Besides improving their texture and flavor, beans, other legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds need to be soaked to make them easier to digest and, therefore, more healthful. These items are full of anti-nutrients called phytic acid (or phytates), which protect the seeds until they are able to grow. Unfortunately, they also prevent our bodies from absorbing certain vitamins and minerals (hence the term “anti-nutrient”). Soaking, a practice done by our ancestors and carried on by today’s traditional peoples, removes a majority of these phytates. This is because the seeds are receiving what they need to grow, thereby neutralizing the toxins. This, in turn, makes them easier to digest and more healthful to our bodies.
In today’s post, I’m going to go over each kind of seed (beans, other legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds) and explain how to properly soak them. Towards the end of this post, I have placed a brief Q&A section where common soaking questions are answered. And, at the bottom of this post, I included a printable with a soaking chart and the soaking directions.
The information in this post reflects what I have thus far learned. It is subject to expansion as I learn more.
Beans and Other Legumes
- Rinse the dried legumes in a colander and remove any dirt, rocks, rotten legumes, or any other foreign matter.
- Pour the legumes into a bowl that could hold at least twice as many legumes as you’re using (they’ll expand a lot).
- Cover with about warm water (140 degrees Fahrenheit is the recommended temperature; I just heat the water until just before it’s too uncomfortable to touch) in a 2:1 ratio (2 parts water, 1 part legumes).
- Cover with a lid and allow to soak at room temperature (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) for a at least 8 to 24 hours (see printable chart toward the bottom of this post). Unless otherwise noted in the chart, more is soaking time is okay, but I probably wouldn’t exceed 48 hours unless you are intentionally trying to sprout them.
- Halfway through soaking, drain and rinse the beans and cover with more water in a 2:1 ratio (2 parts water, 1 part legumes).
- Once the beans have finished soaking, drain and rinse off any scum.
- Add water and legumes in a 2:1 ratio (2 parts water, 1 part legumes) to a kettle.
- Bring to a hard-rolling boil (a boil that you can’t stir down) and allow to boil hard for at least 5 minutes (especially important with kidney beans as this removes extra toxins from them). Skim off any more foam that rises to the top. Also remove any obvious “floaters” (if they’re floating, they’ve probably begun to rot). Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the kettle. Keep it simmering (tiny bubbles). If too much water evaporates, add more boiling water (keep a tea kettle or another pot nearby to boil the additional water before adding it to the legumes). Cook the legumes for 30 minutes to 4 hours (or more) until tender.
- Test the legumes at regular intervals (I check about every half hour) to check doneness.
- Once tender, drain and use as the recipe calls for. Alternatively, you could allow the legumes to cool to room temperature then freeze in airtight containers at this point. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature and use just like you would canned legumes.
- For flour, in a bowl, mix together all the flour and all the liquid (except maybe reserve about 1/8 to 1/4 cup for activating yeast if necessary) that a recipe calls for (but no other ingredients). For whole grains (to be used for flour, etc.), cover the grains until there is about 2 inches water standing over the surface of the grains. For most other grains (rice, millet, oats, etc.), place half the amount of liquid the recipe or preparation calls for and all the grain in a bowl (for example, oats take 2 parts water to 1 part oats to cook; when soaking, add 1 part water to 1 part oats). If you’re making quinoa, abide by the soaking and cooking directions in this post instead.
- Cover and let soak for 8 to 24 hours (see the chart at the bottom of this post).
- After soaking, there is no need to rinse (most of the phytates should have been destroyed). For flour, add remaining ingredients and prepare as usual. For whole grains being used for things such as bread, use as you wish (use wet or dehydrate for grinding flour). For most other grains, bring remaining liquid to a boil, add soaked grains, and cook. Since the grains have been soaked, they’ll take less time to cook. Skim any scum that rises to the top.
Nuts and Seeds
- Fill a large bowl with water and nuts or seeds in a 2:1 ratio (2 parts water to 1 part dried nuts or seeds). If the recipe in which you will be using the nuts calls for the nuts to be chopped, chop before soaking (this makes phytate removal more effective).
- Add 1 teaspoon sea salt per cup of dried nuts or seeds.
- Allow to soak for at least 6 to 24 hours as per the directions in the chart at the bottom of this post (exceptions: cashews and almonds should be soaked for no longer than 6 hours because their consistency and flavor can change if soaked for too long; brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and hemp seeds should not be soaked at all).
- Drain and rinse to remove excess salt.
Q: What if you don’t have a dehydrator? Can you just dehydrate them in the oven?
A: I highly recommend you invest in a dehydrator as only a dehydrator will ensure proper dehydration (on Amazon, some dehydrators are as low as $40). However, you can dry the items in your oven if you want to. It is recommended that these items NOT be heated to a temperature above 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If your oven does not have a super low setting (most ovens don’t drop below 200 degrees), you can dehydrate them on the lowest setting with the oven door propped open. Do keep track of the internal temperature, though (try to keep it around 100 degrees Fahrenheit). To check the internal temperature, scoop it into a pile then insert a thermometer into the pile (don’t let the thermometer touch the pan, though). Stir the item now and again during drying to ensure even drying.
Q: Shouldn’t I add an acidic medium to the soaking process?
A: You can if you’d like to. The recommendation is 1 tablespoon acid (whey, lemon juice, kefir, cultured yogurt, apple cider vinegar, etc.) per 1 cup of dried beans, other legumes, grains, nuts, or seeds. The point is that this might assist in the removal of phytates. However, it is not necessary (soaking alone is sufficient) and some research shows that some dairy acid mediums can actually harm the phytic acid removal, and any acidic medium can alter the flavor and texture of the item (beans, for example, might remain somewhat crunchy).
Q: How do I prep and cook quinoa?
A: The chart gives a brief detailing, but I highly recommend following Jaime’s post about properly prepping and cooking quinoa because quinoa can sometimes be picky!
Q: Do I need to rinse the item after soaking?
A: Not unless you want to. Soaking neutralizes the phytic acid, making it safe to consume. But it doesn’t hurt any if you do rinse it. The only exception would be beans. They need rinsed because the scum that builds up can cause gas.
Download Soaking Chart
Top Image Credit: Free Digital Photos