The first time I made sprouts, it was by accident—I left soaked garbanzo beans in the fridge too long and they started to grow little green tendrils. (Which, as you’ll see later, is not even supposed to happen!) With uncertainty, I sampled one, and they turned out to be a delicious alternative to the cooked and unsprouted beans.
Health Benefits Galore
Raw food advocates have been touting the health benefits of sprouts for ages. They have a higher nutrient content than unsprouted seeds, and often carry unique textures and flavors compared to cooked versions.
And with the recent recalls of sprouts due to contamination with salmonella, making sprouts at home might be a safer alternative to buying them in the store. Contaminants can be killed if sprouts are heated, but we also like to eat them raw—on sandwiches, in salads, and as a garnish.
Here’s a quick do-it-yourself guide to sprouting your own beans, seeds, or nuts at home. You can sprout almost anything that grows into a plant. My seeds of choice this week were lentils and quinoa.
5 Easy Steps
The basic steps for sprouting are as follows:
- Soak. (Generally, seeds are soaked overnight for around 8-14 hours. The lentils fit into that category; however, quinoa only needs 2-4 hours to soak.)
- Drain and rinse. (After soaking, the seeds have absorbed water and can be left under a moist towel to rest.)
- Sit. (After about a day, you should start to see small sprouts. The quinoa only needed 12 hours to sprout—and after a few more rinses, was ready to eat!)
- Rinse and repeat steps 2-3. (To get bigger sprouts, rinse your sprouts once a day until they are the desired size.)
- Refrigerate. (This halts the sprouting process and keeps sprouts fresh for a few days to a week.)
See? Sprouts at home are easy. We liked the lentil sprouts better than the quinoa. Though the quinoa gave faster results, the small sprouts were less impressive. A few notes on the two alternatives:
Lentils made bigger sprouts, and had more flavor. This would be better in recipes that feature the sprout as a main ingredient.
Quinoa sprouts are quick but small, and would be better in a recipe as a garnish.
Time to Eat
Now, for the cooking. Sprouts are a versatile ingredient, and can be tossed into salads, on top of sandwiches, or used to garnish a hot soup or stew. They’re definitely a good item to experiment with.
I think they’re especially delicious on a veggie-filled sandwich with melted mozzarella, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. The lentil sprouts have a bit of a tangy flavor and a crisp bite that complements the smoothness of the avocado.
While raw sprouts are enjoyable, cooking them changes the flavor and can make for a delicious result. We added them to to an easy black bean burrito recipe that’s a favorite in our house.
Recipe: Black Bean Scramble with Quinoa and Lentil Sprouts
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 chopped onion
- Cumin, salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste
- 1 can black beans
- 1 cup sprouts
- 1/8 cup grated cheddar
- Whisk eggs, milk, and spices in small bowl.
- Saute onions in olive oil until cooked to your taste, pour egg mixture onto pan.
- Scramble eggs until just done, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add black beans (drained), and heat through.
- Add sprouts, mix until heated. Grate cheese on top and turn off heat—allow residual heat from the pan to melt the cheese.
- We enjoy this mixture in a tortilla as a burrito, but it also tastes fine eaten plain.
What Else Can I Sprout?
Some other sproutable possibilities include the following:
- Grains: Amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, wheat/rye.
- Other seeds: Almonds, cabbage, kale, fenugreek, mustard, pumpkin, radish, sesame, sunflower.
- Legumes: Alfalfa, clover, garbanzo, lentils, mung beans, peanuts, blackeyed peas, field peas.
- Toxic/unhealthy: anasazi, black, fava, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, and soy. Don’t use these! The raw beans can be toxic or cause digestion problems. Please cook your large beans.
- Soak/don’t sprout: herb seeds, filberts, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, macademia nuts. These seeds and nuts don’t sprout well, but soaking may improve the flavor or create a more desirable texture.
Though all the options listed above can be sprouted (other than those listed as toxic), the flavors and results among them will vary widely. We recommend looking up the ideal soaking and sprouting times for the seeds you wish to use.