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Gluten Free Sourdough Starter from Chick Pea Flour

After a few years of loyalty to my trusty brown rice sourdough starter, I tried experimenting with switching out the brown rice for chick pea flour earlier this year.

To be honest, this creation wasn’t some brilliantly hatched culinary dream brought to light. I was simply trying to use up an excess of garbanzo bean flour during a period when my diet was entirely legume-free.

I tried the garbanzo bean starter to make biscuits and pancakes for my husband, while I, meanwhile, attempted to follow the no-legumes-allowed AIP diet.

Harvesting dry chick peas.

One of my reasons for avoiding this leguminous flour, and going AIP, is that I started having difficulties digesting beans for the first time in my life. (I’ll cover my experience trying the AIP diet in another post.)

Skipping over the next few months, once I decided I was ready to start reintroducing foods, I figured that if I was going to try legumes again, chick pea sourdough would be the most digestible form, since it would not only be cooked, but it would also be fermented first.

Dry chick peas and their pods harvested from our garden, a cultivar called “Black Sicilian.”

Happily, introducing this food into my diet caused no digestive distress – on the contrary, it is now on my “happy belly” list, leaving me feeling great after I eat it.

If you think you’d like to try out this fabulous gluten-free, grain-free sourdough starter, there are a few things to keep in mind before you gather your supplies.

Garbanzo Bean Flour vs. Garbanzo Bean Sourdough Starter

If you’re not sure why you should bother fermenting this flour before cooking with it, well, you don’t have to, you could use it as is, as a dry flour ingredient.

The reason I like to ferment it before cooking or baking with it is, as I said, because I have a gut that is easily distressed. It’s not a fun way to live life. However, when I discover foods that work for me, and when my gut is happy, I get absolutely thrilled and feel like I could accomplish anything.

Fermentation actually helps digest foods, making them easier on your gut – a good thing for anyone suffering from gastrointestinal issues.

We humans have a gut microbiome that really appreciates getting a fresh stock of materials on a regularly basis. The members of our microbiome community need both prebiotics (indigestible fiber, from things like garlic, onions, bananas, asparagus, and apples) and probiotics (found in fermented foods) to remain healthy and diverse, and to keep our guts healthy.

Check out my post on why fermentation makes your gut feel fantastic, if you’d like to learn more.

Even after being cooked or baked, probiotics remain active in sourdough products, and when you eat them, you can get that happy belly feeling too, as your gut microbiome is being given a good freshening up.

When is it Ready to Use?

One of the biggest confusions for those new to sourdough making is – how do you know when the starter is ready to use? Although bubbling is an important sign to look for, you really have to use your nose.

Sourdough starters can go through some very unpleasant phases, sometimes smelling downright funky, and not in a cool, James Brown kind of way.

In general, if a sourdough starter smells funky, it’s not ready. On the other hand, if it smells delicious, like sourdough, then it’s ready to use.

Close up of actively fermenting garbanzo sourdough starter

Since this particular starter is made not from a grain but from a legume, it does not have quite the same sourdough smell you may be familiar with.

To me, this one smells strongly of hummus and sourdough mixed together when ready to use – and it is a very appetizing scent.

However, as good as it smells raw, it’s not ready to eat until you cook with it.

How I Use Chick Pea Sourdough Starter

I have made fritters, pancakes, cobbler, cookies, scones, rolls, and biscuits with this starter.

This new ingredient has really inspired me to get creative in the kitchen – maybe it will inspire you too.

More Protein and Fiber

Beyond the novelty of a new ingredient to play with in the kitchen, I also think it’s a good idea to make sure some of the baked goods in my life aren’t grain-based, both to make sure I’m including plenty of variety in my diet, but also to make sure more of my calories come with healthy doses of protein and fiber.

Garbanzo beans have nearly three times the protein as brown rice flour, and more than three times the fiber.

As someone who is sensitive to the effects of too many sugars racing into my bloodstream when eating a carb heavy meal or snack, I feel like it’s a really sweet trick to sneak some healthy, whole-foods protein into my baked goods.

Ready to learn how to make this starter? Here’s a step by step guide with photos, a printable recipe will follow:

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter from Chick Pea Flour – Instructions

Gather your ingredients together. You’ll need chick pea flour, non-chlorinated water, a clean jar (I like a wide mouth pint jar), a spoon, a rubber band, and a covering for the starter jar.

Your covering can be a coffee filter, a piece of cheese cloth, or really any piece of thin cotton cloth. My favorite coverings are squares of thin kitchen towels that I have cut down to size. The covering protects the starter from bugs and dust, while allowing it to breathe. And the rubber band is to help secure the covering over the jar.

Use water that is chlorine free from the start or has been filtered. Traces of chlorine in your water can kill off the bacteria that we are trying to cultivate here.

Got everything gathered together? Let’s get started.

Put a couple of heaping spoonfuls of flour in the empty jar. This is not a recipe that demands precision – it’s very forgiving.

Now add approximately the same amount of water.

Stir the mixture.

The mixture should be about the same consistency as pancake batter, more or less.

Some fermenters like their consistency thinner or thicker than this – but pancake batter is the consistency that I find works best for me.

If you feel that your mixture is too thick or too thin, add flour or water to adjust, and stir again.

Ideally, if you dip your spoon in to the jar then lift it out, the mixture will coat the spoon.

Now cover with your jar covering and secure it with a rubber band.

