How Do You Grow Sprouts To Eat?
This is a step-by-step guide for beginners on how to grow sprouts at home in a jar. We’ll cover what supplies need, the best way to grow mung bean, alfalfa seed, and broccoli seed sprouts (the best sprouts to eat), and how to clean, store, and cook sprouts.
I started growing sprouts at home in January 2019. It’s been a daily part of my routine ever since. Mainly since the natural antihistamine they contain eliminates my pet allergy.
After growing sprouts successfully in various climates (Minnesota, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and the high land desert of Mexico), my process works anywhere.
For years I wondered how to grow sprouts safely? More specifically, I asked how much effort it would require to grow them at home. I was also overwhelmed by all the different sprouts you can grow.
I am happy to report that growing sprouts at home in a jar is dead easy. For example, it takes 14 minutes (over four days) to grow one pound of alfalfa seed sprouts.
The goal of this post is to outline everything you need to know, and make learning how to grow sprouts a breeze. Let’s begin.
how do you grow sprouts?
What’s The Best Way To Grow Sprouts?
The best way to grow sprouts is at home in a sprouting jar. When I say best, I mean the least amount of work for the highest yield and lowest waste. There are other ways, like sprouting them in a wet paper towel, but they’re less efficient.
To grow sprouts at home, 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 seed, or broccoli seed sprouts, so you want to grow enough to eat daily between harvests.
Of course, if you already have quart-sized jars, that is fine to start. 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 we live out of suitcases, and I am only feeding two people (and sometimes cats). If you want to become a serious sprouter or have a larger family, I recommend buying three of these sprouting jars.
What Are The Best Sprouting Seeds To Grow And Eat?
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, I only tried once.
Some sprouts don’t taste good. Others only sprout in specific climates. My goal was to find highly nutritious, tasty sprouts that were easy to grow anywhere as we travel the world. Only three sprouting seeds/beans stood my personal test of time.
This article focuses on learning how to grow mung bean, alfalfa seed, and broccoli seed sprouts at home. These are the best, and most popular sprouts to eat.
1. Mung Bean Sprouts
Growing mung bean sprouts is our favorite. It’s so easy to grow your own bean sprouts, and they taste amazing in a stir fry. Much of this article is a mung bean sprouts how-to guide. Mung bean sprouts also have an incredible nutrition profile.
2. Alfalfa Sprouts
Our second favorite is growing alfalfa sprouts. It’s easy to learn how to grow alfalfa sprouts, and they are delicious to eat raw. We love them on top of a salad, slice of avocado toast, or cracker with cream cheese.
We share more recipes with alfalfa sprouts at the end of the article. Also, since you’re growing sprouts at home following this process, alfalfa sprouts are always safe to eat.
3. Broccoli Sprouts
I grow these less frequently because they aren’t as tasty as alfalfa sprouts. What’s more, is they usually require additional rinsing and cleaning during the sprouting process. We’ll talk about how to clean and prepare broccoli sprouts for eating.
They are not our favorite, however, I cannot ignore them since I’m fascinated by how nutritious broccoli sprouts are.
What Sprouting Seeds/Beans To Buy?
You can’t just buy any bean or seed at the grocery store. Organic, GMO-free seeds are a requirement. This ensures that we don’t have contaminations from manure fertilizer or chemical pesticides.
Additionally, 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 source and our go-to supplier. To begin, buy one or all of these sprouting seeds on Amazon.
- One pound bag of mung bean sprouting seeds
- One pound bag of alfalfa sprouting seeds
- One pound bag of broccoli sprouting seeds
Or, if you want to sprout a variety of seeds to experiment yourself, this 6-pack of sprouting seeds is recommended.
How to Grow 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. For us, the process has become a ritual, like making the best French pressed coffee in the morning.
I used my engineering background to test and optimize this step-by-step guide repeatedly. That being said, the timing for each step isn’t always critical. In a way, it’s more of an art than a science.
So, let’s learn how to grow mung bean, alfalfa, and broccoli sprouts at home.
While growing your own sprouts at home, always make sure they look and smell healthy throughout the process.
