Spent But Not Worthless: How to Cook with Spent Grain

January  9, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Here's how to transform spent grains from a waste product into a pantry staple.

Shop the Story

So you're a brewmaster. Or you're married to one, friends with one, or even just live two doors down from one. In our DIY-obsessed culture, this age-old tradition has taken on new prestige, and with it gained new popularity. It's wonderful that everyone and their mother is suddenly craft brewing their own IPAs, Ambers, and Schwarzbiers -- we certainly have no complaints.

More: Want to do something special with that artisinal hefeweisen? Just add a scoop of vanilla.

However, one thing that does get us up in arms is wasting beer's bi-product: spent grain. Brewing is a complicated, delicate science that requires exact temperature and strictly-enforced processes. So we won't go into it here -- for this post, all you need to know is that after you brew your beer, you're left with a giant heap of cooked grains -- typically a combination of malted barley and wheat. Behold: spent grain.

Spent Grains on Food52

More: If you want a more thorough explanation (with pictures!), here's a good guide.

People have come up with all sorts of ways to put spent grain to good use. It can provide tasty feed to pigs and chickens, and it composts like a dream. The Alaska Brewing Company even uses spent grain to power their steam boiler.

While all of these usages are environmentally friendly and generally good things to do, don't feed all your spent grains to your neighbor's cows. With just a smidge of elbow grease, spent grains are an excellent addition to your pantry, and your baked goods. They impart a subtle complexity; one you only thought could only be achieved through using fancy, exotic grains, usually preached to be "ancient" or "rare." However, spent grain is cheap and abundant -- and therefore an all-around winner!

How to Use Spent Grain on Food52

In the beer-making process, spent grain valiantly sacrifices its sugars. This is what nourishes the yeast and allows beer to become beer. However, it still has plenty of fiber and protein to offer, as well as a distinct nuttiness that works quite well in baked goods, especially bread.

Use Them Wet

Spent grain can be used while they're still wet, as long as you move relatively quickly. After a few hours the cooked grains will start to take on a sour flavor, so the clock is ticking. Our community suggests substituting them in everything from crackers to pancakes -- just be sure to account for the added moisture brought by the grains. To get a uniform consistency, give them a few spins in a food processor, or keep them as-is for a rustic, varied texture.

How to Use Spent Grain on Food52

Use what you want, then divvy up the remaining grain into plastic bags and chuck them in the freezer for later.  

How to Use Them Dry

The easiest way to use spent grain, and keep it on hand for later, is to turn it into flour. This is an all day project, but well worth it for the containers of neatly labeled spent grain flour soon to be in your pantry. It's much cooler and more intriguing than your other flours! All Purpose will definitely be jealous. 

To dry out your spent grain, preheat your oven to 170?F. Spread the grain on an ungreased baking sheet in a layer 1/4 inch thick, then pop it in the oven. Brooklyn Brewshop recommends baking for 7 hours, stirring halfway through, to ensure that the grains are entirely moistur-free. If you're a fancy pants, you could use a dehydrator, instead. 

How to Use Spent Grains on Food52

Let your grain cool completely and then grind it into flour -- we used a mill, but a coffee grinder works as well. Store the grain in an airtight container and keep in your pantry until the baking mood strikes. 

More: Pick up a grain mill in Provisions.

Take Your Recipes to the Next Level

Now that your spent grains are ground into flour, feel free to let your creative flag fly. Spent grain waffles? Pass the syrup. Spent Grain Pumpkin Bundt Cake? Heck yes. Spent grain dog treats? Why in the world not. Substite spent grain flour in all your favorite recipes -- just be prepared for an added nuttiness. If you want to preserve a lighter texture in your baking forays, The Growler recommends replacing only half of the called-for flour with milled spent grain. 

How to Use Spent Grains on Food52

Tried and True: Spent Grain Bread

Beer and bread are natural friends. In fact, they have the same main ingredients: grain, water, yeast, and sugar. So naturally, bread is one of the easiest, and most delicious, ways to incorporate spent grains into your baking repetoire.

Here's a spent grain bread recipe from cdilaura, our Head of Business Development, an amateur brewmaster, and all-around food ninja. With spent grains -- added whole! -- and dried herbs, this bread is begging to be slathered in some beer cheese. If you're feeling extra nose-to-tail, pair it with a frosty pint of beer brewed from those very same spent grains. Look at you -- brewing champion, waster of naught, ultimate grain connoisseur.

How to Use Spent Grains on Food52

So the next time you brew, don't chuck the spent grain. With a pinch of creativity and ingenuity, you can add a whole new dimension to your baking staples. Beer brewing not really your cup of tea? We bet if you ask your local brewery, they just might be willing to part with some spent grain. Just be sure to drop off a loaf of bread for them afterwards.

What do you do with spent grains? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lynn
  • Ali
  • Jennifer McGovern
    Jennifer McGovern
  • RyanR
  • Catherine Lamb
    Catherine Lamb
A kitchen scientist and dog-lover. Someday I want to have you over for dinner.


Lynn November 11, 2018
I used 300 grams of spent grain in an altered Tartine country loaf recipe - 80 % bread flour and 20 % whole wheat and a two day refrigerated rise. The crust was crunch and nutty. The inside was soft and very flavorful!
Ali March 18, 2016
Use spent grains to make nutty coconut bread! Check out my simple recipe here:
Ali November 6, 2015
Good techniques outlined here! I've been working with spent grains for about a year, and still have yet to develop a consistency with my loaves. Hopefully, the thermometer technique and the four mill will prove useful! I've also made granola bars, granola, pancakes, pizza dough, scones, cookies, smoothies, and sweet bread out of spent grains. Here is a post dedicated to spent grains on my site, Everthrive -
Jennifer M. January 10, 2014
This comes at a great time, Catherine! A friend was just telling me about her husbands new obsession with beer-making. Thanks for the great info and beautiful pics!
RyanR January 9, 2014
I love using spent grain! And I've mostly made bread with it - pizza dough, loafs, and bagels. Pizza - Loaf - and and
Catherine L. January 9, 2014
Love it! I went to Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii, and they make all the pizza crust in their cafe out of spent grain from their brewing: