Make Healthy Chickpea Natto

Making Natto With Chickpeas

Traditionally natto is made in Japan using soy beans and rice straw. In New Zealand soy beans and rice straw are not easily found but we can use organic chickpeas and laboratory-made spore powder as an excellent alternative

James9 natto
Chickpea Natto on Plate

Any type of bean or pea can be fermented, but the natto results will vary, especially if a starter from an existing batch of natto is used. There's also a high risk of undesirable bacteria being present during fermentation if old natto is used as a starter. It's much safer to use fresh laboratory quality spores for each batch of natto that's made

Making Natto With Chickpeas

Hygiene is important to reduce the risk of undesirable bacteria growing along with your Bacillus subtilis natto spores so boil utensiles and jars for 5 minutes to sterilise them, and ensure your hands are also double washed with soapy water for the same reason. If your utensiles are already pretty clean you can lightly sterilise them by soaking them in a solution of sodium percarbonate for 10 minutes. Sodium percarbonate is cheap and should be available at health stores or Bin-Inn stores in NZ

Select about 200 grams or less of dried chickpeas, preferably organic. Place them in a 1 litre jar, or similar container. Rinse in running water and remove any black or deformed chickpeas. Cover the washed chickpeas with plenty of clean water and leave to soak for an hour or longer, long enough for the chickpeas to double in size

Slow Cook for 2 Hours

Cook the soaked chickpeas in a pressure cooker, pot, or slow cooker until soft. I used to use an Asian crock slow cooker which works fine, but now I prefer a pressure cooker which does the job in 35 minutes. If you use an aluminium cooker remove the cooked chickpeas immediately after cooking and don't reuse the juice. Aluminium is associated with undesirable health problems so I choose to minimise any aluminium contact with food

Some people remove the cooked chickpea skins. That's an option but I prefer to leave them to ferment as they contain healthy nutrients. Let the chickpeas cool to room temperature making sure no dust settles on them. We want them to stay sterilised

When cool mix 100 mg of spore powder with 2 tablespoons of warm water. Then mix this with the chickpeas using a sterilised spoon or chopstick so the starter culture is well spread over all the chickpeas. Do this gently so as to not break the chickpeas. I use a 1 litre glass jar for this innoculation process so when the mixing is complete the jar can go straight into the yogurt maker that I use (Image is on Yogurt page)

A Yogurt Maker is Helpful

You need to keep the spore treated chickpeas warm for 20 hours. Use a yogurt maker or any device that you have that will hold the temperature at 40 degrees Celsius. Let the fermentation process continue uninterruped, taking care to resist any temptation to 'take a peep'

The natto bacteria need a little fresh air during the fermentation process, and will produce moisture, so completely cover the yogurt maker with a clean folded-once cotton tea towel. This allows fresh air to reach the mixture whilst absorbing moisture and stopping possible contamination from flies and dust particles

I don't close the yogurt maker lid but place it crosswise on top of the clean tea towel to allow some fresh air to get under it and into the yogurt maker without losing too much warmth

If the room temperature is a tad low, as it can be here in New Zealand during winter, place an extra towel over the yogurt makers to help retain the warmth. The yogurt makers I use have an internal air-wall so the glass jars inside with the natto normally stay warm for several hours following power-off. It's only during a cold winter that they need a little encouragement to stay warm

After the Fermentation Stage

After the 20 hours allow the fermented chickpeas to cool in the yogurt maker. The cooling time will allow the fermentaion process to continue. Then, when cool, remove the container with the fermented chickpeas from the yogurt maker and using a sterilised spoon or clean chopsticks, gently stir the chickpeas. They should be slimy with long spider-web like 'natto strings' attached to the chickpeas

Place the whole container, covered, in the fridge for 48 hours to allow the natto to strengthen. NOTE: This is an essential step and should not be skipped. After 48 hours your natto is ready to eat. It can be stored in the fridge for a few more days but will last up to 6 months in a freezer

Frozen natto
Soy Natto in Freezer

Serving Your Natto

Serve on toast with chopped spring onion on top with a poached egg, or serve on boiled rice. There are various other ways to eat natto that you can find online

Natto contains vitamin k2 which is essential for bone health and clean arteries so enjoy this healthy food ... and feel thankful for your healthy slippery natto


I prefer glass containers for all acidic food preparation and storage

100 mg of natto spore starter is plenty for 1 litre jar of chickpea natto

A yogurt maker makes it easy to maintain a reasonably constant temperature at about 40 degrees Celsius for the whole fermentation process. Some electric crock pots have a yogurt setting which may be useful if you happen to have one of those in your kitchen

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