Step 1: Soaking
Begin the process before bed. Place four tablespoons of mung beans, alfalfa seeds, or broccoli seeds in your clean, half-gallon, glass sprouting jar (two tablespoons if you’re using a quart-sized jar). Fill the jar with plenty of clean drinking water to rinse the beans or seeds.
Next, drain the water and refill the jar with about a cup of water. Soak the beans or seeds overnight for 8-12 hours ideally. If you forget about them, it’s okay for up to 24 hours.
Make sure your jar is very clean. Between sprouting harvests, wash it thoroughly with hot water and soap.
If you have house plants, instead of dumping the soaking water down the drain, use it to water your plants. They will love the extra nutrients.
Step 2: Rinse
In the morning, or 8-12 hours later, empty the water and rinse the seeds with room temperature drinking 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 before Step 3.
Clean water is vital to successfully and safely grow sprouts at home, clean water is a must. In some countries, like the US, that means sink water is acceptable. However, if you have hard water, I highly recommend using filtered water for growing sprouts.
The tell-tale sign of hard water are stains on your clean glasses or on your shower door. After experimenting, I found that hard water caused my sprouts to smell bad and spoil. If your sprouts become spoiled, bean or broccoli, especially, make sure you’re cleaning them with clean water.
If you don’t have clean, soft water, I recommend that you invest in this Brita Pitcher. You’ll want the big 10-cup pitcher to accommodate two rinses per day.
Step 3: Drain
When growing sprouts in a jar, it’s critical to drain all excess water. While the sprouts are growing, they should remain wet, but not in standing water inside the jar. Standing water is a sure way to welcome unwanted bacteria.
Hold and rotate the jar at an angle over the sink until water stops dripping (usually within one minute).
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.
If you are in a dry environment, you can move on to step 4. However, if you are growing sprouts in a humid climate, there’s one more thing to do.
In a humid environment, there must be no standing water. Therefore, place the sprouting jar on the dish rack, a plate, or in a bowl so that it can sit at an angle during grow time (step 4).
The number one reason sprouts fail to develop correctly is over-watering.
Step 4: Grow Time
Now, place the jar on the countertop (or in a bowl) covered with a towel. Make sure to leave the open end of the jar uncovered for airflow. Let them sit and grow for 6-12 hours. I usually only rinse and drain my sprouts when I wake up in the morning and before turning in.
If you live in a more extreme climate, such as extremely high or low humidity, then you might need to rinse and drain the sprouts every six hours, or three times daily.
If your mung bean, alfalfa, or broccoli sprouts become smelly (typical in a humid environment), you need to rinse them more frequently and dry them thoroughly. If they turn brown (common in a dry climate), you need to rinse them more often.
The ideal growing temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as the house is between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, you should be fine. What’s more important is the humidity. If the humidity is 70% or higher, growing sprouts in a jar will be challenging.
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.
Why do they grow faster in the dark? Beats me. But growing them in the dark does mimic their normal sprouting environment: under the ground.
Step 5: Repeat
You’ve completed day one of growing sprouts at home. Now, repeat the rinse, drain, grow time steps for a total of four days. Since you used 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, you can now make sprouts at home for the rest of your life!
Technically, you can harvest and eat your sprouts at any point. However, we like them best after four days because you get the biggest and best-tasting sprouts. Before then, the flavor is too strong. Four days is the sweet spot and typically what other sprouters recommend.
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, draining, and cleaning broccoli sprouts thoroughly.
Prepare To Eat The Sprouts You’ve Grown
Once your sprouts are grown, there is a process to follow before you can eat them. Before consuming, you need to clean, de-hull, and dry the sprouts. You also have an opportunity to boost their nutrition.
This process is crucial because it will make the sprouts safe to eat and last longer in the fridge.
Step 1: De-hull
The shell, or hull, of the bean/seed is still in the jar when you finish growing the sprouts. Separating the hulls from the sprouts makes them more spoil resistant. Additionally, too many hulls mixed with the sprouts detracts from the taste and texture of your sprout recipes.
