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Monday Mission: Soak Your Oatmeal

Simple things. What can I do that is simple and will increase my nutrition?

I’m often asked that question, and the folks who ask it don’t know that it’s the question I ask myself all the time. When I read about soaking grains for the first time, I was pleased to find out that it’s really a fairly simple process. It takes some planning ahead, but if you’re already menu planning, adding the soaking step is a cinch.

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to soak your oatmeal for breakfast sometime this week.

Why Would I Want Soaked Grains?

Here’s a short science lesson to help you understand why you might want to “soak” your grains:

  • Grains are seeds.
  • Seeds are meant to pass through the system relatively undigested so they can be planted elsewhere (think in nature).
  • To make it possible for seeds to pass through undigested, there are some anti-nutrients built in to make them difficult to digest.
  • Seeds also need to be preserved until the time is right for sprouting, so they have certain compounds that stop the active enzyme activity of germination.
  • These compounds also serve to hinder active enzyme activity in your digestive system.
  • “Soaking” whole grains can make them more digestible and help your system obtain all the nutrients in the food.

Read a more in-depth explanation of the science behind the process here.

This soaking process is recommended by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, but you won’t find it many other places. I’m not 100% convinced that it’s the only way to go, and neither is Laura.

That being said, soaking your oatmeal is not difficult, doesn’t take any more time than not soaking it, can’t hurt you, and definitely changes your digestion. My mom is not the only one who notices a difference when her oatmeal is soaked. She has told me she’s certain she feels fuller when it’s soaked, and her digestion seems more ‘regular’ based on the end result.

RELATED: Steel Cut Oats Cooked in the Instant Pot

2 day Oatmeal in the Pot

How to Soak Oatmeal to Reduce Phytic Acid

  • Combine 1 cup rolled or steel cut oats with 1 cup water with 1 Tbs lemon juice or whey in it. I do it right in the pot.
    • Straight from the mouth of Sally Fallon, the water should be warmer than room temp at the start. You’d need to gently warm it in a teapot or in the pot to ~110 degrees or so, since it’s not recommended to consume warm tap water because of lead leaching issues. {Sigh. That makes this process just slightly more complicated.}
    • Megan reminded me that oats are low in the enzyme phytase, needed to neutralize the phytates. She found the information at Amanda Rose’s outdated free eCourse, now the Phytic Acid White Paper. The takeaway? Add a Tbs or two (10%) of wheat flour to your soaking oats, too.
  • Leave at room temperature 24 hours (or at least 12). I usually think of it the night before, but the best for oatmeal is to let it go 24 hours.
    • Tip: Just get oats soaking for tomorrow’s breakfast as you’re cleaning up today’s, as breakfast will be on your mind.
  • Add another cup of water in the morning, bring to a boil and cook a few minutes until thick.

Couldn’t be easier! Here is how to get whey easily when you just need a bit to use for soaking grains.

Timesaver When Preparing Oats to Soak:

Buy lemons on sale and freeze the juice in 1 Tbs portions in ice cube trays or popsicle molds. Store in a freezer bag. You could do this with whey, too, if you ever find yourself with excess after making yogurt cheese.

Another favorite way to have soaked oatmeal in our house, although it takes a bit more time, is Kelly’s Baked Oatmeal.

apple cinnamon baked oatmeal

Because the chopping of fruit takes some time, I like to soak the oatmeal two nights before I want to eat it for 24 hours, then prepare the entire dish the night before and store it in the fridge until morning, when I put it in a cold oven and add 10-15 minutes to the bake time to compensate for it going in cold. (It tastes like oatmeal raising cookies, I kid you not.)

Will you try soaking oatmeal? Do share if you notice a difference in digestion/satisfaction!

 

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to Basics

Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

70 thoughts on “Monday Mission: Soak Your Oatmeal”

  1. Beth Ann Schad

    I am curious if soaking can also draw out the glyphosate residues and potentially eliminate them.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Unfortunately, I haven’t found any evidence that soaking has any effect on glyphosate.

  2. I have a pot of oats in water right now and am trying to figure out how much of a phytase rich additive to include. It looks like 10% of the weight of oats.

    Can I use rye flour that’s not freshly ground? I have sprouted buckwheat but it’s very high in oxalate, so I’d rather avoid it. I suppose rye could be too, I’ve never checked.

    I’m intrigued by the one commenter who said to use a rye sourdough starter, something I actually have!

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      It doesn’t have to be exact, 1-2 tbs per cup of oats. It does not need to be freshly ground. Good luck!

