How To Soak & Cook Whole Grains

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Ideally, grains should be soaked overnight prior to cooking. This will reduce the cooking time and aid in digestion. Combine the grains and full amount of warm water along with an acid, such as: Kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, kefir, whey, yogurt, etc. Use 1 tablespoon of the acid per cup of liquid. Start the soaking the night before, so the grains will soak at least 7 to 8 hours. After the soaking time has passed, begin the cooking process.

Add 1/2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil or unrefined virgin coconut oil per cup of grain (optional). Add 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt per cup of grain (optional). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer for time listed, or until tender and all water is absorbed if you soaked it. Do not lift lid during cooking time, except very quickly once or twice to make sure it is simmering gently. After time required, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Let stand, covered, for about 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. All done!

Also see the Gluten-Free Grain Cooking Chart.

Grain Cooking Chart

information from “Enchanted Broccoli Forest” by Mollie Katzen

RICE (1 cup) WATER COOKING TIME YIELD
Brown Rice (long grain) 2 cups 35 to 45 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Brown Rice (short grain) 2 cups 35 to 45 minutes 3 3/4 cups
Brown Basmati Rice 2 cups 45 to 50 minutes 4 cups
Brown Jasmine Rice 2 cups 45 to 50 minutes 4 cups
Black Japonica Rice 2 cups 45 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Wehani Rice 2 cups 45 minutes 3 cups
Wild Rice 2 1/2 cups 1 1/4 hours 4 cups
Manitok Wild Rice 2 1/2 cups 50 to 60 minutes 4 cups
GRAIN (1 cup) WATER COOKING TIME YIELD
Amaranth 1 1/2 cups 25 minutes 2 cups
Barley, Hulled 3 cups 1 3/4 hours 4 cups
Barley, Pearl 2 cups 1 1/2 hours 4 cups
Buckwheat/Kasha 1 1/2 cups 10 minutes 3 1/2 cups
*Bulgur 1 1/2 cups 30 to 40 minutes 3 cups
Cracked Wheat 2 1/2 cups 7 to 10 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Cornmeal (Polenta) 2 1/2 cups 10 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Couscous 1 1/4 cups 10 minutes 2 3/4 cups
Kamut 2 1/2 cups 1 3/4 hours 2 1/2 cups
Millet 2 cups 25 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Oat Groats 2 1/2 cups 35 to 40 minutes 2 1/2 cups
**Quinoa 2 cups 25 to 30 minutes 4 cups
Rye Berries 2 1/2 cups 1 1/4 hours 2 1/2 cups
Spelt 1 1/2 cups 50 to 60 minutes 2 cups
Teff 3 cups 15 minutes 3 cups
Triticale 2 1/2 cups 1 1/2 hours 3 cups
Wheat Berries, Hard (Red) 2 cups 2 hours 3 cups
Wheat Berries, Soft (White) 2 cups 1 1/2 hours 3 1/2 cups

*Soak, don’t cook.

**Rinse first.

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Comments

  1. Kelli says

    Are these cooking times for soaked grains? I didn’t know that Molly Katzen soaked her grains. If so, I am going to have to check this book out of the library! Thank you for posting this helpful chart.

    • says

      Kelli – no they’re not, I realized that after a bit. The cooking time will be less than the times listed here, sometimes by as much as half. Watch for tenderness and full water absorption.

  2. says

    Wardee, I’m confused. Your listing for couscous has an asterisk that means, “Soak, don’t cook.” We always cook our couscous, so I’m not sure what this means? According to this chart, do we not cook couscous? Because the chart also says to cook it for 10 minutes.

    Also, in the reply you gave to Kelli, you said that the cooking times will be less than what is listed in your chart, sometimes by as much as half. I’ve always been taught not to check rice until the time is up…not to lift the lid at all until the correct amount of time has passed. Otherwise, the rice can become sticky and gooey. Would you mind explaining a little bit more to us about what the cooking time actually means on the chart, and about not cooking couscous? Thanks! :)

    Julieanne
    http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/iLoveHomeschooling
    .-= Julieanne Miller´s last blog post… When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a…Doctor! (e-book review) =-.

    • says

      Julieanne – Thank you for pointing out those areas that need clarification!

      Regarding the couscous – the way I cook it is to pour boiling water over it, and let it sit covered, in the boiling water (but not on the burner) for 10 minutes. I do not believe this is a grain that needs to be soaked, because if it is made in a traditional way, the soaking/pre-cooking has already taken place before we get it. So, the process is really easy, just pour boiling water over it and let it sit.

      Oh, you know what… ignore me… when putting this together, I had a brain freeze, I guess… I was thinking of couscous as bulgur! So that is a mistake. Couscous does need cooking. I starred it by mistake.

