Seed Sprouts for Eating

Sprouts alfalfa1

Sprouts are the young shoots from the germinated seeds of vegetables, beans, and grains. Many seeds can be sprouted for eating. Mung beans and alfalfa are the most common seeds for sprouts.

Other common seeds for sprouts include adzuki, cabbage, chives, red clover, fenugreek, garbanzo, lentil, mustard, peas, radish, and black sunflower. See the list below for more.

Some sprouts are eaten fresh and raw, others including all grain and starchy bean sprouts should be cooked before eating. Sprouts are a source of vitamins B and C, iron, fiber, folic acid, and phytonutrients.

Sprouting seeds requires no special equipment. You can buy a seed sprouter but you can also sprout seeds in a bamboo basket or a colander covered with a plastic bag or a wide-mouthed quart jar covered with cheesecloth or linen and secured with a rubber band. For a quart-sized jar, you will need about 1½ tablespoon seeds.

Seeds sold for eating in a grocery store or health food store can be used for sprouting. Seeds that you have collected from some edible plants can be used for sprouting; be sure the seeds you want to sprout are edible, and not toxic–see the list below for edible sprouts. The best practice is to use sanitized, uncontaminated seeds to avoid potential bacterial contamination. Do not use seeds sold for planting; those seeds may have been treated with chemicals.

Steps for Sprouting Seeds. Good drainage and aeration are important for seed sprouting. It is important to keep in mind that the temperature and humidity needed to sprout seeds can also lead to the growth of pathogens–so always work with sterile seed sprouters or jars.

Steps for sprouting seeds:

  1. Fill a jar part way with warm water–enough to swish and clean the seeds (use about 1½ tablespoons seeds for a quart jar); clean the seed and then pour away the water.
  2. Fill the jar with 3 times the water needed to cover the seeds and then let the seeds soak water overnight–that is 8 to 12 hours.
  3. Drain away the water and remove any chaff from the seeds.
  4. Wash the sprouting jar, colander, or basket with boiling water–sterilize the sprouter.
  5. Spread the soaked seeds evenly in a single layer in the sprouting jar, colander, or basket–don’t try to sprout too many seeds at once. Let the seeds sit for 3 to 4 hours.
  6. Place the jar in a cool spot indoors with plenty of air circulation and away from direct light. The ideal sprouting temperature is about 70 degrees F.
  7. Re-rinse the seeds with cool water and drain twice a day. Keep the seeds damp but not wet. Be sure to spread the seed out after each rinsing. Drainage is important to avoid mold and rot.
  8. The seeds are ready for “harvest” when the hulls or seed covers drop or float away during rinsing; harvest usually comes in about three days. Grain sprouts will be about the length of the grain itself. Mung bean sprouts will be about 2 inches long other bean sprouts will be up to 1 inch long.
  9. Rinse the seed a final time in fresh water to remove any remaining seeds hulls. (Some seed covers can be eaten with the sprouts, but others such as sunflowers will be too tough–so remove them before eating.)
  10. Take the sprouts from the sprouting container and place them in indirect sunlight to that they will begin to green with chlorophyll and carotene
  11. Sprouts are ready to eat or refrigerate. Store sprouts in a clean, perforated container that allows for air circulation or loosely pack in a plastic bag. Sprouts will keep for about 3 to 7 days in the refrigerator.

Seeds for Sprouting:

Here are some seeds commonly sprouted for eating:

