Oats contain antinutrients, and you wan’t rid of ’em! This recipe lets me maximise nutrient content, probiotics, and flavour… Read on and discover how!

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Helloat there! Wow I couldn’t have started this in any better way, huh? Moving on… Today we’ll be learning how to ferment oats.

Oats. They’ve made big news in the online world of nutrition and for a long time people have eaten them as a healthy part of their daily routine. I am one such person.

I LOVE oats!!! As a kid, most people will have memories of growing up eating them as porridge or oatmeal, and that applies to me too. I remember the times before school when I would wake up to that steaming bowl of oats on a winter’s morn. That was nice.

Today we will discover how to ferment oats (it’s better than it sounds), to make a much tastier and healthier traditional meal!

Why to Eat More Oats!

These delicious grains contain a host of wonderful health benefits and are a great source of fibre, complex carbohydrates, protein, and even healthy fats. Studies have shown their brilliant potential for nutritional health benefits.

Nutritionally they are very rich in minerals, most notably magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, but also iron, copper, and zinc. This is amazing for proper growth, healthy organs, immune function, detoxification, blood sugar control, lowering LDL cholesterol, lowering inflammation, and much much more!

Not only that but they are good sources of fibres such as beta-glucans, antioxidants and vitamins B1, B5, and B9.

Most of the time, people stick to “instant oats”, you know the ones that come in packets (or boxes) that you mix with a little milk and microwave for 2 minutes?

Well I used to too… Until I started to dive into the deep sea of study on nutrition.

For most people, these instant oats are a healthier alternative food for breakfast. And compared to something like pancakes or biscuits they certainly are.

However, eating oats in this way in large quantities has its drawbacks, and today you will discuss why that is and a very easy workaround. This wholegrain recipe will open a world of flavour and nutrition, give it a try.

The ‘Original’ Oats – A Humble History

It is thought that the earliest cultivated oats came from what is present-day Switzerland during the period of the Bronze Age. That’s at least over 3,000 years ago!

Since that time they have travelled the seven seas, become dietary staples and gained cultural significance across the world.

Thankfully, despite high amounts of unsaturated fats, oats naturally have a lengthy shelf life due to the presence of antioxidants. These include antioxidants such as Avenanthramides and Phenolic Acids. These protect the fats from oxidation (and thus distortion).

In the days before instant oats, it was common wisdom (and in fact written on the early oat boxes) to soak oats at least overnight before consuming them. And in fact this has seen a resurgence recently. This increases digestibility, nutrition, and creates a slightly more wholesome and tasty meal.

Some of you might already know why this is, but in the next part I’ll be explaining why fermenting your oats is a much more nutritious way of preparing them with many added benefits.

Knowing how to ferment oats is also a great skill for other similar fermentation processes.

Fermented Oats – Why Ferment?

For beginner, easy things to ferment, there isn’t a much better starting place!

As I said, many people soak their oats overnight with the intention of increasing digestibility and nutrition. And whilst this is well-intended, oftentimes the effects are not as major as one would like for a food that is eaten often.

In short, the reason that soaking oats can have these effects is due to the reduction of so-called “anti-nutrients”. These inhibit our natural digestive processes.

The main concern: ‘phytic acid‘. This is a chemical compound stored in plant seeds with two main purposes:

  1. To provide the seedling of a plant with energy and phosphorus.
  2. And the other is to protect the seed’s stored fats, proteins, and nutrients. 

It does so by binding to minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium, thereby strengthening and toughening the seed so that it will not be broken down if ingested by most animals.

This prevents absorption of these minerals during digestion.

The thought process behind soaking oats is that the naturally present enzyme phytase will be “activated” and break down the phytic acid. I went into more detail on this subject in my last post about Why to Soak Nuts if you are interested.

Oats, however, have a very low level of this enzyme naturally present within them.

So the people soaking oats by themselves, without the addition of a high-phytase (and even probiotic) food source like apple cider vinegar, rye flour, or whey will achieve little nutritional result. And even those that do, will often store their oats in the fridge for the duration of the process, which will strongly prevent enzyme activity.

The key: aim for sourdough oats. This means fermented, much like traditional flour!

Since I’ve known how to ferment oatmeal, I’ve never looked back.

What Fermentation Does, in a Nutshell!

