One thing I have found since we moved off-grid is that we simply need to eat more filling, hearty, and dare I say starchy foods. When we first got here that was simply bread and butter, corn tortillas, or plain old oatmeal.

Now that my cooking situation is a bit more set up I have been getting back to soaking and fermenting grains. The problem is that our cabin can swing drastically from 70-some degrees during the day and 30-some degrees at night, which would be why my sourdough starter just wouldn’t cut it.

So I decided to give our oats a ferment and see what happened. The results have been great and dare I say low-maintenance, surviving even in our crazy climate and with my lack of daily feedings. The porridge is definitely sour in flavor, but we love it with plenty of butter, fruit, nuts, and raw milk.

Why Fermented Grains?

Over the years I have found that our bodies tend to digest and simply use grains better if they are soaked, but preferably fermented. This has been the case with a sourdough bread vs. a regular yeast bread and now with this porridge.

Fermentation breaks down the hard to digest components of grains and tends to maximize the nutrients of whatever food is being fermented. Win-win.

Here is How I Made the Starter:

  1. Crack whole oat groats into something like a steel-cut oat. It will look like a combination of flour and pieces of whole oats. You can grind it as fine as you’d like, just make sure the oat groats have been broken up and the starchy insides exposed.
  2. Combine a few cups of these (I just use two scoops from our grain bucket, the equivalent of about 2-3 cups) with enough water so that you can stir it easily but it is not too soupy. I use a half gallon jar for this.
  3. You can, optionally, add some whey at this point to kick-start the fermenting process. I did just a couple of tablespoons off of our kefir and it seems to have worked well.
  4. Cover with a cloth or a coffee filter and a rubber band or canning ring. Let sit in a warm place for a few days or until it starts to smell sour and have little bubbles.

Here is How I Feed It:

Every time we make and use up all but one cup of the porridge my five-year-old cracks two more scoops of oats and I stir them into the jar, being sure to incorporate a good amount of air.

I let this ferment for about two days before removing all but one cup and feeding the porridge once again. I’ve gone longer than those two days between eatings and feedings, but I find the sourness is tamed by using it up within a couple of days (assuming it has already soured).

Here is How I Use It:

Be sure to leave 1 cup of porridge in jar. Combine the desired amount of soured porridge with enough water to cover by 1-2". Cook slowly over low heat, stirring frequently, until thick and water is absorbed.

You can also bake with this, which is something I am excited to share with you soon as well.

Learn More About Soaking, Sprouting, and Fermenting Grains

As we have started down this path towards agrarianism we find ourselves having to keep our grocery budget as low as possible while nourishing our bodies in order to do the physical work involved in starting a homestead. Spending the last five years learning about properly preparing grains, beans, and other foods has been an invaluable tool in making this little equation work.

If you are interested in learning more about turning those hard-to-digest grains into something nourishing then you may want to check out the Healthy Whole Grains e-course. This self-paced online class includes 50 videos and over 100 printable recipes to get you going.

Use the coupon code SPROUT20 by February 7th and receive a $20 discount on the course. I am told this is the only coupon code that will be made available to the public, so don’t delay!


44 Responses to Fermented Grains: The Perpetual Soured Porridge Pot

  1. Julie Bates says:

    Very informative! I’d like to try it, but I’ve never fermented grains before. Is this safe for me during pregnancy, or would it be best to try after baby has arrived?


  2. Very useful – thank you. I usually soak my oatmeal overnight in water with yogurt added. This year we are planning to grow our own native oats, so I will give this a go. x


  3. Lauren says:

    Julie, your gut flora (the bacteria in your insides) work for you, getting nutrients out of your food and fighting invading bacteria (ie illness). Fermented foods are like troop reinforcements for your friendly flora (while processed sugars and grains are ammunition for the bad guys). Your baby will receive your gut flora during the birth process, so the better your is the better theirs will be. Give ferments a try! If soured grains don’t taste quite right to you, try googling “lactofermentation” for recipes of other things you can make at home to help this along. Congratulations on your imminent arrival!


