The Value of Soaking your Whole Grains

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Using whole grains in your cooking/baking is the first and one the most significant step you can take towards improving your nutrition. Whole grains include: whole wheat, kamut, spelt, brown rice, oats, any many others. Unlike white flour, whole grains keep the bran & germ together and in tact, which supplies you with all the nutrients. It is important to note that making the switch to whole grains is easier than you think. In fact, many recipes can be switched white flour with whole wheat flour without any difficulty. But, just because you have or are in the process of switching to healthier grains does not mean you are getting all the nutritional value. Have you ever considered that whole wheat and other whole grains might be very difficult for your body to digest?

Grinding Your Own Flour

Fresh flour contains all the vitamins and minerals missing in commercial flours. It includes the bran which is vital for a healthy colon and weight control. It is economical. Within 24 hours up to 40% of the nutrients have oxidized. In three days up to 80% of nutrients have oxidized, so using freshly grained flours preserves all the wonderful nutrients. Read more benefits here.

I personally use a NutriMill grinder. You can read more about this particular grinder at Pleasant Hill Grain Company online (www.pleasanthillgrain.com). It has worked splendidly for me! They have wonderful customer service as well. This is the one of the best investments you can make towards becoming more healthy and nutritious in your cooking. Check out this article to compare different mills. I store mine on my kitchen counter, because it is small and convenient for easy access. I have ground everything from beans, to grains, to corn in it.

Phytic Acid Prevents Digestion

Unfortunately, whole grains contain phytic acid in the bran of the grain which combines with key minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc and prevents their absorption in the intestinal tract. This makes it more difficult to digest properly. Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting the grain before cooking or baking will neutralize the phytic acid, releasing these nutrients for absorption.

This process allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins, including gluten. For many, this may lessen their sensitivity or allergic reactions to particular grains. Everyone will benefit, nevertheless, from the release of nutrients and greater ease of digestion.

How to Soak

1. The first stage of preparation is to soak the whole grain flour in an acid medium and liquid. The basic idea is to soak all the flour with the liquid ingredients and 1 Tbsp of an acid medium per cup of water called for in the recipe.

- If the substance is too dry to mix well (i.e. more flour than can mix evenly with the liquids), you can also add the liquid oil and sweetener (honey, maple syrup or agave) called for in the recipe to the mixture. This will help maintain a moist consistency that is easy to combine with the other ingredients after soaking.

- Acid mediums options include: cultured buttermilk, milk kefir, coconut kefir, water kefir, cultured yogurt, whey, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Dairy product acid mediums must be cultured!

- Make sure to use warm filtered water/liquids for soaking. Warm water is necessary for the soaking process to be effective. Warm the water/liquids until they are bath water temperature before adding to the grain/flour.

- Brown rice, buckwheat, and millet do not have as high of phytate content and thus need only be soaked for 7 hours (these are great last minute grains if you forget to soak, won’t be a big problem – also recommend purchasing brown rice pasta for this reason as well)

-All other grains (whole wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, etc) should be soaked from 12-24 hours, with oats have the highest level and best soaked for 24 hours.

2. Leave your grains soaking at room temperature on your counter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, or with a plate to prevent it from drying out (especially in the case of a dough). After soaking, you add the remaining ingredients, if required, and proceed with recipe!

Sue Gregg shares two other benefits to soaking: “There are two other advantages of the two-stage process. Several hours of soaking serves to soften the grain, resulting in baked goods lighter in texture, closer to the texture of white flour. The longer the soaking, the less necessary is baking powder. Baking soda, alone,¬†will give enough rise. Secondly, this is a great step in convenience, dividing the task into two shorter time periods, cutting the time needed to prepare the recipe right before cooking and baking when you feel
rushed to get food on the table.”

Another benefit I have found to soaking is that it absorbs the liquids and expands the grains, making a larger quantity in the end. This is very true especially with my soaking oatmeal. If I forget to soak, it results in a smaller batch, but if I soak it increases the quantity and is more satisfying and filling as well. Soaked baked goods and cereals are always lighter in texture as well, and not dense as their unsoaked wheat¬†counterparts. Don’t quite know why this happens, but it extends the food budget further! Whole grains overall are much more satisfying and fill you up longer than white products…so once again, more value for your money!

