One frequent question I receive is whether or not we should soak almond flour when using it for baked goods. I know that many of my readers like to use not only gluten free flours, but also flours that are grain free as well. Almond flour is a popular choice.
I am not completely clear on everything in regard to this topic. But here’s my current understanding.
Nuts may contain phytic acid, but it’s the enzyme inhibitors that are the big problem
As you may have noticed, we leave the salt out of any grain product that we are soaking because it prevents the phytic acid from being neutralized. But when we soak nuts we use a lot of salt. The reason, according to Sally Fallon, (besides the fact that this is a traditional method like the Aztec practice with pumpkin seeds) is that the salt helps activate the enzymes that neutralize enzyme inhibitors.
The reason that enzyme inhibitors is a problem is because they will use up your enzymes in your body and it seems like unsoaked nuts cause a lot of digestive discomfort for people too. I know that I am not the only one who has found that raw, unsoaked nuts can cause stomach aches! I am assuming it’s caused by the enzyme inhibitors.
Two ways to Neutralize Enzyme Inhibitors
There are two ways to neutralize enzyme inhibitors. One is to soak them in salt water and then to dehydrate them. The other is to roast or toast them. *The soaking method is effective, traditional, and keeps the important enzymes intact and certain vitamins as well if you are going to eat them raw. This means that when buying nut butter, soaked and dehydrated nut butter is the best, roasted is second place, and raw is worst.
However, if you are going to cook the nuts anyways, do you have to presoak them? I don’t know of any studies showing how quickly the enzyme inhibitors break down under heat, so I can’t really say for sure. When cooking with almond flour, it may break down adequate amounts of enzyme inhibitors simply by being heated, though some people still complain of digestive issues with almond flour baked goods. This could be caused by either an intolerance to the nuts themselves, or because the enzyme inhibitors are bothering their digestive tracts.
If you are one of those people, I suggest you test yourself. Are you bothered by soaked and dehydrated whole almonds? If so, then soaking the flour won’t help. but if you can tolerate soaked and dehydrated and can’t tolerate almond flour muffins well, then you may want to rethink using it.
If you did want to soak almond flour leave the salt in the recipe in it since it will help the soaking process. You will also most likely adjust recipes to contain more liquid for soaking. I personally haven’t baked with almond flour before, nor have I tried soaking it.
The other option is to presoak and dehydrate nuts and then grind them into flour yourself. This has worked really well for me and I have several recipes on this site that use this method. I have sometimes also just used raw nuts (because I was behind in my soaking/drying) and hoped that the baking heat was enough to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. An even better method for unsoaked nuts would be to pretoast or roast the nuts and then grind and use in the recipes.
So that it about as much as I know. But I would love to hear from you! What’s been your personal experience?
*As mentioned, Sally Fallon recommends the nuts be soaked and dehydrated. In How We Heal by Douglas Morrison and The Garden of Eating roasting or toasting nuts is also used or suggested to reduce enzyme inhibitors
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Where does everyone buy their nuts? My local health food store sells nuts in bulk but they are blanched and therefore no longer raw. The almonds are labeled raw but they are actually pasteurized. Apparently, all almonds are pasteurized except for some that can be bought online. I’d rather not pay for shipping.
I thought I’d buy nuts that are still in their shells. Surely, nuts in shells can’t be pasteurized…
I’ve bought mine through local co-ops. It’s definitely way cheaper in bulk. I would price check if you need to buy online. Compare the cost of the nuts plus shipping per ounce to what you can find at the store.
Michelle @ Find Your Balance
I just soaked some sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds – they are in the dehydrator now. But should I have added salt to the soaking water? Oh well, next time!
I am sure they are just fine, but yes it is better to add salt. 🙂
Kimi~ I really appreciate this site and your willingness to share all your knowledge with us.
I have a question about soaking nuts. I buy roasted peanuts from Azure. Do I still need to soak them? I haven’t tried this yet, and was planning to today (before reading this post), but now I wonder. Since they are roasted, would they still benefit from the soaking?
Thanks for your time!
Peanuts are not really nuts, they are a legume. Its pods grow under the ground. I don’t think it will bring something to soak roasted peanuts.
my local co-ops sell sprouted and roasted organic almonds that are wonderful, but also expensive.
i have purchased some great nut butter made by > Better Than Raw which soaks and dehydrates the nuts prior to making into nut butter. it’s delicious but also quite pricey.
Thank you for posting this! I’ve loved baking with almond flour for a while but I’ve always wondered about this.
Thanks for the ideas on where to get raw nuts. I’m attending my first Weston A Price Foundation meeting this Saturday and I’ll ask if there’s a source for RAW nuts in bulk. If not, I’ll buy them unshelled or buy online.
Organic Pastures sells the truly raw nuts, but they are pricey. I believe what happened last year (or maybe the year before) is that there was some sort of food poisoning scare–salmonella, maybe–and so the almond growers association here in the Central Valley, CA (where most of the almonds are grown for the nation) agreed to ALL pasteurize and label them raw. Not sure how that is legal, but there you have it.
I think that growers outside of the association can do what they like. We have found it handy to know a grower and offer to buy them straight off the orchard. If you are in CA, that is an option. We find it helpful, if they are resistant, to explain to them that we plan to salt and roast them anyhow, so they don’t need to worry about the food poisoning issue. Their fear is for folks eating them in their raw state.
By the way, you might be interested in Organic Pastures’ experiment with soaking the pasteurized almonds. Looks like it is a good idea NOT to soak those!
I don’t buy many almonds anymore since they are pasteurized (or irradiated), but when I do spend the money on it, I get them from Living Nutz: http://livingnutz.com/
They also sell naturally flavored nuts that are soaked and dehydrated. Really tasty but pretty spendy. When I have time, I’d like to try and replicate some of these flavors on some home soaked, dehydrated nuts!
Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen
Most almond flour is made from blanched almonds so that in and of itself might help to reduce the enzyme inhibitors, I think.
I personally am not organizing one, but right now greensmoothiegirl.com is doing a pretty cool raw co-op. Truly raw almonds, bought under the 100/lb per person California exception, are being sold for $3/lb plus $.25/lb shipping for 100+ lbs. Thought that might help some people!
I just recently learned that “raw” almonds are not actually raw, and I cannot find any organic almonds where I live. Very frustrating. What about other nuts like “raw” walnuts or macadamia nuts? Are all of these nuts now pasturized or is it just almonds?
Most nuts aren’t pasteurized, though macadamia nuts aren’t ever raw (or at least rarely). However, you can buy truly raw almonds online. You just have to hunt for them. 🙂
Why are macadamia nuts rarely raw, what is done to them and how does one properly prepare them for eating? Do you think that the blanching process the almonds go through prior to being ground into almond flour makes a difference? I have no idea how long they are heated for or to what temp, but thought you might have some insight. Thanks! 🙂