To truly boost the nutrition of oats is to take things a step further by fermenting. Trust me, it’s very easy! This will produce an amazing yeasty, slightly sour flavour and a creamy texture.

The fermentation process will not only allow for high levels of phytase activity, but it will also encourage the activity of many beneficial bacteria naturally present on the oats.

These bacteria will feast on the starches and sugars in the oats. They are vital for a healthy immune system, and for the microbiome (this is the collection of trillions of bacteria and enzymes – our gut flora – present in our digestive system that break down food and produce healthy biological compounds, absorb nutrients, prevent infection, modulate mood and aid in brain health, and have many more important roles). There is an entire developing field of science and study dedicated to the microbiome and I highly suggest you read about it. It’s very fascinating!

These bacteria are what we refer to as ‘probiotics’. Probiotics are living microorganisms which provide us with many health benefits when ingested! They feed on so-called prebiotics’ for fuel, and as luck would have it, oats are loaded with these! Prebiotics are mostly insoluble fibre.

What’s more, other antinutrients such as amylase inhibitors’ will be reduced by fermentation. That’s great news for us!

This is where we find out about the two different recipe methods most commonly used to ferment oats. Each takes about 5 minutes of work in total.

Great! Now let’s see just how to ferment oats…

Tips for How to Get Started

Fermenting oats is something that I used to do practically every day. I will eat my oats often between 10am and 12pm, or whenever have my body tells me that I’m hungry, and set some more on the shelf for the next 2 or 3 days to ferment.

If you want to eat oats regularly, this is a good way to go about it.

Because of this, I’ll sometimes be using two bowls and two small tea dishes to cover them. Some people prefer to use jam or preserve jars covered with a tea towel or cheesecloth in a dark place, and really it’s down to your preference.

Method 1 – The Wild Method

The first way how to ferment oats it’s very easy. This is the method that I use the most as I personally prefer the results that it yields, and also find this easier and cheaper.

I’d recommend using a water filter for the best results, but it’s not required.

The reason I call this ‘The Wild Method’ elaborates on step 5 above. By allowing a natural flow of air, not only wild yeasts present on the oats, but also in the air will lend a hand in fermentation.

Another important reason for allowing a flow of air is that as the bacteria digests the starches and sugars in the oats they will produce carbon dioxide. This is the gas which will cause bubbles on the surface of the water and it will need a way to escape the container so pressure doesn’t build up.

Wild Fermented Oats

A Fermented Oats Recipe Using Natural, Wild Fermentation
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Resting Time (Average)2 d
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Main Course
Cuisine: International
Keyword: Fermentation, Healthy, Oats, Probiotic, Wholegrain
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 68kcal

Equipment

  • Fermentation Safe Container / Bowl (See Notes)
  • Small Dish, Tea Towel, or Cheesecloth (To cover container)
  • Tablespoon

Ingredients

  • 100 g Steel Cut or Whole Oats
  • 1.5 – 2 cups Dechlorinated Water See recipe notes
  • 2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar or Other Phytase Source

Instructions

  • Grind your oats (at least coarsely). You could use a coffee grinder, pestle and mortar, blender, etc.The step helps to release the starches from inside the oats.
  • Add oats to fermentation container (whatever you're using).
  • Pour the water in with the oats, making sure to submerge them fully.
    Only do this after making sure that your water is cooled to a lukewarm or room temperature (or possibly warmed if you use a filter).
  • Add the 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (or substitute).
  • Cover the container with a cloth or loosely with a small dish. You want to make sure that a little air can get in and out.
  • Finally, leave to stand (preferably somewhere warm) for 1-3 days. This will depend on your climate – a warmer environment is more ideal for fermentation. Stir once or twice a day. You’ll know it’s ready when it takes on a yeasty and sour scent and produces bubbles.
  • Enjoy uncooked or cook like normal oatmeal. Add your favourite milk, season, and enjoy.

Notes

IMPORTANT: Read the safety notice – this is a fermented product so proper precautions are a must.
 
To dechlorinate water: You can use a Water Filter (See Recommendations) or simply boil the water using a kettle to remove the chlorine.
 
Make sure you let it cool to a lukewarm temperature before you use it, otherwise the heat will kill the beneficial bacteria and denature the phytase.
 