        1. I have another question. If adding a phytase rich ingredient is what breaks down the phytic acid, what’s the point of adding a liquid such as apple cider vinegar? I know I was doing this before learning that oats are too low in phytase for the phytase to even be activated.

          Is it absolutely necessary to use an acid soak? Or is just adding rye flour sufficient?

          1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

            My understanding is that the acid just helps activate the phytase, but you can soak without adding an acidic medium.

            1. The more research I do, the more confused I can get sometimes, lol.

              Oats don’t have enough phytase in them to neutralize the phytic acid, which is why we add rye flour or other phytase-rich foods.

              According to Katie, it was Megan who reminded her that oats are low in phytase. I did follow that link and have asked Megan about this as well but haven’t heard back.

              I’m adding ACV now but wouldn’t mind dropping that step if not 100% necessary, is it activating the phytase in the rye flour perhaps?

              I’m not feeling that it’s making a difference to the phytase in the oats if the oats are lacking in it……the heat oats are exposed to during processing reduces the phytase, maybe almost completely? I don’t know.

              I’ll keep trying to figure it out 🙂 Sometimes I wish research didn’t exist, that I could just do things without any knowledge whatsoever. Life would be so much easier.

              1. I think I have to give up the rye flour. It’s the most puzzling thing. My last 2 batches of oatmeal, the only thing I’ve done differently is to add rye flour, and they won’t thicken during cooking. And I have to cook them way, way longer and still they don’t thicken. How in the heck does adding rye flour do that? lol

                2 batches of oatmeal going in the garbage.

              2. Hi Lynn,
                Soaking grains has been a pretty controversial subject over the years, actually – and some landed on the side of just saying that a soak in water is enough, which is what we currently do. I say listen to your body! If unsoaked oats give you digestive distress or seem to impact your digestion, try soaking. 🙂 Katie

                1. Thanks, Katie. Soaking oats, for me, isn’t about digestive distress, I want the phytic acid gone, lol, for optimal nutrient absorption 🙂 For my dog!

                  It’s not even me eating the oatmeal, lol. I home cook for a dog with kidney disease and want him to get the most benefit from his food.

                  Phytic acid is just one of the many anti-nutrients I’m after!

  3. I feel like I remember from a post years ago that you said you would leave the leftover oatmeal out on the counter (as opposed to putting it in the fridge), but I couldn’t find that post. Am I remembering this correctly? I ask because I made the oatmeal at night and forgot to put it in the fridge before going to bed. I figure it’s still safe to eat since it was on the counter for the soak, but it had less water in it then so the pH would have been lower. Do you think it would still be safe to eat? The thermostat was set at 68* F for the 10ish hours the cooked oatmeal (soaked with whey) was on the counter.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I couldn’t find that specifically either Angie, but Katie did mention in one of her baked oatmeal posts that she likes to snitch a bite whenever she goes past the pan, which implies that it’s sitting out on the counter, maybe that’s what you’re recalling. The “powers that be” on the internet recommend that you don’t eat oatmeal that has been out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. I’ll make a note of this comment to Katie to see if she has anything else to add.

  4. Hi Katie,

    since in these coronatimes I´d prefer to not go to the supermarkets,
    I buy long-life buttermilk (I prefer not, but this is how it is for now),
    do you think I could use that as well as normal buttermilk?

    And could I use a tbs of spelled flour instead of wheat flour?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Liann, You can absolutely use spelt flour! Spelt is a type of wheat. When you say long-life buttermilk do you mean powdered? From a quick search online, powdered buttermilk is also acidic so I assume it would still work, although it appears to be slightly less acidic than regular buttermilk. You can use vinegar or lemon juice if you need a shelf-stable acidic medium for soaking.