Soaking Cereals

Simply soak your cereals in half the quantity of water called for in the recipe with the 1 Tbsp acid medium per cup of water for 12-24 hours. When you are ready to cook, boil the other half of the water before adding the soaked grain. It will be ready in 5 minutes!

For our regular twice a week breakfast of oatmeal, I soak 1 cup of rolled oats with 1 cup of water and 1-2 Tbls of kefir. I let it sit covered overnight. In the morning I put 1 cup of water to boil on the stove. When it is rolling, I add the soaked oats and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so. We then add ground flax seeds, dried cranberries, chopped apples and sometimes a little mashed bananas and there you have an excellent high fiber breakfast.

Soaking Quick Breads

For quick breads (waffles, pancakes, muffins, etc) add 1 Tbsp of an acid medium (best with cultured buttermilk or kefir) for every cup of water called for in the recipe, cover and soak as recommended above. If the recipe calls for buttermilk already, soak in the buttermilk or replace with kefir (which is my favorite!).

I replace buttermilk with kefir completely most of the time without problem. If desired, you can also add all the other liquid ingredients besides the egg, leavenings, and salt in the soaking mixture as well. This helps maintain a moist dough. After soaking, I simply add the egg, leavenings and salt called for in the recipe. Sue Gregg incorporates this idea in all her breakfast recipes. See recipe below. She has other sample recipes on her website.

Whole Grain Pancake/Waffle Recipe – includes instructions on soaking! This is simply delicious!

Soaking Beans

Beans should be rinsed then soaked with 1 Tbsp whey or lemon juice per cup of beans. After soaking, drain, rinse and start with fresh water. Follow the recommended quantities as you would normally.

Soaking Yeast Breads

Soak flour, and 1 Tbsp vinegar or kefir for every cup of water called for in the recipe (leave 1/2 cup of water for activating yeast later). I like to also add the oil and sweeteners to maintain moist dough, otherwise cover tightly with plastic wrap. After soaking, active the yeast in the remaining water with a tsp of honey. Proceed with the recipe.

My Homemade Bread Recipe – with soaking instructions!

Soaking Brown Rice

Combine your rice and all the water called for in the recipe with 1-2 Tbsp of acid medium and let soak for 7 hours. I combine these ingredients in the pot I will cook it in. When ready, simply turn it on and cook as usual. My recipe is to soak 1 cup brown rice to 2 1/4 cup water, with 2 Tbsp of kefir. Heat to boiling and then turn to low heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

For more recipes, view the recipe index. Most of my recipes include soaking instructions.

Soaking is actually quite simple. The key: thinking ahead! Write it in your schedule! Each morning after breakfast and making dinner preparations, I also ask myself if I need to soak anything for the next day. I quickly combine it and let it sit on my counter.

Further Reading

Urban Homemaker articles on Soaking here & here
How I use kefir and the wonderful benefits

Tammy’s Kefir Making Instructions
Two Stage Process - introduction to soaking by Sue Gregg – I drew much of the above information from this article
Sue Gregg’s Breakfast cookbook is my favorite intro to different whole grains and how to include them in your diet. This book shows you how to grind grains in your blender for many morning breakfasts. Works wonderfully!
Be Kind to Your Grains – article by Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions on why we should soak our grains

Two other good options that accomplish the same benefits as soaking, include using sprouted flour or sourdough methods.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

262 Responses to The Value of Soaking your Whole Grains

  1. Harlan December 8, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    Hello to all, it’s truly a good for me to pay a quick visit this site, it contains
    priceless Information.

  2. Kris November 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Any concern over using dairy (whey, buttermilk, etc) since that limits the iron we can absorb? I was thinking it may be better to soak with lemon juice or vinegar.

    Also, after you soak to make bread, the grains will have to be dry before milling–from what I’ve heard. Couldn’t I just grind and then soak?

    Thanks!

