Do bean sprouts need to be cooked or can they be eaten raw?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  June 1, 2022

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Bean sprouts are highly nutritious and bring many health benefits. In Asian countries, you can find many kinds of dishes that use bean sprouts, either raw or cooked.

However, you might need to take some precautions when eating raw bean sprouts, as they may carry bacteria. Cooked bean sprouts, on the other hand, are much safer to eat.

Let’s look a little more closely at raw sprouts.

Bean sprouts cooked or raw

Raw bean sprouts

In East Asia and Southeast Asia, you might find several kinds of traditional salads with bean sprouts in them, both raw or cooked. In Thailand, people sometimes eat pho with raw bean sprouts.

People love the taste of raw bean sprouts because they’re crunchy and have a unique fresh bitter taste that may elevate the flavor of the dish.

The raw bean sprouts themselves are okay. However, bear in mind that bean sprouts grow in hot and humid environments, which are ideal places for bacteria to live. In fact, studies have found that bean sprouts are one of the most effective places for bacteria to grow!

The statistic shows that raw sprouts are linked to food poisoning issues caused by salmonella and E. coli. Hence, eating raw bean sprouts isn’t advisable for people with vulnerable immune systems, such as toddlers, pregnant women, and people in old age.

How to safely eat raw bean sprouts

6 tips for safely eating bean sprouts

Washing the bean sprouts isn’t enough to kill the bacteria they carry. However, if you want to eat bean sprouts raw , you can try these tips to minimize the risk of food poisoning:

  1. If possible, buy the bean sprouts that are labeled “ready to eat”. These kinds of bean sprouts have been specially treated to make sure they don’t carry harmful bacteria.
  2. Make sure your immune system is good. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with immunity disorders are better off avoiding raw sprouts.
  3. Wash your hands properly when handling the bean sprouts.
  4. Only buy fresh bean sprouts that are properly refrigerated to minimize the risk of bacteria growth.
  5. Keep your bean sprouts in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. But don’t keep them for too long. The fresher the bean sprouts are, the more tasty and safe they are to eat!
  6. Don’t eat bean sprouts if they smell awful, look slimy, or are mushy. Don’t even cook such bean sprouts because they’ve gone bad!

Also read: can you boil dashi or does that ruin the taste?

How to properly cook bean sprouts

Health experts recommend properly cooking your bean sprouts to make sure all the bacteria are dead when you eat the dish. Apparently, lightly cooking them isn’t nough to kill all the bacteria!

But no worries, because bean sprouts don’t take much time to cook.

Boiling the bean sprouts only takes about 90 seconds. Don’t forget to rinse them off first with cold running water before cooking them. Drain the boiled bean sprouts using a colander to avoid them getting overcooked.

Bean sprouts and cooking them

If you want to sauté the bean sprouts, use medium heat. Lightly stir the sprouts to make them cook evenly for about 3-5 minutes. Eat them while they’re still warm.

Bean sprouts are quick to cook. If you overcook them, they’ll lose their crispness and become very soggy.

It’s also important to stir them often while on the stove. Otherwise, you’ll end up with partially overcooked and partially undercooked bean sprouts in one serving.a bowl of vegetable soup with beansprouts in it

Also read: the right water rice ratio for in the rice cooker

Nutrition of bean sprouts

As mentioned above, bean sprouts are a great food to improve your health. There are many ways that bean sprouts benefit our body, such as:

  • Weight loss: Bean sprouts are amazingly low in calories but are high in fiber. So you can eat a lot of them to get your stomach full for a long time without worrying about your weight.
  • Cardiovascular health: Potassium is vital for heart muscle contractions and blood pressure regulation. Fiber is great for removing excess cholesterol in blood vessels. Meanwhile, vitamin K helps with blood clotting. Those nutrients are abundantly available in the bean sprouts.
  • Rich in iron: Iron is a vital nutrient that affects our bodies in many ways. It improves circulation, maintains bone density, and avoids the risk of anemia. Iron is also a vital element for the brain. In children, iron deficiency poses a huge risk of malnutrition and stunted growth.
  • Mental health: There’s also a huge amount of vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium contained in bean sprouts. According to research, these nutrients are vital for balancing moods and relieving stress. They also increase sleep quality (lack of sleep is strongly linked to many mental health issues).
  • Skincare: Bean sprouts are rich in vitamins E and C, which are essential for skin cell regeneration. They also contain many antioxidants to improve skin elasticity, avoid wrinkles, and clear up blemishes.

Raw bean sprouts can be good for you

Including bean sprouts in your meals bring many benefits to your body. You can eat bean sprouts raw if your immune system works optimally.

But if you’re unsure about them and want to avoid getting a foodborne illness, it’s better to cook them properly.

Also read: Delicious bean sprout recipes you can make

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.