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Sourdough Pizza Made With Discarded Starter

People ask me what to do with excess sourdough starter, Our Denali Pizzaand here's one of my answers. Make pizza, and pizza shells. If I'm not planning on using them at once, I'll freeze them after the first baking, and they are ready to be topped and baked at the drop of a hat. It makes you ready for unexpected company - especially kids - dropping in.

When our son was a teenager, having a stack of frozen pizza shells ready to bake was a life saver - he brought friends over for dinner quite often and we were always ready! If memory serves, a few times his friends came by without him.

A par-baked pizza shell ready for toppingIf you are going to use the pizza shells right away, you may either partially pre-bake the the shells, top them, and then finish baking them or top them and bake them in one step.

If you pre-bake the shells, they will tend to stay more fluffy. If you just top them and bake them, they will tend to be flatter. Fix 'em the way you prefer them.

Honestly, while this is not my best pizza recipe, it is probably my favorite. It's quick and easy and uses up excess, or discarded, starter. The recipe is so simple, I have it memorized. By the time the oven is pre-heated, the pizza dough has been rolled and topped, all ready for baking. It may not be my best pizza recipe, but it is very good!


12" Pizza (30 cm)Ingredient14" Pizza (35 cm)
1 Cup (260 grams)Mature (excess or discard) Sourdough Starter1 1/2 cups (390 Grams)
1 TBSP (13 Grams)Olive Oil1 1/2 TBSP (19 Grams)
1 tsp (6 Grams)Salt1 1.2 tsp (9 grams)
1 cup (130 grams)Flour1 1/2 Cups (195 Grams)

Preheat oven to 450F/230C. (Some people prefer hotter. Try 550F/290C if your oven will take you there.)

Mix ingredients, working in the flour until you have a soft dough. If the dough gets too dry, add some more starter. If you've used all the starter, add a bit of water.

The flour you use is not critical. You can use high protein if you have it, bread flour if you prefer, or even all-purpose. You can use whole wheat, but you should use a bit less flour or more starter because whole wheat absorbs more water than refined flours. It's a flexible recipe, just add flour until the dough feels right!

As is usually the case, I suggest kneading for 5 minutes, letting the dough rest for 5 minutes, and then kneading for another 5 minutes. The rest period is especially important if you are using whole wheat flour - while it absorbs more water than refined flour, it does it slowly so you won't have a really good idea what the dough feels like until after the rest period.

Once you've kneaded the dough, cover it and let rest for 1/2 hour. This lets the dough relax, so forming the pizza is easier. This recipe does not require the rising capabilities of sourdough, it just uses the taste of the starter.

Once the dough has rested, roll out into a flat round pie-like shape. I prefer to roll the dough on baker's parchment, turning the dough 1/8 turn between rolls and only rolling the dough away from me. This makes it easier to make something similar to a circle. How large a circle? In class, we usually get about a 10 to 12 inch pie. It depends on your taste and how many people you have to feed. It also depends on the day. Some days you can go further. Other days, not so far - the condition of the start has a bit impact here. Fresher is better. However, if you get much past a 12 inch diameter, you'll have trouble finding freezer bags large enough to hold the pre-baked shells.

Once you have a nice round pie shell, you may pre-bake it or top it and bake it.

Before pre-baking the dough, you might want to dock the dough to keep it from puffing up.  You can do this by poking it with a fork all over its surface, or by using a rolling dough docker, available inexpensively at food service companies or Amazon.  Once docked, slide the parchment and pie onto a baker's peel, and then into the oven. It will work better if you use quarry tiles or baking stones. Bake about 5 minutes. It doesn't take long, so watch carefully.

Once the shell is pre-baked, you may cool it and then freeze it, or top it and finish baking it. Of course, you may also just top the dough and bake it straight through - that's what we usually do in class. It is a very forgiving recipe.

When you're ready to top the pizza, rub a bit of olive oil on the surface, as this helps keep the crust from getting soggy. Then top with your ingredients. There is some argument about what order to put ingredients on the pizza. I prefer to put the cheese on as the final layer. If you don't, the cheese doesn't brown and it just doesn't look like a pizza to me.

Many people over do their pizzas. When I was a teenager, I preferred the "everything but the kitchen-sink, no holds barred, savage, gonzo all-the-way" pizza. Now I prefer just a few well chosen ingredients. Whatever you prefer, play with your toppings until you create the pie you prefer.

Whatever your favorite topping, you want to balance the cooking time so the crust is nicely browned and the cheese topping has browned a bit. It is a balancing act. Anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your temperature and toppings should do the trick.

I usually use about 8 ounces of mozzarella cheese for a 12 inch pizza. Of course, the toppings are up to you. Here are some possibilities:

Denali Pizza We like this pizza so much, it's picture is at the top of this page! We had this at the Denali lodge at Denali National Park and Preserve. We were tired after a long day and weren't hungry. All we wanted was a beer and a bed. Until we saw this pizza being served to another guest. And then we had to have one. Now we make it at home, and it's a favorite! Smoked salmon, marscapone, thinly sliced red onion and capers. Mike's usually not a caper fan, but even he agrees they help balance this pizza. Bake as described above.

