Every year, as spring inches closer, folks begin getting into their gardening groove. I totally understand. When it comes to getting the most bang for your nutritional buck, certainly not much beats growing, harvesting, and preserving your own food. But what are those of us with a brown thumb to do?
We love our Farmer’s Markets and CSA programs are great, but there is another simple solution to growing your own food that even my brown thumb has failed to mess up – sprouting seeds!
Growing sprouts can be done year-round, right on your kitchen counter and the ‘equipment’ required is likely items you already own. Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to sprout a seed.
Sprouting seeds is an easy and frugal way to make certain potentially problematic foods like beans, grains, and lentils more easily digestible.
There is a good body of research that shows that sprouts are potential nutritional powerhouses and that sprouting a seed before consuming it increases nutrients, may lower carbohydrate content, and makes the whole experience a healthier one.
There’s generally less controversy (but not a lack of it) with soaking legumes than with the soaking grains research.
How to Sprout a Seed or Legume
You can purchase a sprouting kit, but most of what you need you likely already have on hand. Maybe try to find something to reuse to fit the bill.
- Glass canning jar (a quart will work best for legumes and grains, pint size for seeds)
- Canning ring lid or rubber band
- Tulle or similar netting, like from an onion, garlic, or citrus bag, washed
- Legumes or seeds that you can eat – raw sunflower seeds, dry beans, lentils, or a whole grain like rice, spelt, barley, or quinoa are good choices.
- OR seeds purchased “for sprouting” like broccoli or radish (i.e. not in the gardening section, but in the healthy food section)
I’ve sprouted sunflower seeds, pinto beans, lentils, rice, spelt, broccoli and radish seeds.
Watch me Sprout Lentils and See How Easy it Is
Can’t view the video? Watch it on YouTube here!
Sprouting Seeds – Step by Step Instructions
- Measure your seeds/legumes/grains. A half-cup of beans or lentils in a quart jar is a good starting point for one batch. About a tablespoon of sprouting seeds in a pint jar is good if you want sandwich sprouts, like from radish or broccoli seeds (below).
- Rinse your seeds, legumes, or grains (lentils below).
- If you haven’t already, wash your netting well with hot and soapy water.
- In the jar you’ll use for sprouting, cover your seeds/legumes/grains with fresh, room temperature water. You should have double the water as compared to seeds/legumes/grains. Legumes, in particular, will expand a lot.
- Put netting over the open mouth of the jar, and attach it with the canning lid (use a rubber band in a pinch, but the lid is optimal). Choose whatever has smaller holes than what you’re sprouting. When I do little seeds, I start with the tulle, then move to the onion bag after they start getting long sprouts.
- Allow sprouting seeds to soak in the water for around 6 hours. Legumes and whole grains will need closer to 12 hours for soaking.
- Drain the water out and rinse well. Leave the netting on and allow water to run into and out of the jar through the netting. NOTE: For more than a cup of legumes or whole grains, you can drain directly into a colander and finish the sprouting process there. You may want to place a plate under the colander to catch the extra water as it drains.
- Set the jar partly upside down in a bowl. This will allow the water to continue to drain out through the mesh, but the seeds/legumes will stay in.
- Every 12 hours or so, rinse the seeds right through the mesh with clear water and pour the water off. Set up again in the bowl to drain.
When to Stop Sprouting
- If you’re going for sandwich sprouts, allow them to grow until they’re about an inch long. Sunlight will increase the nutrients further by adding chlorophyll to the mix.
- For lentils and legumes, a little tail from a half-inch up to an inch or so is great. You can always taste them to see if they taste good and are easy to eat.
- For whole grains, a tiny sprout will do just fine.
A Few Extra Pointers
- When soaking grains or legumes in a colander, you’ll want to ensure air circulation. The best way to do this is to make sure you don’t do too many at once – to the point where the beans are so cramped they get moldy.
- To remove the outer hull of the seed, immerse the seeds in water and swish them around until the hull rises to the top.
- Important note I found: “Soy and kidney bean sprouts are toxic and should be avoided. Sprouted lentils, black eyed beans, partridge peas, peanuts and vetch retain phytates which cause poor digestion and gas,” here, and although the author doesn’t source his post, he’s right about many of his facts.
Why Sprout Seeds and Legumes?
Did you know sailors who crossed the Atlantic centuries ago used to sprout lentils and other seeds to avoid scurvy, the Vitamin C deficiency that became common on long voyages without access to fresh food?
The act of sprouting releases new vitamins and nutrients in seeds, one of which is Vitamin C (which really isn’t all that natural or available in your winter glass of orange juice).
