Soaking Grains, Beans, Nuts and Seeds 101
At first glance, soaking may seem intimidating and time-consuming. I thought the same thing too until I discovered it’s actually quite easy and best of all, it’s significantly beneficial to your health! I never eat grains, beans, nuts or seeds without soaking them, and my mission is to get you to do the same!
Why Do I Need to Soak?
In my last post, I discussed how grains, beans, nuts, and seeds can be a true health hazard when taken for granted. However, when prepared with proper care, such as soaking, they are truly miraculous foods. The centuries-old process of soaking neutralizes harmful anti-nutrients and hard-to-digest proteins and at the same time, activates vital enzymes, minerals and other beneficial nutrients locked inside. Make sure you get the full scoop here.
So let’s get started! Below are some simple tips to help you reap the full benefits that grains, beans, nuts, and seeds can provide! All it really requires is a little planning.
Keys to a Good Soaking
Use a glass or ceramic bowl – Never use plastic or metal. There seems to be varying opinions about food grade stainless steel not leaching, and though I have no real clear answer, I still never use it. Glass or ceramic is best for long term soaking.
Purified water – Chemicals and contaminants in tap water can interfere with the soaking process. I use the water from my Reverse Osmosis filter. Spring water works too!
Planning – Knowing you will have to soak requires that you plan your meals ahead of time. I love this because it puts you in the driver’s seat. It ensures that your meals are planned out ahead of time so you are less likely to opt for something unhealthy.The three things listed above are all you really need for effective soaking. However, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds require a few different tweaks to the soaking process. Temperature, time, and the correct soaking medium can really make a difference. I have broken it down for you and included a soaking chart for your reference.
Soaking grains is most optimal with hot water and an acid medium. The acid medium has been shown to release phytase to break down phytic acid. My favorites are raw apple cider or coconut vinegar.
Soaking medium: lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar, brown rice vinegar, or kombucha
Main anti-nutrients deactivated: phytic acid, lectins
Main Nutrients activated: Vitamin A, E, B6, Lysine, Selenium, Iron, Copper and Zinc
The optimal method for soaking beans is to start with very hot water and soak at least 24 hours, changing the soak water every 8 hours. I don’t really concern myself with heating the water each time I change it. I think room temperature water is fine to use after the initial rinsing.
There are conflicting opinions about whether an acid medium is necessary. Several sources say it breaks down phytic acid, and several say it doesn’t. Some also claim the acid medium reduces the flavor of the bean.
Since cooking helps to eliminate at least 50% of the phytic acid, I’m okay with just soaking the beans in hot water. For harder, larger beans I’ll throw in a 1/2 tsp. baking soda after the last rinsing. The baking soda literally reduces cooking time by almost half. This is a lifesaver in the kitchen! Do not use baking soda for smaller beans such as lentils, adzuki or navy beans. They’ll cook too fast and become mushy.
Another option is to add kombu. This is widely practiced in many cultures because kombu increases the mineral content, especially iodine. Just cut a 1-inch piece of kombu and add to the beans once the water has cooled. I like to replace a fresh piece of kombu each time I change the soak water. I do not recommend adding baking soda with the kombu, however, so if you are cooking with harder beans the cook time will be a little longer.
Soaking medium: kombu, or baking soda (for larger beans to reduce cooking time)
Main anti-nutrients deactivated: lectins, oligosaccharides, some phytic acid (cooking eliminates at least half)
Main Nutrients activated: protein, calcium, folate, potassium and iron
Note: Although cooking with dry beans that have been thoroughly soaked is the most ideal and most cost effective, there is a source for canned, pre-soaked, and pre-cooked beans. Eden Organics provides a wide variety of soaked beans in BPA-free cans. It’s a good idea to stock your pantry with several cans in case you find yourself in a pinch! FAQ Sheet for Eden Organic Beans.