  5. Bernie Denning

    Hi Katie, I am new to Soaking grains, and i must tell you i am a retired R&D chemist, who likes to investigate to optimize. that said,
    I wanted to make the baked oatmeal, which called for 2.5 c rolled Oats,1.75 c water, 1/4 c Buckwheat flour. Your std soaked oats called for 1 C oats/1 c water/1 tbsp whey or Lemon juice, and 1-2 Tbsp whole wheat or buckwheat flour. after making a big 4 cup oats batch of soaked oats, i now think i used the wrong recipe amounts (why not use the 2.5 c rolled Oats,1.75 c water, 1/4 c Buckwheat flour the baked oatmeal calls for in the 24 hour soak?), or are the 2.5 c Oats for the baked Oatmeal, 2.5 cups of the soaked oatmeal (expanded/pulped up in water) ?
    Also, i have read for Phytic aicd degradation in beans, 113-140F is best for faster phytic acid degrading at pH of 5-6 (breaking the phosphate to sugar bond in the acid, and thus freeing up the minerals as a phosphate salt for mineral absorption). I thought i read that 110-100 F is best for grain phytic acid breakdown (vs room temperature),so i did this on my first 4 cup oats soak , in my small crock pot. Seems to work okay, and i ate oatmeal and have not died, so is it better to soak at 110-100F like yogurt making temperature, or is even near 140F better for complete Phytic acid degradation (or maybe the enzyme in flour cannot handle the higher temperature of 140F ??? Thanks a ton, and sorry for being so technical !!

  6. Instead of soaking oatmeal, I can purchase sprouted oats. They taste great, no sour flavor from soaking in whey… They digest well–no hungry feeling or excessive sleepiness after eating. I keep them in the freezer as I have found that they go rancid quicker than unsprouted oats.

    1. That makes total sense, Wynter, that the sprouted oats need to be frozen, since their defenses as a seed are down and they’re closer to a plant. You can home-sprout and dehydrate oats too; I just find this process easier and my kids (sigh) aren’t fans yet of whole oat groats/steel cut oats. We’re working on it! 🙂 Katie

  7. Hello. I admit that I did not go through the conversations to see if the question I have was answered. I would like to know if I can use organic pineapple juice as an acid/medium rather than lemon or apple cider vinegar?
    Thank you.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Jon, I can’t see anything online about using pineapple juice. The closest thing I see is someone saying you can soak seeds in pineapple juice to reduce mold and fungus, but it was a refrigerated soak. I’d be worried about the high sugar content in pineapple juice breeding something bad if left out overnight. I’ve seen a couple of sources say you can soak without any acid. The acid is supposed to protect from bacteria growth and helps make the soaking more effective, but may not be strictly necessary. Hope that helps, sorry I couldn’t find any more information!

      1. Thank you for the information. I too had thought of the sugar content being an issue, but wanted to inquire to make sure. I have tried the apple cider vinegar in the past and it leaves an unpleasant taste/flavor to the oats. Can you tell me if lemon juice does the same? I have been concerned to even try it because of the taste factor.
        Thank you.

        1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

          Jon, I asked Katie about the sourness because I’ve never soaked oatmeal in lemon juice before and she said “I have never been able to rinse oatmeal like I can other whole grains. I find that lemon juice is less sour than apple cider vinegar, and if it’s still too sour just cut the lemon juice in half and it will be just fine. Whey that comes out of yogurt leaves zero sour taste so that’s my favorite method. Because my daughter Leah is dairy-free now, we just soak in room temperature water, no acidic medium. There was some research years ago that perhaps the acidic medium is not necessary.” I hope you’re able to find something that works!

  8. Hi there. I read a post above regarding Wild Fermentation had a “water-only” recommendation for removing phytates. Is that true?

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Sarina,

      My understanding is that “Wild Fermentation” recommends water only for 24 hours. I’ve seen recommendations to soak with the acidic medium listed as optional on other sources as well. Looks like you can do it either way!

  9. HI, if I am using steel cut oats, would soaking them 36 hours at room temperature before cooking be ok or is that too long?
    Thanks!
    Josh

    1. Hi Joshua, if the temp in your house isn’t too high, that might be ok. The risk is that it may start to ferment or even mold at room temp. You really only need 12 hours, so I would just do that rather than shooting for 36 on purpose. 🙂 Katie

  10. I know this is old, but I see that people are still commenting on it and I think it’s important that you alter your original article. After soaking you HAVE to drain the water out and rinse. Otherwise soaking is totally pointless because you’re still consuming the phytates and enzyme inhibitors you’re trying to avoid in the first place.

    1. Yes–I agree–but is there science to back it up? I rinse my soaked oatmeal but Katie Kimball at Kitchen Stewardship says oatmeal doesn’t need to be rinsed after soaking. I rinse because I don’t like the strong yogurt flavor……to rinse or not to rinse….that is the question!

  11. Aditya Jhanwar

    After soaking the oats, should we rinse out the water it had been soaking in or do we cook with it?

