Millet is a gluten-free whole grain that may just surprise you in it's various uses and versatility. For one, it's commonly used and associated with bird seed. Thus it's often forgotten about and over shadowed by quinoa, buckwheat, oats, etc. But let me tell you, millet is a rising star and will soon be a staple grain in your gluten-free pantry!
Since millet is in the grass family, it's a whole grain (unlike quinoa and buckwheat!). It's very small and comes in a few different varieties and colors. Most commonly and widely grown as Peal Millet, but also Finger, Proso (common in the US), and Foxtail varieties. Colors range from white, yellow, grey, and red. It's one of the ancient grains and has been cultivated as a staple for centuries, especially in hot, arid climates such as Africa and Asia. Yes, now-a-days it is commonly used as the main component of bird seed and other animal feed. But for human consumption, it is eaten just as any whole grain (very similar to couscous in texture, but gluten-free and is somewhat creamy and fluffy), made into a flour for flat breads and other baked goods, grits/porridge, alcoholic beverages, or my favorite, puffed!
Millet is a starchy grain, similar to the gluten-free grain sorghum, but is known for it's high levels of copper, iron, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. The high levels of phosphorus make it an excellent source for cell and body tissue development and repair. The magnesium gives it just as good of heart health benefits as oats and is also very high in insoluble fiber, making it good for digestion. The bran layers of the grain are very rich in B vitamins as well.
So how do you add this great gluten-free whole grain into your everyday diet? You don't need to go pecking at the bird feeder. First of all, millet is one of the more affordable gluten-free grains/pseudo-grains on the market. I always have whole millet in my pantry, as well as millet flour, and puffed millet. Whole millet is such a "secret weapon" I feel for someone who is gluten-free. I always come across these great looking couscous recipes, but since couscous is a pasta, made with semolina or some wheat-derived ingredient, a gluten-free substitution would need to be made. Of course you could do quinoa or buy a brown rice couscous, but millet is much better! Millet really takes on the form of authentic couscous I feel, soft, fluffy, sticks together like perfect couscous. So not only is it a great substitute for wheat based grains (and tabbouleh!), but it makes a wonderful pilaf, creamy porridge if cooked with some coconut milk, or just a more fun grain-switch from rice. You boil water and cook it on the stove just as you would any grain. "The lazy method". If you want a truly spectacular taste, you toast the millet in a dry pan for about 5 minutes, until golden, and then cook it as normal! The perfect toasty taste and is really worth the extra 5 minutes! (It smells good too!) You can also get quick cooking millet grits, for a perfect hot breakfast cereal as well!
Millet flour is a great baking addition. This is a flour you need to combine with others, don't use it alone as it does not have durable properties (Bob's Red Mill suggests replacing up to 25%, meaning ¼ cup out of 1 cup). It is very light, delicate, mild, and slightly sweet. But you can use it in an baked good, sweet, or savory. Perfect for pancakes, cakes, cupcakes, muffins, that sort of thing.
Now my favorite millet product. Puffed Millet! All it is, is millet puffed. It is absolutely fabulous for adding low-calories bulk to your morning cereal (combine it with a more indulgent one for more "band for your buck"), amazing in granola (my staple), great for making granola bars, snack mixes, adding to popcorn, etc. Go crazy with these little puffed balls of yum. At only 60 calories a cup, they are my favorite whole grain bulking addition to so many things and I can get the bags at my grocery for $2, so stock up!
Ready for some past millet recipe inspiration? Here are some great recipes to try with millet!
Apple Cinnamon Granola (puffed millet)
Blueberry Vanilla Flax Granola (puffed millet)
Cantaloupe Pistachio Granola (puffed millet, whole millet)
Chocolate Banana Cashew Granola (puffed millet)
More Than Carrot Cake Granola (puffed millet)
Orange Hemp Seed Granola (puffed millet)
Black & White Pancakes (millet flour)
Chocolate Pumpkin Pancakes (millet flour)
Snickerdoodle Breakfast Cake (millet flour)
Vanilla Latte Millet Protein Pancakes (millet flour)
Fresh Spring Millet Salad With Watercress & Lemon (whole millet)
I hope you stock up on this healthy gluten-free whole grain and show it the love and notoriety it deserves! The "bird" is no longer the word, MILLET is!
So tell me:
+ Have you tried millet? Any favorite dishes?
+ Are you a fan of bulking things up with puffed grains? I always have puffed millet and puffed rice on hand. I also love puffed corn too!
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