      As far as the cooking times, well… that is going to have to be a matter of experimentation. You’re right not to lift the lid unnecessarily. But, I find I have to break that rule. :) What I do is take a quick “peek” about halfway through the regular cooking time to see if the water is all absorbed or not. I try to minimize the interruptions. In the case of rice, I find that it is cooked in about 25-30 minutes if it has been soaked overnight.

      Hopefully this helps!

      • Kirsten Evans says

        Totally just curious- do you routinely soak your rice? I have in the past a few times, but thought it was so low in phytic that it was fine not to soak. I usually fry my rice in coconut oil, butter, and/or olive oil before adding the stock, so soaking wouldn’t fit in with that practice. I love this chart- thanks so much!!! ;-)

        In His Name,
        Kirsten

        • says

          Kirsten,
          I found a more effective way to soak brown rice, detailed HERE at my site. It’s really easy and gets rid of the phytic acid quite effectively (which is not actually that low in rice). Sometimes I do saute the rice in oil, then soak it – I have no idea if it still works for the phytic acid, but it does work for the end result! I end up cooking the same amount of time, about 45 minutes, as with unsoaked rice. I add new water to about 1/2 cup less since the rice has absorbed some water during the soaking process.

          Hope that helps!
          :) Katie

    • says

      C – No, I don’t mind! Enjoy! Let me know if you find any mistakes. :) My site is set up so if you just hit Print (Ctrl-P), the post will print without all the sidebars, etc. It comes out formatted very nicely.

  3. says

    I need some troubleshooting help! I cooked spelt berries for the first time, and since I just came across this table, it’s the only instructions I had. I soaked 1 cup berries in 1 1/2 cups water (with a little whey) overnight and cooked them today – brought to a rolling boil, added a little salt and olive oil, and left the lid on 50 minutes. Lots of water left. 10 more minutes. Still lots of water left. 20 more minutes. Drained the things and gave up. They’re pretty chewy, in my fridge waiting to be a cold grain salad (inspired by your post last week!). But I’m wondering: did I do something wrong? Should all the water be absorbed? Should spelt be chewy? I often have trouble with my soaked rice not being tender after cooking 45 minutes and absorbing all the water. I use 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, but I’ve found that when soaked, it actually needs a little more to be totally soft. Have you really cooked a cup of brown rice with only 1.5 cups water? NT’s “basic brown rice” has a 2:1 water:rice ratio too.

    • says

      Katie – I will have to edit that chart. I’ve had it for so long and got it from a Molly Katzen book. I use 1:2/rice:water just like NT. As for the spelt, it has been a long time since I’ve cooked them, but I remember them being very chewy after a long cooking time. Are you certain they’re not done or are they just chewy?

      You’re reminding me – I made those biscuits the other day with water, not milk. They turned out pretty good. Not as good, but still good! :)

  4. Raychel says

    Hi Wardee! Thanks for this post; I sited it in my last blog. I’m just wondering, I always soak my beans overnight before cooking but only in water. Are beans different than grains in that water is sufficient or should I be soaking them in acid as well?

  5. Regina says

    Wardee,

    Does the quinoa end up being a bit mushy when it is soaked? Mine didn’t come out nice and fluffy for tabouli- the way it is when unsoaked. Did I do something wrong? Thanks.

    • says

      Regina — Hi! Mine doesn’t usually come out mushy when I soak. Here are some thoughts for you.

      1) There could have been excess water.
      2) Did you let it stand for a good while to give up alot of its heat before digging into it? If it is still warm when scooped out, the grains will smoosh together. For tabouli, I let it cool waaaayyyyyy down before using it. I even chill it.

      Let me know if this helps! :)

  6. Mariah Ward says

    I am new to soaking grains so let me just make sure I understand this correct. I soak the grains in the same water (post above answered that question) that I am going to be cooking it in. I soak the grains on the counter with no covering, just the amount of water + rice in a bowl. I can soak for longer then 7-8 hours correct? If I wanted to start soaking tonight but couldn’t cook the rice until I got home from work around 5 would that be to long of a period to soak? If I ran late and didn’t have time to cook the rice before work I wouldn’t want it to be ruined. I would be soaking it almost a full 16-24 hours instead of 7-8.

    • says

      Mariah — a 16 to 24 hour soak is fine. You might find it helpful to rinse the grains after that long because the soaking water is probably more sour and maybe a little scummy. Some people like to rinse after only 8 hours. It is a matter of preference, really. I wouldn’t say no cover during soaking — either a lid, plate or even a towel to keep dust and bugs out. Otherwise I think you’ve got it!

  7. Susie says

    I have a question. What if I (routinely) forget to start 8 hours ahead? Is there any point in a shorter soak?
    Thanks!

  8. krista says

    I am wondering about soaking rolled oats, the list says oat groats, is that because it is just better to eat oat groats or does that include rolled oats?
    thanks for all of the amazing information.

    • says

      Krista — You can do rolled oats as well. :) The only oat I don’t recommend is quick oats because they’re processed and not whole. The rolled oats will cook much faster than oat groats.

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