  3. Derick July 12, 2013 at 9:34 am #

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  4. bill March 30, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    dear passionate homemaking- doing the soaking method with whole wheat flour, does one need to add vital wheat gluten and/or dough conditioner to the dough? thanks, bill

  5. Latoya March 6, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    Hello! I realize this is sort of off-topic but I needed to ask.
    Does building a well-established blog such as yours require a lot of work?
    I am brand new to running a blog however I do write
    in my diary every day. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my own experience and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

  6. Julie February 18, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    I just made millet bread and i used a half cup of raw millet and didn’t rinse it! Is the bread okay to eat without doing that?

  7. Farzana December 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Hi there ! Thanks for posting this, I find it very informative. I have a question and wonder if you (or someone else) might be able to help me. I have tried the soaking technique on a few occasions. When I add the rest of the ingredients to my soaked dough, why is the dough EXTREMELY wet and watery? Basically, it doesnt hold a shape at all! I use the exact same liquids/flour as I would if I didnt soak the flour. Any tips or ideas would be greatly appreciated. I have mild sensitivity to wheat and gluten but really wanted to try this out. Maybe . . . just maybe I might be okay with it if I soaked the flour first. Thanks !

  8. Jennifer October 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    So, if I am not able to purchase a grinder right now, if I buy whole wheat flour from the store and soak it before making my own bread, isn’t that still a lot healthier and easier for my body to digest compared to store bought whole wheat bread?

  9. puff de led September 1, 2012 at 10:14 am #

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  10. Elen Scheliga August 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,
    I’ve been reading a lot about this matter, and I had some information that soaking in water with vineger or any other acid, would not only lower the phytic acid but also release many minerals from the grain/cereal in the water we throw away. Do you know something about this?
    Thank you for imput
    Elen

  11. Charles August 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Whoops! My muffin recipe below – 1 tspn baking soda should be added to the sugar/salt solution.

  12. Charles August 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Thank you Lindsay for this useful article. For some time now I have been gathering knowledge about the soaking of seeds (seeds,grains,nuts,beans) to make the nutrients more readily absorbable. The following may be useful:
    1)I use a chilli-bin (Eski) placed at the bottom of a hot water cupboard in which a light bulb (sitting in a tin can) is placed (the cord passes through a groove cut in the edge of the bin). The power of the bulb is selected by trial and error to achieve the desired temperature. e.g. for me: 11W gives a temp. of 26C for my soaked muffins (and kwark – German cottage cheese).
    2)Muffins: 1 cup wheat/rye grains freshly ground + 1/4 cup rolled oats, to 1 cup buttermilk – mixed by hand with a spoon – stiff mixture – soaked for 24 hrs. Add spices (ginger,allspice,cinnamon), egg (1 or2) whisked with 20 ml olive oil – mix by hand. Dissolve 15 ml sugar + 1/2 tsp salt in a little boiled water and mix in with the above. Ladle into 6 muffin tins and bake 35 min at 180 C.
    It is not easy to obtain perfection, but the resultant healthy food makes it worthwhile.

  13. Bill Coyne July 20, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Is it okay to grind whole beans into a flour, soak them overnight, drain the liquid, rinse, and then eat the grain raw mixed with ground grains? TIA.

  14. Lane July 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Because of a suppressed immune system from kidney transplantation I cannot use dairy products or risk any bacterial growth at all. Would substituting lemon juice or vinegar produce any bacteria that you know of, or simply begin the breakdown process?

  15. Gretchen Ruby May 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Hello!
    I use the Yeasted Buttermilk Bread recipe in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. Recently, I’ve found out that my 5 mos. old has an allergy to raw milk! Eeeek! Is there a way I can alter this recipe so that I don’t use milk for soaking?
    Thanks!

  16. Jude May 19, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    I appreciate this article, and I was just referencing back to it to share it with a friend. I noticed the link to Sally Fallon’s article at the bottom is broken. Here is the correct link in case anyone needs it or you want to update it: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/be-kind-to-your-grains

  17. Hallucinogen April 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    This article is written by big newbie who even confuses phytates with phytase,

    there is no amount of time of soaking oats or brown rice that will be effective in reducing Phytates(phytic acid) in them because they have no PHYTASE, etc .