That’s not the only health benefit of sprouting – it even cuts the carbs, calories, and glycemic index in legumes and grains and makes them much more easily digestible. Sprouts allowed to get tiny leaves also capture chlorophyll from the sun, which has its own list of health benefits, best when fresh.
You can easily capture that nutrient-unlocking process in your own kitchen, on the cheap.
How Do Sprouted Seeds Taste?
Weird. Or no different at all, depending who you ask.
Because you’re using up some of the starch in the sprouting process, things like lentils and rice taste a little sweeter. They’re more like plants than seeds now, so that makes sense.
I really don’t notice it (much) in something like pintos once they’re all made into refried beans. I’m guessing the longer the sprout, the more the taste will change, and I haven’t seen any research that shows that the nutrition will be increased more the longer the sprout.
For legumes, I would stop after the sprout appears. I’m guessing that you don’t actually want the tiny plant to use up too much of its stored energy; save that for yourself!
Don’t try to sprout brown rice for five days. Take my word on that one. I kept waiting for longer sprouts, but clearly something was happening, because it tasted so sweet it was almost unpalatable. Not a fun stir fry night! You only need to soak brown rice in warm water for 22 hours to make it germinate, says ABC Science.
See how the tip of the rice is accented after a basic overnight soak? That’s all you need to see to know you’re dealing with living food!
How Do You Cook Sprouted Grains/Legumes?
Just cook as you normally would. You’ll probably find that the legumes cook much faster than soaked dry beans, but don’t count on it!
I used a normal amount of water for the rice and had to cook it longer to absorb it all, because the soaked rice already had absorbed some water overnight that I hadn’t accounted for. If you drain the soak water off, you can get away with using less water to cook, or just have fluffier/more moist rice.
RELATED: Instant Pot Mexican Brown Rice
You can use the cooked, sprouted beans or grains in any recipe. You can also dehydrate the grains and grind them into flour, which can be used in recipes that don’t adapt well to soaking (like cookies!). Here are my sprouted spelt cookies with raisins, delicious whole grain bread/rolls with sprouted flour, and find instructions for making sprouting flour at home here.
Small sprouted seeds go well on salads or in sandwiches, or as a run-through-the-kitchen snack. Be sure to refrigerate sprouted seeds if you’re not cooking them, and store things like sprouted sunflower seeds in the freezer for longer term (dehydrate in a low temp oven or dehydrator first).
Remember that you just got rid of their enzyme inhibitors and turned them from seeds (stored energy) into plants (growing energy) – they’ll now decay faster!
Added Bonus: Sprouting increases the mass of your seeds and legumes (because of the little root/sprout itself). It’s like getting 25% more free! How often can real food cooks make use of that advertising gimmick? 😉
Sprouting seeds and legumes is soooo easy, AND it’s a neat kitchen science experiment to do with kids! To sprout dry beans, just plan ahead a few extra days, and you don’t even need any fancy equipment.
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47 thoughts on “Kitchen Hack for Getting Free Nutrition in Only 2 Minutes a Day!”
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Reading up on the kidney beans- I have them and black beans sprouting now.
Apparently the toxin is present with them raw (the link you posted was a raw-foodie) and to destroy the toxin you discard the soaking water (if not sprouting), wash and boil for 10min in fresh water, then cook like normal. According to this guy: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2385/
As far as I know, cooking the kidney beans will fix the problem completely, and I can’t imagine eating them just sprouted…too crunchy for me! 🙂 Katie
Hi Katie, I’m new to the idea of getting conscious about grain consumption and I admit that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed :-/ I’m learning a lot through your site so I thank you for having it! I want to know what the verdict is on sprouting legumes. I followed your link to the guy who says its either toxic or that they still retain much of their phytates, I may write him and ask for his sources. I’m just confused and wondering whether I should not sprout them but soak them or whether any of it makes a difference. I read your post with the link to the rapid fermentation for brown rice so I’m good there but I’m wondering what to do with lentils, black beans, and kidney beans which I’ve tended to consume quite a bit in the past.
As a vegetarian of 10 yrs, raising a vegetarian daughter, I’ve relied on grains and legumes A LOT to feed us. You can imagine how my mind is exploding right now since opening it up to all this new information about whether we even should be eating these as frequently as we have been! I’ve started eating some organic free range chicken and real butter again but transitioning my daughter is proving to be challenging. She’s 6 now and doesn’t understand why I would want her to eat an animal when she hasn’t eaten one all her life. That’s a whole other issue, I’m digressing…LOL. Anyway, I would love your input on legumes for now. Later I will learn more about other grains and learn how to use them for baking, etc. I also ‘liked’ your FB page so hopefully I’ll continue to learn through that. To my surprise, several of my friends had already ‘liked’ your page :-). Thanks again Katie!
