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In this article on how and why to soak nuts and seeds, we look at the enzymatic change that occurs in soaked nuts and why this change makes nuts more digestible and nutritious.
Soaking raw nuts and seeds (often overnight in salt water) is essential for good general health, if you plan to eat nuts as a regular part of your diet. Former cultures knew to ferment their grains. Modern trends toward the healthfulness of raw foods or even the benefits of a grain-free diet often miss this important step.
In other words, if you are a raw foodie, or on a grain-free diet such as Paleo, it is vital that you soak the nuts you consume. This includes almond butter. This step or method even works well with peanuts.
In this post, we’ll also look at how to sprout (or pre-digest) nuts and seeds to make “crispy nuts”, also called “awakened” nuts.
Why to soak nuts?
Phytic acid is the main storage form of phosphorous in plant tissues.
Phytic acid in grains, nuts and seeds needs to be neutralized; otherwise, it binds with minerals in the body, creating nutritional deficiencies. This really isn’t an optional step. We should soak all the nuts, seeds and grains we eat — to better access their nutrition but also to create a gentler digestive process.
Soaked refers to a soaking process in salted or acidulated water that creates an enzymatic change within nuts and seeds. Raw nuts are dormant (storing nutrients and protecting themselves from winter). In this state, nuts are indigestible.
A diet too heavy in raw or roasted nuts or seeds that haven’t been soaked or sprouted will deplete the body of its much-needed minerals. Digestive discomfort or allergic reactions after eating nuts can be the body’s way of telling us that the digestive mechanism is being overly taxed.
Conversely, when we soak nuts and seeds before eating them, our bodies can access their nutrition!
Tubers and beans
Even tubers and beans will benefit from a significant reduction in their phytic acid content. This is done through proper soaking and cooking methods. (In the case of beans, gas produced in the lower intestine is partially a result of improper preparation methods.)
If you are grain-free and legume-free, possibly also starch-free, you can see why our bodies have an easier time healing without these foods! They are high in phytic acid, hard to digest and rob the body of the nutrients it needs to get healthy!
While some ingestion of phytic acid is unavoidable and actually fine, we need to lower that amount; and for nuts, a long soaking in salted water is an easy method to accomplish that objective.
How to soak and sprout seeds
There are two seeds that are harder to soak. They are chia seeds and flax seeds.
Despite being tricky to pre-digest, these seeds are still high in phytic acid and should be eaten in moderation. Read about Which Seeds to Soak and How HERE, or soak them in a sourdough batter, or in kefir or yogurt overnight, to reduce antinutrients.
Conclusion on why to soak nuts
Un-sprouted granola and raw muesli aren’t healthy; dry cereal is deleterious to one’s health; whole grain breads that aren’t made from a traditional sourdough or from fermented grain are all likely to lead to the loss of essential nutrients and compromised health.
As you execute the following soaking technique, enjoy the connection you may feel with women and men who lived centuries and millennia ago, those who made their food from corn, acorns, rye, and wheat, cultures that soaked, pounded, strained, fermented and enjoyed a beneficial relationship with their food.
Soaked, Sprouted, Dehydrated “Crispy” Nuts Technique
How to soak and sprout nuts and most seeds
For every 4 cups of raw seeds or nuts, cover with room temperature, filtered water by two inches, and 2 tsp. sea salt. Stir well to dissolve the salt. Leave out overnight at room temperature to soak. Drain them in a colander; and rinse them well. If you suspect old nuts, or possible rancidity, or mold, such as with peanuts, add 1/2 teaspoon vitamin C powder to the salted soaking water. This will kill any potential mold.
(As a side note, cashews have already been heated. Their shells are toxic and a heating process is used to eliminate the chemical poison and to free the nut from its lining. Therefore, no cashew we buy from the store is technically “raw.” Shorter soaking times for cashews are still beneficial; whereas longer soaking times will render them slimy. 2 hours to overnight is adequate for cashews and still helps to reduce phytic acid. Subsequent dehydrating and roasting are also beneficial, as with all nuts and seeds, although roasting can destroy beneficial enzymes.)
Dehydrating nuts and seeds
Use any soaked nut or seed that has been duly drained and rinsed. Toss with optional sea salt to taste and place in your dehydrator or low temperature-capable oven, 95-145 degrees. For some nuts, such as macadamia or hazelnut, this process of completely drying out the nut can take as long as 72 hours. For smaller seeds, 24 hours may still be necessary. To check your nuts’ doneness, let one or all cool to room temperature. Then eat one. It should be very dry and crispy, no softness or chewiness to the inside. With the exception of walnuts, (which should still be stored in the refrigerator or freezer because their oils go rancid more quickly), the nuts will have a good shelf life and may now be stored in a sealed container in your pantry.
