Sourdough Hamburger Buns

Published Date: July 14, 2022 | Last Updated: December 5, 2023
I’m telling you, homemade buns will take your hamburgers to the next level! And what’s more? SOURDOUGH hamburger buns will raise the roof. Soft and fluffy, yet sturdy enough to hold a burger. These are so good!
delicious hamburger with lettuce, mozzarella and tomatoes sandwiched in two homemade buns

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I’m telling you, homemade buns will take your hamburgers to the next level! And what’s more? SOURDOUGH hamburger buns will raise the roof. Soft and fluffy, yet sturdy enough to hold a burger. These are so good!

WHY MAKE YOUR OWN?

After you make your own hamburger buns (specifically THIS recipe), it is really, extraordinarily difficult to ever enjoy a burger on a store bought bun ever again. These homemade buns are such a massive upgrade. They are soft and tender yet sturdy enough for your burger. The flavor is so much better. After you get used to eating these, you’ll be convinced that store bought buns taste like plastic and feel like cardboard! 

WHY SOURDOUGH?

Sourdough can be intimidating at first, but trust me, it is so rewarding! You even might be surprised by how quickly you get the hang of it and then never want to stop!

Sourdough is also known as “Natural Yeast”. Natural Yeast/Sourdough is how all leavened breads were made, from the time bread was invented until active dry yeast started to be commercialized in the early 1900’s. Since quick dry yeast took the world by storm, sourdough became somewhat of a lost art. But I’m determined to bring it back! 

Breads made with sourdough not only have a richer, deeper flavor (that iconic, subtle sourdough tang!) but they also have a host of digestion benefits that you could never get from quick yeast breads. In fact, for every reason that quick-yeast breads are considered “unhealthy”, the opposite can be said about breads made with sourdough! 

*Sourdough lowers the glycemic for the current meal and the next several meals, stabilizing blood sugar. 

*Because of the long fermentation process that sourdough requires, it makes the nutrition from the grain accessible since it ferments/pre-digests the grain and neutralizes phytic acid. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient, and when neutralized by sourdough, the nutrition (minerals, and B vitamins) is unlocked and accessible to the body. 

*Sourdough is so much easier to digest than most commercial breads made with quick yeast. Many people with gluten sensitivity can handle sourdough with no problem. 

*Sourdough is full of probiotics, which, after cooked, turns into prebiotic fuel for our healthy gut bacteria. 

These are just some of reasons I love adding sourdough to any baked good I can! Plus, it tastes amazing!

Keep in mind, the sourdough process takes MUCH longer. Instead of rise times that last one hour each, the rise times could take 4-8 hours each. 

LET’S CHAT INGREDIENTS…

SOURDOUGH STARTER

Because of it’s function in rising the dough, it is super important to have a healthy and happy sourdough starter! Before attempting this recipe, you may want to make sure that your starter is strong enough for the challenge.

SIGNS THAT IT IS ACTIVE AND STRONG INCLUDE: 

  • Doubling in size and filling with bubbles after a feed. 
  • Being on a regular feeding schedule, frequently being fed and not left neglected for long periods of time without reviving.
  • Float test: fill a glass bowl or cup with room temperature water, and drop a spoonful or less of the starter into the water. If it floats, its ready to use. If it sinks, your starter will likely need more time to develop more air bubbles and become active, or more feedings.  

SIGNS THAT IT IS NOT READY TO USE AND NEEDS ONE OR MORE FEEDING(S) BEFORE IT IS STRONG ENOUGH: 

  • It is flat and runny with no bubbles
  • It does not rise in volume or fill with bubbles in the hours following a feed. 
  • It smells like vinegar or nail polish remover ( a sign that it is over fermented and very hungry)
  • There is a layer of liquid on the top of the starter 

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR STARTER ISN’T ACTIVATING?

  • Make sure you are feeding it with unbleached flour and filtered water.
  • Make sure that it is being left in a warm spot to ferment/activate (between 72 degrees and 75 degrees is ideal)
  • You can temporarily add a bit of whole wheat flour or ground rye flour into the flour used to feed your starter to give it a little extra nutrition
  • You can give your starter a series of “powerfeeds”: 1 Tablespoon of starter mixed with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water. mix, cover and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours. repeat several times over the next few days.
  • Make sure that your starter hasn’t been contaminated with any type of cleaning products or anything made to kill bacteria. This will kill your starter! 

THE SOURDOUGH CIRCLE OF LIFE:

runny discard –> feed it flour and water –> mix –> give it time –> turns into bubbly active starter –> digests all of its food –> turns into runny discard –> feed it flour and water –> mix–> turns into bubbly active starter –> digests all of its food –> turns into runny discard –> REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.