Raw Nuts and Seeds
Raw nuts and seeds are best soaked in a brine (salt solution) to reduce enzyme inhibitors and increase digestibility. They turn out delicious too!
Soaking medium: 1-2 tsp. of high-quality Himalayan Salt. NO TABLE SALT!!!!!
Main anti-nutrients deactivated: enzyme inhibitors, lectins
Main Nutrients activated: iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C,
Easy Peasy…Let’s Get Soaking!
- Refer to the chart below for water temp and estimated soak time.
- Add your grains, beans, nuts or seeds to a glass or ceramic bowl.
- Fill it with purified water 1 inch above whatever you are soaking. Check the temperature in the chart below, and gently heat your water. Heat your water in a hot pot or on the stove. DO NOT MICROWAVE YOUR WATER!!
- Add your acid medium for grain (1 tbsp.).
- Add baking soda for longer cooking beans (1/2 – 1 tsp.).
- Add salt for nuts and seeds (1-2-tsp.).
- Cover and leave out at room temperature or a warm spot in the kitchen to soak for the desired time.
- The grains, beans, and nuts will absorb water, so add more water a few hours later if necessary.
- Beans – ideally soak water should be changed every 8 hours, and make sure to thoroughly rinse the beans each time you change soak water. If using baking soda for larger beans, add it to the last soaking.
- Rinse all grains, beans, nuts and seeds thoroughly once soak time is completed.
Special Note About Grains: Although I only recommend non-gluten grains, I didn’t want to leave anyone out. So I have listed the soak times for the most common grains used in cooking.
Special Note About Driving Yourself Crazy: Don’t do it! There’s no exact science to soaking and more often than not, you’ll run into contradictory information that will confuse you. I say try to follow the guide as best you can, but don’t go nuts over doing it perfectly. At the bottom of this chart, I will make a few notes about some of the contradictions I’ve come across then give a brief explanation.
|Water Temperature||Soak Time, Hours
|Almonds||Warm||12 – 18|
|Pecans||Warm||12 – 18|
|Walnuts||Warm||12 – 18|
Hazelnuts and Macadamias
|See Notes Below|
|Chia or Salba||Room Temperature||1|
|Flax||Room Temperature||2 – 3|
|Pumpkin||Room Temperature||6 – 8|
|Sunflower||Room Temperature||6 – 8|
| Grains (*gluten-free)
|Oats, groats*||Warm||12 – 18|
|Oats, rolled or steel cut*||Warm||8 – 12|
|Rice, Basmati*||Warm||18 – 24|
|Rice, Brown*||Warm||18 – 24|
|Rice, Wild*||Warm||24 – 36|
|Wheat, whole berries||Warm||24|
|Garbanzo or Chickpeas||Hot||24|
|Green Peas, whole||Hot||24|
|Green Peas, split*||Warm||12-18|
| Lentils, Brown*
|Lentils, Green or Red*||Warm||2-6|
*There are varying opinions as to whether or not softer beans and split beans (such as lentils, mung beans, and split mung beans) need to be soaked. The opinion is that these types of beans contain lesser amounts of oligosaccharides (long-chain sugars that are difficult to digest). I find that green and red lentils turn mushy during the cooking process if they’ve been soaked for any length of time. I personally don’t soak lentils unless I’m using the big green organic lentils from my local healthfood store. These suckers take forever to cook if they haven’t been soaked. Why exactly, I’m not sure. I say use your best judgment when it comes to lentils. If they cook relatively fast, I’d say soaking isn’t necessary.
*As for certain types of nuts, there are also varying opinions as to whether or not they should be soaked. These are: Pistachios, Brazil nuts, Macadamia nuts, Hazelnuts, Pine nuts, and Cashews. It requires a tremendous amount of heat to extract Brazil nuts and Cashews from their shell. Some say the nutrients have already been destroyed by this process, so soaking would be useless. And while I’m sure a fair amount of nutrients are lost during the extraction process for these nuts, how much, I am uncertain.
