How To Grow Fresh Sprouts Right In Your Kitchen Cabinet

Growing sprouts at home is an easy way to get fresh greens all year long.

December 19, 2017

When I was a kid, sprouts meant the oddly crunchy canned bean sprouts that were part of canned chow mein kits. When I reached adulthood, I discovered fresh alfalfa sprouts (served on earthy whole grain bread with smashed avocado—yum!), and then I discovered that growing sprouts is so easy, you can do it in your kitchen cabinets.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

Bean and alfalfa sprouts are still two of the most common types people grow at home, but there are dozens of others that are as easy, or even easier, to grow and eat. All sprouts contain tons of disease-fighting phytonutrients, and growing your own is an easy way to add fresh, organic veggies to your family's diet without breaking the budget.

Follow along in the video above, and the detailed step-by-step below, to learn how to grow basic sprouts right in your kitchen cabinet—plus  read on to learn how to sprout whole grains, almonds, and alfalfa.  

Related: Microgreens—The Salad You Can Grow Inside Any Time Of Year

jar full of sprouts
Prep your sprouting supplies

For each of the recipes below, you'll need some sort of seed, as well as a glass jar, a small square of netting or cheesecloth to cover the jar, and a rubber band to hold it on. If you don't have any cheesecloth, a perforated lid will work. For some you also need a small heating pad like this one

Wash the jars and lids in hot water and allow them to air-dry completely between sprouting sessions. That's important because the warm, humid conditions sprouts need to grow are also prime breeding grounds for Salmonella and E. coli bacteria that could be living on or in your seeds if you're not careful. Those germs are the reason why we include them in our list of 8 things food safety experts never eat. Be sure to consume your sprouts as soon as they're ready. If you can't, refrigerate and eat them within three days, or freeze them and use within six months. Cooking with them is the best way to kill any lingering bacteria.

Related: A Simple Step-By-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Seeds

jar full of bean sprouts
Instructions for growing simple sprouts in your kitchen cabinet

The easiest and most basic sprouts can be made with whole, dry lentils or beans. Here's how: 

1. Put ½ cup of lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, or any other dry bean (these are your "seeds") in a clean quart-size jar; fill the jar with lukewarm water, cover, and let everything soak for 12 hours. 

2. Then, drain out the water and turn your jar on its side, with the bottom end propped up slightly so the seeds can drain without water pooling underneath them. Place a saucer underneath the mouth of the jar to catch drips, and put the jar and the saucer in a warm (68 to 86 degrees F) place. Light is not necessary at this point—it will make the developing shoots short and tough—so I usually grow them in one of my kitchen cabinets, using a small electric heating pad to keep things toasty. If you don't have the cabinet space, you can place everything inside a cooler and set the heating pad on low.

3. Twice a day, rinse the sprouting seeds with lukewarm water and drain it right away. When the roots just start to peek out (after two to three days), discard any soft seeds. At that point the sprouts are ready to sprinkle onto salads, or to use in any recipe calling for dry lentils or beans (they will cook in half the time and are more digestible). For traditional bean sprouts, follow the same instructions, but continue for a few days longer, until the shoots are one to two inches long. They're good fresh (try some in coleslaw) or lightly steamed, in a curry, or added to soups, stir-fries, and casseroles.

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Read on below for more delicious sprouting ideas. 

wheat sprouts
Sprouting whole grains

You can sprout any raw whole grain, including wheat berries, brown rice, spelt, barley, rye, millet, buckwheat, or quinoa. Sprouted grains are more nutritious, sweeter, and easier to digest than the unsprouted versions, and they cook faster too. Grain sprouts are grown in the same manner as dry lentils and beans (except for buckwheat, which doesn't need to be soaked at the beginning). They can be harvested when the roots just start to peek out, or grow to ¼ inch long.

Cook grain sprouts whole, the same way you would unsprouted grains (just expect them to cook faster), or add them to baked goods. You can even grind them in the blender with a little liquid and use the slurry in place of flour while baking (you'll need to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe, and you may also want to reduce the amount of any sweeteners called for). Eat them up as soon as they've sprouted. Sprouted grains continue to grow when refrigerated, becoming tough and not particularly digestible.

Related: How To Grow A Field Of Grains Right In Your Own Backyard

sprouting almonds
Belen Rodriguez Martinez / EyeEm/getty
Sprouting delicious almonds

I'm fond of raw almonds, but sprout them for just one to two days, and they become irresistible. To sprout them, just soak a handful of raw almonds for 12 hours before you sprout them then follow the simple directions for sprouts for one to two days. No root will appear, but the flesh will plump up and get sweeter. Snack on them as is, or use them in any recipe calling for almonds. As with all the other sprouts, eat them immediately or refrigerate them for up to three days—if you can resist them for that long.

Related: How To Make Your Own Almond Milk

alfalfa sprouts
Diane Labombarbe/getty
Sprouting versatile alfalfa

Last, but not least, be sure to try growing some familiar and versatile alfalfa sprouts to add some homegrown greens to your diet. (Here's how to cook any leafy green in minutes.) You'll need to buy alfalfa seed at a natural food store, where it's usually kept in plastic bags in their raw food refrigerator.

1. Measure 2 tablespoons of alfalfa seed into a clean quart jar and cover with lukewarm water. Cover the jar and soak for four to six hours.

2. Drain and rinse the seeds, keeping them in a warm, dark place, and continue to do that twice a day until the baby sprouts are about an inch long.

3. Each time you drain the seeds, rotate your jar a bit to help spread them out, which allows them to get more air and to sprout faster.

4. When your baby sprouts reach the inch mark, move the jar to a lighted area (the counter is fine) and continue the rinsing routine for another day or two, until you see tiny green leaves. They're good in salads, sandwiches, and omelets.

Related: How To Grow Nutritious Lettuce Greens All Year Long