Shrimp and Asparagus Pizza This started as a way to get rid of some leftovers, and has become our current favorite. It works MUCH better with fresh asparagus than the canned variety. Top the pizza with about 1/2 a pound of cleaned and cooked shrimp and a similar amount of steamed asparagus. Top with mozzarella cheese. Enjoy!

Basil pesto pizza Top the pizza with about 3 ounces of basil pesto,Our Pesto Pizza and then the cheese. We use bottled pesto from the grocery store - it tastes great and you can keep it in your pantry waiting for your next pizza emergency.

Spinach, bacon, and red onion pizza. Top the pizza with about 4 ounces of chopped fresh spinach, 4 slices of cooked bacon, and a number of rounds of red onion. Top with cheese and bake. Some people prefer to pre-cook the spinach and drain it.

Classic pepperoni, sausage, and cheese pizza. Top with pizza sauce, pepperoni, cooked sausage, and cheese. Bake as described above.


If you liked this recipe, several more pizza recipes, including a Chicago Double-Stuffed Pizza, are in our newly revised "Introduction to Sourdough".

17 thoughts on “Sourdough Pizza Made With Discarded Starter”

  1. If I am taking my starter from the refrigerator, do I need to leave it on the counter to come to room temperature or use it cold?

    1. Hi Sheila,
      In this case where we are using discarded starter, you can use it straight from the fridge. Kneading the dough will warm it enough.

      Normally when using starter from the fridge, I like to feed it for three days to be sure it is fully active and consistent from bake to bake.


        1. Hi Laura,

          I’ve never tried it, and I’m not really sure why you’d want to. I suggest a 15 minute rise and a 30 minute rest. This is less time than ovens with pizza stones take to heat up. So, you’re not saving any time by refrigerating the dough.

          When we were faced with more dough than we wanted, we’d shape it and par-bake it and then freeze the par-baked pizza shells. We interleaved the discs with waxed paper and put them in large ziplocks. It works quite well.


          1. I made a double batch and cooked one yesterday, refrigerated the other to cook it today. They were both fine, I didn’t really taste a difference. I roll the crust very thin, fwiw.

          2. Hi Sharon,
            Thanks for the comment. Because this recipe is made from discarded starter, it isn’t very active, so it isn’t likely you’d notice much difference between a pizza baked right after mixing and the net day. Of course, a lot depends on how fresh and active your discarded starter is.

    2. a woman called Sam

      I doubled the bigger recipe and made 4 shells. Making circles well, meh. But that won’t change
      The taste. Made one right away- fab! Par baked the others. Wrapped one in Saran then finished it last night also yum. Will try frozen/ defrosted tomorrow

      1. I really don’t defrost them. I heat the oven, top the shells, and toss ’em in the oven. (OK, I don’t toss them, the fillings would fall off.) But I don’t bother thawing them.

        As to round, a pizza pro he doesn’t like perfectly round pizzas because those are made by machines. He is happy with an amoeba shaped pizza. And so am I. I’m reading Pizza Today every month and learning more and more about pizza. Also, Vito Lacopelli has a great series of pizza videos on Youtube. This one is on shaping pizzas.

        Best wishes,

  2. Delicious but mine turned out a little bit dense. Do you have any idea of what I might have done wrong and how to make it better next time? I am VERY NEW to the bread world!

    1. Depending on the age of the starter, the dough will rise but a little. Using a fresher discard will help, as will using less flour.

      This is one of a small handful of recipes that still uses cups. When you use cups, it is easy to use too much flour. We talk about cups a lot here, and how they don’t really help bakers. However, this is such a simple recipe I haven’t updated it to use weight measurements. So, look at the link above about how to fill a cup and use a bit less flour. This is a place where it is a good idea to go by feel and touch.

      As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is not our best pizza dough. It’s quick and easy and uses starter discard. However, the slow rise sourdough pizza dough is MUCH better. However, it takes 3 or 4 days, so it’s not really a spur of the moment thing.

      Best wishes,

      1. Thanks to the information you provided about measuring cups of flour, it is no longer dense and it is absolutely delicious, perfect for a quick spur of the moment pizza!! I’ve been using this recipe more than weekly since my last comment. LOVE IT!

  3. Great discard recipe!! Just made two 10” x 14” pies with Kalamata Olive Oil, fresh Spinach, Mozzarella, Shrimp and garlic. Easier than pre-making flatbread for quicky pizza! Keep the recipes coming Mike!👍🏼👍🏼

    1. Thanks for the kind words Stephen!
      A lot depends on what your pizza expectations are. For q quick pie that beats store bought, it’s great!

      If you want to make a Neapolitan pizza with an airy cornishone, not so much. Like great bread, great pizza takes time. But not every loaf, not every pie, has to be great. Sometimes good enough is good enough!

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Yes, it is quite common, and I should have discussed this in the recipe! I’ve added it – better late than never!

      To prevent this, you need to dock the dough. You can use a fork to prick the dough, or if you do this often enough you can use a roller dough docker. It is also useful to do this to a pie crust you are blind baking.

      Best wishes,

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