Welcome aboard! With so many transitions, I can imagine the pressure this puts on your brain. 🙂
I can’t say that I’ve learned much more about soaking and sprouting after this post, although sprouting, to me, makes an awful lot of sense. That said, I usually don’t sprout my legumes in advance, but always slow soak and slow cook them. We do what we can! Listening to YOUR body will really help and trusting what feels right.
In the past year or two, our family has really cut down on grains in general, since so much information on how harmful they *might* be keeps coming at me. In a lot of ways, it’s easier just to skip them – then I don’t have to worry about soaking or sprouting or wondering which is best! I’d say work on making homemade chicken stock as a big step in the right direction – it’s so healthful and might ease your daughter into meat products. (?)
At some point, you might want to do an elimination diet or cleanse, because at the end of that, when reintroducing things like grains and legumes, you will really notice more what effect they have on your body.
Another reader weighing in on the soy sprouts. Dr. Robert O. Young sells a low-temp. dehydrated powder made from sprouted soy. I’ve heard both sides of the phyto-estrogen issue. I’ve heard that they’re relatively weak estrogens which bind to the receptors thus preventing damaging xeno estrogens from binding to those receptors. Then I’ve heard that the phyto-estrogens are to be avoided. Personally, I try not to consume soy at least until I have the time to research it better.
I’ve done chickpeas. 🙂 Easy-peasy and I find extra uses for them! 🙂
Didnt know you could freeze them.
A few years ago we bought a sprout machine (pricey, but well worth it since we grow A LOT of sprouts) http://www.discountjuicers.com/easygreen.html I never thought of freezing them! They’re a perfect add-on when you’re low on veggies.
Frozen sprouted lentils! What a good idea!
Where do you find spelt? I have a hard time finding in flour as it but my mom might do better with it sprouted.
We have talked about it but have yet to get there.
I started soaking a whole bag of lentils without reading all the directions for Dosas in Everything Beans. Finally decided to start over (they had soaked 2 days), and try sprouting them to salvage them. Loving them in my salads and wraps, but I tried them in Dosas (not dehydrated first) and ended up with a gooey mess. Too much moisture to cook properly. Lesson learned!
Just sprouted some buckewheat groats. I too had gotten out of habit. Lentils are next.
Unfortunately I signed up for your monthly e-mail before I read this article.
You stated,”UPDATE: I just read this: “Soy and kidney bean sprouts are toxic and should be avoided. Sprouted lentils, black eyed beans, partridge peas, peanuts and vetch retain phytates which cause poor digestion and gas,” here, and although the author doesn’t source his post, he’s right about many of his facts.
He is also wrong aboy many of his “facts”. Haven’t you ever seen soy sprouts in a store? Do some research before you feed your readers drivel.
We hate to lose you, but this seems like a pretty minor deal. If the worst thing I’ve ever told anyone is to cook kidney bean sprouts well, I guess I’ll sleep alright tonight. ??? Folks can do their own checking into sources as well…for example, I don’t eat soy at all if I can help it to avoid phytoestrogens and omega-6s, so soy sprouts are wayyyyy off my list.
Thanks for contributing to the conversation – Katie
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Do you soak your sprouted lentils in acidified water (such as whey water) to lessen the impact of the phylates? Have you tried sprouting lentils in whey water? Wonder if they could even sprout in that media?
Actually, I don’t soak any legumes in an acid medium, as it makes them tougher to cook. Best practice, even for phytic acid reduction, is a 12-hour soak in 140F water. As for sprouting, no need for the acid because the sprouting itself reduces the phytic acid.
I meant “thick” not “think”!
Hi Katie. After you linked up to this post for your Monday Mission, I re-read it and decided to start lentils and chia seeds last night. So far so good with the lentils but I don’t think chia seeds can be sprouted. Do you know? The water in the chia seeds turned into a gelatinous blob and I couldn’t strain the water it was so think. I’m guessing it’s because they are so high in fiber?
That’s a great question. I think there’s some weird issue with chia seeds being high in such-and-such anyway if and when you could sprout them, so I’d just leave that one alone! Those are a good flax/egg type substitute, aren’t they, because of that gelatinous property? Glad the lentils are at least going well! 😉 Katie
My new favorite blog! I have gotten quite lazy with sprouting since my lasy babe (6 months). On Wednesdy, I gave my 6-year old the assignment of “sproutng”. I found a children’s science book, a glass jar, a strainer, and some sunflower seeds and told him to “get it done”. Today I read your blog and will follow his lead and sprout my what berries! Thank you.