For the container: Remember, you should use ceramic, china, stainless steel 316, glass (but keep in a dark place), or Polycarbonate, PP, HDPE, or LDPE Plastic containers only.
Other plastics and metals will react with the acidity and interfere with the natural processes of fermentation. For example, non-steel containers will rust, and plastic may leech.

Can Yeast Ferment Starch? Will this Lower Carbohydrates?

Wild yeasts feed off of glucose, primarily. This means that the starches (complex carbohydrates) in oats are not broken down by yeast directly.

However, this does not mean that the carbohydrate content won’t decrease.

During the early stages of fermentation, enzymes break down carbohydrates into more readily available forms (sugars) such as glucose and fructose. This leads to a temporary increase in sugar content.

Notice I said temporary. It gets more interesting now, because towards the end of the first 24-hour period, the beneficial bacteria start to feed off of this and the overall carbohydrate content decreases.

Over longer periods, more of the free sugars will naturally be used up.

This effect has been observed in multiple studies(^), such as This One on Pearl Millet.

All the while, antinutrients are being reduced, and the amount of nutrition we can absorb is being boosted. This means a better source of proteins, minerals, and vitamins.

So can yeast ferment starch? Not directly, but in these fermented oats they play an important role in nutrient composition.

Once Again, This Will Not Work without Dechlorinated Water…

The easiest way to achieve this (and healthier, fresher water in general, is with a water filter). Here’s our guide to the best water filters for every purpose – from kitchen countertop to portable, and more between.

Boost Your Fermentation (and Water Quality) > The Top Water Filters For Drinking Water – Top 5 For Every Purpose!*

*(P.S. Here are my #1 and #2 recommendations).

Method 2 – Lacto-Fermentation

Our second method when knowing how to ferment oats depends on a probiotic source to kickstart the fermentation process.

This means beneficial strains of bacteria are used, as you’ll see.

This method makes use of the live bacteria (namely of the genus Lactobacillus) present in the yoghurt, kefir, or buttermilk.

These bacteria are renown for their benefits to gut health and are used extensively in many fermented food products. This is where we get the term “lacto-fermentation”. They are also often present naturally on the surfaces of vegetables and fruits.

Lacto Fermented Oats

A Probiotic Boosted Lacto Fermented Oats Recipe
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Resting Time (Average)2 d
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Main Course
Cuisine: International
Keyword: Fermentation, Healthy, Oats, Probiotic, Wholegrain
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 96kcal

Equipment

  • Fermentation Safe Container / Bowl (See recipe notes)
  • Small Dish, Tea Towel, or Cheesecloth (To cover container)
  • Tablespoon

Ingredients

  • 100 g Steel Cut or Whole Oats
  • 1.5-2 cups Dechlorinated Water See recipe notes
  • 2 tbsp Probiotic (Live) Yoghurt, Kefir, or Buttermilk

Instructions

  • Grind your oats (at least coarsely). You could use a coffee grinder, pestle and mortar, blender, etc. This helps to release the starches from inside the oats.
  • Add oats to fermentation container (whatever you're using).
  • Pour the water in with the oats, making sure to submerge them fully.
    Only do this after making sure that your water is cooled to a lukewarm or room temperature (or possibly warmed if you use a filter).
  • Add in your probiotic source. Stir to incorporate and also keep submerged.
  • Cover the container with a cloth or loosely with a small dish. You want to make sure that a little air can get in and out.
  • Finally, leave to stand (preferably somewhere warm) for 1-3 days. This will depend on your climate – a warmer environment is more ideal for fermentation. Stir once or twice a day. You’ll know it’s ready when it takes on a yeasty and sour scent and produces bubbles.
  • Enjoy uncooked or cook like normal oatmeal. Add your favourite milk, season, and enjoy.

Notes

IMPORTANT: Read the safety notice – this is a fermented product so proper precautions are a must.
 
The instructions for this recipe are almost identical to the first method.
 
To dechlorinate water: You can use a Water Filter (See Recommendations) or simply boil the water using a kettle to remove the chlorine.
 
Make sure you let it cool to a lukewarm temperature before you use it, otherwise the heat will kill the beneficial bacteria and denature the phytase.
 
For the container: Remember, you should use ceramic, china, stainless steel 316, glass (but keep in a dark place), or Polycarbonate, PP, HDPE, or LDPE Plastic containers only.
Other plastics and metals will react with the acidity and interfere with the natural processes of fermentation. For example, non-steel containers will rust, and plastic may leech.