  4. Amy says:

    Very interesting post, thanks! What do you use to crack whole oat groats?


  5. April says:

    Can you use already steel cut oats for this process or does it need to be “freshly” cut oat groats?


  6. Petra says:

    I’m not sure what this would taste like without cooking – but wouldn’t it be a lot better for you raw because all the enzymes and probiotics wouldn’t destroyed by cooking? I’m not sure if it’s tasty enough to stomach raw – but I think I’ll give this a try and find out. I just wonder if you’ve ever tried it?


    Shannon Reply:

    Petra – I haven’t tried it yet and I am wondering if it wouldn’t be a little hard on the stomach with all of that unsoftened bran and germ. It would be worth a try, though, since the fermentation process might soften these guys enough to make it digestible. Cereal, perhaps?


    Julia Reply:

    Petra, I have tried this raw before, and it’s delicious! The texture takes a little getting used to, as it’s quite different from cooked oatmeal. Let it soak/ferment in the same way. Then, when it’s ready, blend it in a food processor with a few dates or honey/maple syrup for sweetener if you’d like, and whatever else you want to add. My instinct tells me that this is a little healthier as well, because the culture is not being killed, although I can’t be sure. Whatever feels the best for you!


  7. Cathy says:

    I’ve been doing something like like this with my milk kefir. I take off just a portion, and add fresh milk. It seems to kefir much faster and I’m getting a very mellow taste, it’s creamier with lots of bubbles. Using continuous ferment, I don’t think there is a need to do a second ferment, since there is older ferment in with the newer. John Moody’s continuous kombucha was my inspiration. Glad to know we can do with oats! Thanks for this!


  8. Holly B says:

    What do you use to “crack” the oat groats? I don’t have a grain grinder. Can I just put steel cut oats into a food processor?


    Shannon Reply:

    Holly B – We have a grain mill. You might be able to put whole oat groats into a high-powered blender or food processor, though I wouldn’t want to kill your machine if it doesn’t work :) . Steel cut oats are already “cracked” or cut, so you might be able to use them straight up, though I can’t say for sure as I haven’t tried it.


  9. Joy says:

    Could I use rolled oats as well?


  10. renee rehkemper says:

    Hello Shannon
    Should one store the fermented porridge pot in the frig BETWEEN uses, as I do when making my weekly sourdough batch? I feed it the day prior and then make the bread. Between the weekly bread baking, my starter stays in the frig.
    (I understand that the porridge pot remains at room temp when fermenting for the 2 days and then using that batch.)
    Thanks, Renee


  11. Rolled or steel cut oats would work out ok, I think … Steel cut oats are pretty much the same thing as cracked. I would think the rolled oats would just have a much softer texture in the end.


  12. RyanA says:

    Out of curiosity, have you ever used any other grains? My ancestors hail from Asia, and our traditional porridge (congee or jok) is made from rice. Could brain rice be fermented and then boiled (quite a bit more than oatmeal, of course)? Any idea if that would work or be safe to eat?


  13. renee rehkemper says:

    Hi Shannon
    Does one need to add whey each feeding?
    And between feedings can there be a rest period in the frig, if one is not going to feed/use it for 4-5 days (like sourdough starter)?
    thanks, Renee


  14. Demi says:

    So what is the difference between soaking and fermenting? I am a little confused.

    Also, I would love to see pictures of your new house! How many rooms does it have?


    Shannon Reply:

    Demi – Soaking tries to mimic the fermentation process, which usually takes just a bit more time. Once it is set up though, it is just as easy as soaking.


  15. RyanA says:

    Do you think other grains could work. My family is from Asia, and our porridge is typically made from white (or rarely brown) rice. Could rice be fermented prior to making the porridge? Would it be safe?


    Shannon Reply:

    RyanA – I would imagine so. I think the key is to have a whole grain, freshly cracked so that the fermentation process goes smoothly. Let me know if rice works!


