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How to Sous Vide Grains like Farro, Bulgur and Quinoa

For a long time I never bothered to cook grains using sous vide, they were just so easy to make on the stove...or so I thought!

A year or two ago I began eating oatmeal for breakfast most mornings, and the cleanup of the pot started to become a hassle. I finally turned to sous vide to try and solve it and I loved the results. Not only was there no clean up, I also didn't have to watch a pot to make sure it didn't boil over or dry out. And I could definitely use that help when I'm sleepy in the mornings and not thinking straight!

Sous vide oatmeal close raisin

From oatmeal, I branched out into other grains and now I cook the majority of them using sous vide. I just love the convenience and not having to worry about whether the pot is boiling, or too dry or any other factors.

It is also simple to mix and match grains in one container, as long as they cook for the same amount of time. This makes it easy to add some variety to my meals without much extra effort.

If you are interested in learning more about how to sous vide grains, then you can read below, or just skip to my sous vide grain recipes!

What to Sous Vide Grains In

I usually cook the grains in 1/2-pint or 1-pint Mason jars, depending on how much I need. I'll often leave the grains in the jars, chill them in cold water, and refrigerate them for later use. You can also seal the grains and water in a bag using a vacuum sealer, as long as it handles liquids without making a mess, or Ziploc bags.

Sous vide porridge 1

Sous Vide Grain Temperature

The temperature used for most grains needs to be above 183°F (83.8°C). It can go as hot as you want, though I usually just use 185°F (85°C) to give me some wiggle room in case my circulator is slightly off. The higher the temperature, the less time it will take to cook the grains.

How Much Liquid to Use When Sous Viding Grains

The amount of liquid needed is dependent on the grain, but is usually about 80% of what you usually need due to the lack of evaporation during the cooking process.

The amount of liquid will also depend on how you like the texture of that specific grain to be. For instance, some people like dry oatmeal, and others like wet and runny oatmeal. They would need different amounts of water to accomplish that.

You can also use pretty much any liquid in the containers to cook the grains. I've used water, stock, and milk as the main liquids as well as splashes of vinegar, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to flavor it. You would want to be careful with alcohol, just because it will not burn off at all.

Sous Vide Grain Timing

The three things that affect the timing are the size of the container, the temperature it is cooked at, and the tenderness of the grain.

How Container Size Affects Grain Timing

As I mentioned above, I almost always use 1/2-pint or 1-pint Mason jars to cook the grains. These take slightly different amounts of time to cook. In my recipes I give the size of the container I usually use, but feel free to experiment to see what size and timing works best for you.

How the Temperature Affects Sous Vide Grain Times

As I mentioned above, I generally use 185°F (85°C) for all my grains. You can pick a temperature that works for you, but I haven't found much of a difference in the end result. I use 185°F just to ensure the bath will be hot enough. If you are just learning, I recommend using that temperature with my recipes until you have a better feel for how it works.

Sous vide grains 1

How Grain Type Affects Sous Vide Timing

Like different cuts of meat, different types of grain have different tendernesses and need different amounts of time to cook fully. Almost all types of grain will give you cooking instructions, and in general it takes about 20% longer to sous vide the grains than is called for with "on the stove" instructions. This difference is from not plunging the grains directly into the boiling water; it takes time to heat through the glass jar, and the temperature you are cooking at is lower than it normally is on the stove.

Because the different types of grain cook at vastly different lengths of time, I recommend trying to stick to 1 or 2 types when you are getting started. This will make it easier to find the sweet spot you are looking for. Don't forget that the brand will also affect the timing, because different brands of the "same" grain might actually be different varieties. Below I have some of the times that I have found to work well for various types of grain. All grains are for the Bob's Red Mill brand and assume a 1/2-pint Mason jar at 185°F (85°C).

Buckwheat 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon buckwheat
2/3 cup liquid
20 minutes
Bulgur 1/2 cup bulgur
2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon liquid
25 minutes
Frekneh 1/2 cup frekneh
3/4 cup liquid
20 minutes
Oatmeal 1/3 cup Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats
2/3 cup liquid
30 minutes
Rye 1/4 cup rye
1/2 cup liquid
25 minutes
Spelt 1/2 cup spelt
1/2 cup liquid
80 minutes
Wheatberry 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons wheatberry
2/3 cup liquid
2 hours

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Sous Vide Grain Tips

If you are looking for some recipes to use sous vide grains in, I do have a whole chapter dedicated to grain bowls in my Healthy Sous Vide cookbook.

Use Warm Water

I always use warm water to fill the Mason jars. This serves two purposes, first is to slightly speed up the cooking time. The second reason, and the most important one, is the warm water helps temper the glass container and prevents breaking. If you add a really cold Mason jar to the hot water bath, there is a chance it will shatter. Using warm water greatly reduces the risk of that occurring.

Sous vide oatmeal plain

Finger Tighten the Lids

If you are using Mason jars, make sure you only finger tighten the lids. This allows the air to escape as it heats.

Water Levels Usually Aren't Important

I generally just submerge my Mason jars in the water bath, but some people think it is better to only fill the bath full enough to come up right below the lids. You can go either way you feel most comfortable.

Use a Mason Jar Grabber

Getting the Mason jars into and out of the water bath can be pretty rough if you don't have the right tools. I recommend a jar lifter to help out. It only costs $5 and makes the whole process very safe and easy.

Give Them a Shake

For longer-cooking grains, giving them a shake or two during the cooking process will help keep the liquid evenly distritbuted throughout the jar.

Sous vide pork chop tajine finished far 2

Taste Until Cooked

To originally come up with my times, I would taste the grains along the way to see how long it took them to be fully cooked. It's easy to open the container, taste a small amount, and then put it back into the water bath until it is finished. So don't worry if the grains aren't done when you expected them, just put them back in for a little longer and you should be all set.

Make Extras

I almost always make more grains than I need for dinner so I can use them in lunches all week long. Once they are done cooking I chill them in cold water and then I store them, still in the Mason jar, in the refrigerater until I want to use them. This makes it super convienent to use grains throughout the week without having to make them every day.

Sous Vide Grain Recipes and Articles

If you are looking for some recipes to use sous vide grains in, I do have a whole chapter dedicated to grain bowls in my Healthy Sous Vide cookbook.

What are your favorite ways to sous vide grains? Have any follow up questions you need answered? Let me know in the comments or on the Exploring Sous Vide Facebook group.

Jason logsdon headshot This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.