Guide To Soaking and Sprouting

Advice, Bare Basics, Nutrition Topics

Guide To Soaking and Sprouting // nutritionstripped.comI often get asked about the reasons behind why I choose to use sprouted grains, recommend them, or soak nuts/seeds in some of my recipes. I’ve had this Guide to Soaking and Sprouting laid out for quite some time now and I figured it’s perfect timing to share another “how to” guide followed by one of my favorite sprouted recipes later this week! So let’s start with the basics first, what are sprouts?

Why soak and/or sprout?

Sprouts are truly “living” food! The process of soaking and sprouting at home essentially is mimicking nature’s germination of a seed into a plant. Gram for gram sprouts are more nutrient rich than it’s older version of itself (i.e. the seed). These sprouts can be eaten raw, steamed, or cooked completely, you can also dehydrate the sprouted grains to make flours (for example sprouted buckwheat flour).

Let me take you back, when I first starting experimenting with soaking and sprouting I have to admit I thought it was odd- until the first day I saw sprouts growing! It was something so simple as seeing the little green leaf pop out of the seed that got me really excited about having a “garden” in my own kitchen. I remember one summer coming back home to Cincinnati with my family, I brought home my 2 day old sprouts from my college kitchen because there was no way I was going to let them die without being enjoyed! To my humor, was the look on my moms face when I brought home jars of seeds/sprouts and her asking “what in the world McKel…?”- luckily they’re all used to my kitchen shenanigans by now.

I first begun sprouting alfalfa sprouts, because they were the most readily available seeds and super simple to sprout. I also started soaking almonds prior to eating and hulling the outer shell (the brown casing) for quick snacks or popping them into my smoothies. The next phase in experimenting were beans/legumes, I started sprouting both of these (especially lentils) to help aid in digestion and it worked fantastically for me.

Guide To Soaking and Sprouting // nutritionstripped.com

If you’ve never tried sprouts before they vary depending on the seed; some are light and soft while others are more starchy and crunchy. I love adding these as a topping on salads, Nourish Bowls, blended into smoothies, stuffed inside Veggie Sushi Rolls, or on an open faced sandwich. 

Phytic acid is a compound found in all legumes, grains, and nuts that inhibits mineral and nutrient absorption in the body. Mainly minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins all of which are incredibly important and most often lacking in plant-based diet. Soaking and sprouting nuts/seeds/grains/legumes may help increase phytase activity (i.e. an enzyme that helps break down phytic acid- a good thing). A wide range of health related “benefits” have been associated and studied with sprouted grains including: increase in folate, increase in vitamin C and vitamin A, increase in B vitamins, reduction of common allergens (with some wheats/grains), increase and ease of digestibility, increases in protein content, cancer protection (especially from broccoli sprouts), increases in amino acid content, minerals such as iron, calcium, and zinc are easier to absorb; and in general starches are converted easily into simple carbohydrates making them “easier to digest” in this regard. 

You can see why soaking and sprouting is extremely popular among raw food diets, vegan diets, and vegetarian diets- for good reason. Any practice or process that has the opportunity to increase the nutrient content (however small it may be) in a restricted diet/lifestyle is a great idea [when I say restricted, I’m referring to restriction of food groups that normally contain heaps of these precious minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, and more]. Also read the vegetarian position paper of the AND with mentions of soaking and sprouting benefits to nutrient absorption.

Guide to Soaking and Sprouting // nutritionstripped.com

How to use?

It depends on what sprout we’re talking about and how to use it but in general I love adding fresh sprouts to salads, sandwiches, smoothies, or as a snack. Pictured above is my Nourishing Nut & Seed Bread with homemade hummus and roasted red pepper compote with fresh sprouts.

  • Sprout seeds: With sprouting seeds such as alfalfa/broccoli/mung bean/clover sprouts I use these mostly in salads and sandwiches because they’re much lighter in texture and mesh really well.
  • Grains: With grains such as sprouted quinoa or buckwheat I love making cereals, granolas, or desserts with them.
  • Legumes: With beans/legumes, I’ll cook them after sprouting or steam them and enjoy them just as you would cooking them without the soaking/sprouting process.
  • Nuts/seeds: With nuts and seeds I enjoy these soaked using them in homemade nut milks, cashew cheeses, patés, or sprouted and dehydrated for a crunchy snack.

Guide To Soaking and Sprouting // nutritionstripped.com

STEP 1, SOAK

In a large glass mason jar (I use these sprouting jars), pour your seed/grain/legume along with enough water to cover completely with an each or two above. The measurement of water doesn’t matter here, it’s only for soaking purposes. 

  • Where to buy: If you’re looking for sprout seeds (alfalfa, broccoli, mung, etc.), check out your local health food store (such as Whole Foods) or online retailers.

STEP 2, WAIT

Let the nut/seed/grain/legume soak for the given time. Soaking and sprouting times differ amongst each grain, seed, nut, or legume. Refer to my chart below on specific times.

STEP 3, RINSE

Follow the soaking process with thorough rinsing. Rinse the water until it becomes clear, pour the old water out, fill with new clean water and repeat until clear. If you’re using a sprouting jar this is incredibly easy because you just pour water through the mesh lid and rinse as well- no needed to use a strainer. If you’re using a strainer simply rinse water on top and pay close attention for the water to become clear.

