Grain Sprouting 101

Well, I think it’s time for a lesson on sprouting.  Don’t click away, it’s really, really simple, really!  You don’t need special equipment or special knowledge – just bowls, strainers, and fresh, clean water, plus whatever you are sprouting, of course.  I’ll focus here on whole grains, but the same concepts apply to beans, nuts, and seeds.  I’ll also focus on the simplest way I know.

So, why bother sprouting?  Think about what happens when you buy seeds to plan in your garden, or when someone does.  They are dormant, waiting for the proper conditions to bloom.  Sprouting opens up the seeds so vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and phytochemicals are active and available.  In addition, sprouting is thought to neutralize or at least decrease anti-nutrients, phytic acid in the case of grains, which are compounds in food that interfere with nutrient absorption.   And, it makes the grains more alkalizing.  So, essentially, you get a lot more bang for your buck by soaking and sprouting your grains.  And, honestly, it’s hardly a bother…

What will you do with your sprouted grains?  There are a lot of options.  They can be steamed and eaten as you would any cooked grain, with the added benefit of all that extra nutrition.  They can be used to make bread – sourdough, yeasted, tea breads, or raw breads.  They can be dried in a food dehydrator or low oven and ground  into flour, or made into raw crackers or cereals.  You can dehydrate them and store them in a jar to use in any of the above ways at your convenience.

What you’ll need:

  • bowls large enough to accommodate the food you want to sprout, plus water to cover by at least a couple inches
  • wire strainers (or sprouting jars*) large enough to accommodate the sprouted grains, which will have expanded to take up 2-3 times the space of the original quantity; or nut milk bags for very small grains like amaranth and teff
  • plenty of fresh, clean water
  • if you are going to dry and store your sprouts, a food dehydrator or trays for your oven

*It’s not necessary to buy special sprouting jars.  If you are going to spend money on something, I would recommend buying additional wire mesh strainers, which can be used for other things too, or using mason jars with a screen inserted to allow for easier draining.  You can purchase the screens, which fit into the part of the mason jar lid that screws onto the jar, at McGuckins if you are here in Boulder and I’m sure they are available at most kitchen stores.

You can sprout as many grains as will fit into your sprouting apparatus; we’ll use 1 cup here just for the sake of simplicity.  If you are using a larger quantity of grains, you’ll want to increase the water level above the grains proportionally.

  • 1 cup of whole raw grain, such as quinoa, buckwheat (not roasted), amaranth, teff, or barley, wheat, spelt, rye, etc if you eat gluten grains
  • clean (not tap) water
  1. Rinse the grain, then put it in a bowl or sprouting jar with enough water to cover the grain by 1-2 inches. The amount of water absorbed will depend on the type of grain and the amount used; if you use a larger quantity, you’ll want to cover the grain by 3-4 inches or more.
  2. Set the soaking grain aside to soak overnight. Some grains can be soaked for shorter periods of time before sprouting, but I find it simplest to just soak them all for 6-8 hours.
  3. Drain the soaked grain, then rinse thoroughly. If you are using a strainer, you can just spray the grains, stirring from the bottom to be sure all the grains are rinsed.  If you are using a sprouting jar, you can fill it with water, swish it around, then drain; repeating this a few times to get a thorough rinse.  I find it much easier to use tap water for the rinsing, then I give it a final rinse in filtered water.
  4. Set the rinsed grains aside.  Put the strainer over a bowl to catch drips; or invert the sprouting jar over a bowl.  You want to be sure that the grains are damp, but not sitting in water, so they need to be in something that will allow draining and a little air flow.
  5. Rinse the sprouting grains periodically until they are sprouted to the desired length. A general rule of thumb is to stop sprouting when the “tail” is about the size of the grain, but this is a matter of preference.  Just the process of soaking the grain begins the sprouting process and results in the benefits of sprouting.  Longer sprouting times increase nutrient levels, but you may prefer the taste of the shorter sprouts.  Either way, the nutrition of your grain will be significantly improved over the dormant grain.
  6. Use sprouts immediately, store them covered in your refrigerator for 2-3 days, or spread them out on dehydrator sheets or baking trays, then put in dehydrator or oven to dry. If you have a dehydrator, the grains will dry well at 105-110 degrees.  If you are using your oven, turn it to its lowest temperature (this varies considerably depending on the age of the oven), allow it to heat up, then turn it off and put the grains in to dry.  You can turn it back on periodically to warm it up, but try to keep it at a temperature where you can easily touch the trays with your bare hands without getting burned.  Even if the lowest setting is 300 degrees, as it is on my oven, you don’t have to let it reach that heat.  Stir the grains around periodically and, if you need to use the oven, just take them out before heating it up, then put them back in when you are finished and it’s cooled down a bit.
  7. Store dried grains in sealed containers (mason jars are great for this) and keep them in your pantry.  They will keep quite well.

Several recipes on my blog use soaked and/or sprouted grains; Sprouted Lemon Poppyseed Bread is a fun one!


  1. […] a great how-to on grain sprouting […]

  2. […] be sure to put them over a bowl or tray to catch any drips. For more information on sprouting, see this post on my original recipe […]

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