What Is Farro?
Learn why this ancient grain should become a staple in your pantry.
Have you heard of farro? It's the ancient grain that's making waves in the world of healthy eating. It's filling, flavorful, and nutrient-dense — what more can you ask of a grain? Say goodbye to brown rice and quinoa, this is the grain that tops them all. Learn everything you need to know about farro, plus get recipe inspiration and cooking tips for using this whole grain.
What is Farro?
This nutrient-rich grain dates all the way back to early Mesopotamia — about 20,000 years ago. But other than the fact that it's old, what makes it an "ancient grain?" According to the Oldways Whole Grains Council, ancient grains are grains that are "largely unchanged over the last several hundred years." Because of this, ancient grains are typically lower in gluten than more modern, processed grains. However, it is wheat after all, which means it does contain gluten.
Farro is a high-fiber, high-protein whole-grain wheat that's similar in appearance to barley, although it's slightly larger and more oblong. Like barley, it has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. It can be used in a variety of dishes like soups, salads, and even breakfast dishes.
While farro has been a staple in Italy for decades, it's making a comeback here in the states, especially among those looking for healthy and affordable meal ideas. By eating 100 percent grains like farro, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. The bottom line is: this whole grain is packed with nutrients, and can easily be incorporated into many different cuisines.
How and Where to Buy Farro
You can find farro in some major grocery stores, typically next to the quinoa and other grains. However, you're more likely to find it at health food stores either in packaged form or in the bulk section. The term farro can be used to describe three different types of ancient wheat grains:
- Spelt, or farro grande (typically refers to packages imported from Italy)
- Emmer, or farro medio (the most common variety found in the U.S.)
- Einkorn, or farro piccolo
But what's most important when selecting farro is to look at how it's processed. Here's what you need to know about the three types of farro processing:
- Pearled Farro: This is most common in American grocery stores. All of the bran and outer husk is removed, but it still contains some of the fiber. It has the shortest cook time, which is why so many gravitate toward it.
- Semi-Pearled Farro: This version is a good middle-ground. It has part of the bran removed from the grain, so you're cooking time is still reduced but it's richer in nutrients than pearled farro.
- Whole Farro: The whole grain remains intact, giving you more nutrients and flavor per serving. But this also means it has the longest cook time. But good things take time, right?
How Healthy is Farro?
Farro, especially whole farro, has a laundry list of health benefits. It's high in fiber, naturally low in fat and cholesterol, a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, and it provides lots of nutrients like iron, magnesium, and B vitamins to name a few.
But how does it compare to other whole grains? Farro is higher in plant-based protein and fiber than brown rice. It has a similar nutrient-profile to quinoa, however it is more filling than quinoa, leaving you feeling full longer.
How to Cook Farro
Like other whole grains, cooking farro is as simple as it gets. Typically you'd cook it like rice: allow it to simmer in a closed pot until all the water is absorbed. This typically requires a 2:1 ratio of water to uncooked farro. Cooking time will vary depending on the type of farro. If you're using whole farro, consider soaking it overnight to shorten your cooking time.
Top-Rated Farro Recipes
Now that you know the many reasons to fall in love with farro, give this ancient grain a go with these top-rated recipes.
"We don't get to eat a lot of food that's identical to what the ancient Romans would have eaten, which is one of the things that makes farro so fun," says Chef John. "They must have had mushrooms and fermented cream back then, so it's easy to imagine Cleopatra and Mark Antony enjoying this dish."
"A cool and tasty side dish! Farro is mixed with the classic caprese flavors or basil, mozzarella, and tomato before being tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette," says recipe creator SunnyDaysNora.
"This is a great alternative to a cold pasta salad as farro doesn't get soggy and holds up to the dressing very well. Farro is an ancient Mediterranean grain, so I wanted to merge it with a Greek-style salad that's perfect for summertime," says recipe creator WestCoastMom.
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- Browse our entire collection of Whole Grain Recipes.