REAL FOOD 101: How to Soak, Sprout, and Dehydrate Nuts, Beans, and Seeds

 

(To buy the REAL FOOD 101 E-book: Traditional Foods, Traditionally Prepared, click here.  Full color photos, step by step tutorials, and more.  Only $14.)

Why do I go through the trouble of soaking nuts, beans, and seeds?  Answer: Personal experience with better digestion.  If there is one thing that is easier now that I am on GAPS, it’s that I only have to soak and dehydrate nuts, beans, and seeds, and not grains.  With grains you have to get out your grain grinder and make flour, but with nuts, beans, and seeds you can just store them whole for snacking, or food process them if you need nut or seed flour for a recipe.  But, in fairness, I do miss my sprouted flour dreadfully, so I admit that it’s worth getting the grain grinder out to have some if you can digest it well.  When I am done with GAPS, I am already looking forward to some sprouted grain goodies!

I have found that if I soak nuts, beans, and seeds, then dehydrate them to their crisy state again, I tend to handle them better.  It turns out that there is a good reason for this.  If you soak or sprout them, then you not only neutralize enzyme inhibitors, phytic acid, and lectins, you also have prepared the nut or seeds for optimal absorption for your body.  This is similar to sourdoughing grains for bread to make them more digestible.

In Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (buy Nourishing Traditions here, an excellent first real food book) it says:

The method for sprouting all grains and seeds is the same–only the length of time needed to accomplish full germination varies, depending on the size and nature of the seed.

So what is the difference between sprouting and soaking?  Time.  If you do well with nuts and seeds that are merely soaked in saltwater overnight, then dehydrated, then this is enough.  Simply start the practice of soaking nuts and seeds overnight, then putting in a dehydrator the next day (or an oven set as low as possible) until crisp again.  It does take a little planning ahead, but it entails very little active work at all.  Plus, then benefit of simply soaking and dehydrating will increase not only your ability to digest the nuts and seeds you eat, but will increase their nutritional content significantly.  I find that soaking overnight is enough for me to be able to digest nuts and seeds well.  

If you need more digestive help, consider sprouting.  Also, sprouting increasese the nutritional profile of your seeds and nuts even more than soaking.  This still begins with an overnight soak in saltwater, but continues for 1-3 days more depending on how long that particular nut or seed takes to sprout.  You will know when time is up when you can see the sprouts growing.  Remember that only truly raw nuts, beans, and seeds will sprout, so check your sources well.  For example, in California there is a mandatory pasteurization process for nuts, so even though they are sold “raw”, they are not truly raw and will most likely not sprout.  You can buy truly raw nuts and seeds here.

Why should you soak seeds, beans, and nuts?  There are many reasons, the most convincing of which (to me) is that it is what our ancestors did.  And they had a good reason.  Again, from Nourishing Traditions (buy here):

The process of germination not only produces vitamin C but also changes the composition of grains and seeeds in numerous beneficial ways.  Sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6.  Carotene increases dramatically–sometimes eightfold.  Even more important, sprouting neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains [and in nuts, beans, and seeds] that inhibits apsorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc; sprouting also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds.  These inhibitors can neutralize our own precious enzymes in the digestive tractFinally, numerous enzymes that help digestion are produced during the germination process.

To simplify the process of soaking and dehydrating various seeds, nuts and (sometimes) grains, I found it worth my time and money to purchase a dehydrator.  Dehydrators are more than just handy for making fruit leather and beef jerky, they can also aid with dehydrating all your sprouted beans, grains, seeds, and nuts.  Plus, if you remove all the trays, you can use it for proofing and raising bread dough.  I also use mine to make yogurt, because I can set the dial to a specific temperature.  The icing on the cake for me though, if that dehydrators use very little energy.  So I prefer my dehydrator to my oven or a yogurt maker.  It’s very handy to have a multi-use appliance since it simplifies my life and saves energy for our planet.

In the summer, I put my dehydrator on a shelf on the back porch, and in the winter I leave it on a shelf in my kitchen.  I own the 9-tray Excalibur Dehydrator (you can buy a full size dehydrator here), but you can also find smaller versions if you are pressed for space, though you may not be able to fit yogurt jars and bread dough into if it’s too small (you can buy a smaller dehydrator here).

