• Prep-time: / Ready In:
  • Makes one 13x18-inch focaccia
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Here’s a fresh use for your idling sourdough starter. Decorating this festive focaccia can be a fun activity for the whole family. Feel free to get creative with the selection and placement of your toppings. I used the following herbs and veggies to create the floral effect, first placing the stems, then the flowers, then the soil and grass:

STEMS Parsley sprigs, scallions (green parts only), asparagus, fresh green peppercorns 

FLOWERS Small bell peppers (any color), cherry tomatoes, small red onions, zucchini and/or yellow squash (cut into star shapes), pickled jalapeño chiles

SOIL, GRASS, AND MISC. FILLERS Capers, olives, okra, sliced jalapeño chiles, king oyster mushroom, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, chopped scallions, corn, enoki mushrooms

Before baking:

After baking:


  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter or discard
  • 2 teaspoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons Date Paste
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup potato flour
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups unsweetened, unflavored plant-based milk
  • ⅓ cup brown rice flour (for dusting)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • Assorted fresh herbs and veggies (see recipe intro for suggestions)


  • To make the sponge: In a stand mixer or a food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine the sourdough starter, tahini, date paste, and 1 cup warm water.
  • In a large bowl combine the flours, the nutritional yeast, salt, instant yeast, and black pepper. Whisk to combine.
  • Add the flour mixture to the sponge. Add 1 cup of the milk. Mix or process to form a smooth dough.
  • Transfer dough to a bowl; cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let sit for 1 hour.
  • Transfer dough to a clean surface liberally dusted with brown rice flour. Fold dough a few times; return to bowl. Cover again and let rise for 1 hour more.
  • Line a 13x18-inch sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Dust liberally with brown rice flour, especially the edges and corners. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and gently stretch dough to cover the whole sheet. (If dough doesn’t stretch easily, let it rest 10 minutes then try again.)
  • Cover the sheet with clean towel and let stand for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Uncover the sheet and poke dough with a wooden skewer to form dimples throughout.
  • In a small bowl combine the remaining ½ cup milk and the garlic; whisk to combine. Brush mixture over dough surface.
  • Arrange your chosen toppings in any pattern you wish. (See recipe intro for tips.)
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  • Remove from heat; let cool about 10 minutes. With the help of a large spatula, separate the focaccia from mat and pan and transfer to a large cutting board. Slice into rectangles for serving.

Comments (20)

(5 from 10 votes)

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Where can I buy sourdough starter?

Annie Granola

Beautiful bread for a festive dinner! Used small multicolored tomatoes and peppers, asparagus and broccoli as decoration, very colorful. Next time I might omit the nutritional yeast to see how that affects the flavor. Used instant mashed potato flakes had on hand, next time will probably use real mashed potatoes as they definitely add to the texture. Hard to slice the bread (bottom crust) when fresh from oven but easy the next day. Non-vegans liked it. Will definitely make again!

Brooke Bennett

Hi everyone - the issue with printing this recipe has been fixed! We appreciate your patience as our team worked to resolve the issue. - The FOK Team

Sharon S Strecker

Darshana, what a chef and artist you are! Thank you for your ideas, I always enjoy trying out your delicious recipes.

Melanie Drescher

I have WHOLE WHEAT BREAD FLOUR from Palouse Brands described as "Our Hard Red Spring Wheat berries produce a beautiful whole wheat flour that makes an exceptional bread flour. " Could either Nikki Alvarado or John Eisen advise if this would be okay to use in this focaccia recipe or Should I bite the bullet and use the AP Flour for softness and rise? Trying to stay WFPB using whole grains!?


I don't understand why no one ever answers questions on FOK. Very frustrating.


Recipe file was blank. And it looks like it's been this way for some time. Does anyone look at these comments?

Mike Wiesmeier

When I go to Save/Print, there is no document there : (

Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich

Can this be made one day in advance? If yes, how to store to keep fresh? Or can it all be assembled and not baked till the next day?

John Eisen

I'm not the chef so I don't want to speak out of turn but many sourdoughs benefit tremendously from a longer final fermentation phase so I have to think the answer to your question is an emphatic "yes". The final ferment & rise phase can be both slowed and improved by putting things into the fridge overnight taking you from a 30-90 minute final rising phase into a 7-10 hour final rising phase. Flavor is improved along with the enzymatic breakdown process which effectively 'pre-digests' the phytic acids...which can occur during the extended fermentation. This partially neutralizes the effects of the phytic acid and many folks assert this makes the bread easier for to digest. You technically "can" over ferment sourdoughs and the bread will lose it's structure but I've found most natural ferments (e.g. sourdoughs) are not nearly as active as commercial yeasts making it much much harder to over ferment.

Michael Fogerty

Would like to know if there is a way of making a quick starter substitute for a one-time use. Not having to age the starter

John Eisen

I'm not the chef....but I am an avid "sourdough" home bread maker. The sad but simple answer to your question is technically "no". Natural ferments e.g. "sourdough" rely not only on yeast but a complicated microbiome to produce the characteristic "sour" flavors in the dough. You can't get that microbiome going quickly or with a rapid rise yeast approach. That said, creating and keeping a sourdough "starter" where that biome lays dormant but ready is super simple and a properly fed/managed starter only requires a day to "wake up" and get it rolling again for making a new batch of bread. So that's the honest answer for "sourdough".....but my guess is you can still get some pretty decent results if you simply wanted to use a rapid rise yeast and make this focaccia. You won't get some of the sourdough notes that come from a natural ferment but you'll still get a pretty decent, and visually beautiful, slab of focaccia bread!! Personally I prefer the sourdough approach as it improves flavor (in my estimate) and the natural/longer fermentation process that's part of a good sourdough includes some desirable enzymatic interactions you won't get from a rapid rise yeast.....but hey....home made bread is awesome no matter how you slice it!! (pun intended)

Lori Whitworth

Could this be made with all whole wheat flour? would it just need more water?

Nikki Alvarado

My only qualification for answering is having done some sourdough bread making early in the pandemic and I watched videos on how to make it that said it won't work with all whole wheat but you can do part so I did and the result wasn't good. no lift and softness to the loaf.

Bev L.

Tried to print the recipe but the site for it was blank. I'll try copy/paste into a word program and print it from there.

Sarah Lenhart

Vicki, King Arthur Flour sells a sourdough starter. A couple years ago, I had success witb it. Good instructions and a few recipes come with it plus lots of help on their website.

tim holderness

we did it, we really did it. and by the way, we bought one of these online, premade and it cost about $30. point being this was way cheaper and honestly I liked ours better. great recipe :)

vicki rotari

Where does one find sourdough starter? (Barring taking a week to make one from scratch which has a high risk failure rate). Congratulations on making it!

John Eisen

@Vicki Rotari You can purchase a sourdough starter from a number of places online. King Arthur Flour is a good source. You can also create you own with a few simple steps and a bit of patience. It basically consists of mixing flour and water and leaving the mix by the window sill for a few days. (Online is rife with instructions for doing this and it's how I acquired my New England sourdough starter that I've kept going for nearly 7 years.)

About the Author

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About the Author

Darshana Thacker Wendel

Darshana Thacker Wendel is a whole-food, plant-based chef and former culinary projects manager for Forks Over Knives. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, she is the author of Forks Over Knives: Flavor! She created the recipes for Forks Over Knives Family and was a lead recipe contributor to the New York Times bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan. Her recipes have been published in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, and LA Yoga magazine online. Visit DarshanasKitchen.com and follow her on Instagram for more.
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