HOW DO I FEED MY STARTER FOR A RECIPE?

For this recipe, you will  need one cup of bubbly active starter. Figuring out how to feed and prepare your starter for a feed can be a bit tricky at first, but once you do it a few times, it will make so much more sense! 

I like to use less starter and more flour + water because that teaches the starter to digest a large amount of food and to have a strong appetite. 

for a typical pre-recipe feed, I like to combine 3 Tablespoons runny discard + 1 cup flour + 1 cup water. That’s a 1:5:5 ratio. 1 part runny discard: 5 parts flour: 5 parts water. No need to weigh your ingredients, just mix it together. We are going for a thick, pancake batter consistency, so if it is too thin, add a little more flour. If it is too thick, add a little more water. 

This will yield enough for the recipe, plus about 1/4 cup extra starter to have on hand for reserve that I will keep in the fridge until the next time that I bake with sourdough.

You could also do a 1:1:1 feed or a 1:8:8 feed. The bigger the feed, the longer it takes to become active. The smaller the feed, the more quickly it will become active. 

Since I like to do bigger feeds, I find that it works best for my lifestyle if I feed my starter somewhere between a 1:4:4 ratio or 1:8:8 ratio right before I go to bed. it will activate overnight and in the morning I can get started right away on making my dough. It will ferment/rise through the day and then bake it in the afternoon/evening.

See my sample schedule below.

FLOUR

This recipe can be made from many flour options, such as bread flour, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour or Kamut flour.

BREAD FLOUR: Bread flour always tends to be my favorite for sourdough. The result just can’t be beat! This option contains more gluten in it than All-purpose flour, so the finished product results in a tall buoyant rise, and bread that is soft with a beautiful stretch. Many grocery stores sell bread flour. I most often make this recipe with organic bread flour that I get from a local mill, LEHI MILLS.*  (Affiliate coupon code is AMBERSKITCHEN for 10% off) I prefer their products because they source their wheat from farmers who do not use glyphosate on their wheat crop. 

ALL PURPOSE FLOUR:
This can be used as a straight across substitute for bread flour.

WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR:
This can be used in place of bread flour, however generally you will need slightly less flour because of the weight and absorbency of whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is a very thirsty flour! Instead of using 8.5 cups of flour, you may only need 7.5 or  7.75 cups. (Just an example, but be sure to check by texture when you are adding flour to see if you have the correct amount of flour).
When using sourdough and whole wheat, the rising time takes considerably longer, and it won’t rise quite as high. Just be prepared as far as timing goes if you go that route. I think a wonderful compromise is to use half whole wheat and half bread flour. It will still take longer to rise but not as long as 100% whole wheat and you will still get the health benefits of using a whole grain.

KAMUT:
Kamut, or Khorasan,  is an ancient type of wheat that hasn’t been genetically altered as much as many of the common types of wheat we use today. It is very tasty and has a slight nutty flavor. For the most part, it can be substituted for all purpose flour- but not straight across. It is more absorbent than all purpose flour, so if you use kamut, reduce the total amount of flour by about 10%-15%. In my experience I notice that Kamut doesn’t rise quite as high and it can tend to be a tad more crumbly. I buy my regeneratively grown  Khorasan locally from KHORASANMILLS.COM (not sponsored)  I believe they ship all over the United States! 

*This is an affiliate link and I may receive a commission on your purchase with no extra cost to you. Thank you for shopping through this link.

SALT

I am very picky about Salt! I love to use fine sea salt from Redmond Real Salt. It’s the only salt I ever use! I love it because it is full of naturally-occurring trace minerals, it is pure, unprocessed, has no fillers, no anti-caking agents, no additives or unhealthy pollutants. Sadly most commercial table salt has a lot of not great things added to it, is processed, and has no trace minerals. Redmond real salt has been mined from an ancient sea bed in central Utah- making it true sea salt! I get my salt HERE*. To make it more cost effective, I buy in bulk and order a 25 POUND BAG OF SALT* every few years. I store it in mason jars and it lasts me a few years.

My affiliate Coupon code “AMBERSKITCHEN” saves you 15% on any Redmond products. 

*This is an affiliate link and I may receive a commission on your purchase. Thank you for shopping through this link.

WATER

Use room temperature to slightly warm water. The temperature matters! If it is too cold it will take too long for the dough to rise and if it is too hot it could aggravate or even kill the yeast. The slight warmth of the water will help the dough ferment a little faster.

