These whole wheat sourdough english muffins are surprisingly easy to make - and the taste is so much better than store bought! Perfect for breakfast, sandwiches, mini pizza, and more. Plus it's another great way to use your sourdough "discard."
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English muffins are one of those things that, up until I started my real food journey, it would have never crossed my mind to make (like so many other pantry basics I discovered were almost easier to make than buy).
When you don't grow up around bread making and homemade stuff, it's easy to think it can't be made at home. Which seems silly, because I knew it was possible to make bread, even if I didn't know many people who did.
And sourdough? Well, that came only from San Francisco, right?
Now in addition to sourdough sandwich bread and artisan bread, among others, I have learned not only that English muffins can be made at home, but also that they taste incredible.
AND they are really easy - I promise.
Plus, this is a great recipe for your sourdough discard.
I wish the term wasn't discard, because you definitely don't want to through this precious stuff away! But I understand that from the starter's perspective, it's is the amount you're removing to keep the starter strong and viable as you feed it.
However, that "discard" is what we want to use in our baking. If it's been fed in the last 6-12 hours, it's active and can be used in bread making.
However, if it's a discard from the first months of the starter's life, or from waking up a sleepy starter, it's better to use it for low-rise things like crackers, quick bread, and these English muffins.
And then if you're keeping the starter on the counter for awhile to bake more regularly, you might find you have too much discard that you've stashed in the fridge.
If a recipe calls for another type of leavener like baking soda or baking powder, you can successfully use the refrigerated starter in them, without feeding, so none of it goes to waste.
(New to sourdough and want to get started? Check out my easy guide to all things sourdough.)
The #1 Thing to Remember For This Recipe
In this easy recipe, there is one thing that's been hard for me:
To remember to start the night before.
I've been known to make a big note and leave it on my bed to remind me I can't climb in until I've mixed up the initial dough!
Do what you need to do to make it happen - you won't be sorry.
Whole Wheat Sourdough English Muffins
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup milk (you can use water, but milk makes them more tender)
- 2 cup whole wheat flour (I've used white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour, spelt, and half regular whole wheat + half all purpose - using only regular whole wheat tends to make them heavier.)
For the Muffins:
- 1½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (you may need a bit more during kneading)
Take five minutes the night before to mix the sourdough starter with a bit of honey, flour, and milk.
Water will work if you're avoiding dairy, but they won't be quite as tender. You can try a milk substitute, but I haven't so I don't know if it would work to tenderize the dough like milk.
In the morning, it will look like the photo above (or it may have risen higher, depending on your starter, the temperature, how active your starter is, etc.).
Go with whatever yours looks like. I've found English muffins, thankfully, to pretty forgiving.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl if stirring by hand.
Add baking soda, salt, and 1/4 cup flour to the dough and mix together.
Knead with the mixer (or by hand) for 3-4 minutes, adding another 1/4-1/3 cup of flour gradually (1-2 tablespoons at a time) during the kneading process.
When the 1/4 cup of flour has been added, the dough should be moist enough to stick to the bowl, but only be a bit tacky when touched with a finger.
If a lot sticks to your finger that's how you know to add more flour, but no more than 1/3 cup total, as stated in the recipe.
I've found that the enemy of any bread is too much flour- it's best for the dough to need to be scraped out of a bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it into a round. I like to use a lightly floured tea towel. It makes for easy cleanup and also helps you use less flour in the rolling out process.
Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to about 1/2- inch thickness. Cut the dough into rounds using a 3-inch biscuit cutter...or anything that will produce uniform rounds.
I like using biscuit cutters- there are recipes I saw that require you to shape each muffin with your hands- who has time for that?
It's OK to gather the dough and re-roll to cut more muffins- I haven't noticed any difference between the first roll and the second.
Set the rounds on a lined baking sheet (parchment or silicone) that has been dusted with cornmeal or a bit of flour.
Don't let them touch as they will stick together, but an inch or two apart is fine. Dust the tops with a bit more cornmeal or flour.
Cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise for a couple of hours.
The picture above is the cut muffin dough after a 2-hour rise and you can see that they actually don't rise all that much- just puff a bit. They will rise more when cooked.
I've cooked these after letting them rise only one hour and they were fine, but the holes inside are bigger after the full 2 hour rise.
Heat a griddle or pan to a medium to medium-low setting (about 275 degrees, you may have to play with it a bit). I've found a slightly lower temperature works better for the muffins have time to cook inside without burning on the outside.
Transfer the number of dough rounds your griddle/pan can hold with a few inches in between to the dry surface (for even browning, do not grease).
