How Do You Grow Sprouts To Eat?
This is a step-by-step guide for beginners on how to grow sprouts at home. We’ll cover what supplies and seeds to buy, how to grow sprouts, how to prepare sprouts to eat and our favorite recipes.
I started growing sprouts to eat in January 2019, and it’s been part of my weekly routine ever since. However, before that, I had a lot of questions.
For years I wondered how do you grow sprouts to eat? More specifically, I asked what does it take to do this at home. I didn’t know how much effort it would require, what growing supplies I needed, what seeds to buy, or how to grow sprouts.
Or, most importantly, is it actually worth my time?
Although it seemed like a lot of work… it’s not! In fact, it’s easy. Plus, this post will make it easier for you than it was for me.
how do you grow sprouts to eat?
1. Buy Sprouting Supplies
All you need is a half-gallon jar with a screen lid. I don’t recommend buying a smaller, quart-sized jar. It takes 4 days to grow mung bean, alfalfa, or broccoli sprouts and you’ll want enough to eat for a few days. If you already have quart-sized jars, definitely use them!
This is the sprouting jar I use. The screen works for both large and small sprouting seeds. It also has a wide mouth so you can thoroughly scrub the inside between sprout harvests. I currently have two jars, but I’ll buy a third once we aren’t living out of suitcases. Start with one, but once you get into it, you’ll want more.
2. Buy Sprouting Seeds
I have tried sprouting pretty much everything: mung bean, lentil, green pea, adzuki, clover, broccoli, alfalfa, radish, chia, wheat, garbanzo, and the list goes on. Most of them I only tried once. Three sprouting seeds stood my personal test of time because they taste best and are the easiest sprouts to grow at home. They are also the most popular sprouts. So, this article focuses on learning how to grow the following three sprouts at home:
Mung Bean Sprouts
Alex and my favorite sprouts are mung beans. They are easy to grow and taste amazing in a stir fry.
Our second favorite sprouting seed is alfalfa. Like mung beans, they are easy to grow at home and are delicious in salads, with avocado toast, in a smoothie, or on toasted sourdough bread with cream cheese. We eat alfalfa raw, so once it’s sprouted, it’s ready to go.
I grow these less frequently because they aren’t as tasty as alfalfa sprouts while also slightly more challenging to sprout (but I’ll help you do it right). However, I am fascinated by how nutritious broccoli sprouts are.
To begin, buy one or all of these sprouting seeds on Amazon.
- One pound bag of organic, GMO-free mung bean sprouting seeds
- One pound bag of organic, GMO-free alfalfa sprouting seeds
- One pound bag of organic, GMO-free broccoli sprouting seeds
Or, if you want to sprout a variety of seeds, this 6-pack of sprouting seeds is a good value.
Note: For us, organic, GMO-free seeds are a requirement. This ensures that we don’t have contaminations from manure fertilizer or chemical pesticides. Also, if you don’t buy from a sprouting seed supplier, they might not be tested for germination, meaning they might not sprout. Sprout House is a good, reliable source and our go-to supplier.
3. How to Grow the Sprouts
Now that you have the seeds and sprouting jar(s) the fun begins — growing the sprouts at home. I find it so rewarding to grow sprouts to eat in my own home, and the process has become a ritual. Since I have an engineering background, this step-by-step guide has been highly tested and optimized. That being said, the timing for each step isn’t that critical. Just make sure your sprouts look and smell healthy.
Step 1: Soaking
Put 4 tablespoons of mung bean, alfalfa, or broccoli sprouting seeds in your clean, half-gallon jar (or 2 tablespoons if you’re using a quart-sized jar) with about 4 inches of water. Soak overnight, 8-12 hours ideally. If you forget about them, it’s okay as even up to 24 hours is okay.
Note: Make sure your jar is very clean. Between sprouting harvests, wash it thoroughly with hot water and soap.
Pro Tip: If you have other house plants, instead of dumping the soaking water down the drain in Step 2, use it to water your plants. They will love it!
Step 2: Rinse
In the morning, or 8-12 hours later, empty the water and rinse the seeds with room temperature sink water. By rinse, I mean fill the jar with more water than sprouts, swirl it around, and drain the water. Repeat this at least twice and go right to Step 3.