  16. Bill says:

    I too was concerned about killing all the good bacteria when heating the oats after fermenting, so did the opposite; I cooked the oats first, cooled them, then added yogurt plus two probiotic pills. It definitely created a soured taste after one day on the counter. The porridge is mushy, but I’m assuming I’m getting good fermented food.


  17. Joanne says:

    I am new to soaking grains. I tried soaking Scottish oats overnight on the counter, covered with a towel, with a tablespoon of whole wheat flour and some whey from my home made yogurt. I cooked and ate the oatmeal the next morning. Food normally moves through my body fast, but not this fast. I had diarrhea (sorry) that night and the next day. I can not say for sure that did it, but it is the only thing I changed in my diet that week. My husband did not eat any so he was safe. You were smart to throw yours out. Now that I understand what to look for, I will give this fermenting process a try.

    I mix whole milk and 1 cup of Bob’s Red NF dry milk to make a thick greek yogurt (no straining) in my 2-quart yogurt maker. Usually at night, I mix about a 1/2 cup of yogurt, oatmeal, and flavoring into individual containers with lids. My favorite flavors are vanilla (extract) with honey, raspberry or strawberry jam. Stored in the refrigerater, they are easy to grab for a tasty breakfast or a treat later in the day. Steel and Scottish cut make it chewy, while old fashioned oats make is smooth and creamy. I have seen others on the internet add additional healthy ingredients and extra milk. I might try using some fermented oats with this recipe.

    Thanks for your great infomation.


  18. Kathy says:

    I ferment rolled oats for several days then add honey,butter, eggs, salt & a small amount of keifer or raw milk & blueberries or some form of berries if I have them and bake @ 350 degrees. It is awesome! It has the consistency of bread pudding & really moist. we love it.


  19. Brittney says:

    I’ve read that “steel-cut oats” have less nutrients than “stone-ground” because the steel actually heats up from the friction, causing it to kill some of the nutrients. Is this true?


  20. [...] have to come in bread form, however. Many soured porridges were a staple in ancient cultures. This soured oat porridge is my answer to [...]

  21. [...] of yogurt, lemon juice, buttermilk, and certain types of vinegar. For more information, visit Nourishing Days, Whole Health Source, or check out this article that lays out a very simple [...]

  22. Jen B. says:

    Hi there. I have tried doing exactly what was suggested here, but after 5 days, I still do not have any bubbles. I even added yogurt. My home is on the chilly side so I have kept my jar in the oven with the light on (at night) and during the day when I can. Before our energy saving appliances, I would have put it on the top of my fridge. I know it can be done, but it isn’t working for me. Suggestions anyone? :) Thanks.


    in out Reply:

    @Jen B.,
    Yogurt should be live culture, no additives.
    Initial water too hot or cold can affect yeast.
    You could add sugar, or try brewer’s yeast or some other kind.
    Maybe there is something in the water? Sulphur or fluoride…don’t know what that would do.


  23. Jeff says:

    Just curious if you could cook the oats first, then ferment, then gentle warming to preserve the live culture. When you make yogurt you generally heat the milk to just below boil, then cool to about 110F ish. I wonder if you could do the same with oats? Thanks for the good info!


    Lu Reply:

    @Jeff, much of the reason for fermenting is to break down anti-nutrients and phytic acid. Oats are low on phytase (the enzyme), cooking first would destroy what little there is, making its complete removal unlikely, even with fermentation.


    Lu Reply:

    @Jeff, much of the reason for fermenting is to break down anti-nutrients and phytic acid. Oats are low on phytase (the enzyme), cooking first would destroy what little there is, making the complete removal of phytic acid unlikely, even with fermentation.


  24. [...] of yogurt, lemon juice, buttermilk, and certain types of vinegar. For more information, visit Nourishing Days, Whole Health Source, or check out this article that lays out a very simple [...]

  25. Tom Haws says:

    I soaked some oats for about 4 days, and when I went to cook them, the whole house smelled like cheese or smelly feet. I didn’t know if I could handle that or if it was okay, so I rinsed the oats out before cooking them again and eating them. 1. Is a strong smelly feet smell normal? 2. How long can you let oats soak before cooking them if you are seeding them with a bit of water and oats from an older batch?


