What it Means to “Soak Grains”By
It’s a funny term isn’t it? “Soak your grains.” It sounds like you need to dump a bunch of water into your bucket of hard white wheat kernels and give ‘em a good soaking. But don’t do that. You don’t want soggy wheat berries.
For those of you who are new to “soaking grains” and have emailed me with questions of confusion as to what this means exactly…I thought I would take the time to explain it a little bit better, and to show some pictures of what a bowl of “soaking grains” looks like!
First, let’s talk a tiny bit about why soaking grains is important. Because I’m not good at remembering big words and how to use them, here is a quote from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook about soaking grains:
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, blocking 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.
In Laura’s terms: When you soak your grain, your tummy will feel better and the nutrients in the grain will be better used by your body.
If you’ve been reading here long, you know that I’m a little bit on the fence when it comes to soaking grains. Sometimes I’m a soaker…sometimes I’m not. It depends on the day and what recipe I’m using, but I do try to soak my grains if I can. There are different schools of thought behind soaking grains and you can read my thoughts about it (and other people’s ideas and comments) here. Matt and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t need to go into panic mode if I don’t get around to soaking our grains. Right or wrong…that’s where we’ve landed. I really like the pressure this has taken off of my brain.
Now, having said all of that…I would like to share what “soaking grains” really means. Ultimately, it means that you are soaking the whole grain that has already been ground into flour . (You can/should also soak oats or cornmeal. Oats are soaked the same as flour. Cornmeal requires a different variety of soaking, which I’ll discuss in a separate post.)
The soaking of said flour or oats needs to be done in an “acid medium liquid” for 12-24 hours, or at least overnight. This means, you can soak your flour or oats in:
- Any cultured dairy product such as buttermilk, yogurt or kefir. You can read about how I easily and inexpensively make these products here. Or…
- If you are not able to use dairy products in your family, you can instead use water with 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar in place of the buttermilk, yogurt or kefir.
The flour doesn’t need to “go swimming” in the liquid. It simply needs to be wet. In any of my recipes that give soaking instructions, I will share the exact measurements of flour and/or oats and liquids needed for soaking. On my site, I have instructions for soaking: Whole Wheat Waffles, Simple Soaked Pancakes, Breakfast Cookies, Breakfast Cake, Poptarts, Pizza Pocket dough, and others that I’m likely forgetting at the moment. :) I also describe how to soak my Whole Wheat Tortillas in my Totally Tortillas ebook.
Here is what my Simple Soaked Pancakes look like in the morning after I’ve stirred together the flour and buttermilk the night before. See the little bubbles that formed? That means we’ve accomplished kind of a “sourdough” effect. Perfect! Next, I mix in the remaining ingredients and make the pancakes. (And then the fam will eat the entire triple batch before I have a chance to grab one if I’m not on top of my game.)
This is what my Whole Wheat Tortillas look like once I’ve mixed them up and left them to “soak”. This recipe with soaking instructions is so simple because I put them all together, they soak, then they are ready right away for me to roll them out and cook them!
Soaking grains isn’t difficult at all…it just requires a little bit of planning ahead!
Some other frequently asked questions about soaking grains include:
Do I need to soak my flour even if it isn’t freshly ground in a grain mill?
Yes, even if it is store bought whole wheat flour, it is best to soak it if you can.
Do I need to soak my white flour?
Nope. The reason it’s white flour is because the bran and the germ have been taken out. The bran is what needs to be soaked in the first place. Since that’s not there…no reason to soak!
What other questions do you have about soaking grains? Are you a soaker?