How to Spot Fake Sourdough Bread

by Katherine Martinko

A true sourdough has only three ingredients. Any more than that and it’s a fake.

Sourdough bread has surged in popularity in recent years. Many people enjoy its tangy taste and chewy texture and find it easier to digest than breads made with yeast. But if you’ve ever shopped for sourdough, you may have noticed the enormous discrepancy in price. A loaf can cost upwards of $6 at an artisanal bakery, but half that in the supermarket. So what’s the difference?

Which? magazine investigated and found that people are often getting sourdough-flavored bread, instead of actual sourdough made in the traditional way, with only three ingredients — flour, water, and salt. Of 19 loaves tested in UK supermarkets, only four met true sourdough standards. The others contained additives such as ascorbic acid (to increase rising speed and volume of final loaf), yeast (to speed up rising process), yogurt and vinegar (to increase acidity and add a sour taste). From the report:

“‘Sourdough’ is not a protected term, which means that, as Chris Young from The Real Bread Campaign told us, ‘There’s nothing to stop manufacturers using that word to market products that are what we call sourfaux’.”

The added ingredients in sourfaux are not necessarily bad, but there is something obviously wrong with misleading consumers through inaccurate labeling. It could be harmful to people who choose to eat sourdough because they find it’s easier to digest and minimizes the blood sugar spike that accompanies the consumption of refined carbohydrates. It’s also not fair to the bakers who labor for several days to craft authentic sourdough loaves and deserve fair payment for them. As sourdough expert Vanessa Kimball told the BBC,

“It’s absolutely scandalous. I believe manufacturers have a responsibility to define if the sourdough refers to the process or if it’s the flavor. Tell people if it’s the flavor.”

Shoppers can take responsibility for it by reading the ingredient list on bread or speaking with a baker before buying. If there’s anything more than flour, salt, and water, it’s not a true sourdough.

Related at Care2

Image via Thinkstock


Caitlin L
Caitlin L3 months ago

thanks for posting

Anna R
Anna R4 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Ruth S
Ruth S4 months ago

I used to make my own sour dough starter for breads and pancakes. I only had 3 ingredients for the STARTER. But other ingredients are added for making the bread, pancakes, etc. including a little sugar.

Ruth S
Ruth S4 months ago


Pearl W
Pearl W4 months ago

Hi All - Gosh we make life complicated for ourselves when we're trying to make it easier - Cost cuts mean compromise of some sort - Thanks - smiles

michela c
michela c4 months ago

Lievito madre is the best for me

Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall4 months ago


Heather B
Heather B4 months ago

Soutdough may not be technically protected but ther is an expectation that it i what you get. Pretty low to cheat people like that. It is like when you want REAL nilla not artificial vanilla extract. But get a starter and make your owqn fresh and fake free.

Shirley S
Shirley S4 months ago

Sour dough bread is the only bread I want to eat.

Christine Stewart
Christine S4 months ago

shame on the fakers!