice flavor. Good luck!


    Comment by elliemay — August 29, 2009 @ 8:06 am

  4. um, it’s been a long, long time since you posted this, but in case you are still “there,” what temperature did you bake your pizza at? am I missing this somewhere in your post?

    i, too, found you via searching for sourdough pizza crust, btw. i just made my own starter and am now a sourdough geek. esp. since i have been researching the health benefits of sourdough. :) thanks! kelli

    Comment by kelli — June 25, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

  5. Hi Kelli. Whoops, I guess I forgot to mention the temperature! I usually cook my pizzas at 500 degrees. I read somewhere that you should cook pizzas at the highest temperature your oven will go. Some people even hack their ovens in order to achieve higher temperatures than their oven is meant for (yikes!) My oven is is old and I’m always afraid I’m going to burn the house down if I go too hot! I’ve had good results with 500 degrees.


    Comment by elliemay — July 1, 2010 @ 7:01 am

  6. Great recipe Elliemay. This would go great with these other pizza recipes using your dough!


    Comment by Danno — July 15, 2010 @ 9:13 am

  7. Your right, it doesnt have to rise.
    Unlike bread-making the fermentation is not used to further develope the gluten.
    With pizza dough its usually mixed untill gluten is fully developed.
    Futher fermentation will enhace flavour but you have to watch out not to over ferment and weaken the gluten since “real” pizza dough needs to be so elastic to strech it and toss it in the air without rapture :)

    Comment by Tomer — December 12, 2010 @ 10:58 am

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