I’ve been soaking my nuts and seeds to reduce their phytic acid content for years, and I’ve learned quite a bit along the way, especially about food dehydrators.
Nuts aren’t cheap, so you don’t really want to turn a batch here and there into expensive “learning experiences” like I have. Here I’ll share everything I know about soaking all different kinds of nuts so you can get the most nutritive value for your money spent.
Here is the Nourishing Traditions method for Crispy Nuts:
Nourishing Traditions instructs on how to make “Crispy Nuts”, soaked and dehydrated nuts that supposedly have the enzymes of raw foods intact but the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors obliterated.
Soak 4 cups raw nuts in sea salt and filtered water to cover in a warm place at least 7 hours. Drain and spread in a single layer (I found that part out by experience) on pans and dry in an oven on its lowest temp for 12-24 hours.
Freshly shelled nuts are best.
However, I’ll never buy unshelled nuts again after my husband and son spent half an hour cracking nuts for me and only got a pound or less! My husband thought I was crazy for buying so many, and half are still in my pantry, unshelled!
If you set the temperature of your dehydrator at 150 F or below, the enzymes are preserved. If you don’t have a dehydrator yet (you seriously should get one) and your oven only goes to 170 F or something (like mine), you’ll be killing the enzymes anyway.
If this is the case at your home, to speed up the process and free up your oven more quickly turn the heat up to 250 F, or even 350 F, but only if you’re willing to watch the nuts very closely. Over-toasted walnuts just aren’t tasty – more “from experience” sharing!
Phytic Acid Research
Although I’ve researched soaked grains like mad, I haven’t come across any particular research on phytic acid in nuts. If I defer to the phytic acid expert, Amanda Rose, she also claims there is not much food science on nuts, perhaps because grains are a bigger concern because they are a larger part of many people’s diets.
“If your diet does not have a lot of nuts and seeds, do not worry too much about the phytate content. Enjoy your food just as it comes off the tree or the plant. If you rely on foods like nut-based milk, you may want to consider fermenting them before drinking them. I would consider using water kefir grains to make fermented nut milk.”
How much salt to add to 4 cups of nuts:
|Pecans, Walnuts*||2 teaspoons|
|Almonds, Peanuts, Pine Nuts, Hazelnuts, Cashews, Macadamia Nuts||1 Tablespoon|
|Pumpkin Seeds||2 Tablespoons|
*On account of walnuts’ more sensitive types of fats, it is recommended that they be refrigerated.
I have to say, I simply guesstimate the amounts of salt when I’m soaking nuts. It’s another slightly frustrating process, not because it’s difficult (it’s absolutely easy), but because it’s another task wherein I start with nuts, do an hour or so of work, and end up with…nuts. The largest amount of your time is spent moving the nuts from the dehydrator trays or baking sheets into storage. I freeze them when I have room, just to ensure their quality.
My Method for Soaking Nuts:
Soak raw nuts in sea salt (the cheaper stuff!) and warm water that I heated in a teapot while I got everything else out of the cupboards. I dump the salt on the nuts in glass bowls and pour the water over them.
Soak overnight (at least 7 hours). Drain in a colander. Arrange on dehydrator tray. Sometimes I sprinkle a little salt on the wet nuts once they’re spread out.
Start soaked nuts at 135F for about 3 hours, then turn the dehydrator down to 115F for the remainder of the time, even if it takes two days.
Taste test to check: the nuts should practically pop (or crumble, depending on the nut) in your mouth. Just try not to eat them all when they’re warm and toasty!
Almonds take 24 hours, walnuts and pecans between 12-16 hours. Store in glass jars, or at least airtight containers. Sometimes mine go right back in the plastic bag they came in.
For long term storage (months), you may want to keep your crispy nuts in the fridge or freezer.
Amanda Rose recommends:
Sprouting is best in her opinion, but she also soaks in warm water with no salt, or even cracks/slightly grinds the nuts, especially if she’s just planning on making nut butter from them. Cracking the nuts slightly allows (a) more enzyme inhibitors to work, and (b) faster drying time. There isn’t research that shows that salt water reduces phytic acid any more than plain water. (This information is from Rose’s white paper, “Reducing Phytic Acid in Your Food,” available for purchase here.)
I tried sprouting some conventional nuts, and nothing happened. Perhaps they weren’t as “raw” as the package claimed? Perhaps they had been irradiated (shudder) which killed them? I saw organic “really raw” nuts in my health food store that particularly noted “for sprouting,” but they were about three times the price. I can’t do it! Nuts are pricey already.
My daughter went through a phase where she only wanted to eat almonds for snacks. Because she was young at the time and didn’t chew very well, so many almonds were evident on the other end…I started cringing thinking, “We’re paying good money for those nuts! Digest, digest!” 🙂
Note: I understand as of spring 2014 that Nourishing Traditions has published new guidelines for soaking nuts, which may include a longer soak time and changing out the water, but I can’t find them! If you have a link or WAPF newsletter that details the new method, please share in the comments. Thanks!
Special Considerations for Various Nuts
Cashews do not come raw, because they grow with a toxic poison inside, so they must be roasted to keep us safe. Even cashews that are sold as “raw” are not really. NT says you can still soak and dry cashews, just for the enzyme inhibitors, not the phytic acid or enzymes.
