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Grow Your Own Sprouts: The Complete Guide

It’s so easy to grow your own sprouts, and this guide will give you all the information you need.

Sprouts are a fantastic addition to any diet as they are a great source of nutrients and can be grown easily at home. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a complete novice, growing your own sprouts is a fun and rewarding activity that can be done in just a few days.

We’ll guide you through the process of growing your own sprouts, from selecting the right seeds to harvesting your delicious crop.

Close up of sprouted alfalfa seeds.

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Sprouts are not only crunchy and delicious, they contain highly concentrated phytochemicals (plant compounds) and antioxidants. 

Equipment Needed

To grow your own sprouts, here’s what you’ll need:

  • A jar – You can use a Ball jar, a recycled jar, or a special growing jar. For this post I used a 24 ounce jar and sprouted 2 teaspoons of alfalfa seeds.
  • Seeds to sprout – See ideas below.
  • Water – Tap water is fine, or you can use filtered water.
  • Cheesecloth – for air circulation and ease of rinsing the sprouts. You can also buy a special mesh lid for wide mouth Mason jars if you prefer.
  • A rubber band
  • Paper towels

Best Seeds for Jar Sprouting

When it comes to choosing which seeds to sprout, there are dozens of options! Some of the most popular sprouting seeds are:

  • Alfalfa
  • Broccoli
  • Clover
  • Mung Bean
  • Sunflower

I found a good assortment of organic seeds for sprouting at my local Natural Grocers, and decided to buy organic alfalfa and mung bean seeds because they’re easy for beginners to grow. You can also buy seeds for sprouting and growing microgreens online.

A package of alfalfa seeds and mung bean seeds.

I’ll admit that I was sorely tempted to buy a special seed sprouting jar, but I resisted. I’m trying to stop buying so much stuff, and growing sprouts in a regular old jar better suits my sensibilities about recycling anyway. So my total out-of-pocket expense was a little over $5.

Step by Step Directions and Photos

The first step of sprouting is soaking the seeds. Cleanliness is important in sprouting so that no bad bacteria ruins the process, so I ran my designated jar (which previously held applesauce) through the dishwasher so it would be sterile.

Then I added some filtered water, filling the jar about half full.  I decided to try sprouting some of the alfalfa sprouts first, and since my jar isn’t large I added 2 teaspoons of sprouts and gave it a stir. 

Adding alfalfa seeds to a jar of water.

 Even though I started with a small portion, there are hundreds and hundreds of the tiny alfalfa seeds:

Alfalfa seeds in a glass jar.

Next, I secured a piece of cheesecloth on top of the jar with a rubber band. If you’re using a Mason jar with a screwtop lid, you could also cut a piece of clean plastic or stainless steel screening and insert it in the lid.

The cheesecloth or screening allows air to circulate and will make rinsing and draining easier.

A piece of cheesecloth secured on a glass jar with a rubber band.


The little seeds now need to soak for 8 to 12 hours. Over the next several days, we’ll be rinsing and draining the seeds as they (hopefully) sprout.

Meanwhile, the alfalfa seeds are resting on the kitchen counter where they should begin to absorb water and miraculously make the leap from dormancy to tiny plants. Here’s a final look at the recycled seed ‘incubator’ with the snow falling in the background.

A jar with alfalfa seeds in a window.


After 24 hours, the sprouts seem to be doing fine. I drained the water out last night, and this morning I poured water in the jar right through the cheesecloth and swirled the seeds around to rinse them; I repeated this two times, and then thoroughly drained the water out through the cheesecloth. (This needs to be done every 12 hours, so I’m doing the rinse/drain cycle at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.)

NOTE: From this point on, the sprouting seeds will only need to be moist and you won’t be soaking them in water.

Here’s a Day #2 picture of the tiny seeds, and if you look closely you can see a few of them are already starting to sprout!

Drained alfalfa seeds.
Alfalfa Sprouts – Day 2


It’s only the third day of growing sprouts in a jar on the kitchen counter, but our tiny alfalfa seeds are already sprouting! Here’s today’s photo:

Alfalfa seeds, beginning to sprout.
Alfalfa Sprouts – Day 3

I’ve continued to rinse and drain the sprouts every 12 hours, and they seem to be coming along right on schedule. Click here to read Sunday’s posting with instructions about how to make your own sprouting incubator from a recycled jar, along with updates from Day 2.


Here’s a photo from the fourth day, when I added water to the jar and swirled the sprouts around. You can see how the volume has increased!

