How to Soak Grains (and Why You Should)

How to Soak Grains - and Why You Should Be Doing It. Soaking grains is simple and important - come find out why!

Have you heard about soaking grains for better digestion?

I hadn’t either until about 3 years ago.

The road to healthy eating sure is a long one.  One step at a time.  There is so much information and always something new to learn.

Take me, for example.  I thought I was a healthy eater when –

  • I stopped eating meat and ate an extremely low fat diet.  Then
  • I switched from processed foods to whole wheat flour and less refined sweeteners.  Then
  • I started grinding my own grain….oh, I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.  And perhaps I am overwhelming you as well :-).

Before you feel intimidated by anything that I write about our family’s nutrition, let me be clear that we are all a work in progress in all arenas of life.  We’re all trying to get ourselves and/or our families to eat better, and we need to be happy about what we have accomplished and just press ahead making the most of what we know at a pace that doesn’t exhaust us.

In any case, somewhere along the line I heard about the importance of soaking grains.

There’s a lot of information on grains, and about soaking them.  There are even folks who think that eating grains is not healthy at all.  I haven’t come down on either side of this argument, but it seems to me that there is a lot of reason to cut back, especially on the refined (white) flours.  Without getting too involved in the discussion, here are my basic thoughts, in a debatable order of importance:

Making the Grains in Your Diet Healthier

  • Stop eating (or at least greatly reduce) refined flours that are devoid of all nutrients.  That means no white flour, and even no tapioca starch (for those of you on gluten free diets).  These basically wreck your digestive system.
  • Start grinding your own grain
  • Eat less gluten
  • Start soaking your grain
  • Eat less grain (us westerners, in particular, need to cut back)
  • And somewhere in that list should be “Buy organic, or at least ‘certified chemical free’ (CCF) grains, whenever possible”.

I’ll touch on all of these at another time, but for today, let’s talk about soaking grainsquick and easy how to do it.  Tomorrow I’ll share a great soaked grains recipe, Baked Doughnuts, which includes gluten-free and sugar-free options.

Why Soak Your Grains

Basically, think about what first goes in the ground in order to grow a plant — seeds, right?  Well, the seeds that we eat are seeds, nuts, and grains.  All of these things have protective coatings that need to be removed for the seeds to germinate (of course, we remove the shells of the nuts and seeds before eating), but there are also enzyme inhibitors found in whole grains (and in seeds, nuts and legumes) that prevent them from being digested properly.

In my post about soaking nuts and seeds I addressed that food group, and in how to de-gas beans, I talked about making beans more digestible.  Well, now it’s time to work on the grains.

When you soak your grains, you are working on the enzyme inhibitors to make the grains easier to digest.  Some people find that they do not have a problem (or as much of a problem) with gluten when they soak their gluten-containing grains first.  I’ve found that soaked grain recipes have a lighter texture and seem to be easier on our digestive systems.

So my decision for now is to soak the grains when I remember and when I have time.  Sometimes I forget and bake the recipe just the way that it was written.  I used to find myself really stressing out when I realized that I hadn’t planned for soaking or had completely forgotten about it.  But stress is clearly the bigger problem here so —

stress not and soak when you can :-).

I know for sure that soaking nuts and seeds is beneficial, and so is the soaking of beans before cooking in addition to the addition of ajwain or epazote to the cooking water.  However, the grain soaking thing (exactly how to do it) is still a bit up in the air from the research that I have read.

Here’s the most common way and –

Easy Tips for How To Soak Your Grains

  • Combine your grains (either whole or in cut, flaked, or flour form) with liquids (see next step), sweeteners and fats.
  • Replace 1 Tbsp of your liquid with an acidic medium (vinegar, lemon juice, or whey).  Of course, if the liquid is already acidic or cultured, then you can simply skip this step.
  • Allow your mixture to sit at room temperature for at least 12 and for up to 24 hours.  When I am rushed, 7 hours works for me :-)
  • Add the remaining ingredients for your recipe and proceed as close as possible to the original instructions.

With some stiffer recipes (like pie crust, thick bars, or my doughnuts) it will be hard to mix at this point.  However, if you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease and make sure that all of the ingredients get mixed in well (like salt and baking soda….ever get an icky clump of one of those in your baked goods) you can use this technique for any grain-based recipe.

The Need for Phytase

Soaking grains using the above method works fine for grains that are high in phytase (buckwheat, wheat, or rye), but for grains that are low in phytase (oats, rice, millet, corn, etc.) you need to add a high-phytase grain to the low-phytase grain in order to have the soaking be beneficial.

It appears that substituting approximately 10% of the low-phytase grain / flour with a high-phytase source is sufficient.  (Source)  For example, if you are making a cake that calls for 3 cups of flour, then you would remove approximately 1/3 of a cup of the flour and replace it with wheat, rye, or buckwheat if you are gluten-free.

There is actually some really interesting information that recently came out about soaking and I hope to share that with you in the near future.  So stay tuned!

Meanwhile, soak when you can and trust God for the results until better information comes along.:-)

How about you?  Do you soak your grains?

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  1. I too love to soak & dehydrate my grains. I found it easier to soak my grains for 8 hours, rinse them, & then dehydrate for 8 hours, similar to your method to soak & dehydrate nuts & seeds. Then I can mill my grains & use them just like I did before S & D them. I soak in a gallon jar & after drying, return them to the jar. Then I know they are ready to go & I always have a batch ‘in the bank’ so to speak. I do this w/ my bread grains ( Prairie Gold wheat, spelt & Kamut), & my all purpose grains ( spelt, brown rice & barley) For a complete explanation, I have an instructional video series on my website. Thanks for listening. Hope I haven’t used up too much space.

    Really appreciate your articles & recipes. I have used several in my classes, always pointing folks to your column.

    • Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I wonder if that works as well but the literature on soaking grains is very mixed. Some grains will need grains w/ phytase though which would complicate matters. Thanks again.

  2. swapnil kadam says:

    Thanks. This is a very good post. Just one question.

    When you soak the grain overnight, what you do with the remaining water in which they are soaked? Do you throw it? Will throwing the water not loose some nutritional values of the grain?

    • When you soak, you soak using the liquid in the recipe so there isn’t any left over. If you soak a different grain, I guess you could have some left over (if you use too much). I have no idea about some of the nutritional value being lost. I would guess it could happen. Good question:)!