Adzuki (Vigna angularis): sprouts 3-5 days; the bean and root are mild flavored.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): sprouts 5-7 days; the leaves are mild flavored.
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum): sprouts 1-2 days; leaves are mild flavored.
Cabbage (Brasscia oleracea, Capitata group): sprouts in 3-5 days; cabbage flavor.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): sprouts 10-14 days; shoots and roots are onion flavor.
Clover (Trifolim pratense, T. incarntum): sprouts in 4-6 days; tangy flavor.
Cress (Lepidium sativum): sprouts 3-4 days; leaves have tangy flavor.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): sprouts 6-8 days; leaves are bitter flavored.
Garbanzo (Cicer arietinum): sprouts 2-4 days; bean and root are hardy eating.
Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala group): sprouts 2-5 days; leaves have strong flavor.
Lentil (Lens culinaris): sprouts3-5 days; bean and root are hardy eating.
Mung (Vigna radiata): sprouts 3-5 days; bean and root are mild flavored.
Mustard (Brassica nigra): sprouts 3-5 days; leaves are peppery flavored.
Peas (Pisum sativum): sprouts 5-7 days; bean and roots are mild flavored.
Radish (Raphanus sativus): sprouts 3-5 days; leaves are peppery flavored.
Rye (Secale cereale): sprouts 2-3 days; leaves are nutty flavored.
Soybean (Glycine max): sprouts 3-5 days; bean and root are hardy eating.
Black Sunflower (Helianthus annus): sprouts 6-10 days; leaves are mild flavored.
Turnip (Brassica rapa, Rapifera group): sprouts 2-5 days; strong flavored.
Wheat (Triticum spp.): sprouts 2-3 days; corn-grain flavored.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


Comments are closed.
  1. Generally sprouts are eaten raw, but may also be stir-fried or cooked, usually no more than 30 seconds. Avoid older sprouts or those that are musty-smelling, dark, or slimy-looking. Sprouts–the bean or seed and root–are usually eaten when the root is the length of the soaked seed. Inspect seeds and beans before eating and remove hulls that are still hard or those that are not to your taste requirements–that will come with a bit of taste testing.

  2. So I’ve been sprouting for a few weeks. Jus cleaned two jars of alfalfa sprouts and the seed shells are slimy. They smell normal tho. Is this okay or should I dump them? I haven’t noticed this before, Maybe i had too many sprouts in the jars and they weren’t being rinsed properly?

    • Sprouts can be frozen for up to a year. Blanch them before freezing. Using a slotted spoon place the sprouts in boiling water for about 3 minutes then transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Let the sprouts dry then freeze them in a single layer on a tray before transferring them to freezer bags.

  3. Great article as I am new to sprouting. Do I have to cook mung bean sprouts before eating? If so, how long to you cook them? Many thanks

    • Mung bean sprouts can be eaten raw. However, lightly cooking sprouts will kill bacteria that could make you ill. Rinse the sprouts under running water then boil them over medium heat in just enough water to cover the sprouts or sautee in olive oil over medium heat until they are translucent. The FDA recommends that children, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system cook all sprouts before eating them.

  4. Thanks for this interesting post. There is mache (corn salad) growing in my garden and there is always a plentiful harvest of seed. I am interested in sprouting these for salads. Have you tried this? How can I find out if there could be ill effects from possible high levels of minerals? Have any of your readers experimented with mache seed?

    • If you suspect high levels of minerals in the irrigation water or tap water, have the water tested. Contact the nearby Cooperative Extension for testing or referral for testing. Mache sprouts are edible and can be grown as you would other sprouts–in the kitchen or in the garden.

  5. I love my sprouted seeds and beans. I wondered if it is OK to sprout nigella sativa. I use them in cooking but have a huge bag so thought about sprouting them too. Thanks

  6. Hi, this sentence has me a bit unsure of what is what?

    Some sprouts are eaten fresh and raw, others including all grain and starchy bean sprouts should be cooked before eating….

    How do I find out which seeds are grainy and starchy? I like to eat fresh & raw sprouts on my sandwiches. Could you put a list of the safe ones to use for this please.

    • Bean and grain sprouts are starchy and should be cooked. There is no list of sprouts always safe to eat raw: sprouts like all other fresh produce consumed raw or lightly cooked can carry a risk of foodborne illness if contaminated with bacteria including salmonella, listeria, and E. coli.. You need to know the source of the sprouts. Sprouts are commonly grown in warm, moist conditions which are ideal for the rapid growth of bacteria. If grown in bacteria-free, sanitary conditions alfalfa, clover, radish, onion, and mung bean are often eaten raw. Again, there is no always safe list of sprouts that can be eaten raw.

  7. Has anyone ever grown cantaloupe sprouts to eat? I have a lot of seeds (more than I could use for plants), so I was hoping I could sprout them and we could use a lot of them as sprouts).

    • Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw, sprouted, or roasted. Raw pumpkin seeds can cause stomach upset in some people because they have a high phytic acid content. If you are unsure, consult with your physician.

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