–> The process can stop here for most nuts/seeds and grains as they can be used just soaked and not sprouted. For example, making your own nut milks from the soaked nuts/seeds is perfect. Also, if you want to cook immediately your soaked grains and legumes, you can do so. Another option is to continue to STEP 4 with nuts/seeds/grains/legumes and sprout them, dehydrate, and then enjoy.

STEP 4, SPROUT

Refer to my soak/sprouting chart below for the times on how long it will take each nut/seed/grain/legume to sprout as they all differ. Essentially what you will be doing for this sprouting time is rinsing with filtered water several times/day- think of it as “watering” a plant (do this at least twice/day). The goal is to rinse the nut/seed/grain/legume and drain the rest of the water off (I do this by putting my sprouting jar upside down at about a 45 degree angle in my kitchen dish drying rack, it’s perfect because all the excess water goes right down the sink and gives the seeds enough air circulation to grow!

STEP 5, GROW

As the nut/seed/grain/legume starts to sprout, you’ll notice tiny “tail” coming from the seed, this mean it’s growing and sprouting! Sprouting times can vary from 1-4 days, you’ll know it’s finished when the seeds have a tail or they’ve sprouted greens! Check out this awesome picture of sprouted nuts/seeds/grains/legumes to visually see what you should be looking for.

STEP 6, STORE

Keep sprouts fresh in the fridge by wrapping them in a mesh cheesecloth or nut milk bag and use within 3-4 days.

Guide To Soaking and Sprouting // nutritionstripped.com

Note: sprouts are at risk for contamination with food illnesses and bacteria such as e. coli. This can simply be avoided by keeping your kitchen clean, jars cleaned, hands washed, and purchasing organic seeds/nuts/grains/legumes. I’ve been sprouting almost weekly for the past 8 years and I’ve never had an issue. Just make sure you consume them fresh out of the fridge and within 3-4 days.

I hope you all find this helpful! Share this blog post with a friend or family member to share this interesting way to have grains/nuts/seeds/legumes. Hope you all enjoyed this “how to” post, would you like to see more?

xx McKel

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Share your thoughts

  • Deborah A

    Oh I am so excited to see this post. I have wanted to try sprouting but didn’t feel I had adequate information on the how-to’s. Now I do! I can not wait to get started on my sprouting project. I must say I sing the praises of your blog to all that are interested in nutrition, delicious recipes and informed expertise. Have a great day!!!

  • This is so interesting. I never knew any of this about sprouting. I love the idea of enjoying sprouts on toast or mixed in with salads.

  • Julia

    While I love sprouted grains and seeds, and your information is very helpful (especially the chart!), there is one thing I’d like to point out: you do NOT avoid contamination by E.coli by buying organic. There were some really serious cases of E.coli-caused infections in Germany in 2011 (where I come from) and it was caused by organic sprouts from an organic farm. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Germany_E._coli_O104:H4_outbreak
    That’s not to say that there aren’t many advantages to organic grains, sprouts and organic farming in general, but it is not a sufficient protection against E.coli. However, washing the seeds/grains/nuts carefully before sprouting does help!!!

    • Hi Julia,
      I’m glad you enjoyed this post! The information about purchasing organic are ways to help lessen the chance, I’m not stating that buying organic seeds will guarantee that it’s free from e. coli- just another “step” to take.

  • Love this! So informative and great to have this information all in the one place. That charts definitely going on my fridge 🙂

  • Inês

    Dear McKel,
    Thank you so much for this extraordinary guide (and obviously, I’m totally interested in all “how to” posts that hopefully you might be sharing with us in the future)! Considering this chart, I’ve one doubt regarding the list of food mentioned: nuts like walnuts or hazelnuts are not considered in the list — that’s because they don’t fit in this soaking/sprouting method, or we should apply to them the same times as for the almonds? Thank you advance for your attention. All the best!

  • I have always wanted to try sprouting, but I never how, so thank you so much for the “How To” information! For years now my grandmother has been telling me to soak and peel my almonds before eating them, but until recently, I always believed she was just blowing smoke up my rear end. Until recently I hadn’t bothered to research and learn about the value in soaking nuts before eating them- so thank you for the guide on how long each should be soaked for!

  • Shawn

    Thank you! This is super helpful!

    Do you think is completely necessary to soak and or sprout all grains/legumes/nuts/seeds prior to eating? It takes a lot of planning but it’s worth it if it will be very beneficial. I can’t eat dairy, or gluten, so my diet is a bit restricted. I do eat small amounts of meat/chicken/fish/eggs though.

    Look forward to hearing from you! 🙂

    • Hi Shawn,
      Great question- no I don’t think it’s 100% needed, but like I talk about in the post it does have it’s benefits! It does take time and patience when sprouting but if you get into a routine and system, it’s like second nature 😉

  • I sprout mung beans, radish seeds, and broccoli seeds. I think I’ll try lentils soon! One thing I noticed is how fresh they stay in the fridge. It’s unbelievable. I used to buy a small container of sprouts at the store and they would be mushy and slimy within 24 hours. I kept my broccoli sprouts in the fridge for almost 2 weeks (I know, I know, shame) and they were as fresh as could be!! I could not believe it. And no one got sick! 😉

  • Amy

    Does phytic acid completely prevent mineral absorption or just decrease it? I have seen both claims and am a little confused.