Basic Soaking Process for Nuts, Beans and Seeds

4 cups of nuts, beans, or seeds (buy truly raw nuts and seeds here)
1 tablespoon of sea salt (buy unrefined sea salt here)
filtered water
half gallon glass jar
sprouting lid (buy sprouting lids here and/or here)
.
  1. Put the water and salt into a non-reactive bowl or a half-gallon glass canning jar. Stir to dissolve salt. Add nuts and stir. Cover with a sprouting screen or kitchen towel to keep dust and bugs out, but to also let it breathe.
  2. Soak for different amounts of time, depending on the nut.  Generally, just soak overnight, 12-24 hours.  You can also see the chart here.
  3. When the soaking time is over, drain the jar of all it’s water, either by pouring the contents through a sieve, or by using a sprouting lid.  Rinse the nuts or seeds well by running filtered water over them a few times and draining.
  4. Now lay the nuts and seeds in a single layer on either a parchment-lined cookie sheet, or a dehydrator tray.  If using a dehydrator, set to 120 degrees and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or 24 hours).  If using an oven, heat to the lowest possible setting (usually 170 on most ovens; but go down to 150 degrees or lower if you can), and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or so.)
  5. Dehydrate at 150 degrees or less until completely dry and crispy, 120 degrees if possible.
Basic Process for Sprouting Nuts, Beans and Seeds
.
4 cups nuts, beans, or seeds (buy truly raw nuts and seeds here)
1 tablespoon sea salt (buy unrefined sea salt here)
filtered water
half gallon glass jar
sprouting lid (buy sprouting lids here and/or here)
.
  1. Put the water and salt into a non-reactive bowl or a half-gallon glass canning jar. Stir to dissolve salt. Add nuts and stir. Cover with a sprouting screen or kitchen towel to keep dust and bugs out, but to also let it breathe.
  2. Soak for different amounts of time, depending on the nut.  Generally, just soak overnight, 12-24 hours.  You can also see the chart here.
  3. When the soaking time is over, drain the jar of all it’s water, either by pouring the contents through a sieve, or by using a sprouting lid.  Rinse the nuts or seeds well by running filtered water over them a few times and draining.
  4. Place the jar, sprouting lid side down, to drain into a glass pie plate.  This way the air can circulate and allow the seeds and nuts to sprout.  Rinse 2-3 times per day until you see the desired amount of sprouting.
  5. Use as fresh sprouts as is, or now continue with dehydrating to return to a crispy state, if desired.
  6. Lay the nuts and seeds in a single layer on either a parchment-lined cookie sheet, or a dehydrator tray.  If using a dehydrator, set to 120 degrees and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or 24 hours).  If using an oven, heat to the lowest possible setting (usually 170 on most ovens; but go down to 150 degrees or lower if you can), and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or so.)
  7. Dehydrate at 150 degrees or less until completely dry and crispy, 120 degrees if possible.
    This post is a part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Traditional Tuesdays at Whole New Mom, Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and Healthy 2day Wednesdays at day2dayjoys!
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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Comments

  1. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    http://realfoodforager.com/2011/10/fat-tuesday-november-1-2011/
    If you have grain-free recipes please visit my Grain-Free Linky Carnival in support of my 28 day grain-free challenge! It will be open until November 2.

    http://realfoodforager.com/2011/10/grain-free-real-food-linky-carnival/

  2. I am so glad that you went through the effort to put this post together, complete with great photos. When I started sprouting and soaking, no one else that I knew was doing it and I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Great post.

    • Thanks Melissa! I think that is why I am finding it to be so satisfying to write these Real Food 101 posts. I love being able to write down my whole process, including all the things I have found that work really well. It was hard to learn it on my own, so I’m glad to share what I have figured out to make it a little easier for those starting out. Glad to see you here :)

  3. Great how to. I tweeted it since I think it could be helpful information to those transitioning to healthier eating or those who are effected by food sensitivities. Love it!

  4. Brian Talbot says:

    Kendahl,

    What’s your take on a hard-oiled egg and bananna for breakfast. Trust me this is a big step for me from nothing or Pepsi or even a hot dog, since it used to be the only thing that really sat well with me in the mornings.

    Is the egg and banana good? They go a long way for me. Anything I should add/substitute and why if so?

    • A hard boiled egg and banana is a great start, especially from Pepsi and hot dogs! The protein and fat from the egg will keep you going for a long time, and the banana is great to have for energy as well.

      If you want to try other combinations for breakfast, try plain whole milk organic yogurt (has to be whole milk, the fat is good for you) with a drizzle of maple syrup (real grade B maple syrup) or raw honey. Then add fruit and nuts and seeds and granola or whatever else you desire. This is similar to your egg/banana breakfast: protein, fat, carb (from fruit).

      Also, try the soaked oatmeal recipe I put up here: http://www.ournourishingroots.com/2011/10/24/maple-oatmeal-with-coconut-sprinkles/

      And thank you for coming over and commenting :)

  5. Do you find the digestibility is that much greater when they’re dehydrated as well? I have a great sunflower seed ranch dressing recipe that I need to share with you, but I’m usually in a rush so just soak with the lemon juice that’s in the recipe and then blend them up. But I’m wondering how much better it would be if I soaked and discarded the water and let them dry first. Hmm.