Don’t expect to separate all the hulls from the sprouts. That is impossible and would take forever. It’s normal to eat some shells with the sprouts.
The best way to separate them is in a large bowl or in a clean and disinfected kitchen sink. First, fill the bowl or sink with 4-6 inches of water.
Next, grab a baking sheet and line it with paper towels. This drying pan is where you’ll place the sprouts once you’ve separated the hulls.
Take a handful of sprouts, start separating the chutes, and put the sprouts into the bowl/sink. Once they’re floating, continue to de-clump the inter-locking sprout shoots. You’ll notice that the hulls float and tend to clump up along the side of the bowl. 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 drying pan and move on to the next step.
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.
The sprouts can dry and soak up the sun for several hours. However, 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 learned how to grow sprouts. Specifically, you have mastered the process of growing mung bean, alfalfa, and broccoli sprouts in a jar at home. A skill you can utilize year-round for the rest of your life!
Now it’s time to 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.
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.
During refrigeration, it helps to keep a paper towel in the container with the sprouts to absorb condensation. The wetter they are in the fridge, the shorter they keep.
How To Eat Mung Bean, Alfalfa, and Broccoli Sprouts
As mentioned, we think mung bean, alfalfa, and broccoli sprouts are the best sprouts to eat. They are the easiest to grow in a jar, the most nutritious, and best tasting.
Below we share our favorite recipes with mung bean, alfalfa, and broccoli sprouts.
How To Cook Mung Bean Sprouts
- 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 and pepper to taste
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.
This is our favorite mung bean sprouts recipe. However, you can add them to any type of stir fry.
How to Eat Alfalfa or Broccoli Sprouts
- Tortilla, toasted bread, or cracker
- Cream cheese, diced avocado, or guacamole spread
- Alfalfa or broccoli sprouts
There are many recipes with alfalfa sprouts that we have tried, but we don’t prefer them cooked. Instead, 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!
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.
Mung bean, alfalfa seed, and broccoli seed sprouts are safe to eat.
How To Grow Sprouts Safe 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’ve learned how to grow sprouts at home, we have control over the growing environment. It can be risky since sprouts grow well in warm, moist environments just like bacteria.
Large-scale commercial producers of sprouts have a much harder time controlling the environment and monitoring the sprouts. Their harvest is so large that an infected area may go unnoticed.
You are growing sprouts at home in a jar. It’s a much smaller scale, and your sprouting jar and water source are clean. As long as the sprouts you grow smell healthy, they are safe to eat.
Final Tips On 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 success while growing mung bean, alfalfa seed, or broccoli seed sprouts in a jar, focus on the following.
- Make sure your sprouting jar is very clean
- The water source is clean and preferably filtered
- Always wash your hands when handling sprouts
- Rinse and drain your sprouts thoroughly at least twice daily
- Keep the temperature and humidity below 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity
- If the sprout harvest looks or smells funky (except broccoli sprouts and their sulfur smell/tiny root hairs that look like mold) don’t eat it
Have fun and get your kids, friends, and family involved!
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 with improvements.
Growing mung bean, alfalfa, and broccoli sprouts at home are easy, cost-effective, and a good way to sneak more vegetables into your day. Once you master this process, you should be able to make one pound of alfalfa sprouts in 14 minutes (over four days).
One of the reasons I love sprouts so much is that they eliminate my pet allergies. Sprouts are a natural antihistamine. When I stop eating sprouts daily, I can feel my pet allergy symptoms creeping back. Check out this article if you want to learn more about the amazing benefits of sprouts.
Lastly, I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do grow a lot of sprouts! Sometimes we need the pest to help us finish them. Yes, sprouts are pet-friendly!
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Don’t you know that we Chinese have sprouts machine(a little device as small as coffee machine?) for sale?
and the price is under 40$.
We didn’t know that, Kai. Thanks for letting us know. Do you have a favorite brand?
Thanks for the great article. Love that it’s thoroughly researched and road tested. Looking forward to trying this out at home. Great pics by the way. 😉
You’re welcome, Roberto. Let us know if you have questions once you start growing.