Happily, sprouted nuts are the crispiest, most palatable way to eat nuts.
How to make sprouted nut flour and butter
Place “crispy nuts” into food processor. Blend to a flour consistency. If you desire nut butter or seed butter, just keep blending! Some nuts or seeds also benefit from a short roasting at 350 degrees Fahrenheit before making nut butter. This further reduces phytic acid, and it helps to release the nuts’ oils, which allows the butter to form.
Note: Do not use a blender to make nut or seed flour; it will make butter too quickly and unevenly chop the nuts.
HI Meghan! Should brazil nuts be soaked as well? I’ve been advised by my naturo to increase my brazil nut intake for selenium and tried to research whether or not they should be soaked but came up short. Would love your thoughts 🙂
Megan Stevens says
Hi Charlotte, yes, do soak brazil nuts. Because they are so large, try to soak them for the full 18 hours. Also, add a bit, 1/2 tsp., of vitamin C powder (ascorbic acid) to your soaking water if you aren’t sure of their freshness to help protect you from rancidity issues. Cheers! I think brazil nuts are under-appreciated! They are so yummy- great, unusual texture. 🙂
Jessica @ConveyAwareness says
Though it’s not required, I prefer to soak chia seeds before I add them to my shakes in the morning because I do not like them in my teeth! =) Plus the gel action it takes on helps to emulsify the shake a bit which I like! Pinned. Great resource here!! =)
Jessica I am curious how exactly you soak your chia seeds? I too want the “gel action” you referred to. Do you add any salt to the soaking water? And do you drain off all the water before using the seeds, or would that get rid of the gel-ness? Thanks for your help!
Hi Allie, here’s a seed guide for soaking: https://eatbeautiful.net/which-seeds-soaked-how-eating-digestion/ 🙂
Vesta Gesner says
I would like a copy this article. It’s tg e first time anyone has explained sprouted. I’m sure I’ll be needing it again.
Email would be a nice feature to have under Share. I just
recently noticed it myself.
I believe I’ll be a frequent visitor.
Megan Stevens says
Hi Vesta, soon I’ll have a handy pin feature on all my recipes that will allow them to directly be able to be pinned, maybe in two weeks this feature will be ready. 🙂 So if you do Pinterest it is really helpful, just an online bulletin board to be able to keep things/recipes you want to be able to find. So glad this article/recipe was helpful!! 🙂
This is great! I love some of the sprouted things I get at the store, and now I can try it myself. I’ve seen other posts on the subject, but this is well written. Thanks
Megan Stevens says
Thanks, Debi!! 🙂
My first batch(es) almost out of soak(s)–brazil nuts and walnuts–excited to get them in dehydrator–thanks for informative ‘how-to’!
Megan Stevens says
Yay, how rewarding!!! So glad for you, what fun! Enjoy!
Megha Bhardwaj says
Hi! I just read this post thanks to theorganickitchen! Id read an article about kidney stones. I recently suffered from Kidney Stones, so am looking for more information on how to plan a healthy diet around this. I am very fond of nuts and love eating them on the go if i get hungry.. Also, can you recommend other low oxalate nuts and seeds that i can munch on straight away ? I read about preparing Almonds and cashews.. but what about Sunflower seeds? Do i need to soak those too? and, can i soak them without salt, as I have been advised to lower my salt intake completely..adding salt to the nuts over night kind of makes the point moot 😀 Please advise! Thank you !!
Megan Stevens says
Hi Megha, if you’d like to meet for dietary consulting I do that. My consulting page is here: http://eatbeautiful.net/consulting/ I meet with clients via Skype or phone. The breadth of your questions is beyond the scope of this forum. But I’m happy to answer the quick questions: yes, do soak sunflower seeds, too. The salt gets rinsed off. Sea salt is good for everyone; just avoid factory-refined table salt. Blessings!! It’s such a learning journey, but so worth it. 🙂
Would this process work for red wheat berries for bread making using only the wheat berries and no flour for grinding? Would this work for someone gluten free?
Megan Stevens says
Hi Tabitha, the best way to “pre-digest” wheat is by using a sourdough starter, but grains can also be soaked, just in a different way. However, wheat berries are never gluten-free. The above nuts and nut flours are gluten-free.
Thank you for this helpful post. Can nuts be soaked after they have been roasted? And how would you recommend preparing store bought nut butter? Is there a way to make it easier to digest? I learn so much from this site. Thanks!
Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comments and questions. Nuts can not be effectively soaked after roasting, but they can be effectively fermented through the sourdough process! 🙂 In this post on soaking seeds (https://eatbeautiful.net/2018/06/30/which-seeds-soaked-how-eating-digestion/), you’ll see some examples and recipe links, where I share how to make sourdoughs for nuts and seeds. The same thing goes for store bought nut butter. It may already, unfortunately, be rancid. Ideally, then, it gets put into a sourdough batter (and allowed to ferment) and some vitamin C powder is added to kill any potential mold. The best bet is to make one’s own with crispy nuts. But the sourdough process is a good, reliable option with additional benefits. I hope this helps! 🙂
Lynna Karanutsos says
How do I know when macadamia nuts are really raw? Ive heard they must be steamed to open shelll. If they are raw can I soak for 12 hours and sprout them ALSO? I sprout everything!!!! sproutable ((!*_*!) fenugreek toooo!
Hello, thank you for the article. All I have is bottles of purified drinking water, will that do for soaking? Also, is it possible to use apple cider vinegar instead of sea salt? I have to limit even my sea salt intake.
Hi Paula, yes, your drinking water sounds good. Re the salt, it will all get rinsed off. Typically salt adjusts the pH of water for soaking of seeds and nuts, whereas ACV is used for grains. Blessings!
Thanks for the beneficial information! Which nights would you recommend roasting after soaking to make nut butter and at what temperature?
Do you have to add salt to the water to release the phytic acid in seeds/nuts?
I was soaking my apricot seeds in organic pineapple juice then I would drink the juice with the apricot seeds. Should I be soaking the seeds first in salt water?
Hi Tim, it’s hard to be sure without doing a study. I think what you’re doing is already effectively breaking down, or pre-digesting the seeds, because the bromelain in pineapple breaks down the seeds’ protein, and the acidic medium may help the seed to begin germination. If you soak raw seeds first in salted water, you’re definitely getting that initial conversion from dormant seed to germinating seed; so that would be more thorough, but may not be necessary. You could certainly add the step to see if you notice a difference and benefit.
Tim Holder says
Thanks for the reply. I think I will soak the seeds in salt water first from now on and continue to drink the pineapple juice with the soaked seeds afterwards. Cheers
You’re welcome, great.
Loved the article and crispy nuts instructions! Tried it for the first time today and the crispy almonds turned out great – definitely better than store bought!!
We removed the skins off the almonds post soaking and pre-roasting. It was fairly easy to do, but still took some time for the large batch. Is it necessary to take off the skins or are they pretty harmless once soaked and rinsed?
Hi Alex, great! If you feel you’re digesting them well, then I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s one more step in making them gentle and nutritious, but some bodies will do fine with the skins, once they’re soaked and dehydrated + roasted; so judge based on your own digestion. It’s fun and empowering … but time-consuming!, as you said. 🙂
Can the nuts be used right after they are soaked without dehydrating them or drying them in my 170 degree oven?
Hi Therese, hi, yes, you can use them wet and soaked. But they will not be crispy or reduced in anti-nutrients to the same degree.
How long Can you soak the pumpkin and sunflower seeds?
Hi Jasmine, you can soak them overnight, but the sunflower seeds will often actually sprout with this long of a soaking, with visible germination. 2 hours is considered the minimum, and up to 6 hours would be fine.
Hi! the Vit C powder link is to a non-acidic version of C..it’s the ascorbate version, not ascorbic acid. Is that still effective in killing mold?
Hi Linda, great question, and it’s very hard to find that data. It would be good to do my own experiment. I have changed the link to the same brand (made in the U.S. and non-GM), but pure ascorbic acid. 🙂 Thank you!
It is me again! Catching up on all of your posts as I try to find foods I can add to my “yes” list of foods. Looks like pecans may work for me. I want to replace my daily sprinkle of sunflower seeds with pecans since I’m trying to stay true to the Vit A list as much as I can.
Do you have a source to recommend when it comes to buying nuts?
Also, is it necessary to soak/sprout sunflower seeds if they are already sprouted like the “Go Raw” ones?
I don’t have a great source anymore; I used to buy from a local supplier, but they switched to commercial only during the lock downs. So now I just buy from Amazon, Natural Grocers, or you could try Nuts.com, too. I try to read reviews and find ones that are definitely not rancid, as well as being organic. Already sprouted seeds are ready to eat. 🙂 These pecans are a great option when they come back in stock, or similar: https://amzn.to/3RTiEJm
Hi! I’d like clarification on the terms “soaked” and “sprouted.” They seem to be used interchangeably. But really, wouldn’t it be more accurate to reserve the term “sprouted” for those nut, seeds and grains that have actually sprouted? That is, a sprout has emerged? And for those seeds that have been soaked, but haven’t sprouted, well, those would more accurately be called “soaked,” right?
Hi, the terms sprouted and activated, for nuts and seeds, have come to mean soaked and dehydrated, even though there is no sprout. Yes, it’s confusing! 😉 Activated is a better term for that reason, but it’s not used universally (especially when this post was first published many years ago), so I try to use both so readers catch the term they know, while also being exposed to the meanings.