  26. Michelle Foy says:

    Is there a non-dairy alternative to whey or yogurt that could be used for the ferment?


    Shannon Reply:

    Michelle – You might use a bit of sourdough starter or maybe kombucha or even a bit of brine from a batch of fermented veggies.


  27. Bee says:

    I love this method. I used whey and a 90% oat & 10% rye mixture, cracked. After doing this for a week I now find a white, powdery coating floating on top of the water. No grey or black spots. It smells healthy. Should I just mix it in and continue using it?


  28. ThatGuy says:

    You could have a sourdough culture if you made a xeer/zeer pot – get two unglazed terracotta pots, one ~20% larger than the other. sit the smaller one in the larger one and fill the gap between the two with sand (you may need sand under the smaller put to make it level with the larger pot.)

    Fill the sand with water, and cover with a damp tea towel or towel. This makes a mini-evaporative cooler, dropping the temperature of the inner pot. It works best with lower humidity, out of direct sun, with airflow. As it cools down at night, your pot will slow it’s cooling too.

    Remember to top up the sand with more water to keep it cool in there. There are instructions on the internet about how to make them.


  29. pragmatic says:

    I usually presoak my steel cut oats inside a sealed jar with warm water overnight for quicker cooking. One morning I woke up and was surprised to find the mixture fermenting. the mixture was happily in a state of carbonation, quite briskly in fact. This only happens if temperatures are warm enough, it was spring when I encountered this incident.

    It was so bubbly I used it to ferment whole wheat flour for a couple didn’t taste sour at all. Apparently oats need to ferment for two days to acquire a tang. I blended everything in a mixer with an added egg and baking powder to make pancakes. The batter seemed runnyso I mixed :-/ extra flour. When I cooked the batter the food was closer to naan bread! I rolled with it by “baking”the Bread in the pan by simply fitting it with a lid

    I experimented with another batch of pure fermented oats, again only left it overnight and got similarly bubbly and then I placed it in the fridge and forgot about it for nearly a week!. Interestingly enough it got tangy! It continued to ferment even when placed in the fridge!


  30. Jonas says:

    Hi there!

    Thank you for the recipe. I have been fermented a mixture of oats, flax seed, sesame and sunflower seeds plus some lentils. It works great, tastes great, and makes me feel great, so im glad i found this article.

    I have one question though to your article.

    I started the first batch with 2 tbsp. of lemon juice, and the first batch was quickly eaten, except 1 cup that i kept for base for the next batch. The second batch was much more sour (shocked me at first taste), but the taste has been the same since, so it seems like it is how it is supposed to be.

    I am on my third batch now, but when i took off the cloth this morning, there was a very small amount of white-ish, mold-ish stuff on top of it. Why and what was that there? And does that mean the batch is ruined?

    How do you store your fermented oats when the two days has passed?

    I just keep my jar the same place, and let it do it’s thing, but it worried me to see that white stuff on the ferment this morning. It did not have a rotten smell, so i just scraped off the top layer. But i cant seem to read from your article if i am supposed to put the mix in the fridge after the two days of fermentation or?

    Thanks again! :)


    PPearson Reply:

    I ran into this some time ago making beet kvass. What is this? In reading I found out that it is kham yeast, a very safe one to ingest. Wishing you well!


  31. […] For more information on soaking grains, check out the following wonderful post by […]

  32. Karen says:

    I feel compelled to note that not everyone finds grains and beans hard to digest (personally, I’ve never had a problem with them). That being said, fermenting and/or souring foods is a neat ‘tool’ to keep in mind if you want to add some zest to your culinary adventures, or if you do have someone in your household who does better with the acids and things broken down a bit. Nice article, here.


  33. john says:

    So I let mine sit for 3 days, and when I went to use it there was an overpowering vomit smell to it. I tossed it immediately (outside), and the house smelled for like an hour. What went wrong?


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