Pretty easy, huh? Hang on, there, pal, we’re not quite done yet.

Place your starter in a location that is out of direct sunlight, but where you will see it and remember to feed it at least once a day.

Also make sure to put it out of reach of pets or small kids. My dog Leo devoured the contents of my starter once or twice before we gated our kitchen to keep our food – and him – safe.

Feed your starter once or twice daily with approximately one tablespoon of flour and water each. It will reach maturity more quickly if you feed it more often. The number of days it will take to reach readiness will also depend on the conditions in your home.

When it has started bubbling and smells like hummus and sourdough, its ready to use.

Need a printable version of this recipe? Here you go:

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter from Chick Pea Flour

Kristina Hicks-Hamblin
Make gluten-free sourdough starter from garbanzo flour


  • glass jar
  • cheesecloth, coffee filter, or square of cotton cloth
  • rubber band
  • spoon


To start

  • 2 tbsp chick pea flour
  • 2 tbsp water

Each following day

  • 1-2 tbsp chick pea flour
  • 1-2 tbsp water


  • Place two heaping spoonfuls of chick pea flour in a clean jar. (Amount does not have to be precise).
  • Add the same amount of water.
  • Stir mixture, adding more water or flour to acheive a smooth, thick consistency. The mixture should be able to coat a spoon.
  • Cover jar with covering, secure with a rubber band.
  • Place jar in a location out of direct sun.
  • Feed starter fresh flour and water once or twice a day until starter is mature.
  • When starter is mature, use as much as needed for your recipe, and continue to feed. The starter can be kept going indefinitely, or a new starter can be created as needed.
Keyword chick peas, garbanzo beans, gluten-free, plant based, sourdough, sourdough starter

The Daily Development of a Sourdough Starter

Having gone through a period of being a very nervous fermenter myself, I thought that some of you might appreciate a day by day account of what went on with my newly created starter up until the day it was ready to use, to compare your own against.

This is what it looks like on each day of its evolution from simple flour and water mixture to bacteria- and yeast-rich starter.

Day One

On day one, I created my starter, following the above directions. After creating it, I put it in my cabinet, where I store some of my actively fermenting foods.

Day Two

On day two, my sourdough starter was already bubbling. It was late September, and my home was still warm at this time of the year. For me, in winter it takes longer for bubble action to be apparent.

Just because it was bubbling doesn’t mean it’s ready to use yet, though.

When I smelled it, I could tell it wasn’t ready yet – it didn’t have that distinctive hummusy smell.

I fed my starter only once on day two.

Day Three

On day three my starter was undergoing significant fermentation action. Fermentation had caused it to puff up dramatically. And when looking at the side of the jar, I saw bubbles in the jar.

However, it did not yet pass the sniff test. It may have looked like it was ready to use, but it had entered a funky phase, where it smelled a bit off putting.

This doesn’t mean anything had gone wrong, however – it just hadn’t reached maturity yet. Again, on day three I fed this starter only once.

Day Four

On the fourth day of fermentation, my garbanzo bean starter is beginning to smell like sourdough. I’m not quite smelling that hummusy smell, yet, though.

Getting impatient, I decided to feed my starter twice on day four, once in the morning, and again in the early afternoon.

I checked my starter again in the evening and finally, it had that tell tale smell of sourdough and hummus. It was ready to use.

Keep reading, I have a list of recommended recipes to use this with below, as well as a video demonstrating how to begin. But first, I’m guessing you may have questions.

Questions you may have

In case you have any questions…

I don’t have chick pea flour – can I use dry garbanzo beans?

Sure, if you have a grain mill or a high power blender, such as a Vitamix, you should be able to grind your dry chick peas into a flour.

Can I use cooked chick peas, such as canned?

Chick peas that are already cooked no longer have lactobacteria on them and will not undergo wild fermentation like uncooked garbanzo beans will. You can ferment cooked chick peas with a starter, but they won’t grow their own starter like uncooked ones will.

Help, my starter is growing mold!

If you go a little too long without feeding your starter, you may find a layer of mold growing on the surface. If you have only missed feeding it for a day, you can probably still salvage it. Just scoop off the layer of mold on the top, which will likely come off in one solid piece.

If you’ve tried my brown rice sourdough starter, this one is a bit different. It’s not as resistant to mold growth, so use it, scrape off any mold that grows on the side of your jar, and start a new batch of starter in a fresh jar frequently.

You can take a small amount of your mature starter to start the new one – the important thing is to switch out the jar.

If there is mold growing on the sides of your jar too, transfer the unmoldy starter to a fresh jar, feed it, and resume – or you can simply wipe out the mold with a spoon or paper towel.

If you have neglected your starter for too long and mold is more extensive, you can compost it and start over.

See Video Instructions

Recipes to Make

This fermented starter can be used to make the following types of recipes – in addition to whichever ones you dream up yourself:

Are you trying this recipe? Let me know how it goes for you – and please let me know if you have any questions as your starter is fermenting!

3 thoughts on “Gluten Free Sourdough Starter from Chick Pea Flour”

    1. Hi Julie,
      Discarding sourdough as you add new flour is the standard technique but I don’t really do this – or at least, not at first. I just keep adding to the jar until there seems to be too much in there, maybe a little over half way full. At this point I take some of the sourdough out and use it instead of throwing it out. Then I keep replenishing my starter. This technique has worked well for me! Hope this helps!

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