    Thank you for trying !

    also

    I’m a professional Bio-Chemist and Naturopath-Nutritionist,
    i did a LOT of experimenting myself,
    and i have read about using cultured products like Kefir as acidic medium, and i also know about calcium in it and it acting as a buffer,

    I am here to wave off your delusions about not wanting to use Kefir whey-base liquid as acidic medium,
    First of all, EVERYTHiNG, including Calcium in Kefir whey liquid is already stabilized, and it will ONLY get SOURER by producing MORE Lactic acid with time at room temperature (that’s how Kefir is ripened)
    and SECOND of all, Whatever Calcium is already present IN THE LiQUiD will have a Very Great affinity to bind with the freshly freed Phytic Acid from phytates in the grain, Thus NEUTRALiZING it,
    which means it WONT bind to other minerals in your digestive tract anymore, especially to calcium !

    There you have it kids, – the one and only thing left is figuring out the PERFECT TEMPERATURE for homemade Kefir + grains that contain phytase (or + freshly ground flour ),
    I believe ~22C would be optimal for 12-24hours in this,
    instead of 40C+, because 22C is the perfect temperature for Kefir Equilibrium,
    and you Do Not want to send it out of balance, because it might promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria !

    ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT Dillema ->
    We have to resolve the Exact Location of Phytase in grains, and i think all the Phytase is mostly found in the BRAN and outer shell of the grain, together with most of phytic acid…
    i am reading this right now to help me answer this Question – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1198109/pdf/biochemj00898-0118.pdf

    Anyways, its most likely ALL in the outer shell which Does Not grind into powder in a normal Coffee Blender
    !
    Sooo, what you do is you grind you fresh rye flour in coffee blender, for a relatively short time,
    then sift out all the bran (which will be a hooping 40-50% !)
    then you take filtered 40C water and soak All that bran in water for an hour, then you put it all in a super clean blender, blend it very well for 5+mins,
    then strain all the liquid from it and just use that liquid for soak + fresh Kefir whey liquid !

    The Probiotic bacteria blend in the soaking process is very important alongside presence of phytase, they make phytase much more active (:

    ENJOY ! – For Your Health .

    • tina March 6, 2013 at 8:58 am #

      dear hallucinogen, while i appreciate your knowledge, and was looking forward to some scientific facts, your comment served to confuse me more. can you boil that down a bit for us newbies?

  18. Susan March 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Gluten-Free Flatbread Recipe made from Soaked Whole Grains (yeast-free, vegan)
    http://www.nourishingmeals.com/2012/03/gluten-free-flatbread-recipe-made-from.html
    Place the brown rice and millet into a bowl and cover with plenty of filtered water. Soak overnight or for at least 6 hours. For additional benefit, add 2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar to the soak water.

    Sounds like this recipe will work very well.

  19. Carly March 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Hi! Love your site!!! I had just read that too much calcium used in soaking grains can inhibit how much phytic acid is removed. You know anything about that? I’m just starting to soak all my grains & sometimes they just don’t sit well when soaked for some reason. After I read this article http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/super-digestible-nutrient-dense-waffles/, I wondered if that may be why. Just wondering if you’ve heard anything like this & what your thoughts are on that matter. Thanks! :)

  20. Lisa March 14, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    Does it matter what type of bowl you use to soak? I would tend to use stainless steal, but is there a concern of some chemical reaction with the acid and metal??? Would glass or ceramic be better?

    • Lindsay March 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Yes, you want to avoid stainless steel and only use glass, plastic or wooden.

  21. Kari March 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    What a wonderful and in-depth post on soaking grains! It’s probably the most informative info I’ve found so far – thank you! I am a Certified Health and Nutrition Consultant and I am in my 3rd week of discussing grains on my blog. I found your article very helpful and posted and excerpt and link to this article in my latest post about Preparing Grains Properly. It’s great to see so many bloggers sharing this important information about eating and preparing traditional foods! I love your blog and find myself tweeting your articles and sharing them on facebook! Keep up the awesome work!

  22. Sunshine February 17, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    For the record you DO need to soak the grains/oats with warm water. Cold water soaking does not work in neutralising the various enzymes/phytic acid.