These lacto fermented oats will have a more tangy flavour than those from the other method. This is simply a consequence of the ingredients and and quite a pleasant flavour for most.

You may even like to refrigerate the oats the day or night before you eat them. That way, you can enjoy them chilled, much like you might sour cream (and they will be creamy)!

NOTICE – Food Safety:

  1. Firstly, if the scent or taste is not pleasantly yeasty and slightly sour – and especially if it is unpleasant and not as described – discard the batch and try again.
    This could be a bad sign of unwelcome bacteria that we do not want to be eating!
  2. Secondly, if you see any mould or suspected mould (this could be any colour) DO NOT simply scrape it off and eat the oats as mould has roots. Discard the batch and try again.
    You may get some starches or yeasts from the oats rise to the surface of the water, producing an extremely thin filmy layer. This is perfectly safe. It should not look “fluffy” or resemble mould in any way!*

*(P.S. Take a look at the recipe photos – the thin layer on top is after 3 days, and is what the starch / yeast will look like)

As long as you always keep your oats submerged, there shouldn’t be any problems.

Bonus Tips!

When you are ready to try your newfound amig-oats (yes I did), you can simply drain them, add your favourite healthy ingredients, and enjoy! Also, you can add a little milk or water and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Easy!

In fact, for those who’ve wondered how to eat oats without cooking, this is the perfect method.

Oftentimes I have my oats half uncooked and then heat the rest. (Heating / Microwaving will kill the bacteria but studies have shown that even dead probiotic bacteria benefit our immune system).

If you want to do this often, whenever you eat the oats, set some more for fermentation and mix in 1 or 2 tablespoons of the previous batch to kick-start the process!

Don’t think this is all there is to fermented oats, though. I’ve prepared mine in so many ways! Here are a Few of My Favourite Recipes that are versatile and fun!

Time needed: 5 minutes.

Summary How-To For Fermenting Oats

  1. Grind your oats if whole (at least coarsely).

    This can be done using a coffee grinder, but just as effectively with a pestle and mortar, or the end of a rolling pin. This step helps to release the starches from inside the oats. Pestle and mortar Step 1 grind your oats - How To Ferment Oats - A Probiotic Recipe

  2. Add the ingredients.

    Pour your oats into the container that you will be using. Next, pour the dechlorinated water in with the oats, making sure to submerge them fully. Only do this after making sure that your water is cooled to a lukewarm or room temperature (or possibly warmed if you Use a Filter). Add the 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (or substitute). oats, apple cider vinegar, water step 2 add the ingredients - How To Ferment Oats - A Probiotic Recipe

  3. Cover the container.

    Cover the container with a cloth or loosely with a small dish. You want to make sure that a little air can get in and out. Remember, you should use ceramic, china, stainless steel 316, glass (but keep in a dark place), or Polycarbonate, PP, HDPE, or LDPE Plastic containers only. steps 3 and 4 cover container and set aside - bowl with small dish / plate

  4. Finally, leave to stand.

    Leave to stand (preferably somewhere warm) for 1-3 days. This will depend on your climate – a warmer environment is more ideal for fermentation. Stir once or twice a day. You’ll know it’s ready when it takes on a yeasty and sour scent and produces bubbles.

  5. Check for safety!

    If the scent or taste is not pleasantly yeasty and slightly sour – and especially if it is unpleasant and not as described – discard the batch and try again. This could be a bad sign of unwelcome bacteria that we do not want to be eating!

    If you see any mould or suspected mould (this could be any colour) DO NOT simply scrape it off and eat the oats as mould has roots. Discard the batch and try again. You may get some starches or yeasts from the oats rise to the surface of the water, producing an extremely thin filmy layer. This is perfectly safe. It should not look “fluffy” or resemble mould in any way!
    sour oats fermented for 3 days - fermenting oats in bowl


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Have you ever soaked or fermented your oatmeal before? Let me know of your experiences, or if you tried this, how did you find it? 🙂

I hope to have given you some insight into the world of probiotics, and that these recipes work well for your new ventures!

If you enjoyed this and learned something new about how to ferment oats, you might also enjoy our other posts.

Until the next one, stay healthy

James