Soaking and dehydrating nuts and seeds is not only easy… but yields a deliciously crispy, raw, and nutritious snack! Scroll for a helpful soaking chart, plus simple directions so you can learn how to soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds with only a few minutes of hands-on time!
I want to tell you two things:
- It is important!
- And you — yes, you! — can do it.
Why is soaking and dehydrating your own nuts and seeds important?
Just like many grains, raw nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors.
While these are have an important role to play in the life of a plant, enzyme inhibitors, such as phytic acid, can act as an anti-nutrient to humans. They are considered anti-nutrients because of their ability to impact the absorption of other nutrients (Source).
Besides impacting the absorption of other nutrients, enzyme inhibitors make nuts more difficult to digest.
Because enzymes are unstable, they are locked up in the seed until needed for the plant to grow after germination.
Having the enzymes locked up in this way keeps the seed from prematurely sprouting. This is quite an amazing feature when you think about it!
The only trouble is, it effects our digestion.
This germination process is what we attempt to mimic in our kitchens with soaking.
During soaking, the water tells the seed to soften up and get ready to grow. Then, voila, the enzyme inhibitors go away and the enzymes are free to use.
(I realize this isn’t a scientific explanation of the process, but it does help us to imagine what happens.)
Dehydrating the nuts after soaking is optional, but recommended. It not only returns them to their enjoyable crispy state, but if you keep your dehydrator below 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the nuts will be raw as well. And still rich with enzymes!
It’s possible to soak and dry a variety of nuts including sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, and more.
A soaked nut is usually more nutritious nut than a roasted nut. These nuts are also referred to as “activated nuts.”
What types of enzymes are we talking about?
Two types of enzymes are at play here — digestive and metabolic.
The human body cannot create a limitless supply of either type of enzymes. It’s best to eat foods rich in digestive enzymes to reduce the burden on the body, and also free it up to make more metabolic enzymes — which run the systems of our body.
Guess what? Germinated, raw nuts and seeds are excellent sources of digestive enzymes!
In the book Enzyme Nutrition, Dr. Howell claims that when the body is too busy making digestive enzymes (that we could be getting from food) to make enough metabolic enzymes, we tend toward modern diseases.
Is soaking nuts a myth?
Some claim that soaking nuts is a myth. If you read the above, you know that we don’t agree!
While there are not many scientific studies on the topic, much anecdotal evidence suggests that soaking nuts is a helpful practice and very beneficial to the digestive system.
History records that some traditional cultures have gone to great lengths to prepare nuts before consumption (as noted in this article).
While these practices may not be considered evidence for the validity of the claim that soaking nuts enhances their digestibility, we feel there is something to be learned from them. It is likely they felt a physical benefit from preparing nuts in this way.
It’s also important to remember that every person is different and responds to foods in a unique way.
Someone with a very healthy digestive system, who includes a limited amount of nuts, may not notice an extreme difference. However, someone with a weaker digestive system, or who eats nuts regularly, may see a significant change.
The best way to know is to experience it yourself! If you’ve never soaked nuts, why not give it a try and see if you notice a difference?
How To Soak Nuts Before Eating
We discussed the importance of soaking, but what does that actually mean? If you are wondering, “What is soaking and how is it done?” read on.
Soaking nuts is a process by which raw nuts are submerged in salted water and left to soak for a number of hours. Nuts are then drained from the water and dried.
As mentioned above, this process activates (or germinates) the nuts, allowing the important enzymes to work. This makes them easier to digest.
Soaking nuts before eating must be done in advance. This is not a step to perform 5 minutes ahead of time, as many nuts require at least 7 hours of soaking before they can be dehydrated.
For this reason, we encourage you to work soaking and dehydrating nuts into your weekly or monthly food prep routine.
Keep these important steps in mind when soaking nuts…
#1 — Pure Water
When soaking nuts, it is vital to use pure water. Regular tap water contains chemicals that we don’t want absorbed into the nuts.
If you are going to invest the time and effort into soaking and dehydrating nuts, use filtered water to ensure the best and most nutritious end result.
For more information on choosing the best water filtration system for your household, see this article.
#2 — High-Quality Salt
Choose a high-quality salt such as sea salt for minerals and flavor. We never recommend table salt as it is devoid of nutritional value.