Note: Clean, potable water is a must. In most places, that means sink water is okay. However, if you have hard water, use filtered water. The tell-tale sign of hard water is if it leaves stains on your clean glasses or on your shower door. After experimenting with this, I found that hard water causes my sprouts to smell bad and spoil. So, I recommend that you invest in a Brita Pitcher if you have hard water. You’ll need the big 10-cup pitcher since for the two rinses per day.
Step 3: Drain
Drain all excess water from the jar. The seeds are going to be wet, but you don’t want a puddle of water inside the jar when you are growing your sprouts. If you do, it’s a good way to welcome unwanted bacteria. Plus, the number one reason sprouts fail to develop correctly is over-watering.
To sufficiently drain, hold and rotate the jar at an angle over the sink until water stops dripping (usually within one minute). Next, place it on the dish rack or set the jar on a plate or in a bowl so that it can sit at an angle. Once the jar is sufficiently drained, rotate the jar horizontally (kind of like a rolling pin rolling out dough) so the seeds tumble and line the inside of the jar evenly.
Note: Rotate and tumble the sprouts gently, so you don’t damage the shoots.
Step 4: Grow Time
Now that your sprouts are rinsed and drained place the jar on the countertop and cover it with a towel. Make sure to leave the open end of the jar uncovered for air flow. Let them sit and grow for 6-12 hours. I usually only rinse and drain my sprouts in the morning and at night, making a simple 12-hour routine.
If you live in a hot and humid environment, then it’s a great practice to rinse and drain the sprouts every 6 hours, or three times daily.
The ideal growing temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as the house is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you should be fine. What’s more important is the humidity. If the humidity is 70% or higher, sprouting won’t work well at all.
Note: Cover the sprouts with a towel, so they grow in a relatively dark space. There seems to be some debate about whether or not sprouts need to be in the dark. I put it to the test and determined that the sprouts grow faster and healthier when they are grown in the dark.
Step 5: Repeat
Repeat the rinse, drain, grow time steps for 4 days. If you are using 4 tablespoons of seeds in the half-gallon jar, you will know they are done because the whole jar will be jam-packed with fresh, crisp sprouts. Well done.
Technically, you can harvest and eat your sprouts at any point. However, we like them best after 4 days because you get the highest yield and biggest sprouts. Before 4 days, the flavor is stronger and more potent, and for me, too strong. Four days is the sweet spot and typically what other sprouters recommend as well.
Note: Your sprouts should never smell rotten or have a slimy texture. If they do, abort, clean your sprouting jar, throw them in the garbage, and start over. However, broccoli sprouts are an exception. They will smell like sulfur and have tiny root hairs that look like mold. Don’t worry that is normal. Just make sure you keep rinsing and draining them well.
4. How to Get The Sprouts You’ve Grown Ready to Eat
Once your sprouts are grown and ready to eat, there is a process I follow to de-hull the sprouts, dry them, and boost their nutrition. This process is important because it will make the sprouts last longer in the fridge.
Step 1: De-hull (Optional)
The shell of the seed is still in the jar when you have finished growing the sprouts. Separating the hulls from the sprouts makes them more spoil resistant. Also, if there are too many hulls, it can detract from the taste and texture. That being said, this step is optional. Many people don’t mind eating the hulls with the sprouts.
The best way to separate them is to first clean and disinfect the kitchen sink. Once cleaned, plug the drain and fill the sink with about 6 inches of water.
Next, grab a baking sheet to keep next to the sink. This drying pan is where you’ll place the sprouts once you’ve separated the hulls. Place a clean towel or a paper towel on top of the drying pan to soak up the water from the sprouts.
Dump the sprouts into the sink and use your fingers to de-clump the inter-locking sprout shoots. You’ll notice that the hulls float and tend to clump up on the water surface. Use the screen lid to skim and remove the hulls. Toss them into your trash or compost.
Reach your hand in the water, grab a clump of sprouts, pull it underwater, and shake the clump so more hulls separate and float to the surface. Then, remove the sprouts from the water and lightly shake them dry.
Finally, place the sprouts on the towel on the drying pan and move on to the next step.
Note: If you don’t want to de-hull your sprouts, simply rinse them thoroughly and lay them out on the drying pan.
Step 2: Dry and Enhance Nutrition
Now that your sprouts are separated from their hulls, they need to dry. While they are drying, there’s a trick to enhance their nutrition. Place the sprouts in an area of your home where they will get indirect sunlight. Here, let them sit and dry for a few hours.
