Make Healthy Chickpea Natto

Chickpea natto made with dried spore powder

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 you can use organic chickpeas and laboratory-made spore powder as an excellent alternative

make your own yogurt imagenatto
Chickpea Natto on Plate

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 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

Making Natto With Chickpeas

Select about 200 grams or less of dried chickpeas, preferably organic. Rinse in running water and remove any black or deformed chickpeas and then put them in a large jar or similar container. Cover the washed chickpeas with plenty of clean water and leave them to soak overnight, or for at least 3-4 hours. The chickpeas will double in size and absorb much of the water that was covering them.

Slow Cook for 2 Hours

Cook the now swollen chickpeas in a pressure cooker, pot, or slow cooker until soft. I use an Asian crock slow cooker which works fine. It'll take about 2 hours using this method. Don't throw out the juice when done. It makes a nice drink and you'll need 2 tablespoons of it later.

Some people remove the chickpea skins at this stage but it's a tedious task. I prefer to leave them to ferment with the chickpeas as they contain healthy nutrients.

Let the Chickpeas Cool Down

Cover the chickpeas and let them cool to room temperature. Make sure no dust settles on them. We want them to stay serilised.

When cool mix 100 mg of spore powder with 2 tablespoons of the juice saved from the cooked chickpea water. Then mix this with the chickpeas using a sterilised spoon or chopstick so that 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 process because it fits nicely into my yogurt makers.

The yogurt makers

You need to keep the spore-treated chickpeas warm for 20 hours. Ideally use a yogurt maker as the incubator, but any device that you have that will hold the temperature reasonably steady at 40 degrees Celsius will do. Place the container with the spore-treated chickpeas into your incubator and set the controls to 20 hours.

Allow a Little Fresh Air

The natto bacteria need a little fresh air during the fermentation process, and will produce a little moisture, so completely cover the open 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

Don't close the yogurt maker completely. Place a clean tea towel over the jars to allow some air into the yogurt maker.

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.

Your chickpea natto should now be slimy with long spider-web like 'natto strings' attached to all of the chickpeas!

Place the whole container, covered, in the fridge for 2 days to allow the natto to strengthen. This is a critical part of making healthy natto and should be timed carefully. After 48 hours your natto will be ready to eat. It can be stored in the fridge for a week maximum, but will last up to 6 months in a 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. We often use our chickpea natto as an additional vegetable dish with our daily main meal.

Natto contains vitamin k2 which, with adequate vitamin D, is good for bone health and clean arteries. So enjoy this healthy food ... and feel thankful for your slimey probiotic natto!

James image James