Filtered water is always going to be the best choice. Chlorinated tap water can act as an anti-biotic to those delicate yeast stains and it can potentially weaken the strength of your sourdough starter and strength of your dough. If you don’t have access to filtered water, you can fill up a cup of water and leave it at room temperature for a few hours so that the chlorine can evaporate. If you go this route, don’t worry about warming the room temperature water.

Out of laziness, I do occasionally use tap water on my starter and in my dough and it’s actually been fine. I hear from other sourdough bakers that their tap water either has no negative effect on their starter, or that it has had a strong negative effect. So while I generally recommend starting with filtered water, you may be able to get away with using tap water occasionally.

BUTTER OR COCONUT OIL

For years I made this recipe with butter, because butter had more of a savory flavor that pairs well with a burger. But when I make them with coconut oil, the softness factor is out of this world. So you can choose which you would rather have, buttery savory flavor with a slightly stiffer bun, or a softer bun made with coconut oil. 

If your butter or coconut oil is cold, try melting it in the microwave,  for 10-20 seconds 

If for whatever reason you can’t use either butter or coconut oil, my next recommendation would be to use either extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. 

EGG

The egg makes the texture of the bread soft and prevents it from getting crumbly.

*If* you cannot use egg, you have a few options!

#1 Skip the egg altogether. It will be fine without the egg. Really.

#2 Use 1/4 cup of Aquafabainstead of an egg. Aquafaba is water in which chickpeas have been cooked. Surprisingly, this liquid very closely mimics egg in baked goods. It is used widely in the vegan and egg-allergy community. To use it, simply open a can of chickpeas and drain 1/4 cup of the liquid and use that liquid in place of each egg. 

#3 Use Flax egg  replacement instead of an egg. For flax egg substitute, simply combine 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed meal, (ground raw flaxseed)  and 2 1/2 Tablespoons water. Mix together and let sit for 5  minutes to thicken. This can be used as a substitute for one Egg.

A question I often get asked is if someone were to half this recipe, should they do half an egg or a whole egg? I tell them that the egg in this recipe is very forgiving, even if halving the recipe you could add an entire egg, or you could entirely skip the egg and it would still turn out great either way.

SUGAR

Granulated sugar works great for this recipe, however you could use honey or even coconut sugar. When using honey or coconut sugar, feel free to substitute straight across. If you want to entirely skip the sugar, that would be fine too. 

MOMMA’S SLOPPY JOES

Burgers aside, these sloppy joes also make an AMAZING filling for your hamburger buns!

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: Can I refrigerate the dough before baking? 
A: Absolutely! Just put the dough into an airtight bowl or bag after the first bulk rise for 12-48 hours. When it comes time to make the dough, pull it out of the fridge and form the cold dough into buns. Cover with plastic or a clean dish towel. Let the dough come to room temp, then rise until doubled. You can do the egg wash right before baking. Enjoy! 

Q: Can I freeze the dough? 
A: Unfortunately, I get really inconsistent and mostly negative results when it comes to freezing pre baked sourdough. For this reason I do not recommend freezing the dough. 

Q: Can I freeze the buns after they are baked and cooled?
A: Yes! Absolutely. They actually freeze really nicely in an airtight bag when left in a freezer space that doesn’t smash them or compromise their shape. When you want to use them, simply pull out of the freezer and let them defrost. It will really make them shine if right before serving, you cut open, butter and toast the inside of the buns on a griddle. 

Q: What is the best way to store leftover buns? 
A: These buns are best the first day. There are no preservatives in this dough so they don’t stay as fresh as store bought buns do.  Having said that, they are still pretty good on the 2nd and 3rd day. To freshen them up, I always recommend that right before serving, when you cut the bun open, that you butter the insides of the bun, then toast the inside of the bun face down on a pancake griddle or frying pan just for a minute or until it becomes slightly golden and toasty. 

Q: Can I use this recipe for hot dog buns?
A: Yes! you absolutely can. They can be difficult to form consistent sized and shaped buns so I would recommend using a  *HOT DOG BUN MOLD. Cooking time will need to be reduced by a minute or two, so keep an eye on them at the end. 

delicious hamburger with lettuce, mozzarella and tomatoes sandwiched in two homemade buns

SOURDOUGH HAMBURGER BUNS SAMPLE SCHEDULE

Figuring out the timing of anything sourdough can be tricky. It gets much easier after you make it a few times. Here is a sample schedule for how I make these buns, but feel free to adapt this to your own schedule. Keep in mind that you can always refrigerate the dough to pause or slow the process!  If you are going to pause (or slow by 90%) the process by utilizing the fridge, I recommend refrigerating after the first bulk rise. Make sure it is refrigerated in an airtight bag or bowl, and letting it be in the fridge for 12-48 hours. Anything longer than that, and the dough may get over fermented. hard to work with, and a little slimy. 