Salt may also be an important part of the enzyme-activating process. According to Nourishing Traditions, “Salt in soaking water activates enzymes that neutralize enzyme inhibitors.”
#3 — Soaking Time
Soak most nuts for at least 7 hours or overnight to fully activate enzymes.
However, some nuts (like cashews) need a shorter soaking time or else they will become too soft and develop a poor taste. Cashews should be soaked for a maximum of 6 hours.
#4 — Dehydrating Temperature
For best results, use a dehydrator set between 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure the enzymes stay active but also provide the best conditions for a crisp and crunchy result.
115 degrees Fahrenheit is the highest temperature considered safe for maintaining a “living” food and not damaging the enzymes.
#5 — Dehydrating Time
Dehydrate for 12 to 25 hours. This varies depending on the size and density of the nut.
You’ll know they are done when nuts are thoroughly dry and crisp.
The best way to check if they’re done is to eat one! Is it crunchy?
#6 — Storage
Store dehydrated nuts in an airtight container. If they are thoroughly dry, nuts will keep for a number of weeks in the pantry.
You can extend the shelf life by storing in the fridge. If the dehydrating step is skipped, or nuts aren’t completely dry, storage will be much shorter (only a few days).
Soaking & Straining Tips
Soak nuts in a jar or bowl. Using a 1/2 gallon jar is helpful as it is easier to strain and takes up less room on the counter than a wide bowl.
Sprout screens are extremely handy when straining from a jar as they fit right on the lid. This way you can strain right over the sink (or garden) and not have to get another bowl dirty!
If you don’t have a sprout screen, set a colander inside a bowl and strain that way. Just be sure the bowl is large enough to hold the water!
Alternatively, you can set a colander in the sink and strain there too.
When spreading soaked nuts on the dehydrator try, be sure they are on a single layer with room for the air to circulate. This helps them to dry quickly and completely.
How To Soak & Dehydrate Nuts And Seeds
Soaking and dehydrating nuts and seeds is not only easy... but yields a deliciously crispy, raw, and nutritious snack! Scroll for a helpful soaking chart, plus simple directions so you can learn how to soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds with only a few minutes of hands-on time!
Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
Fill with water to the top of the jar.
Swirl the water around to dissolve the salt.
Let the nuts/seeds sit in the jar sit overnight, or for at least 7 hours.
Drain the nuts/seeds.
Rinsing is optional. Using a sprout screen with metal band really makes this easy.
Remove skins, if desired.
Spread the nuts/seeds in a single layer on a dehydrator tray*.
Dry at 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit until crispy. This usually takes about 24 hours, depending on dehydrator and other conditions.
Check by taste. Are they crunchy and free of moisture?
*If you don't have a dehydrator, you can use the sun during sunny months. Set out a tray full of soaked nuts/seeds in sunlight. Keep it covered with a light cloth to keep out dust and bugs.
Or, you can also use an oven between 115 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit to dehydrate nuts and seeds after soaking. Keep the nuts and seeds in the oven for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally, until completely dry. Unfortunately, this does kill enzymes -- but you will also have nuts and seeds free of enzyme inhibitors.
If you don't want to (or can't) do it yourself, I highly recommend Wildly Organic's pre-soaked and dried nuts and seeds! Click here for more info.
Uses For Soaked & Dehydrated Nuts And Seeds
Anywhere you would use nuts, use these!
Use them chopped in any recipe that calls for nuts. Remember that if it is a cooked recipe, you’ll lose the enzyme benefit from the heat of cooking.
Grind them into nut and seed butters.
Snack on them! Mix them with dried fruits for a trail mix.
Add them into raw nut and fruit snacks, such as my homemade enzyme-rich Larabars (pictured above).
Eating raw, soaked and dehydrated nuts/seeds with a meal provides digestive enzymes to help the body digest that meal. Chop soaked walnuts or cashews for your salad, sprinkle on your morning (soaked) porridge, or eat a couple of whole nuts alongside any meal.
I keep quart size jars full of various nuts and seeds ready to go in my pantry cupboard.
Is a dehydrator really necessary?
Yes, and no.
You can always soak nuts, pat dry, and use them that way. This works well if you intend to use the nuts immediately, but is not optimal for long term storage.
Soaked nuts that are not dehydrated will last only about 5 days.
Besides extending the shelf life of the nuts, dehydrating returns them to the crispy state that is called for in most recipes.
