Soaking Nuts


If I wasn’t convinced by the opinions of researchers like Sally Fallon about the benefits of soaking grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds, my own experience would have soon convinced me. This is especially true in regard to nuts and seeds. I have often noticed that raw nuts have bothered my stomach slightly, and that I could not eat very many of them without getting an aversion to them. But once I started soaking and dehydrating them, I found, to my delight, that I could handle them very well. Not only that, but I found that they had a much better texture and flavor. There have been several times when I have gotten pumpkin seeds, for example, and tasted them unsoaked and thought they didn’t taste very good. But after soaking them in salt water overnight and dehydrating them, they tasted great. I was hooked.

I would like to introduce you to the concept of why you should soak you nuts and how to do it.

Why Should I Soak Nuts?

Unlike grains, nuts contain smaller amounts of phytic acid. Their real issue for us is having high amounts of enzyme inhibitors. These enzymes are useful to seeds and nuts because it prevents them from sprouting prematurely. But they can really strain your digestive system (which is probably why my body was reacting to them raw).

Soaking your nuts in warm water will neutralize these enzyme inhibitors, and also help encourage the production of beneficial enzymes. These enzymes, in turn, increase many vitamins, especially B vitamins. It also makes these nuts much easier to digest and the nutrients more easily absorbed. And, yes, this is a traditional method of preparation. For example the Aztecs would soak pumpkin or squash seeds in salty water and then, sun dry them. 1

For those of you who soak your grains already, I was curious as to why you used salt instead of a cultured or acidic addition. Sally Fallon answered here.

“Q. When soaking nuts, why is the salt needed?

A. The salt helps activate enzymes that de-activate the enzyme inhibitors. For grains, we soak in an acidic solution to get rid of phytic acid. Nuts do not contain much phytic acid but do contain high levels of enzyme inhibitors. The method imitates the way the native peoples in Central America treated their nuts and seeds–by soaking them in seawater and then dehydrating them.”

(So nuts are prepared slightly differently because they don’t have as much phytic acid, but do have high amounts of enzyme inhibitors.)

Like I said before, if the research didn’t convince me, or if I didn’t care a hoot about what traditional societies did, I would still be convinced by my own experience. I do so much better with soaked nuts, and I like them all the more for their improved taste. I would even prepare them this way solely for the culinary improvement!

The How

While the basic method is the same with all nuts and seeds (soaking in a brine and drying afterwards) there are some slight variations so I will be listing nuts separately. I, once again, owe Sally Fallon the credit for this research. Thank you, Sally Fallon!

The basic method is as follows: Dissolve salt in water, pour over nuts or seeds , using enough water to cover. Leave in a warm place for specified time. Then drain in a colander and spread on a stainless steel pan. Place in a warm oven (no warmer than 150 degrees) for specified time, turning occasionally, until thoroughly dry and crisp. Really make sure they are all the way dry! If not, they could mold and won’t have that crispy wonderful texture. I have found the longer I soak a seed or nut, the longer it takes to dehydrate them.

I use a food dehydrator instead of an oven. It works so well, and keeps my oven free. However, if you don’t have that option, most of us with newer stoves can’t set our ovens at the required 150 degrees Fahrenheit. While I have not personally experimented with this, I have heard of others who leave their ovens cracked to keep the temperature lower or who occasionally open up the oven to also keep the temperature lower. You could put in an oven thermometer to keep track of the temperature. While this would not be the most energy efficient method, it could work. If worse comes to worse, while doing it at 200 degrees (the lowest temperature many stoves will go to) will destroy all those good enzymes and won’t be optimal, I would rather have soaked and slightly toasted nuts then unsoaked nuts.

Pumpkin seeds-Pepitas

4 cups of raw, hulled pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
filtered water

Soaking Time: At least 7 hours, or overnight
Dehydrating time: 12-24 hours, until dry and crisp

Pecans or Walnuts

4 cups of nuts
2 teaspoons sea salt
filtered water

Soaking time: 7 or more hours (can do overnight)
Dehydrating time: 12-24 hours, until completely dry and crisp.

Pecans can be stored in an airtight container, but walnuts are more susceptible to become rancid so should always be stores in the refrigerator.