Day 4 of sprouting alfalfa seeds in a glass jar.
Alfalfa Sprouts – Day 4

To make sure they are thoroughly drained, I’ve been turning the jar upside down on a folded paper towel after giving it the final shake after each rinsing:

Draining alfalfa sprouts on paper towels.
Draining the sprouts


It’s our fifth day of growing sprouts at home, and you can see that they are getting green and starting to break away from the seed hull. Today I drained off about a third of the seed hulls:

Alfalfa seeds sprouted and almost ready to eat.
Alfalfa Sprouts – Day 5


A jar half full of freshly grown alfalfa sprouts.
Alfalfa Sprouts – Day 6

After six days in the kitchen window (and yes, it’s snowing again here), the sprouts are ready for harvest!

After rinsing and draining the sprouts one last time, I measured them:

A glass one-cup measuring cup filled with fresh sprouts.

Two tiny teaspoons of seeds grew to more than one cup of sprouts! The sprouts are fresh, crunchy and so, so good. What a miracle!

How to Store Sprouts

Freshly grown sprouts and microgreens have a short shelf life, so it’s important to store them properly to keep them fresh and safe to eat. Here are some tips:

Keep them dry: Make sure to dry your sprouts thoroughly on paper towels after rinsing them. Excess moisture can cause them to spoil quickly.

Use an airtight container: Store your alfalfa sprouts in a sealed container or ziplock bag to prevent moisture and air from getting in.

Refrigerate: Once you have rinsed and dried your sprouts, store them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.

Use within a few days: Alfalfa sprouts should be used within a few days of purchase or harvest to ensure freshness and safety.


How long does it take to grow sprouts in a jar?

Total growing time can vary depending on the variety of seeds you grow and the amount of sunlight you have, but in general you can expect to have sprouts in about 6 to 8 days.

How long do sprouts last in a glass jar?

When the sprouts are ready to eat, we recommend removing them from the jar, rinsing, drying, and storing in a sealed container to keep them fresh. Plan to enjoy them in a day or two.

Why do seeds fail to sprout?

The most common reason seeds fail to sprout is either too much or two little water. The sprouts need to initially soak in water to sprout, but once they start to sprout they only need to be kept moist — not drowning in water.

How to Use Sprouts?

A fresh green salad topped with sprouts.

Freshly grown sprouts are nutritious and delicious in a variety of recipes. Here are 10 of our favorite ways to use sprouts:

  1. In a sandwich: Add a handful of alfalfa sprouts to your sandwich for an extra crunch and fresh flavor. (Sprouts are great with hummus on a veggie sandwich!)
  2. In a salad: Toss alfalfa sprouts into a salad for added texture and nutrients.
  3. In a wrap: Use alfalfa sprouts as a filling for wraps with avocado, hummus, and veggies.
  4. In a smoothie: Blend alfalfa sprouts into a smoothie with fruits and veggies for added nutrition.
  5. On a pizza: Add alfalfa sprouts to your pizza toppings for a fresh crunch.
  6. In a stir-fry: Toss alfalfa sprouts into a stir-fry for a healthy crunch.
  7. In a buddha bowl: Use alfalfa sprouts as a topping for a nutrient-dense buddha bowl.
  8. In a soup: Add alfalfa sprouts as a garnish to a soup for a fresh and healthy addition.
  9. In a breakfast recipe: Sprinkle alfalfa sprouts on top of an omelet, in a breakfast burrito, or on avocado toast for a healthy breakfast boost.
  10. As a garnish: Use alfalfa sprouts as a garnish for any dish, for a pretty pop of color, an added nutritional boost and fresh flavor.

How about you? Have you grown your own sprouts? I’d love to hear about your favorite varieties, and how you use sprouts in cooking. Drop a comment below!

This post was originally published on February 14, 2010 and was updated with new photos and information on May 6, 2023.

Save for Later

If you use Pinterest to save and share ideas, here’s a handy pin:

Alfalfa sprouts close up, and a jar with DIY home grown alfalfa sprouts.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is the author of 17 books, including Small Bites and 101 Things To Do With Bacon. She shares ideas to simplify cooking, gardening, time and money. She is also the owner of Cross Media, Inc. and founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society.

7 thoughts on “Grow Your Own Sprouts: The Complete Guide”

  1. Pingback: Grow Your Own Sprouts – Part #2 « Urban Homesteader
  2. What a great idea, not to mention a nice way to cure the winter blues. 😉 Is there a certain size of jar that works better?

    • To sprout 2 to 3 teaspoons of alfalfa seeds, I’d suggest a jar in the 18-24 ounce range so that you have plenty of space for rinsing, air circulation and seed growth. Hope this helps!

  3. I’m wondering if anyone who sprouts has had trouble with their sewer/septic lines? I try very hard to trap all the hulls (and potential “late starters”) when I rinse. It’s very time-consuming, and a few have gotten away in spite of my best efforts.
    Am I worrying about nothing?

    • Debbie, thank you for your kind words and I bet you’ll use those home-grown sprouts in some amazing recipes! xxoo ~Eliza


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