Nourishing Practices: Soaking Grains

I have mentioned “soaking grains” frequently here at The Nourishing Gourmet. Many have wondered what in the world I was talking about! Others have wondered why  I would add another step into my cooking, when cooking from scratch takes so long already. An explanation is long overdue. Especially because this is a nourishing practice that I consider vital to our health.

Why I soak my whole grains

Most all of us know the nutritional advantages of whole grain food verses refined flours. Whole grains retain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are vital to our well being. But what if I were to tell you that in all whole grains there are enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion and other natural substances that blocks you from absorbing all of those great minerals and vitamins?

Grains, that are not soaked, equal poor digestive worth, and blocked vitamins and minerals

Unfortunately, it’s true. But there is a solution!

It’s only been in more recent years that we have disregarded traditional methods of sprouting, soaking, and fermenting grains. Not understanding the importance, we slowly forgot these methods of preparation. But we now know better …

Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, clocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, Pg 25

Soaked grains equal better digestive worth and make vitamins and minerals available to absorb

For those who have had digestive trouble when eating whole grains, this could be part of the answer for you. For the rest of us, it will help make sure we don’t develop digestive issues and insure that we are able to fully utilize all of those vitamins and minerals we eat whole grains to get!

How do you do it?

It’s quite simple. You can soak grains like rice, millet, quinoa, wheat,  12 to 24 hours at room temperature in some water  with 1-2 tablespoons of whey, lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir (this gives it an acidic medium which helps neutralize anti-nutrients).  You can then rinse the grains to remove any acidic taste to them, and then cook in fresh water.

Or you can sprout your grains (check out my post about sprouting grains for more directions).

For baked goods, you can soak your flour in buttermilk, yogurt or kefir 12 to 24 hours and then add the rest of the ingredients right before baking. This makes the fluffiest whole wheat pancakes! I have been able to do this method dairy free as well very successfully (like this recipe for soaked pancakes)

Sourdough is also extremely helpful in reducing anti-nutrients as well. Read this post about the benefits of sourdough, and here is an example of a recipe using sourdough to effectively soak your grains.

I will give more specific direction in individual recipes, but those are the basic guidelines. I have personally found that it isn’t harder to add this step in, it just takes forethought! And it’s definitely worth it for our family’s health.

(Wheat flour soaking in buttermilk for buttermilk pancakes the next day)

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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!


  1. says

    Hi Kimi,

    Is greek style st yogur ok to use as the acidic medium to soak my flour, or do I nee to use the regular runny kind o yogurt?



  2. says

    Hi Kimi,

    Is greek style set yogurt ok to use as the acidic medium to soak my flour, or do I nee to use the regular runny kind o yogurt?



  3. Tina B. says

    I already sprout and dehydrate my grains before grinding them in a mill. Do you then need to soak the sprouted flour before baking or does the sprouting accomplish the same task? I have a recipe for soaked wheat bread but my flour is already sprouted and wondering if I can use or need to use unsprouted. Thanks!

  4. Regina says

    Bread is suppose to be bad for you (weight gain) is there a bread that I can make in my bread maker that is healthy/good for you to make. And I’ve never heard of sprouting flour before is that better for you when making bread.


  5. Regina says

    One more question….. What is a good yogurt to use? So many have othe junk/fructose in them. I’m changing everything I eat and looking at labels.


  6. says

    I’m trying to include high fiber in liquid meal replacements, preferably without cooking anything (it’s for a home bound friend who doesn’t want to add any cooking step).
    Wondering about this: Can I soak quinoa or oat flour overnight in some coconut or almond milk, right in my blender, then add the remaining ingredients and blend? Would that soaking step be enough to make the flour digestible without cooking? Would love to hear your thoughts. TIA

  7. Kim Lambdin says

    I’ve read numerous times not to combine a milk product with the oatmeal b/c something blocks something else… or the calcium product (i.e. dairy product) blocks the absorption of the soaked grain nutrients. Does any of this sound familiar? I have researched a lot trying to heal my autistic son. Anyway, we were adding yogurt to the soaked oatmeal and discovered we should not be doing that. Maybe it was the dental book i was reading. either way… have you heard of this?

  8. Char Ortiz says

    Can you explain the difference between Overnight Oats, perhaps with almond milk and yogurt, that will be placed in the refrigerator overnight and eaten cold the next morning – and – soaking oatmeal in water and yogurt in warm water overnight. I don’t understand why both methods wouldn’t work. Is it all about the temperature of the soak time?? Won’t both methods be affective against enzyme inhibitors in breaking down the oats?

  9. Andrea Avery says

    Hi, I also would like to know if I can soak flour in almond milk. I have a mix that calls for 1 cup of milk. Can I use almond milk and at water kefir for the acid medium? Thanks so much!

  10. Sarah says

    What is the recommended time for cooking soaked grains, and how much water? I’ve started soaking, but am having a hard time finding directions on how to cook the soaked grains. Thanks!

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