Peanuts (skinless), Pine nuts, or Hazelnuts (skinless)

4 cups of raw nuts
1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

Soaking time: at least 7 hours or overnight
Dehydrating time:12-24 hours, until completely dry and crisp

Store in an airtight container

Almonds

4 cups almonds, preferably skinless- SF notes “Skinless almonds will still sprout, indicating that the process of removing their skins has not destroyed the enzymes….[they] are easier to digest and more satisfactory in many recipes. However, you may also use almonds with the skins on. “
1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

Soaking time: At least 7 hours, or overnight
Dehydrating Time:12 -24 hours, until completely dry and crisp

* You can also use almond slivers

Cashews

4 cups of “raw” cashews
1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

“Some care must be taken in preparing cashews. They will become slimy and develop a disagreeable taste if allowed to soak too long or dry out too slowly, perhaps because they come to us not truly raw but having already undergone two separate heatings. You may dry them in a 200 to 250 degree oven-the enzymes have already been destroyed during processing. “

Soaking time: 6 hours, no longer
Dehydrate at 200 degrees F: 12-24 hours
Store in an airtight container

Macadamia nuts

4 cups of raw macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

Soaking time: At least 7 hours or overnight
Dehydrating time: 12-24 hours, until dry and crisp.

1 Nourishing Traditions, 2nd edition, pg 452-453, 512, 513-517

This post is part of Kitchen Tip Tuesday!

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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Comments

  1. Clare says

    Hi,

    I just tried activating almonds yesterday, I did half plain and mixed the other with chilli and honey. Do those ones still need to be really crispy or is it ok for them to still have a little bit of stickiness from the honey/chilli?
    Thanks 😉

  2. says

    This is such a great article! I am working on typing a recipe for a gluten-free/ dairy-free artichoke and salmon quiche that I plan to serve this weekend at a bridal shower I am hosting for my girlfriend because my girlfriends mother is going to help me make some of the quiche (we need to make at least 4!) Anyway, I am using cashew cream instead of dairy cream for the quiche and although I normally soak my cashews for about 2 hours I didn’t know what the maximum time was. So glad I stumbled on your article–I am going to share the link with our Clean Cuisine audience on Facebook now 😉

  3. Alex says

    Dennis- you are a fool. As the old table goes – “the irony of food based nutrition is that it requires no scientific verification (unlike traditional medicine). It just works..”

  4. steve says

    The catch is,, is the seed alive. Many things now days are radiated to kill bacteria and such within the fruit, nut, vegetable or whatever. The problem with that is if its a live food, the radiation then kills the food. So sticking something in water that is dead,,well it then starts to rot/smell and get rancid, as whatever bacteria is around will start to eat it. Sticking a live seed or whatever in water, usually will not rot, but will come to life, and start to grow. Its the growing process as a seed is in water that starts the enzyme creation and makes the nutrients in such available for the body. Just thought I would mention that as its a major issue with the whole process.

  5. Niki says

    I dehydrated my Almond nuts in my convection oven at 40 degC (it’s the only lowest setting available) for 17 hours and notice my almonds look like it has shrunk although it felt feel like it is still moist. I split open in half and notice water in the almonds. Prior to 17 hours, at 15 hours, I assume the almonds are still not yet dry because I feel like it is still moist and the middle of the almonds are still very white in colour, (I read somewhere if you split the almonds in half after dehydrating, to know that it was successfully dehydrated, the almonds shouldn’t be very white in color) and so I continue another additional 2 hours. That’s when at 17 hours I notice some of the almonds shrunk although still feel like it is moist. I wonder where I go wrong. Am I suppose to dehydrate till it is 24 hours ? Will that not shrunk the almonds further ?

    • Marilyn says

      My suggestion is to use your oven on the regular oven setting, the convection setting. It sounds as though the convection action dried the exterior, but it happened way more quickly than anything happened in the interior of the almond. I have also successfully dried nuts on my glass-enclosed balcony in very warm/hot weather, so the balcony was 85-105 degrees (Fahrenheit). This is further proof that the convection setting is too strong to dry the nut evenly. Hope your next batch works out fine!

      • Marilyn says

        I mistyped the first sentence up there. I meant to say, do NOT use your oven on the convection setting; use it on the regular setting.

  6. Dan says

    Hi there,
    I regularly soak my nuts, I like to use quite warm water so as to maintain the plump outer casing without causing the unsightly shrivel that too cold water can cause- not to mention shrinkage.
    I don’t worry about sticking them in the oven though- my wife just pops them in her mouth and eats them as they are.

  7. Julie says

    Hi, I soaked some walnuts and almonds overnight, then dried them, and they gave us gas. Did I soak them too long perhaps?

  8. Jake says

    I soak walnuts in a Nalgene bottle, should I screw the top on, or leave it uncovered?

    Also, are there drawbacks to not dehydrating the nuts afterwards and simply eating them after rinsing?

    Thanks!

    Jake

  9. mary says

    Help! Everytime I go to soak almonds, they always float to the top of the water so they are submersed. I am using raw skin-on almonds from whole foods and water filtered from berkey. Some of the blogs say if they are floating then they are rancid, but that means that all of mine are rancid. What am I doing wrong.

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