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Growing Sprouts at Home for Pennies

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Discover how to grow bean sprouts right in your kitchen. It will save you a bundle, plus it’s a great way to have some freshly harvested produce year round. Growing them at home is easy to do! (And a perfect activity for apartment dwellers who want to grow some of their own food.)

Be sure to try growing some organic broccoli sprouts, too!

Contributed by Chris Dalziel

bean sprouts in a wooden bowl

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Changing the way we think

The grocery stores near me sell two kinds of sprouts. Alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts. The alfalfa sprouts come in a plastic clam shell. The mung bean sprouts are tied together with two elastic bands and come in a plastic bag that says, “Product of China.”

In the summer when my garden is vibrant I don’t even look at the packages of sprouts, but in the winter, I’m tempted. Then I remember how easy it is to grow sprouts and I wonder, “Who buys those things?” Growing your own sprouts is economical, fast, and better for the environment.

Sprouting your beans is also better for you. Growing mung beans is a good place for beginners to start. Learning how to grow bean sprouts will open the door to many tasty experiments.

Related: How to grow lettuce indoors in the winter

salad with bean sprouts and tomatoes

How to grow bean sprouts (and other sprouts!)

You can sprout mung beans on your kitchen counter in as little as four days. Sprouting lentils is just as easy. While using a fancy automatic sprouter can make the job mindless, you don’t need any special equipment to be successful. You can start growing sprouts in a mason jar or a cotton bag.

Once you’ve learned how to grow bean sprouts, you’ll be able to sprout a variety of different beans, all winter long. They are crunchy, nutritious, and rich in antioxidants. (You might also want to try growing microgreens, like these sunflower sprouts.)

Why choose lentils and mung beans?

  • Beans contain indigestible proteins that are difficult to digest. They need to be soaked and cooked in order to make them digestible.
  • Unsprouted, they are starchy and contain lectins. Lectins are implicated in food allergies, auto-immune disease, and inflammation. But lectins are removed from food through sprouting or fermentation.
  • When beans are sprouted they become as easy to digest as other vegetables. They increase in vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes, too.
glass jar with seeds inside

Different types of legumes for sprouting

Mung beans (above) are tiny green beans. It’s amazing how big the sprouts can grow when you consider how very tiny the seed is. Two tablespoons of seed is enough to grow four cups of sprouts. They are a powerhouse of flavor and nutrition.

Lentils come in a variety of sizes and colors. The smallest sizes are best for sprouting lentils. They seem to sprout faster than green lentils. The red lentils often used in Indian cooking are split and won’t sprout, so avoid those. (Lentils are not technically a bean, but they’re sprouted the same way.)

close up of sprouting lid

Related: Growing Lentil Sprouts

Step by step: How to grow bean sprouts in a mason jar

  1. You don’t need to buy special sprouting seeds to successfully sprout beans – but make sure your seeds are organic. Organic seeds will be chemical free, non-irradiated, and GMO-free.
  2. Wash a wide mouth mason jar and rinse it well to remove any soap residue.
  3. Prepare a piece of window screen to fit your wide mouth mason jar. I use polyester window screen on my sprouting jars, drawing a circle on the screen using the mouth of the jar as my pattern. I cut around the circle. Then my sprouting screen is ready to use. If you don’t have spare window screen laying around your kitchen, you can get specially made sprouting screens from Amazon. This one will fit a wide mouth jar and is BPA-free.
  4. Place two tablespoons of bean seeds in your one-quart mason jar.
  5. Place the screened lid on the mason jar.
  6. Fill the jar ½ full with cold water. Let the mung beans soak overnight.
  7. Rinse the mung beans in the morning and turn the jar upside down to drain.
  8. Rinse and drain the seeds twice a day for 4 to 6 days. The mung beans are ready to eat when the white sprout is at least 1.5 cm long. At this length the lectins in the bean are converted into digestible proteins. You can grow the sprouts longer if you wish. I like to grow them until they are about three inches long. It takes about five days for them to get that long.
  9. If the sprouts are exposed to light while they are growing the leaf tip will turn green on days 5 and 6. If kept in the dark, they will remain white, like the bean sprouts from China. I like my sprouts to be a bit green.
bean sprouts in a bowl

How long does each one take to produce?