    I quote your own words “- Make sure to use warm filtered water/liquids for soaking. Warm water is necessary for the soaking process to be effective. Warm the water/liquids until they are bath water…”

    Sunshine

  23. Sarah February 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I just found your website and I have been loving it. My sisters just got into soaking our grains and I am happy to see that we are not the only crazy ones out there :)

  24. Sunshine February 15, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    ok Thx

  25. Sunshine February 14, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    I have been soaking oats in raw milk and raw milk kefir straight out the fridge. Once I have added the cool kefir&milk I leave it at room temperature for 24 hours. Now I find I have some mineral deficiencies and I was wondering if I am soaking the oats incorrectly? How important is the temperature of the soak? Should I be warming up the milk/kefir soak prior to adding it to the oats?

    • Lindsay February 15, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      Yes, ideally you should warm up the milk to warm temperature for soaking. I use warm water with the addition of the cold kefir from the fridge for best results. I do not know if this would make any difference for mineral deficiencies though.

    • sicl February 15, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      (slightly off topic) mineral deficiencies are often caused by malabsorption, Celiac Disease is one difficult to diagnosis cause. Be sure to talk to the HCP who diagnosed your mineral deficiencies about ways to correct it. I have found having a really good (as in smart, has experience and interest in the area of concern and you can talk to easily) Naturopathic Physician, Certified Nutritionist, or Registered Dietitian, is very important part of a health care team. Good luck!

  26. Trish February 11, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Dear Lindsay,

    I have several muffin recipes that I like, and the only liquid in them is milk (i.e. 3/4 C milk to 1.5 C flour & 3/4 C oats). One recipe has only orange juice (vegan orange spelt muffins).

    I would like to soak them before baking, what would you do in these situations to convert them to a soaking recipe?

    Thanks for all you do!

  27. Heather February 9, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I have a pumpkin whole wheat muffin recipe that I would like to try soaking…. should I wait to add the canned pumpkin or let it soak w/ the flour?

    • Lindsay February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      I would add the pumpkin after soaking.

  28. Meaghan February 9, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    I just soaked my first grains yesterday and it was amazingly simple. My husband loved how the brown rice turned out (he has not been too into my healthy changes so we are taking it slow). I also soaked some grains for cookies. My question is about cultured yogurt. What is the difference between cultured yogurt and regular yogurt from the store? How do I know?

  29. tina January 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    lot’s of women i know, often health conscious home makers, have mild bone loss. we’re all scratching our heads over what could be the cause. i’m wondering if eating more whole grains (w/o sprouting or soaking) may be the culprit. possibly it could be the basis of the swell of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. perhaps soaking and sprouting could be the answer to these 2 big issues. i’ve recently begun sprouting my wheat, then drying and grinding it. does anyone else do the drying and grinding after sprouting?

    • tina January 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      ok, i just read thru comments and saw that others do sprout, dry and grind.

  30. vincent January 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,

    I understand brown rice has to soak for 7 hours.
    Can this be reduced even by cooking the rice first for a few minutes, and than soak for maybe one hour?

    • Katie January 30, 2012 at 6:55 am #

      From what I’ve read, cooking the grain kills the enzymes that lower the phytic acid (which is what keeps you from digesting well). I’m not sure if this is counteracted by the acid medium, but to soak rice you just have to think ahead the morning of or night before.

  31. Sarah Houser January 14, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    My husband and I live overseas as missionaries. The country we live in (so far) we have been unable to find whole wheat easily or at a cost we can afford (it is hard to find and expensive if you do). I am used to making our own bread so if/when we can get whole wheat it comes to us from our parents shipping it to us. My question is: Is there ANY nutritional value to pre-ground store bought wheat? Or, if that is all we can get (and it has been shipped for several weeks) does it not matter? Any other ideas? Thank you!

    • Julie January 16, 2012 at 7:19 am #

      Sarah, I live in China and had a similar problem. I found wheat berries at my local market, my market also has a Chinese medicine booth that grinds anything (I mean anything! into powder), last week I bought some wheat berries, took them home and picked out the rocks and then took them to the Chinese medicine pulverizer and they ground it into flour for me. It was awesome!

      So far, I have made whole wheat pizza, tortillas and bagels with the flour. Thanks Lindsay for the great recipes and inspiration!!

      Off to get some whole wheat bread soaking. I love that your recipe calls for millet because it is readily available here and I’ve been wanting to experiment with it.