You may have seen them in a health food store or a gourmet restaurant, looking like loose tangles of little pale threads with tiny unopened peas at the top. You may even have tasted them and decided “not bad”, because of their fresh, lively taste and texture. But have you ever tried making your very own sprouts? Here’s your easy, go-to guide to soaking and sprouting grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
I clearly remember the first time I decided to grow my own sprouts. I was at a college, transitioning to a plant-based diet, and on a tight budget. Sprouting seemed ideal because it provided a lot of nutrition for a low price. So I bought some alfalfa seeds (because they were the most readily available), a jar with a sprouting lid, and began to grow my own sprouts.
I always remind my mom how she doubted me when she saw my sprouting jars on the kitchen counter. You see, before I found my passion for sprouting, I’d never been able to keep a plant alive for more than a few months. But sprouting was different. It was something so simple as seeing the little green leaf pop out of the seed that got me really excited.
I’ve been sprouting for almost ten years now. I’m now branching out into sprouting a variety of beans, grains and seeds, and loving it.
What Are Sprouts?
While there’s no standard definition, sprouts are essentially seeds in a transition phase to a new plant. At just the right time, temperature and moisture level, the seed begins to sprout, growing into a new plant. The seeds can come from any plant-based food including vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts or seeds. When sprouted, the seeds contain all the elements a plant needs for life and growth
One of the main reasons for sprouting is nutrition. The simple process of sprouting brings out many enzymes, making the germinated seeds easier to digest. Sprouting also increases the amount and bio-availability of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Once sprouted, the protein content increases by as much as 20%, nucleic acids by 30% and many vitamins by as much as 500% …yes 500%. Pretty amazing!
How to Use Sprouts
Sprouts can be eaten raw, cooked, or dehydrated. Sprouts that are eaten raw or cooked are referred to as “wet sprouts”; dehydrated sprouts are referred to as “dry sprouts”.
- Wet sprouts:
- Grains – I don’t normally eat (wet) sprouted grains in their raw state. My favorite way to prepare them is to either cook them into a porridge (buckwheat or oat groats make an incredible porridge) or serve them as a side dish (my go-to grains for a side dish are brown rice and quinoa).
- Legumes – I always cook sprouted legumes and use them the same as unsprouted legumes – sprouted hummus, sprouted dal, sprouted chili . . . you name it.
- Nuts and seeds – soaked nuts and seeds are my go-to snack. If I’m making a snack for my husband, I usually mix soaked nuts with some dried fruit and make a trail mix out of it.
- Vegetables – whenever possible, I top my salads and sandwiches with some alfalfa sprouts or mung bean sprouts. Compared to grains or legumes, vegetable sprouts are light in texture and very pleasant to eat even in their raw state.
- Dry sprouts:
- Grains – when I was in college, buckwheat groats and oat groats were my go-to cereal breakfast. Topped with some dried fruit and almond milk, I was always excited about my breakfast!
- Legumes – I’ve never used sprouted dehydrated legumes for anything but for grinding them into sprouted flour.
- Nuts and seeds – raw grain-free granola is another breakfast that makes me excited about my mornings.
Now, raw foodists might disagree with me, but not all sprouts should be eaten raw. In fact, some sprouted legumes are toxic until cooked. Other legumes and some grains are still very hard to digest when raw. In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon recommends not only cooking sprouted legumes, but also warns against eating high amounts of raw sprouted grains.
However, we must warn against over consumption of raw sprouted grains as raw sprouts contain irritating substances that keep animals from eating the tender shoots. These substances are neutralized in cooking. Sprouted grains should usually be eaten lightly steamed of added to soups and casseroles. (p. 113)
Other sprouts including vegetables, nuts and seeds are fine to eat raw.
How to Sprout?
I think the reason most people don’t sprout is because it sounds so intimidating. But let me tell you – it’s really not that hard at all. I know that we are all busy people, but sprouting will not take much time, and will give you much in return.
Here’s my step-by-step sprouting process (adapted from Nourish Traditions):
- Soak – in a large mason jar with a sprout lid, place your seeds and cover them with 2-3 times the amount of pure and filtered water (e.g. 1 cup seeds : 2-3 cups water). Skim off any seeds that are floating. Let the seeds sit for the given time. Soaking and sprouting times different among each seed so refer to the chart below with the specific times.
- Drain and rinse – put a piece of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. Drain the seeds, letting all the water run out. Run cool water through the cheesecloth, swish the seeds around and drain. Repeat, then set the jar in a bowl or on your dish rack at a 45° angle so that any remaining water can drain out, but air can easily get in.
- Sprout – as with soaking, each seed takes different time to sprout. In this sprouting phase, keep rinsing the seeds with pure and filtered water several times a day. The goal is to rinse the seeds and drain the rest of the water off.
- Grow – when the seeds begin to sprout, you’ll notice a tiny “tail” coming out of the seed. The tail should be at least the length of the seed itself. If it’s not quite there yet, continue with the rinsing and draining process until it is. Some seeds take up to 5 days.
- Store – if you don’t eat all your sprouts right away, keep them in the fridge. Make sure you let the sprouts drain for at least 8 hours after their last rinse before you put them in the fridge because wet sprouts spoil quickly. The best way to store leftover sprouts is in a sprouting jar with an airtight lid.
Rinse / Drain
|Amaranth||20-30 minutes||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Barley||6-12 hours||2 times/day||2-3 days|
|Brown Rice||4-24 hours||2 times/day||2-4 days|
|Buckwheat Groats||30 minutes||2-3 times/day||1-3 days|
|Corn||8-12 hours||2 times/day||3-4 days|
|Kamut||6-12 hours||2 times/day||2-3 days|
|Millet||6-10 hours||2 times/day||1-3 days|
|Oat Groats||0.5-1 hour||2 times/day||1-3 days|
|Quinoa||20-30 minuts||2-3 times/day||1-3 days|
|Rye||6-12 hours||2 times/day||2-3 days|
|Wheat||6-12 hours||2 times/day||2-3 days|
|Wild Rice||4-24 hours||2 times/day||2-4 days|
Rinse / Drain
|Adzuki Beans||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Black (Beluga) Lentils||7 hours||2-3 times/day||2-3 days|
|Black Turtle Beans||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Black Eyed Peas||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Brown Lentils||7 hours||2-3 times/day||2-3 days|
|Cannellini Beans||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Chickpeas||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Great Northern Beans||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Green Lentils||7 hours||2-3 times/day||2-3 days|
|Green Split Peas||10-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-3 days|
|Kidney Beans||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||5-7 days|
|Mung Beans||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-5 days|
|Navy Beans||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-4 days|
|Red Lentils||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-3 days|
|Soy Beans||2-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-6 days|
|Yellow Split Peas||10-12 hours||2-3 times/day||2-3 days|
Rinse / Drain
|Alfalfa||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||5-6 days|
|Broccoli||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||3-6 days|
|Clover||8-12 hours||2-3 times/day||5-6 days|
|Mustard||no||no (plant on day 1)||7-8 days|
|Pea Shots||8-12 hours||2 times/day (plant on day 2)||10-14 days|
|Radish||6-12 hours||2-3 times/day||3-6 days|
|Wheatgrass||8-12 hours||2 times/day (plant on day 2)||6-10 days|