Growing bean sprouts is one of those things which you may have heard of but never attempted before. Just like making your own tofu, it’s actually deceptively easy and has so many benefits over buying from the grocery store. When you grow your own bean sprouts you can be sure that they are fresh, you’ll have access to them all year round, and you can get a much wider variety that you won’t easily find at the store. So why not give it a go?
This article explores everything that you need to know about sprouting. It details which beans, seeds, nuts and grains you can sprout, the best method to sprout them, how to store them, how to cook with them, and how healthy they really are. There’s a handy table of contents below so you can skip to any section of the article you want to read at any time.
Which Beans can you Sprout?
You can sprout almost any bean or seed! The most commonly sprouted beans are moong beans, probably because they take comparatively little time compared to some of the others. For the best results, use good quality, non GMO and organic beans. Make sure the beans or seeds you are purchasing are meant for eating rather than growing, as the quality of the seeds can differ.
Additionally, don’t try to sprout lentils as they are split beans. You need whole beans for making sprouts.
The 4 main categories of sprouts are:
- Bean Sprouts: These are the most common. Think moong beans, moth beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soy beans, black beans, red moong beans, peas and more.
- Nut & Seed Sprouts: Alfalfa seeds are the most commonly used in this category. Others are sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, radish seeds, and almonds.
- Grain & Cereal Sprouts: This includes the super-food classic quinoa. Buckwheat, Amaranth, Millet, Black Rice, Wild Rice, and Oats also sprout well.
- Vegetable Sprouts: My personal favourite is fenugreek seeds. Others include broccoli, radish, mustard, cress, clover, and beetroot.
This article focuses mainly on bean sprouts, as these are the easiest to sprout and most widely used in cooking. For the other sprouts, follow the same method as the one listed below.
How to Grow Bean Sprouts
There are many methods to grow bean sprouts. You can purchase a bean-sprouting kit complete with a pack of alfalfa seeds, multiple layers for different sprouts, and full instructions from Amazon https://amzn.to/2FIzytb (Please note as an Amazon affiliate I make a small commission at no extra cost for the buyer on every purchase made via this link) – this is great for beginners who are just getting into their sprouting journey.
Alternatively you can use the popular jar or bottle sprouting methods of which there are many videos online. The one I detail below is a little different – It’s my favourite method as it gives excellent results every time and requires no fancy equipment.
- Begin by soaking your beans in enough water to cover them plus a few inches, and leave covered overnight.
- The next morning your beans should have swollen in size. Discard the excess water and rinse the beans.
- Lay out a cheese cloth, thin cotton cloth or other un-dyed, un-bleached soft cloth. Put the beans in the middle of the cloth and tie each diagonal corner together to make a tight parcel. Turn it upside down and sprinkle the parcel with warm water. Place the parcel into a deep bowl and cover with a plate.
- Keep the sprouts somewhere warm and dark for 2-7 days*. Every morning sprinkle a little water on top and loosen the ties slightly so the sprouts have more room to grow.
- When you’re happy with your sprouts, carefully separate them and give them a gentle rinse.
*How long you choose to keep your sprouts is dependent on what type of bean you are sprouting, the temperature, and your own personal preference. In colder weather beans may take a little more time to sprout, whereas in summer you are likely to see results much sooner.
The moong and moth beans in my photos were sprouted for just 2 days, but would have grown longer if I had kept them for a few more days. What you are planning to cook with your sprouts should factor into your decision about how long to sprout them for – for example, beansprouts used in noodle stir fries will generally be longer than those you use for salads or curries.
A general rule of thumb would be to keep checking up on the sprouts progress until you achieve the length desired. Just untie the parcel, check the sprouts, and tie back up.
How to Store Bean Sprouts
After gently rinsing, dry the beansprouts and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. I generally try to only make as many as I will eat within a week, as beyond this point they won’t be fresh. Before cooking with your sprouts be sure to give them another rinse.
If you find yourself with too many beansprouts or you’d prefer to make a large bulk batch, you can freeze them. Freeze in re-sealable bags or air tight containers and the sprouts will stay good for up to a year.
To cook with frozen sprouts, thaw them in the fridge for a few hours if making salads. If you’re using them in soups or curries, just simply add them to the meal frozen.
Nutritional Benefits of Bean Sprouts
For centuries now sprouts have been acknowledged as one of the best foods you can eat. This is not only because sprouts are naturally high in many beneficial vitamins and nutrients, but also because studies have consistently shown that the sprouting process actually reduces the amount of anti-nutrients as compared to raw or cooked beans. Anti-nutrients prevent your body from absorbing beneficial nutrients, meaning that when you eat sprouts your body can make full use of all the amazing benefits.
Furthermore, sprouts are a wonderful source of:
- Antioxidants – Helps your body to protect against problems such Heart Disease
- Proteins – One of the ultimate building-blocks of the body, protein helps with building bones, cells, tissues, skin, blood, and hormones.
- Phosphorus – Improves bone strength, as well as helps to repair tissues and cells in the body
- Fiber – Good for digestive health, as it decreases the risks of indigestion and acid reflex, among other things
- Vitamin B – Responsible for a healthy metabolism which increases your energy levels
- Vitamin C – Helpful for building a good immune system to battle illnesses
… Among many other things.
Sprouts are also naturally low in fat and calories, meaning that they are a great healthy food choice which can naturally aid in health-focused weight loss.
So why have their been several cases of food poisoning associated with eating raw beansprouts? Are they safe?
Usually, yes. Most cases of food poisoning related to raw beansprouts are from mass-produced sprouts which you’ll find at the supermarket. Because they are growing sprouts on an industrial scale, it’s hard for them to regulate the temperature properly which can result in harmful strains of E-Coli and other dangerous bacteria. When you are growing your own sprouts at home this is very unlikely to happen. If you want to be extra-safe, you can cook your sprouts before eating rather than eating them raw. They will still be packed full of nutritional benefits.
How to Cook with Bean Sprouts
There are so many different ways to cook with bean sprouts!
First and foremost, you can eat them raw. Give the sprouts a good wash before using and add to any salads that you’d like.
Some sprouts benefit from being cooked (like chickpea sprouts), rather than being used raw. Generally the larger the seed or bean, the longer it would need to be cooked for. For example Chickpea sprouts should ideally be cooked for around 10 minutes, whereas moong or moth sprouts would only need 2-5 minutes of boiling or stir-frying in a dish.
My favourite ways to use bean sprouts are in Asian food. You can use any mixture of sprouts as an addition to spring rolls or dumplings. They taste great added to any variety of soups and noodle dishes – a classic being Pad Thai. You can even serve sprouts seasoned simply with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce, popular both in Korea and China and truly delicious.
Sprouts also taste amazing when utilized in Indian cuisine. In our household we usually make the Maharashtrian Street Food classic of Misal Pav every other week. It’s a delicious curry made with moong and moth sprouts and served with bread rolls. Another popular dish in Maharashtra is Matki Usal, a quick stir fry of moth sprouts with onions, tomatoes, and a special masala blend, often eaten for breakfast.
You can even think a little out of the box and use sprouted beans in dosa or cheela recipes – variations of Indian ‘pancakes’.