Thursday at 10 PM: Activate the starter, AKA make the levain. Combine 3 Tablespoons runny discard with 3/4 to 1 cup flour and 3/4 to 1 cup water. Mix. Cover. Leave in warmish spot (between 70 and 80 degrees fahrenheit) to activate. 

Friday at 7:00 AM: *IF* the starter has doubled in size and is full of bubbles, go ahead and make the dough. If it hasn’t doubled in size, then we need to work on strengthening your starter. See notes above. 

Friday at 7:15 AM: Cover the dough with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. 

Friday at 12:15 PM: *IF/WHEN* the dough has doubled in size, Divide in 10-12 portions and roll into smooth balls. Put on a prepared cookie sheet and flatten like a disc. Cover with a clean dish towel or loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume. If the dough has not doubled in size, then either wait until it has or work on strengthening your starter with powerfeeds or following the troubleshooting tips above. 

Friday at 4:00 PM: *IF/WHEN* the dough buns have doubled in size, brush the dough with egg wash, then bake.

Friday at 5:00 PM: Pull buns out of the oven and let them cool. Slice, toast and serve! 

OTHER WAYS TO USE SOURDOUGH

Once you get a hang of sourdough, it will become your best friend!

HERE are some of my favorite sourdough recipes. 

delicious hamburger with lettuce, mozzarella and tomatoes sandwiched in two homemade buns
delicious hamburger with lettuce, mozzarella and tomatoes sandwiched in two homemade buns

Sourdough Hamburger Buns

Soft yet sturdy and delicious! BONUS: Made with sourdough!! Trust me, You will never want to eat store bought buns again!
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sourdough
Keyword: baking with sourdough, hamburger buns recipe, homemade hamburger buns, natural yeast recipe, sourdough, sourdough hamburger buns recipe
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 10 -12
Author: Amber

Ingredients

  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup bubbly active starter 210 grams
  • 1 cup slightly warm water
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter OR 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Plus one more egg for brushing onto the tops of the rolls before baking

Instructions

  • Make your active starter by combining 3 Tablespoons runny discard starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. Total volume of the mixture should equal about 1 1/3 cups. One cup will be used for the recipe and the remaining 1/3 cup can be refrigerated and saved as your reserve starter.  Mix the starter, flour and water. Mark it’s volume height in the bowl/jar with a marker or a rubber band. Then cover and leave in a warm spot to rest for the following 8 to 10 hours. (I like to do this step overnight!)  When your starter is active, bubbly, and doubled in size after the feed, it’s time to start making the dough. 
  • Combine the water, sugar, and 1 cup of active starter (210 grams)  into a bowl or mixer. Gently stir.
  • Add the salt, butter/oil, and egg to the yeast mixture. Stir to combine.
  • Gradually and slowly add the flour, about 1 cup at a time, mixing/kneading well as added, being careful not to add too much flour. Add just enough flour so that the dough is still tacky but isn’t overly sticking to your fingers. When the dough stops sticking to the bowl, you have enough.
  • Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes by hand or 2-3 minutes if using a stand mixer.
  • Put into a lightly oiled bowl (or leave it in the mixer), then cover and let rise until it has doubled in size. This generally takes between 4 and 8 hours depending on the strength of your starter and the ambient temperature.
  • Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface. Gently divide the dough into 10 or 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a smooth ball, tucking any seams underneath.  Put them onto a cookie sheet lined with Parchment paper.  Then using the palm of your hand, gently flatten each ball so it is about 1/2 inch tall, forming a disk. It will look small and you might wonder how it will ever rise to be big enough. Trust me, as long as your starter is strong enough, it will be a big beautiful bun soon!
  • Cover with a clean dish towel or some plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in volume. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Take a raw beaten egg and gently brush it onto the dough. I usually like to leave mine plain, but if you would like, go ahead and Sprinkle with sesame seeds or Everything but The Bagel seasoning. Another great idea for a pretty bun is to score a couple of lines on top of the dough after you brush the egg wash.
  • Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden. Let cool completely.
  • Right before serving, slice buns in half.
  • Optional (but strongly recommended): butter the inside of the buns and toast on a pancake griddle until barely golden. This is a major flavor/texture upgrade to your burger. So good!
  • ENJOY!

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Hi! I'm Amber

I'm obsessed with all things food and a mom to five. Baking bread and using my instant pot are my favorite things to do in the kitchen, and I can't wait to bring all that I have learned to you! Connect with me on Instagram because there's where I basically live these days.