Finding the Right Almonds
You can buy almonds with the brown skin on or off. Which to seek out?
The brown skin likely contains the vast majority of the phytic acid since it is like the bran of a wheat kernel. Therefore, some would say that a blanched (skinned) almond doesn’t need soaking. You can buy either one!
But, there’s something about almonds you may not realize.
Have you ever purchased “raw” almonds in a store with plans to make crispy nuts, taking the time to soak, then carefully dehydrate at a low temperature to preserve the enzymes?
If so, you may feel hoodwinked.
All almonds sold in stores are pasteurized.
Even if the label says “raw.”
All of them.
If the almonds are organic, they’re pasteurized using a burst of steam. Otherwise, most likely chemicals are used in a process called PPO, or Propylene Oxide. It’s FDA and EPA approved. Of course. Last time I checked the really great price almonds at Costco are chemically pasteurized which is a total bummer.
The idea behind them still being labeled “raw” is that the treatment is only on the outside and doesn’t really “cook” or (apparently, according to the government) alter or affect the inside or nutritional value.
If you don’t like the idea of chemicals being puffed at your food, whether EPA says it all goes away in a few minutes or not, or you want truly raw almonds, you have to buy directly from the grower.
You can find farms like this one selling online, but the almonds aren’t cheap.
Wherever you purchase your almonds from, you may want to call the supplier to make sure they’re not chemically pasteurized. You can also find organic, “for sprouting” nuts that are certainly living foods and not pasteurized, but I found them to be cost-prohibitive at my health foods store. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth dehydrating almonds or just roasting them.
Peanuts & More
I didn’t like soaked peanuts very much, because all the lovely salt soaked away. Salt makes a peanut! I think I’m just going to continue to buy regular store peanuts and not process them again at home. I’ll look for nuts with no MSG or other random additives in them. For example, Planter’s Dry Roasted peanuts have about 12 ingredients – yucky!
I have a whole post about how to make crispy (soaked) pumpkin seeds – a very frugal snack.
I’ve done sunflower seeds, too, which went well but was frustrated with sesame seeds. Might not try that one again!
Tips for Using an Oven to Dehydrate Nuts
My mom regularly makes crispy nuts in an oven, and they’re excellent and yummy! Here are her tips (see also her baked apple chips in the oven):
- Soak nuts with salt according to the recipe.
- After draining, blot them with a towel so they’re less wet for the drying time.
- Set your oven at its lowest setting. Mine says 170F, but it’s a ‘slow’ oven which should make it a bit less than 170.
- Whole, raw almonds usually take 24 hours in my oven at its lowest setting.
- Walnuts take 12+ hours.
- Katie’s notes: Obviously, make sure you don’t need your oven during that time (although you could take the nuts out to bake something and then put them back in).
- You can also “dry” them out at a higher temperature, like 300F, but it will only take a few hours and you risk singeing them, which tastes horrible. If you try that, keep a close eye on them every half hour and more frequently as they get close.
How Much Does it Cost to Run an Oven For That Long?
I figure it adds about a dollar a batch to run a dehydrator for 12 hours, almonds double that since they take twice as long. I have a gas oven, which is less expensive than electric in my area, so again I figure I need to add 50 cents per batch if I kill the enzymes.
Once I tried to pack too many cookie sheets in the oven to be more efficient, but stacking one on top of the other made my walnuts turn black. Yikes. They weren’t burnt at all, just black. So don’t stack cookie sheets up! You can do the math to figure out how much moolah your crispy nuts add to the price of a snack with my “How Much do Appliances Cost to Run?” post.
Does a Dehydrator Use More Energy Than an Oven?
According to my appliance cost post, an oven costs between 10-25 cents/hour at 350F. When I compared two dehydrators, I found that the Excalibur 9-tray model, which I have, costs 61 cents for 12 hours. If almonds take 3-4 hours to finish in a 350F degree oven, that’s $0.30-1.00 for a batch. The Excalibur 9-tray can fit at least three times as many nuts, and even if it takes 48 hours for almonds, that’s about $2.44.
Depending on whether you have a gas (less expensive) or electric oven, it may still be better to run the dehydrator for crispy almonds. Since walnuts get done in about 12-14 hours, I would say the dehydrator would definitely be more cost effective there.
Aren’t Nuts Expensive?
Unfortunately, yes. When I made my first batch of crispy nuts last winter, I took this comparison photo: On the left, 5 pounds of crispy nuts = over $25 and an hour’s work
On the right, 3 choices of conventional processed snacks = $4 and no work
It’s a hazard of eating real food, all right. It’s going to cost you more, most likely some more time and some more money. Of course, there are costs and hazards to the alternative, too. And they might just kill you.
I’d sure like to think that I can save you money. Nuts are expensive, but making your own nut based snacks from scratch will save you money over buying store-bought snacks, plus they’ll be much healthier!
30 of the 45 recipes in my ebook, Healthy Snacks to Go call for crispy nuts!
If you make just a few batches of the famous power bars (my copycat Larabar recipe), packed with expensive ingredients like dried fruit and nuts, you’ll save the purchase price of the book vs. buying individual Larabars. A couple batches of homemade Wheat Thins, and you’ll not only have a much healthier end product, but a few bucks still in your pocket as well.
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