An ancient grain rich in fiber and protein, freekeh will quickly become your new favorite whole grain!
Let’s start with the obvious question: how do you pronounce “freekeh?”: free-kah. I wish I had looked that up sooner as I went around for awhile telling people all about my new favorite grain called “freek-e”. . .
Now that we have that out of the way, what is freekeh anyways? Part of the ancient grain family, freekeh is a traditional Middle Eastern grain popular in Mediterranean and North African cuisine. Unlike quinoa, which is also an ancient grain, freekeh isn’t gluten free as it’s made from roasted durum wheat that’s harvested when the wheat is still young and green (this impacts its nutritional benefits).
Flavor-wise, freekeh has nutty and distinct savory flavor. Even when just boiling it in water, it comes out buttery and tasting as though you’d cooked it in a light broth. As for texture, it all depends on whether you buy whole or cracked freekeh.
While we’ll get to how to choose between the two later on, as far as texture goes, whole freekeh is denser and more chewy, while cracked is smaller, making it more similar to quinoa or short-grain rice.
As mentioned above, freekeh is made from wheat that’s been harvested while it’s still green. As a result, the grain retains more of it’s nutrition, particularly protein, fiber and minerals.
One serving (about ¾ cup cooked) contains 170 calories, 7 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat, 33 grams of carbohydrate, and 8 grams of fiber – that’s more fiber and protein than quinoa or brown rice.
As for micronutrients, it’s a good source of calcium and magnesium, while also containing iron, phosphorus and selenium.
How to select: Whole vs Cracked
When buying freekeh you have a choice: whole or cracked. Cracked freekeh is simply whole freekeh that’s been cut into smaller pieces to shorten cooking time.
As there aren’t nutritional differences, the choice comes down to texture and cooking time. If you want larger, chewier bites, go for whole; however if a shorter cooking time is more important, then cracked freekeh is a better choice.
To purchase, you can usually find freekeh in specialty grocery stores, like Whole Foods. While you can find it pre-packaged, I recommend searching for it in bulk bins to save some money. You can also find it online.
How to store
Stored in an airtight container, freekeh will last for 6 months in a pantry or 12 months in the fridge.
How to use in cooking/baking
Unless otherwise indicated on the package, to cook use a 2.5:1 ratio of water to grain. For example, to cook four servings, place 1 cup of freekeh and 2 1/2 cups of water (or low-sodium broth) in a medium pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. If cooking whole freekeh, simmer for 45-50 minutes; or for cracker, simmer for 15-20 minutes. Drain any remaining water if needed.
So how do you start using freekeh? A good place to start is simply by substituting it in anywhere that you normally use quinoa or rice.
My favorite recipe is coming your way Friday, but some fail-proof uses include cold or warm grain salads drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, pilafs, and tabouli. I’ve also heard that it can be used for a healthier risotto and in soups, but I haven’t experimented with either of those yet. It’d also be delicious as a spin on savory oats.
Do you use freekeh? If so, I’d love to see your favorite recipes! Leave me a comment below or tag @TheHealthyToast_RD on Instagram.