So, a dehydrator of some sort is essential if you want your nuts/seeds crispy while keeping the enzyme benefits of raw, germinated nuts. (But remember if you use the raw, germinated nuts in a cooked recipe, the enzymes will perish from the heat of cooking.)
You can get around having a dehydrator if you live in a sunny area where you can dry nuts/seeds outdoors year round or can build a solar dehydrator.
An oven is also an option, but is more likely to destroy some of the beneficial enzymes due to the heat. If dehydrating in an oven, temperature should be kept below 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are considering purchasing a dehydrator, I recommend reading How to Choose the Best Dehydrator #AskWardee #152. Its full of tips to help you choose the best dehydrator for your family.
And remember… If you don’t want to (or can’t) do it yourself, I highly recommend Wildly Organic’s pre-soaked and dried nuts and seeds! Click here for more info.
Soaking Nuts and Seeds Chart
Reference the chart below for specific soaking and dehydrating instructions for each type of nut or seed. This chart assumes the use of a dehydrator unless noted.
Note: Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of sea salt per 4 cups nuts to the soaking water. Adjust to your taste.
|NUT/SEED||SOAKING TIME||DEHYDRATING TEMP.||DEHYDRATING TIME|
|Almonds||7 hours or overnight||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Brazil||6 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Cashews||4-6 hours||200-225°F (oven)||12-24 hours|
|Hazelnuts||7 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Macadamia||7 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Peanuts||7 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Pecans||7 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Pine nuts||7 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Pumpkin Seeds||7 hours||95-100°F||12 hours|
|Sunflower seeds||7 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
|Walnuts||7 hours||95-100°F||12-24 hours|
Should all nuts and seeds be soaked?
All this talk about soaking may leave you wondering if you can ever eat a raw almond again! We are not here to be the nut police. 😉
In fact, many of us nibble on an unsoaked nut from time to time. The point of this whole process is help you achieve the most nutrition from the food you eat on a daily basis.
We encourage you to soak the majority of nuts and seeds you consume, but please don’t fret about an occasional unsoaked nut here and there.
It’s also important to note that not all nuts and seeds are suitable for soaking.
Flax seeds and chia seeds, for example, gel if soaked. This is helpful in many instances as they are great for thickening (and flax seed makes an excellent egg substitute in baked goods).
Yet the gelling effect would not be suitable if the seeds are needed for items like homemade granola.
Cashews are another nut that improves with soaking, but must be done for a shorter length of time. Cashews are already exposed to heat in processing (in order to neutralize a toxic oil in their shell), so it is not necessary to use a low heat, such as a dehydrator, to preserve the enzymes.
In most cases, soaking nuts is helpful. However, your specific needs and time available will make the final decision.
Does soaking nuts remove pesticides?
The purpose of soaking nuts is not to remove pesticides, but rather, increase their digestibility. That said, you may still wonder if it might help.
Because of their thick shell, most nuts aren’t considered to have too many issues with pesticides. The soaking step will not do much to further remove any that are present.
What do soaked nuts and seeds taste like?
In general, they actually have a lovely buttery flavor. The dehydrating step provides a nice crunch that is similar to roasted nuts, but with the live enzymes still intact!
As mentioned earlier, some nuts require less soaking time. Be sure to note this when making your next batch as over-soaking certain nuts will result in a bitter flavor.
What about sprouting?
Some nuts can also be sprouted, which will reduce the enzyme inhibits even further, but this does not result in a nut you can eat like a nut, as it will begin to grow. These sprouts work well in salads.
That said, sprouting is usually reserved for seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
You may see packaged nuts sold as “sprouted nuts,” but in this case it generally refers to soaked and dehydrated nuts, or “activated nuts,” as many like to call them.
How To Make Nut Milk With Soaked Nuts
To make almond milk or any other nut milk with activated nuts, use a high-powered blender to blend 1 cup nuts with 4 cups filtered water. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or nut milk bag.
Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
What about you? How do you use raw nuts and seeds? If you haven’t already, are you willing to learn how to soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds?
Want me to show you how to do this on video? Sign up for my completely free Traditional Cooking video series — you’ll get this video tutorial plus 4 more!
This post was featured in 26 Egg-Free Ice Cream Recipes + 17 Toppings!
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This post was originally published and written by Wardee Harmon on 12/2/09. It was updated and republished on 1/20/20.
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