When you add whole grains to your diet, you’re doing yourself a huge favor by helping to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes,cand bad cholesterol. Rice has always been a popular choice in this regard, while quinoa is another type of grain we’ve recently seen become trendy for similar reasons, but now there’s another type of grain moving into the spotlight, and it's called farro. But farro's nutrition profile isn't the only reason this grain is a superstar. Just wait till you taste it.
What Exactly Is Farro?
Nicknamed “the pharaoh’s wheat,” farro is one of the oldest grains on the planet. It was a popular grain throughout ancient Egypt and Rome for some time until less than desired production returns and difficult processing eventually made it a less favorable choice.
Today, farro is produced mainly in Italy, and many people are calling it the mother of all grains. Because farro consists of three types of heirloom wheat species in whole form (einkorn, emmer wheat, and spelt), it goes by several other names as well (including emmer and spelt). Some Italians will simply call it spelt and imported farro packages are often labeled as such in their English translations, but farro itself is actually quite different in gluten content, texture, and taste.
Despite looking a lot like brown rice, farro actually isn't gluten-free since it is wheat. It is, however, relatively low in gluten and much easer to digest compared to modern wheat varieties, so unless you have celiac disease or any serious gluten sensitivities, you may be able to do just fine enjoying farro even while sticking to a low-gluten diet.
What Farro Tastes Like and How It’s Different
Farro has a texture that’s both dense and chewy. It has a noticeably nuttier flavour than other grains, and it's also a bit sweet.
Half a cup of farro packs a bigger fibrous punch and is lower in calories compared to rice or quinoa, yet it can be used in place of both of them. And unlike quinoa, which is actually a seed (not a grain), farro doesn’t lose its firmness when cooked.
Farro Nutrition Facts
Rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants and lignans, One serving of cooked farro (about half a cup) contains about 100 calories and contains:
- 1 gram of fat
- 4 grams of protein
- 26 grams of carbohydrates
- 3.5 grams of dietary fiber
When compared to today’s modern wheat, farro offers twice the fiber and protein (with the added benefit of being low in gluten too). Farro also contains a type of carbohydrate called cyanogenic glucosides, which can help lower cholesterol levels, balance blood sugar, and boost immunity.
In comparison to quinoa, the nutrition of farro is almost exactly the same, except for being just slightly higher in carbs and having double the calcium content. The grain is also a great source of vitamins A, B, C, and E while also providing essential minerals like zinc, magnesium, and iron.
Where to Find Farro and the Different Types
Farro can be found in Italian shops or at local health food stores. Whole Foods and Costco are two big name stores that have been known to sell it. Some stores sell it in bulk as well as pre-packaged.
While shopping around for farro, you’ll likely come across three different types: whole, semi-pearled, and pearled. Whole grain farro is by far the most nutritious, but it takes a lot longer to cook compared to the comparably less nutritious semi-pearled and pearled farro types.
These different types of farro exist because of the different processing methods used to remove the inedible outer hull of the grain. In semi-pearled farro processing, only part of the germ and bran is scoured while all of it undergoes scouring in pearled processing. Whole grain farro is processed in a more delicate way than semi-pearled or pearled farro processing so the nutritional value of the germ and bran isn’t compromised.
If you’re using whole farro, make sure you soak it in water overnight and drain it the next day before cooking it. Using a 2 to 1 water to farro ratio, add the farro to a pot of water, cover it and set it to high heat until it boils.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the farro to simmer. Depending on the type of farro you’re using, you’ll have to let it cook anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. Semi-pearled and pearled farro will cook much faster (about 20 to 35 minutes), while whole farro can take up to an hour.
Farro is absolutely delicious in hearty soups and salads, or you can simply use it to replace other grains like rice, barley, pasta, or quinoa. You can also use it to make your own pasta and bread.
Need recipe ideas? You can't go wrong with some of the following farro dishes suggested below!
Farro Salad Recipe
1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) of farro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Dressing:
1 jar water-packed artichoke hearts
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
Read the directions for this farro salad recipe here.
Cheesy Baked Farro Recipe with Cauliflower
1 cup farro
2 cups vegetable broth
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
2 cups skim milk
½ cup freshly shredded Fontina cheese
½ cup freshly shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
½ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
Read the directions for this cheesy baked farro recipe with cauliflower here.
Roasted Stuffed Squash Recipe with Farro, Feta and Kale
1 winter squash (acorn, kabocha, butternut, or spaghetti)
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 cup diced zucchini
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cooked farro, according to package instructions
2 large handfuls kale leaves, roughly chopped
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Read the directions for this roasted stuffed squash recipe with farro here.
Have you ever tried farro before? If you have, what are some of your favorite recipes that use it? Let us know by leaving a comment!
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