    • I had never thought of this, so I can’t really say. Hmmm. I think it would be the same either way, right? Maybe even better right after they are sprouted because they are all activated and fresh? Good question! For me, I just like to do really large batches and then put them in my 9-tray dehydrator. So I am always grabbing handfuls from the nut and seed bags in my pantry to make nut/seed flour or trail mix or yogurt bowls or whatever. So I’m not dehydrating really for anything other than simplicity.

      And I definitely want that Ranch recipe! That’s my most-missed conventional food item, besides maybe a plain, glazed Krispy Kreme donut. I know, I know!

    • You always want to discard the soak water and rinse. The water should also be pure (free of flouride and chlorine etc.)

  6. Keep in mind; enzymes and vitamins are broken down with heat starting at 106 F. Keep the temps low if you want these benefits. Although, they will still be more bio-available than not soaking at all.

  7. Great site.

    Do you have any resources online to purchase non-gmo, organic seeds for sprouting, like sunflower seeds for example.

    Thanks!

  8. Just a question: when I soak black beans, I add warm water to cover the beans but the beans absorb the water and rise above the water line within a couple of hours. Should I add more water and whey or lemon juice so I can cover them again? I use the amounts indicated in Nourishing Traditions, but I figure that the beans should be covered by water and lemon/whey at all times, right? And, should I be rinsing and adding fresh water/whey at all during the 24 hour soaking period, or should I just let them soak in that same water for a day? Thanks!

    • I always use enough water to cover them completely and then up an inch or so. I eyeball the water and the whey/lemon juice a lot (bad Kendahl!), so I would say it’s mostly important to keep them covered.

  9. I’ve been wanting to soak and dehydrate beans so I don’t need to plan ahead before I use them. So with beans I should be able to dehydrate right after they are done soaking and store until I need them?

    Thanks!

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  4. [...] 1/2 cup coconut oil or butter (buy coconut oil here) 1/2 cup raw honey (buy raw honey here) 6 eggs, preferably pastured 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground (buy sea salt here) 2 teaspoons good vanilla 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 3/4 cup coconut flour (buy coconut flour here) 2 ripe bananas (this means they have spots!), mashed 1 cup chopped walnuts, preferably soaked and dehydrated, chopped (see how to soak and dehydrate nuts here) [...]

  5. [...] Pecan Crunch Topping: 1 cup almond flour (buy almond flour here) 1/2 cup honey (buy raw honey here) 1/2 cup butter (find grass-fed dairy here) 2 cups pecans, chopped, preferably soaked and dehydrated (buy nuts here) (see how to soak and dehydrate nuts here) [...]

  6. [...] 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (buy vanilla extract here) 1/4 almonds, finely chopped, preferably soaked and dehydrated (or buy soaked/dehydrated nuts [...]

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  8. [...] ease and benefit of using my dehydrator for a myriad of tasks: making yogurt, raising bread dough, soaking grains, nuts, and seeds overnight in a warm place, dehydrating those same grains, nuts, and seeds back to a crispy state, [...]

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  12. [...] If you can’t get hold of any buckwheat, these can be deliciously smooth without it. Here’s a great article on how to soak, sprout and dehydrate seeds. [...]

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  15. [...] organic extracts here) 1 tablespoon good bourbon 1 1/2 cups toasted and roughly chopped pecans (how to soak and dehydrate nuts here, where to buy good quality nuts [...]

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  17. [...] cranberries, pomegranate seeds, cacao nibs, and even some trail mix!  And many folks believe that soaking and dehydrating the nuts makes them even more nutritious.  (When I have it really together, I do [...]

  18. [...] Sprouted nuts and seeds are a favorite at our house. Sprouting nuts and seeds makes them more easily digestible and breaks down the anti-nutrient phytic acid. If you want to know more about WHY soaking and sprouting is best, Our Nourishing Roots has a great post on the topic HERE. [...]

  19. […] Real Food 101: How to Soak, Sprout, and Dehydrate Nuts Beans and Seeds by Our Nourishing Roots […]

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  21. […] To soak seeds simply cover them in salted water in a glass sealable jar overnight; drain the following morning and enjoy fresh or store in the fridge in a sealable container for later consumption. I often gently oven-roast these at a low temperature to dry them through before storing or eating. A dehydrator is an excellent investment for this purpose. See here for a helpful article. http://ournourishingroots.com/real-food-101-how-to-soak-sprout-and-dehydrate-nuts-beans-and-seeds/ […]

  22. […] Broth and Savory Sources: white beans (soaked and cooked in stock), beef, chicken, and shellfish stock, baked potatoes, baked acorn squash, […]

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