  • Jozi Child

    Do you have to purchase specific sprouting beans an nuts ?? Or can you buy stuff in regular grocery stores ? I live in a small town an our next health food store is 2 1/2 hours away, so I make do with what we get here until I go down the island. Im going back vegatarian tomorrow, an I need to make sure I do it right this time! (I ate meat while pregnant, and it took me my whole pregnancy to get my iron levels back up. Now breastfeeding I need to make sure I get enough nutrients for the both of us) thanks for posting about sprouting! .

    • Hi Jozi,
      Mung beans, adzuki beans are great beans to sprout. I also love lentils too all of which should be available in your local grocery store if not at a health food store. Best of luck!

  • Timmy

    Yea for Phytic Acid! Apparently chocolate/cacao is almost the highest of all in Phytic acid. It’s tough when when your a chocoholic like me.

  • Pamela

    If i like eating almonds raw do I have to soak them too? And how do I dry them?

  • sofia

    This is soooo interesting!!! Thank you so much for the effort you put to explain all this amazing things!

  • Alan

    Hi, I sprout buckwheat, so good in a cereal.

    Do you know how long you can store in the fridge, if I dehydrate them?

    • If you dehydrate a grain/nut/seed, I wouldn’t put it in the fridge because when dehydrating you’re taking out the moisture- only put soaked ones in the fridge 😉

  • Alanna

    Hi McKel,

    Have you ever had your sprouts mold while still sprouting? I did lentils last week (following your excellent instructions) with success, but the batch of chickpeas and lentils I started a few days ago developed spots of mold while sprouting, and I had to throw them out. I’m not sure whether it’s just too warm where I live, or whether I should try storing them in the fridge while sprouting — do you have any advice? It would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

    • Nope, BUT I do what happened- you need to make sure you’re rinsing them multiple times a day and letting them dry and drain really well- mold comes into play if they are too wet and not getting enough air through them. They won’t really sprout in the fridge though- just keep an eye out for those things and hope it works this time around!

  • Renee

    Hi! Great info. I have a question. If legumes, nuts, and grains can be used just after soaking, why go through the extra time of sprouting? Specifically, we eat a lot of beans, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and nuts. I’ve soaked all of these things before, but never sprouted them all the way myself. I have purchased most of these things sprouted before, but it is so expensive. Are there any health benefits to fully sprouting vs. just soaking?

    • That’s a great question! Sprouting does take a lot of extra time, but think of sprouting as the seed transforming into a plant- plants require energy and food to grow and that extra “energy and food” equals a boost in nutrition and nutrients for us. You don’t have to sprout, it’s just an option to elevate the nutrients

  • Hi ,

    I loved your post and Am going to try it, very informative and looks simple to use, just had one question, you said if need be we can stop at just soaking and then we can just cook our beans or eat our nuts, so my question is why sprout if we can stop at Soaking, seems like sprouting is so much more work? and is soaking good enough you think?

    Thank you so much

    • That’s a great question Noemi! Sprouting completely changes the texture of the food- for example if you sprout a mung bean it’ll grow a tail and be crunchy vs. if you just soaked it and cooked it. Also, sprouting does increase the nutrition content more than just soaking alone- always keep in mind what works for you and your lifestyle (sprouting definitely is more time consuming!) x

  • Nicole

    What about sunflower seeds?

  • Deb

    I used to sprout this stuff a lot but stopped and just recently got reinpired to start again. I just soaked some organic sunflower seeds I had in the frig and I let them soak a little too long (12 hours?) and then set them to sprout 2 days ago…when I went to rinse them both days they seemed to have a sort of mucous on them…which I dutifully rinsed off and just put them in the food dryer. But I’m concerned that maybe they are spoiled? Can anyone give me insight? Is the mucous normal?

    • McKel Hill

      I typically don’t soak sunflower seeds that long- sometimes it only takes 4-6 hours and then you’ll need to dry them well before sprouting. If they seem slimey, they’re off and I wouldn’t use them.

  • sarah

    Hi McKel, Do you ever add an acid to your soaking liquid to help w/ the process? I’ve read that in many traditional diets, this was added in the form of yogurt, lemon juice, buttermilk, etc. Thanks for any information!

    • McKel Hill

      Great question Sarah, I don’t typically add anything during the process. Having water, proper drainage, and sunlight is all they need to grow rapidly!

  • Great question! It’s kind of a waste in my book to soak roasted nuts for the reason of health benefits/nutrition; BUT if you’re soaking roasted nuts for the purpose of creating a nut/seed cream like Cashew Cream, then that’s fine. I just prefer raw nuts/seeds for both nutrition and culinary!

    • Kaley

      Thank you! Was thinking more so for digestibility, so that is very helpful!

  • Pingback: Are you really eating whole grains? The truth about processed whole grains.()

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