Just going back and reading your info about soy and lentils. The Food for Life people use sprouted soybeans in most of their bread products. I thought that if the soy was fermented or sprouted it was okay-that is what I learned in my Nourishing Traditions class. They also taught us how to make the lentils. I’d like to ask my holistic nutritionist what her thoughts are about the phtates in the lentils. I just made my first batch of both sunflower and lentil sprouts. Another great thing that I’ve come across…if I eat a tablespoon of my lacto-fermented veggies (sauerkraut) before I eat any gassy veggie like cauliflower or broccoli, it is magic-NO GAS:)!
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Do you know whether it matters if the seeds are in sunlight or not?
As far as I know, sunlight would add chlorophyll, which adds value to your little sprouts. They have to get long enough though – so for sandwich sprouts, sun is helpful, but rice not so much. Make sense?
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Yup, you’ve done it again! Another Mission near to my heart. I LOVE sprouts! I used to do mung beans a lot, but havent in a while. I tried it out with barley, but it didnt work. After the initial soak, I usually just keep them in a huge, wide bowl or a 2ish inch deep tupperware and put enough water to almost cover them, lay a papper towel over them, and check on them/change the water a couple times a day. No equipment needed!
Have you tried it with chickpeas? I think that will be my next adventure
Nope, not chickpeas yet. I bet the skins would come right off, especially if you brought them to a rolling boil (worked for my lentils fairly well). Fun! 🙂 Katie
Ok, can I just say that I’m getting addicted to your blog? I have all of these things that I’ve been meaning to try but putting off . . .and you’re so good about breaking it into the ‘baby steps.’ I’m most impressed.
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Sorry for the very newbie question. Where do you get the seeds to soak if you want sandwich sprouts?
I have only seen them at my local health foods store – they actually sell them “for sprouting”. Now, I also sprouted what I had left of last year’s broccoli seeds for my garden, just to see if I could figure out how before investing $4. !! I don’t know if you’re “supposed” to do that, but it worked!
It never occurred to me to sprout rice either!
Thank you for the idea to sprout a lot then freeze after cooking! Your always have the most simple yet brilliant plans! (And why can’t I think of that myself?? 😉 😉 )
For the snack-y type sprouts, do you cook them or dehydrate them?
I’ve been wanting to do more sprouts, but I’ve been worried about them spoiling before I can eat them all, but also not wanting to go through the time and energy for a really tiny amount.
Have you seasoned them with anything for snacking?
I realized tonight that I forgot that I even dehydrated the sunflower seeds, but that is what I did. My husband and I didn’t really like them for just munching, so I stick them in granola and bars, hence no special seasoning attempts. Salt is good! 😉 I only do a tiny bit of little seed sprouts for sandwiches, because nobody likes them but me and they only last 3-7 days.
I was just asking around in my circle of friends about sprouting grains and beans.
God was listening…you are an angel!
I can’t wait to try some sprouts.
I just bought some red lentils yesteray and I always have beans!
I never knew you could sprout rice….so cool!
Peace and Love,
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Oh, good-I’m actually ahead this time! My alfalfa/radish seeds are sprouting already. I’ve beena big fan of salad sprouts for a while now.
I haven’t sprouted beans or grains though. So, I’ll sprout some lentils next.
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I bought alfalfa sprouts before I found out that they were the one thing I shouldn’t sprout – sigh. I just picked up some mung beans the other day and plan to tackle them soon.
Pinetree Garden Seeds sells screw on plastic lids with different sizes of mesh. (they’re called Sprout Ease and sell for $6.98)
I did just put on seeds to sprout, but they a couple hundred flowers planted in dirt. 😉
Thanks for posting this – I’ve always wanted to try this but thought you needed one of those fancy schmancy sprouting trays.
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I was able to sprout sunflower seeds before and I love the flavor. Do you remove the skin after you soak them? I think I have a problem with my seeds being wet even if I drain them. I guess I need to use a different strainer with a bigger hole.
I didn’t take the time to remove skins, but some of them came off anyway. You might try the jar with mesh over the top – that drains really well. I did dehydrate my sunflower seeds after sprouting them. I had forgotten that part until I read your comment!
do you know whether or not i should dehydrate them if i want to make them into sunflower butter?
I haven’t made nut butters, but I guess it would depend on if moisture will make a difference. I’ve learned that I do NOT have to dehydrate before making my date-n-nut power bars…so…maybe nut butter would work with just sprouted! I would test out a small amount and be sure to refrigerate the end product, as it will not have much of a shelf life, if any. 🙂 Katie