Attention, everyone: It’s time to meet another super grain with a funky name. We’re talking about freekeh, a variety of whole wheat that packs more good-for-you stuff (and more flavour) than many other grains-including your beloved quinoa.
What makes it so great, exactly? Here’s the lowdown on why freekeh deserves a place in your pantry, along with delicious ideas for what to do with it.
What is freekeh, anyway?
Freekeh is an ancient strain of wheat that hails from the Middle East. It’s harvested while it’s still green (read: young), then roasted and rubbed (as in rubbing the grain off the wheat) to achieve a nutty, slightly smoky flavour. If you’re bored with the usual brown rice or quinoa, freekeh is a yummy alternative. It has a dense, chewy texture that adds some oomph to porridges, pilafs, salads, and soups. Oh, and did we mention that it’s pretty darn convenient? A pot of freekeh cooks up in less than half an hour.
Is freekeh healthier than other whole grains?
It’s got some good stuff going for it, that’s for sure. Here is what one typical serving of freekeh (about 3/4 cup cooked) has to offer.
- 711kJ (170cal)
- 7 g protein
- 33 g carbs
- 8 g fibre
- 1.5 g fat
- 1 g sugar
- 20 mg calcium
- 1.8 mg iron
- 40 mg magnesium
“Because it’s harvested when its young, the grain retains more nutrition-providing more protein, fibre, and minerals than in wheat that’s harvested mature,” says nutritionist Frances Largeman-Roth. That gives it a slight edge over many other whole grains. Freekeh boasts 5 grams more fibre and 1 gram more protein than quinoa, and 6.5 grams more fibre and 3.5 grams more protein than brown rice. However, all three are about the same kJ-wise.
That’s not to say that you need to break up with every other complex carb out there. “Various grains have different nutritional attributes. Some are higher in protein and fibre, while others are richer in minerals and other micronutrients. So it’s smart to switch them up and eat a variety,” says Largeman-Roth.
Is freekeh gluten-free?
Sorry, no. Freekeh is a type of wheat, so it contains gluten. If you opt for gluten-free foods, you should steer clear of freekeh.
How to cook freekeh
It’s seriously easy. If you can make quinoa, brown rice, or any other whole grain, then you can make freekeh. It’s just a matter of knowing the right water-to-grain ratio and simmer time.
Here’s how to do it: Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil, add 1 cup freekeh, and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving. You’ll get about 3 cups of cooked freekeh, which is enough for 4 servings.
As for what to do with it? Like other whole grains, freekeh is super versatile. Try dressing it up with olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped fresh parsley and scallions for an easy take on tabbouleh. Or use freekeh instead of oats to make porridge topped with your favourite fruit and nuts. It’s even yummy plain as a base for grain bowls, chicken, or fish. In short, it’s tough to go wrong, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Where can you buy freekeh?
Look for it at specialty and health food stores.