  12. I soaked gluten free certified oats in spring water with: yoghurt, raw apple cider vin., and lemon juice BUT…but put it in the fridge!!! for approx. 15-24 hours instead of room temp. So you think by being in the fridge nothing ( phytates, anti nutrients, etc bad stuff) didn’t get removed? . I rinsed it afterwards . It cooked up in under 5 mins. it digested well. Any thoughts ( detailed reasons ) about placing soaked oats in the fridge? thanks.

  13. Wynter Kruger

    If I soak more than 1 cup of oats at a time, do I need to use more whey/yogurt and whole wheat flour/rye/buckwheat? For example, I want to soak 4 cups of oats. Would I need to use 8 T of yogurt and 8 T (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour for soaking?

    Thanks for answering my questions!

    1. Wynter,
      The whey has a ratio with the water – so if you’re soaking 4 cups oats in 8 cups water, your measurements are correct. I soak 4 cups oats in 4 cups water and only need 1/4 c. whey and 1/4 c. flour, and then I add another 4 c. water in the morning. 🙂 Katie

  14. Wynter Kruger

    So—you add either whole wheat, rye, or buckwheat to oats (along with whey/lemon juice) to soak? Does sprouted whole wheat work?

  15. Just a note for vegans, you can soak the oats in a cup of water that has had alfalfa or other delicate-tasting sprouts steeping in it for a few hours. Then prepare as usual. The sprout water will be enriched in phytase, the enzyme that breaks down phytic acid, and if you cook the oatmeal on a low setting, much of the enzyme activity will be preserved (phytase works best at 55-60 deg Celsius and renatures or ‘comes back alive’ after taking off the heat). Also a thought for the milk lovers, all animal products reduce the activity of phytic acid in the body, so if you don’tlike sour oats, then just soaking in milk overnight should be fine. No need to throw out water after soaking in water, as some have asked, if whey is added; the phytase in the whey will have deactivated the phytic acid during soaking. Awesome blog, thank you for the recipes!

  16. Will the Table spoon of kefir be ok at room temp for 12 – 24 hours? This worries me slightly. Thanks!

    1. Yep! In fact Ryan, to make kefir, a bit is mixed in with milk and left on the counter for 24 hours generally, so really what will happen is that some of the good bacteria in the kefir will probably reproduce, possibly breaking down some hard-to-digest sugars in the grains (but that’s just my personal theory). Safety wise, it’s fine. 🙂 Katie

  17. Katie
    I had a bad experience with raw oats. I made a smoothie twice a week for two two weeks straight and had an upset stomach for two weeks. Through some research I learned about soaking but I only use water. I haven’t had an upset stomach since I’ve been soaking over night in plain water, which I leave in the refrigerator over night.

    Seems to work for me. Should I be concerned since I am not soaking the way you suggest?

    1. Hi Madeline – some people do say plain water is just fine, although I think it’s “supposed” to still be on the counter. But if you’re feeling good, that’s your measuring stick! Might be interesting to see if you notice any difference in how you feel if you do the same thing except leave it all on the counter overnight instead of the fridge. LMK how it goes! 🙂 Katie

  18. I have just started to soak. Do I leave my oats at room tempature all night or just for 12 hours and then refrigate them

  19. Hi Katie,

    Really enjoyed your article and greatly appreciate the time you’ve devoted to the comments section as well – all very informative. Just one question about using whey – would whey in the powdered form be an effective substitute? (The high protein stuff generally associated with body building) Or is it an entirely different product?

    To provide more clarity on how it is produced: “It is manufactured from sweet cheese whey using advanced cross-flow membrane filtration. It is then agglomerated and instantised, using a small amount of soy lecithin to ensure instant mixability.

    The above processes are carried out at low temperatures so that the resulting whey protein remains entirely undenatured; which is extremely important when choosing a whey protein. Undenatured whey protein preserves vital protein fractions, such as lactoferrin and immunoglobulins, resulting in a whey protein with the highest possible nutritional value.”

    No worries if you aren’t sure; it would just be very handy indeed, nay absolutely fantastic if it was essentially the same product.

    1. Oh and just a follow up on yoghurt as an option: I don’t have access to raw, grass-fed dairy sadly and it’s at an unsightly premium this neck of the woods to order it in, so would using a standard, supermarket whole milk plain yogurt still get the job done?

      Cheers, James

    2. Hi James,
      No, cheese whey is different than yogurt whey, not cultured, and I’m not sure that the powdered form would have the acidity required either. If you don’t eat yogurt, best to try lemon juice (although I think it’s more sour).

