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Why and How to Soak Grains, plus Oatmeal Recipe

Most people have heard that we should eat whole grains and to stay away from the “white stuff”: white bread, white rice, white sugar, etc. Whole grains have more fiber, they fill you up better than processed grains, and have more nutrients. Refined carbohydrates, like the white breads and white pasta, etc., have little to offer the human body except blood sugar spikes. So, yes, whole grains are the way to go. In our super-fast world of convenience eating, however, we’ve forgotten a very important step in preparing whole grains: soaking.

There are two concerns with grains, even whole grains, that are addressed by pre-soaking: phytic acid and gluten. Phytic Acid is contained in the outer layer (bran) of all grains and can bond with minerals, preventing their absorption. So, even if whole grains have more nutrients, phytic acid interferes with their absorption. Soaking grains before cooking them helps break down the phytic acid.

Gluten, the second concern with grains, is a protein that is often difficult to digest. Most Americans are only familiar with a few grains, the most common of which is wheat- a high gluten grain. Gluten is also found in lesser amounts are oats, rye, and barley. Soaking these grains helps make the gluten more digestible. If using an ancient form of wheat where the gluten breaks down easier than modern varieties of what, such as spelt, and soak it, some people with milk gluten allergies can tolerate small amounts of grain in this form.

By “soaking”, I mean “soaking in an acid medium”, which breaks down the phytic acid and proteins, including gluten, and the lactic acid from the soaking liquid. Soak the grain in half the amount of water called for in the recipe, and add a few tablespoons of dairy products like whey, yogurt, and kefir.  If you have a severe dairy allergy, lemon juice or vinegar will get the job done. For some recipes, like sourdough, you can add liquid left over from a previous batch of sauerkraut.

Some grains, like rice and buckwheat are easily broken down, and can be soaked for only 7 hours. Most other grains should be soaked 12-24, or overnight. I’ve soaked flour in yogurt (1 cup of flour to 1 cup of yogurt) overnight, and then used the dough to make crackers. Soaking grains, in my opinion, improves the texture of the finished product.

Here is how I soak oats for oatmeal:

  • Add 2Tbs of whey to 1 cup of water (I use whey left over from making yogurt).
  • Measure out 1 cup or rolled oats (quick cooking or old fashioned, but not instant) into a small pot
  • Pour the water and whey over the rolled oats
  • Put the lid on the pot, and let it sit overnight on the counter

To finish making oatmeal:

  • In the morning, add 1 cup of water or 1 cup of milk to the pre-soaked oats.
  • Add a pinch of salt, a dash of cinnamon, and 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional).
  • Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  • Oatmeal cooks quickly, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add a teaspoon of pastured butter, stir to incorporate throughout.
  • Stir in maple syrup to taste.

Oatmeal made this way has a superior texture. The butterfat helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins in the oatmeal. If you don’t get your cream from a dairy that has grass-fed, aka pastured cows, I’ve been able to find such butter in one of my local grocery stores (Shaw’s).

About the author

Homesteading Mom

Homesteading Mom is run by Cat Ellis, an herbalist, prepper and aspiring homesteader. Cat is the author of two books, Prepper's Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic. Cat Ellis also blogs at KetoCat.com, HerbalPrepper.com, and TheOrganicPrepper.com.

  • deb says:
    Thanks for reminding me to do this more often. It's not much work to set oats to soak overnight and then turn on the burner in the morning, and better all-around than boxed cereals - less expensive, less waste, better FOR us! When I do it, I've been known to add raisins or other dried berries during the soaking phase; sometimes I've added sunflower seeds instead or as well. I've also got some steel-cut oats I've done this with, although they seem to prefer to be added to boiling water and take longer to cook - but same basic principle. :-) And in Winter, we'll sometimes use barley, millet, oats, brown rice in combination for a heartier breakfast.
    • Cat, The Homesteading Mom says:
      I love the steel-cut oats and raisins! Unfortunately, I'm the only one in the house who does. My husband says that he, "doesn't like the lumpies." LOL But, he really does prefer the texture from the soaked rolled oats than regular rolled oats.
  • Jenny says:
    How do you use this in a cookie recipe???? I would like to start doing this....
    • Hi Jenny, Like a few other comments, I didn't see your comment regarding soaking flour until now doing some major site maintenance, as I was having a bit of a spam problem. Now, as to how to use soaked flour in a recipe... that depends on the recipe. You do not always have to soak your flour. Sometimes, sprouted flour is better. You can use it just as you would regular flour, except that before it was harvested, it was allowed to be sprouted. This step mitigates the phytic acid issue and helps make it more digestible. Using sprouted flour means you don't need to do anything extra. Just make & bake your cookies. If you are interesting in trying sprouted flours, please check out the Links section in the sidebar on the left side of the screen. You'll see Cultures for Health. They sell sprouted flours and can answer just about any question you have regarding soaking and/or sprouted flour. Otherwise, soak your whole grain flour (don't bother with white flour, that has been processed beyond salvation) in yogurt, kefir, whey, whatever you're using. Mix the rest of the dry ingredients separately, and the rest of the wet ingredients separately. Then incorporate into your soaked flour. You may have to adjust the amount of liquid, perhaps using honey instead of sugar, or adding some additional milk at some stage, etc. Hope this helps! Cat
  • Neal says:
    Hi, Great site, thanks. Did not find link for "cultures for health" and search did not pick up. Neal
  • Neal says:
    Hi again, Regarding: "For some recipes, like sourdough, you can add liquid left over from a previous batch of sauerkraut." I have a constant supply of excess sauerkraut liquid. Is sauerkraut liquid not advisable for general grain soaking because of how it would change the taste or because of a chemistry issue? Thanks again, Neal
    • Hi Neal, You can use the liquid to make sourdough because it's the same lactobacillus bacteria. Technically, you could use it to soak grains in general that you wanted to eat, because of that same bacteria. However, be careful of the salt content. It will come across in the flavor. When making a batch of bread, that's not such a big deal because you're taking a portion of the starter and mixing it with new flour, and it all gets spread throughout. When soaking oats for oatmeal, it could be noticeable saltier than you might like. I generally use whey left over from yogurt for soaking oatmeal, and the sauerkraut juice for starting other veggies, like pickled beets.

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