Transferring Tip: The muffins do tend to stick to the lining even with a dusting of flour/cornmeal, so as you slide a spatula under to transfer to the griddle, pick up a bit of the flour/cornmeal as you're lifting the muffin with the spatula. Then invert onto the heated griddle.
Cook on one side about 4-5 minutes until browned. Turn and flatten slightly with the back of the spatula to get that characteristic English muffin shape.
Cook for about another 4-5 minutes, looking to make sure the muffin is browned on the bottom.
Remove to a baking rack to cool.
You can keep for a day or two in a sealed container or freeze for longer storage.
Slice - or better yet, split with a fork to preserve all the nooks and crannies - toast, and butter like you would any English muffin.
Just be prepared for a major taste difference!
And that's it- one quick mix the night before, another stir in a mixer, a simple roll-and-cut, a rise and a super-quick eight minute cook. I think it might be 20-25 minutes total hands-on time.
Not too bad for a baker's dozen great tasting fresh English muffins that cost about $1.00.
Definitely worth it!
Oh, and our family's favorite way to eat these is as a base for Eggs Benedict with super easy Hollandaise sauce - yum.
Easy Whole Wheat Sourdough English Muffins Recipe
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sourdough starter
- 1 tablespoon (20 g) honey (or maple syrup or sugar)
- 1 cup (240 g) milk (can use water, but milk makes them more tender)
- 2 cups (240 g) whole wheat flour*
For the Muffins:
- 1½ teaspoon (7.5 g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (5 g)
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (60 g) (may need a bit more when kneading)
- The night before: Mix the starter, honey, milk, and 2 cups flour in an 8-cup measuring bowl or batter bowl the night before you want to make the muffins. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
- In the morning: Transfer the sponge to the bowl of a mixer (or large mixing bowl to be made by hand). Add the soda, salt and 1/4 cup of the flour.
- If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment to mix together, then switch to the dough hook and knead for 3-4 minutes, adding another 1/4 cup flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is just tacky to the touch, clears the sides of the bowl, but still sticks to the bottom. If too much dough sticks to your finger when pressed, you can add another tablespoon to bring the total amount of flour to about 1/3 cup.
- If making by hand, stir the ingredients together well, turn out onto a floured surface and knead 5 minutes, adding the same 1/4-1/3 cup of flour until it's tacky but doesn't stick to your fingers.
- From the mixer, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times into a round shape - just shape if kneaded by hand. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into rounds with a 3-inch biscuit cutter.
- Place the muffin rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone and sprinkled with a dusting of cornmeal or flour. Leave about 2-inches between each muffin (they will stick together if they touch after rising), and dust the tops with a bit more flour or cornmeal.
- Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. They will just slightly puff.
- Heat a griddle to a medium-low setting (about 275 degrees) in order to cook the inside of the muffin without burning the outside.
- Transfer the muffins, one at a time, to the heated griddle or pan (do not grease for even browning) and cook for about 4-5 minutes on one side. Flip the muffins, flatten slightly with the back of the spatula, and cook for another 4-5 minutes on the other side until both sides are nicely browned.**
- Cool on a rack. Store for a couple days in an airtight container or freeze for longer storage.
Other Sourdough Recipes To Try:
This recipe has been updated - it was originally published in 2011.
I have made some of your other sourdough recipes before and they are good but this one did not turn out at all like your pictures. I used half whole wheat and half white flour like suggested if you want a less dense muffin. In the morning my overnight mix was already dough like there was no way I was going to be able to work in the rest of the ingredients. There was not enough liquids in the overnight mixture. I used a active starter, and organic flours.
Hmm, that's so odd, Bree - I've made these many, many times and they look just like I picture. So have others, so I promise this really does work like pictured!
I have made this recipe many times successfully. The last time I made them I used whole wheat pastry flour and they were the best batch yet. I also, didn't roll them out and use a biscuit cutter. I formed the dough into a ball and cut it into eighths. Then I formed each into a ball using the same technique as in your whole wheat pan rolls. I slightly flattened them before the 2 hour raise. PERFECT.
That being said, last night I started another batch and this morning I had the exact same experience as Bree!!!!!I had to add a little water just to get the salt and baking soda to mix in. Who knows why. They still turned out great and I will always use the pastry flour and roll forming technique. Give it another try Bree. They are the best!
Thanks so much for your tips and your experience - this should be helpful to Bree and to others, too!
Hi I just wanted to comment that I regularly make these and I use the box coconut milk or Milkadamia. The muffins turn out great so plant based milk can substitute the dairy milk.
Thank you, Kenya - that is so helpful to know for others with a dairy intolerance. Appreciate you taking the time to comment and review!