      BUT a big YES about supermarket yogurt – any cultured yogurt will work great. Tip to get just enough to try soaking oatmeal – make a dent in your yogurt after taking a serving out. After a few hours you’ll have a nice little pool of whey there. 🙂

      Good luck!
      Katie

  20. I soaked my oats chia and flax seeds but forgot about them so hey were soaking for about 3 days… When I went to go eat them they smelled and tasted weird. So I decided to make a smoothie instead . I added frozen blueberries and raw almond butter. It still smelled and tasted funny… :/ what do you suggest ?

  21. Patricia Feely

    I am new to your website and loved reading the whole thing! I am vegan so will stay away from dairy. Also, I like the simple idea of soaking in just warm water, nothing added but the steel cut oats. Is that what you meant, Katie? Have you heard anything new about this? How warm should the water be? Do you keep the water warm or just start out warm? Thanks for your time.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Welcome to KS! I hope you can find lots of helpful information, even though we don’t always have a lot of vegan recipes 😉

      You can use just lemon juice, no need for whey, so this should work out well for you. Start warm, about 110 degrees, like you would use for proofing yeast. Then just leave it at room temp, no need to heat again until you are cooking!

  22. I just wanted to thank you for this post/comment section. I’m a “bit” behind the times and just discovered overnight oats. I soak mine already to reduce the phytic acid and was thrown off by throwing it in the fridge. I didn’t think it would work, but googled to find out, and your site was the first to pop up that completely verified my suspicion (in your reply to a comment back in Oct 2012)– so thank you!

    Quick Question though… in your reply, you said “But…you also are supposed to cook the oats to finish the job. That said, I soak and dehydrate oats for granola and just hope for the best!” Does this mean that the soaking/dehydrating oats is not necessarily beneficial/sufficient for granola?

    1. Amber,
      From what I’ve read, grains should be cooked, so yes – soaking/dehydrating is only doing part of the job, but likely better than just eating raw oats. Food is so tricky! I’m glad your search got you to the right place. I figure if your gut doesn’t feel heavy after eating your overnight oats, then you’re probably doing just fine…

      🙂 Katie

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  25. I have been making crock pot oatmeal with steal cut oats for a few months now for quick breakfasts in the morning. If you are cooking the oats for 8 hours on low does that help break it down enough or do you still need to let it soak before?

  26. Hi, nice informative page. I have a doubt though: do we need to soak 3-min cooking oats too (not instant sachet oats but the regular white oats that come packed in tins)? Please clarify! Thank you…Also inviting you and your fans to come check our parenting tidbits and tips at www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach – see you there! 🙂

  27. I wonder if this soaking-method really works well , for removing the phytic acid, from the rolled oats?

    I know a lot of people who do it. But have anyone actually conducted a study, that shows that this method reduces the phytic acid in the rolled oats?

    Have it actually been studied? How can we be sure that this method works?

    I’ve heard people speculate about it but have anyone actuallt measured the reduction in the rolled oats?

  28. Hi, I’m just thinking since soaking only needs a slightly acidic liquid, why not soak it in fresh apple juice and make apple cinnamon oats out of it. I would think any acidic fruit or berry juice would work, you could then add a fruit or berry compote to serve.

    Can you maybe tell me if powdered flax seeds need to be soaked to get rid of phytates? I bought it to increase my dd Omega 3 intake.

    Thanks

    God bless

    1. Johlize,
      That’s an interesting idea! I have no idea of the pH of apple juice, but I know apple cider vinegar is often used.

      As a seed, flax would probably be best soaked. I woudln’t worry if you’re just adding some here and there, but if you’re putting it in oatmeal anyway and it’s easy to add to the soak you’re already doing, I’d totally keep them in. 🙂 Katie

  29. This will be my first time soaking anything. Just want to make sure all is correct. My oats soaked up the water and acid, they look damp, but are not soaking in any visible liquid, is that correct? Thanks.

  30. So, do you cover it airtight (like with plastic wrap) – guess not, wasn’t always available. Cover with a towel, right?

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  32. To confirm, I can sub 1T yogurt for the whey/lemon juice, correct? I haven’t gotten to the whey making baby step just yet 😀
    PS My first ever grain soaking attempt is currently underway! I’m taking the easy road and using your bread machine recipe 🙂 Baby steps…

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Way to go with baby steps! Yes, yogurt works just fine, although I personally think it makes the oatmeal sour. You can get a few Tbs. whey just by leaving a “dent” in your plain yogurt in the fridge – after a few hours, ta da! It’s filled with whey. I would use that if I were you. 🙂 Katie

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