Mung beans and sprouting lentils grow faster than some other options. Each one is ready when the leaf sprout is about 1.5 cm or ½ an inch long. For mung beans and small lentils this takes four days. You can leave the sprouts to grow longer, but don’t stop the sprouting process too soon.

How to store your bean sprouts

Any time after day four, replace the screened lid with a normal mason jar lid and place your sprouts in the fridge. Rinse them once a day to prevent them from drying out. Eat them within a week.

Related: How to grow popcorn microgreens

bean sprouts, close up in jar and in wooden bowl

Cooking with sprouts

You can enjoy your sprouts lightly steamed. Bean sprouts are perfect to add to rice dishes or stir fries. Add sprouts to your cooked dish just before serving. I turn off the heat, add a lid, and let the residual heat steam the beans, while I’m putting the rest of the food on the table. They will remain tender crisp and maintain their high antioxidant levels, when steamed this way.

Are bean sprouts safe to eat raw?

You can eat these sprouts raw, too. The indigestible starches in beans become digestible in the sprouting process and they become as easy to digest as other vegetables. Try them raw in salads, as a topping for sandwiches, or as a snack food. You can even add bean sprouts to your smoothies.

Bean sprouts are a nutritious and inexpensive way to increase your vegetable intake in winter, when fresh vegetables are more expensive.

Once you’ve tried growing bean sprouts you’ll never be tempted to buy those imported pale bean sprouts again.

How to Grow Bean Sprouts

How to Grow Bean Sprouts

Sprouts are easy to grow inside, making them a great option for fresh greens during the winter months or for urban homesteaders.

Instructions

  1. Wash a wide mouth mason jar and rinse it well to remove any soap residue.
  2. Prepare a piece of window screen to fit your wide mouth mason jar. I use polyester window screen on my sprouting jars, drawing a circle on the screen using the mouth of the jar as my pattern. I cut around the circle. Then my sprouting screen is ready to use. If you don’t have spare window screen laying around your kitchen, you can order specially made sprouting screens online. 
  3. Place two tablespoons of bean seeds in your one-quart mason jar.
  4. Place the screened lid on the mason jar.
  5. Fill the jar ½ full with cold water. Let the mung beans soak overnight.
  6. Rinse the mung beans in the morning and turn the jar upside down to drain.
  7. Rinse and drain your bean seeds twice a day for 4 to 6 days. The mung beans are ready to eat when the white sprout is at least 1.5 cm long. At this length the lectins in the bean are converted into digestible proteins. You can grow the sprouts longer if you wish. I like to grow them until they are about three inches long. It takes about five days for them to get that long.

Notes

If the sprouts are exposed to light while they are growing the leaf tip will turn green on days 5 and 6. If the sprouts are kept in the dark, they will remain white, like the bean sprouts from China. I like my bean sprouts to be a bit green.

Mung beans and sprouting lentils grow faster than some other beans. 

Store sprouts in the fridge for up to a week. Rinse them once a day to prevent them from drying out. 

Nutrition Information:
Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g

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Meet the Author

Chris Dalziel

Chris is the author of The Beeswax Workshop: How to Make Your Own Natural Candles, Cosmetics, Cleaners, Soaps, Healing Balms, and More. She is a teacher, author, gardener, and community herbalist with 30+ years of growing herbs and formulating herbal remedies, skin care products, soaps, and candles. She teaches workshops and writes extensively about gardening, crafts, and medicinal herbs on her blog at JoybileeFarm.com. Chris's other titles include The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils: Learning to Use Your First 10 Essential Oils with Confidence and Homegrown Healing, From Seed to Apothecary. Chris lives with her husband Robin in the mountains of British Columbia on a 140 acre ranch, with sheep, dairy goats, llamas, and a few retired chickens. They have 3 adult children and 3 granddaughters. All photos courtesy of Chris.

18 comments… add one
  • Renee Nov 26, 2015, 5:18 am

    Where do you buy the seeds to sprout?

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 30, 2015, 7:16 pm

      You can get them at the health food store, if you have one. You can also order them online. Here’s just one collection: https://amzn.to/1SteO3K

    • Bebygirl May 8, 2020, 3:18 pm

      I buy them at either an oriental store or an Halal/Kosher store i.e. Pakistani or Indian store, I get 2 pounds for $3.99 in my area.

  • Kathy Nov 29, 2015, 3:39 pm

    Ive grown Broccoli sprouts in jars at my place, it was an interesting exercise but not something I found sustainable… https://bit.ly/1t8VHkI

  • Helena Nov 30, 2015, 7:10 pm

    This is probably a silly question, but do you leave the jar upside-down (over a bowl or something) to continue to drain constantly, or do you turn it back upright once it’s well-drained?

    • Chris Nov 30, 2015, 8:55 pm

      I do both. If I have room on my dish draining rack, I leave it upside down on the rack until I need it again. But if I don’t have room I leave the jar upright on the counter. I have a friend who leaves her jars on their sides, on the back of the kitchen counter, so that the sprouts grow up on the side of the jar. But I have a smaller kitchen and not as much counter space.
      The main concern about draining them is that you don’t want them sitting in a puddle of warm water, because of the possibility of bacterial growth.

  • Diana Auerhammer Dec 2, 2015, 7:47 pm

    This pictures in your article are wonderful! And, I have always thought of sprouts as the ultimate easy source of year round mega nutrition there is.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 9, 2015, 5:51 pm

      Those pictures are from Chris! Inspiring, no?

  • Arlene Hogan Dec 23, 2015, 12:21 pm

    I bought barley at Winco,,it has been over a week..no sprouting.Either Barley doesn’t sprout or the seeds I bought (in the bulk food dept) were GMO

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 23, 2015, 4:30 pm

      It might be a leap to say it’s GMO. To my knowledge, barley is not transgenically altered. Was it organic? Sometimes grains are treated to prevent insect damage/spoilage (organic ones shouldn’t be). Did you get *whole barley, not the kind you’d put in soup? Like this: https://sproutpeople.org/barley-grass/

    • Bridget Aug 22, 2019, 12:10 pm

      They are not normally GMO but unless they were organic they were probably killed with glyphosates on the stem to make harvesting easier.

  • Brenda Mar 18, 2017, 9:53 am

    Where is the easiest place to find these seeds? Home Depot nurseries? Where? I’ve sprouted for years, but never considered the organic and GMO free aspects. Thanks for your article!

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 23, 2017, 8:01 am

      Natural food stores usually have them, if you have one near you. Or Amazon has a big selection: https://amzn.to/2nMYRAe #ad

  • Janice Johnson Dec 3, 2019, 1:07 am

    I love your article. I’ve been growing sprouts and microgreens for a few months. So exciting. Just thought I should say that I grow red lentils. They are really easy. I main,y grow them a microgreens but have also grown them as sprouts. I just got them from the supermarket.

  • Janice Klassen Dec 22, 2019, 6:42 am

    Love your ideas and I’d like to try growing sprouts! Is there a reason you need screening not cheesecloth in the top?

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 23, 2019, 11:08 am

      Cheesecloth can work, but in certain climates may tend to mildew. It’s also not as easily reusable.

  • Gail Head Jun 26, 2020, 7:12 am

    Can you still eat them if they grow little green leaves?

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 1, 2020, 8:22 am

      Yes, though they might be a bit tougher.

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