How to grow sprouts

If you are thinking about starting to grow sprouts, what are you waiting for? Sprouts are an amazing super-food, and very easy to grow with a little know-how.

A pile of purple and green sprouts
Red cabbage sprouts

Growing sprouts at home

Home grown sprouts are a great way to get a serving of fresh greens every day. Sprouts are extremely nutrient dense, and are known for their health benefits.

Mung bean sprouts are a great topping for many stir fry dishes (think Pad Thai), but all sprouts go well in salads, sandwiches, as a garnish to many kinds of dishes, or on their own as a snack. 

What are sprouts?

Sprouts are seeds that have been germinated in water, basically just baby plants. They are so nutrient dense because many of the nutrients that end up in the final fully grown plant are present in the seeds, and the baby sprouts. 

There are many different types of edible sprouts. A lot of vegetables and herbs have edible sprouts. Some of the best known sprouts are bean sprouts (actually mung bean sprouts) which are often sold at grocery stores. 

Sprouts and microgreens are very similar, and often confused. Sprouts grow in water without a growing medium, and the whole sprout (seed and all) is eaten. You can grow microgreens in soil or on on other growing media (even a damp paper towel), and they are cut before consuming, leaving the seed and root behind. 

What are the benefits of sprouting?

Sprouted seeds have many nutritional benefits. They are nutrient dense, and often referred to as a super-food. They contain iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and protein. But the real health benefit is that the germination process breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that normally decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. This means the sprouted grains have more available nutrients than unsprouted grains.

In addition to this, they are cheap, and quick and easy to grow.  You don’t need a lot of space to grow fresh veg if you are growing sprouts. 

Can all sprouts be eaten? 

The sprouts of most edible vegetables and herbs can be eaten, however there are a few that should be avoided. If you wouldn’t normally eat the leaves of the adult plant then it is wise to check before you eat the sprouts.

Some sprouts, like kidney beans and chickpea sprouts, need to be cooked thoroughly before being eaten. 

It is recommended to only buy seeds or beans specifically for sprouting or microgreen seeds, and to purchase them from a reputable company (such as Sprout House). That way you know that they are safe to consume. 

Lentil and chickpea sprouts in a white bowl
Sprouts are nutritious superfoods!

Do I need special sprouting seeds?

You should always use specific sprouting seeds or microgreen seeds for growing sprouts to eat. Organic sprout seeds are the best to choose. 

Many seeds that have been produced for growing will be chemically treated to help them germinate quickly once they are planted. This means they are probably not suitable for consuming as sprouts and so should be avoided. 

Sprouting-specific seeds have also been cleaned and tested to make sure they are free from harmful bacteria and other pathogens (that can multiply in the sprouting environment). 

Also, note that any seeds sold for cooking, such as lentils are not be suitable for sprouting as they are intended to be thoroughly boiled before consumption, so may not have the same checks

Health food stores are a good place to source seeds for sprouting. 

Flax seeds in a brown bowl on a wooden surface
Seeds for sprouting

How to choose seeds for sprouting

They key things that I look for when choosing seeds to sprout are the germination rate of the seed, the flavor of the sprouts, and seed quality. 

Some seeds germinate much faster than others. This means the sprouting process is quicker – you don’t have to wait as long for the sprouts to be ready to eat. It is worth noting the germinating time so you know how long before you get your finished sprouts. 

As you would expect, flavor varies a lot between different seed types. For example, broccoli seed sprouts, perhaps surprisingly, have a nutty spicy flavor that is similar to radishes. Broccoli seeds taste nothing like the vegetable. Alfalfa sprouts are much milder, and add crispness rather than intense flavor to a salad.   

Seed quality can vary a lot by source, and low quality can affect the percentage of seeds that germinate (i.e. sprout). Use a reputable sprouting or microgreen seed company to buy your sprouting seeds. 

What are the best seeds to sprout?

There are lots of different kinds of sprouts. They all have different flavors and take different times to sprout. For beginners, some good types to try are: 

  • Broccoli sprouts 
  • Mung beans
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Pea sprouts
  • Lentil sprouts
  • Radish sprouts

FAQ & Tips

Can I use sprouting seeds as garden seeds?

You can try, but they may not be as successful as using seeds made for sowing in the garden. Garden seeds are specially treated to help them germinate and to kill pests – this is the reason that you shouldn’t use garden seeds for growing sprouts.

Can you use any seeds for sprouting? 

Only use seeds that are specifically for sprouting or growing microgreens (commercially sold seeds for growing plants will contain harmful chemicals). Organic are best.

What are the easiest sprouts to grow? 

If you are new to sprouting, a great place to start is mung beans. These have a high success rate, and sprout in just a couple of days.

Are sprouts easy to grow? 

With the right equipment sprouts are extremely easy to grow. Growing sprouts in a jar or a specialist sprouting kit is very simple.

What do you need to grow sprouts?

The easiest way to grow sprouts is to use a sprouting jar. You can buy specially made sprouting jars, and sprouting lids that fit standard jar sizes. But, it is actually very easy to make your own sprouting kit. 

All you need is a lidded container such as a wide mouth mason jar, and a mesh cover that will allow air and water to pass through.

  • A specialist jar sprouter kit, or make your own using
    • Wide mouth jar (a medium size mason jar is perfect)
    • A rubber band
    • A piece of mesh or muslin cloth big enough to cover the jar mouth and be secured with the rubber band
    • A sprouting rack (or a dish rack)
  • Sprouting specific seeds

Grow Sprouts Instructions: Step-by-step

Yield: 1-2 cups of sprouts

How to grow sprouts

An inverted jar full of sprouted seeds

How to grow sprouts.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 3 days
Total Time 3 days 10 minutes
Estimated Cost $5

Materials

  • Sprouting seeds
  • Fresh water

Tools

  • Wide-mouthed jar
  • Sprouting lid (or mesh and a rubber band)
  • Sprouting rack or dish rack

Instructions

  1. Wash the jar and mesh or muslin cloth thoroughly.
  2. Put 1 tbsp of seeds in the jar and fill 3/4 with water. Cover and leave to soak overnight.
  3. Drain all the water away through the mesh lid.
  4. Rinse the seeds thoroughly in clean water and drain through the mesh lid. Repeat until the water is clear. Ensure that all the water is drained off.
  5. Place the jar upside down on an angle on the sprouting rack or dish rack to allow any excess water to drain off, and air to flow freely to dry the seeds.
  6. After 8 hours repeat steps 4 and 5. Repeat this step rinsing the seeds clean twice per day until the sprouts have grown to around 1/2 inch.
  7. Rinse the sprouts a final time, and dry thoroughly on a clean dish towel.
  8. Ensure they are completely dry and store in a container in the refrigerator. Consume within 2 weeks.

Notes

  • With leafy sprouts like broccoli and alfalfa it is best to shake the jar vigorously before rinsing to ensure that the shoots do not grow tangled and prevent proper rinsing.
  • Never refrigerate wet sprouts.