You’ll notice that the leaves on the sprouts turn bright green as they develop chlorophyll. I like to flip the sprouts over on the drying pan so that more sprouts turn green.
Note: You can leave them to dry for several hours. Just make sure that they don’t get too much airflow. For example, don’t place them in the draft of the air conditioner or under a ceiling fan. They will dry out and look limp. Also, they need to dry before refrigeration, so, if you’re impatient like me, it’s okay to start eating them fresh right after you rinse and de-hull. If you’re in a rush and need to dry them quickly for refrigeration, use a salad spinner.
Step 3: Eat, Refrigerate or Freeze
Way to go, you have successfully grown sprouts to eat in your own home!
Now make a tasty recipe or put them in a storage container for refrigeration. Again, make sure the sprouts are dry before putting them in the refrigerator. It helps to put a paper towel in the container with the sprouts to absorb condensation. The wetter they are in the fridge, the shorter they keep.
Sprouts have never lasted more than 3-days in our fridge because we like to eat them fresh. However, apparently, they last up to 7-days. If you want to preserve their freshness longer, you can also freeze them.
5. How We Eat The Sprouts We Grow
Here are two recipes we love, one for mung bean sprouts and another for alfalfa or broccoli sprouts.
Mung Bean Sprout Recipe (Cooked)
- Mung bean sprouts (around 3-4 cups)
- Olive oil or sesame oil
- Minced ginger (a portion around the size of your pinky finger)
- Freshly minced garlic (1 clove)
- Soy sauce
- Salt (optional)
We prefer cooked mung bean sprouts since the raw sprouts have a bitter taste.
Heat up the pan to a proper stir fry temperature and add some oil. Next, add the ginger and garlic and let it cook in the oil for about one minute until fragrant but not burned. Pour in the sprouts and stir them frequently. Adding a small amount of water will help steam the sprouts and prevent burning. After 1-2 minutes, add the soy sauce and stir it in. Your mung bean sprout stir fry is ready to eat. Salt and pepper to taste.
Alfalfa or Broccoli Sprout Recipe (Raw)
- Tortilla, toasted bread, or cracker
- Cream cheese, diced avocado, or guacamole
- Alfalfa or broccoli sprouts
- Black pepper (optional)
We enjoy alfalfa and broccoli sprouts when they are raw. Take either a tortilla, toasted bread, or cracker and add your spread of choice. Then, top with raw sprouts. That’s it, you can get creative here, but we find it’s the perfect snack made from whatever is in the fridge. Enjoy!
6. Safety Considerations for Growing Sprouts at Home
When I first considered growing sprouts to eat, I was worried that I was going to get myself sick through foodborne illnesses. I have done considerable research on the topic and focused on taking precautions to avoid growing a bad batch of sprouts.
Don’t Worry About This When Growing Sprouts To Eat
There is no denying that sprouts have been the cause of illness outbreaks in the past. The 2011 outbreak in Germany was one of the worst. So, why don’t we have to worry about this? Since we are growing organic, non-GMO sprouts from a trusted source, we know that the seeds are not contaminated with manure or bad water. Historically, this was the likely source of E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella outbreaks.
Also, since we are growing sprouts at home, we have control over the growing environment. Sprouts grow well in warm, moist environments, and so does bacteria. Large-scale commercial producers of sprouts have a much harder time controlling the environment. Plus, their harvest is so large that an infected area may go unnoticed.
Focus On This When Growing Sprouts To Eat
Fortunately, since we are growing our sprouts at home, we have full control over what seeds we sprout, the cleanliness of the process, and the growing environment. To ensure a clean operation, focus on the following when growing sprouts at home.
- The sprouting jar is very clean
- The water source is potable and preferably filtered
- Your hands are always clean
- The sprouts are rinsed and drained thoroughly and frequently
- The temperature and humidity are below 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity at all times
- The sprout harvest doesn’t look or smell funky (except broccoli sprouts and their sulfur smell/tiny root hairs that look like mold)
growing sprouts to eat – final thoughts
My goal for this article was to guide you step-by-step through the entire process of starting to grow sprouts at home. I appreciate any feedback and questions in the comments section below. This will help us all learn, and I will continue to update this post as more groundbreaking sprouting discoveries are made. Also, I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do grow a lot of sprouts!
I especially look forward to growing sprouts to eat with our future children. Plus, sprouts are pet-friendly too!