Farro—What Is It, and Why Should You Care?

Updated 06/06/17

Listen, it's not quinoa's fault that the semantics of the word make it sound pretentious, much like foie gras or caviar. On the surface, it's just a grain, but like the latter two, it's now regarded as more of a trend than a millennia-old crop. With the steadfast rise in commodifying wellness and glamorizing nutrition, simple nature-made foods like kale and avocado are publicized—a PR agency was even hired to make kale "cool." It worked.

The latest earth-grown food to garner buzz? Farro. It's an ancient Middle Eastern form of hulled wheat that keeps its kernel during harvest, giving it a barley-like shape instead of a flat grain. The maintained shell provides more nutrition since the whole grain harbors more essential vitamins, nutrients, fats, oils, and minerals than a refined grain (think whole wheat compared to refined white flour). When you stack these nutrients against each other, you get a host of health benefits: fiber for optimal digestion; magnesium to ax inflammation and period cramps, iron for energy and heart health, and protein to build and repair tissues, to name a few.

In other words, when shopping for farro, aim to purchase it in its purest, unhusked form instead of "semi-pearled" or "pearled" farro in which some of or all of the bran has been removed for speedier cooking. Yes, whole farro might have more of a nuttier, al dente taste, and it might often need to be soaked overnight to soften it for cooking, but the benefits speak for themselves.

Shopping for farro can be a bit confusing, though. It's often labeled as different variants: einkorn, emmer, and spelt. While each looks incredibly similar, they vary slightly in taste, texture, and nutrients, but they're all are under the same farro umbrella. Your best best is to aim for long- or medium-grain farro, meaning they haven't been "cracked." Cracked grains aren't as fresh and lose some of their nutrients. Medium grains cost less than smaller grains, too, which is ironically wonderful, considering the former's greater nutritional value.

According to U.S. dietary guidelines, Americans should eat six servings of grains per day, half of which should be whole grains. A half cup of cooked farro is one serving, so to give you some ideas for how to consume this super grain, we've compiled some yummy recipes below.

Ingredients

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, grated (about 1 cup)
1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
1 cup grated carrots
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cumin
5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1/2 cup quick-cook farro
1/2 cup red lentils
1 cup chopped kale, stems removed

For the Garlic Breadcrumbs

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, grated (about 1 cup)
1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
1 cup grated carrots
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cumin
5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1/2 cup quick-cook farro
1/2 cup red lentils
1 cup chopped kale, stems removed

6 to 8 slices of French baguette, cubed
1 clove garlic
Olive oil
Salt

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium sized pot over medium/high heat. Add the onion, zucchini, and carrots, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, and cumin, and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. You should start to smell the spices toasting.

Stir in the broth, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the farro and lentils and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes or until lentils and farro are cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the breadcrumbs. Add the bread and garlic into a food processor. Pulse until the bread is in small crumbs. Pour onto a baking sheet, and toss with a little bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown.

In the last couple of minutes of the soup-cooking, add the chopped kale and stir until wilted. Serve immediately, and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

1/2 cup cooked farro
1/2 cup milk (dairy, soy, or almond)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey
1 banana
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts

1/2 cup cooked farro
1/2 cup milk (dairy, soy, or almond)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey
1 banana
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts

Directions

Add the cooked farro and milk to a bowl. Microwave on high for one minute (watching to prevent overflow), and then stir. Cook for 2 minutes more in 30-second intervals, stirring in between. After 3 minutes, the milk should be absorbed and be more starchy and thick, and the farro should be softer in texture.

Stir in the vanilla extract and sweetener (brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey). Slice the banana, and place it on top. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the bowl, and enjoy.

Ingredients

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups farro
1 can ( 6 oz.) tomato paste
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans (32 oz. total) kidney beans
2 cups vegetable broth
½ tsp. oregano
½ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups farro
1 can ( 6 oz.) tomato paste
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans (32 oz. total) kidney beans
2 cups vegetable broth
½ tsp. oregano
½ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Instructions

Place all ingredients in your slow cooker, making sure to put the olive oil in first so nothing sticks to your slow cooker.

Heat on high for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, stir everything together, taste, and add additional seasoning if you wish.

Top with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro, and enjoy.

Have you ever tried farro? How do you like to prepare it? Tell us in the comments!

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