Pistachios, Macadamias, Hazelnuts and Pine Nuts are believed by many to not have many anti-nutrients, therefore soaking is probably not necessary. I know from personal experience, that soaking cashews make them soggy and no fun to eat on their own. I generally only soak cashews when I use them in certain recipes.
So in a nutshell, pun absolutely intended, I wouldn’t sweat soaking these nuts. Besides, it’s doubtful you’re eating them in large enough quantities that they would irritate your digestion. However, if you’re pounding fistfuls of these nuts on a regular basis you need to stop. Nuts are highly dense foods, and should always be eaten in small quantities. Just sayin’!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When soaking I should leave the bowl on the counter or a warm spot in my kitchen. What is room temperature, and what about the winter months when the house is cooler?
A. This is a good question. Room temperature generally falls around 68° – 77°. If the temp is cooler than that in your home, especially during winter, your oven will come in handy. You can heat the inside of your oven by leaving the light on for a couple hours. Turn it off, and set the bowl inside and close the door. It works perfectly!
Q. Is it necessary to rinse thoroughly?
A. I say yes! There are varying opinions about whether or not you should, but I always err on the side of caution and rinse completely. Beans should be rinsed and soaked several times.
Q. Is it safe to eat wet nuts?
A. Yes. However, you want to thoroughly dry them (leave them out for a few hours) before storing them in the fridge. Soaked nuts should be consumed within a few days to prevent mold. The exception is Dehydrated Nuts.
Q. Should I roast my nuts after soaking?
A. I am not a big fan of roasting nuts. I think the heat destroys the delicate oils. However, you can gently dry them in the oven at the lowest temperature for an hour or two. I personally think the best way to consume nuts is to soak and dehydrate them. They are 10 times more delicious and easy-to-digest. See Dehydrating Nuts & Seeds.
Q. Should I soak flour before baking?
A. Yes. I’m not too experienced with baking (this is on my bucket list), however, I have read where soaking flour is the same as soaking grains. Add the flour to a bowl with the required amount of water called for in the recipe, add your acid medium, cover and soak for 12-24 hours, then continue with the rest of your recipe. I have also included a few sprouted flours found in the list of sprouted foods below.
You Can Also Purchase a Variety of Sprouted Foods for Convenience
Pre-Soaked Beans in BPA-Free Cans. Whoo hoo!!:
Purchase Eden Organic Beans on Amazon
Arrowhead Mills Sprouted Wheat Flour
Arrowhead Mills Pancake Mix
Organic Sprouted Gluten-Free Baking Blend
Organic Sprouted Buckwheat Flour – Gluten-Free
Organic Sprouted Garbanzo Bean Flour – Gluten-Free
Organic Sprouted Oat Flour
Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Flour – Gluten-Free
Organic Sprouted Corn Flour – Gluten-Free
Organic Sprouted Lentil Flour
Sprouted Grains and Beans:
Sprouted Rice & Quinoa Blend
Sprouted Rice Blend
Sprouted Brown Rice
Sprouted Black Beans
Sprouted Mung Beans
Sprouted Bread, Tortillas & Cereal:
Food for Life Ezekiel Bread
Food for Life Sprouted Grain
More Sprouted Bread
Sprouted Hamburger Buns
Sprouted Grain Tortillas
Sprouted Corn Tortillas
Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal
Sprouted Cinnamon Raisin Cereal
Sprouted Chips & Crackers
Whole Grain Tortilla Chips
Sweet Potato Chips
Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Nuts and Nut Butters:
Sprouted Almond Butter
Sprouted Pumpkin Seed Butter
Sprouted Sunflower Seed Butter
Sprouted Cashew Nut Butter
Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds
Sprouted Nut Mix
Now that you know how to soak your grains, beans, nuts and seeds it’s time to get started!! Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below. And as always, if you enjoyed this post and would like more information like this, please join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.