Rice and oats have long been staples in the standard American diet, but for those that eat low-carb or are gluten-free, these two ingredients aren’t always an option. Instead, there are other ways to go against the grain with nutritious choices like millet and quinoa.
Both are incredibly versatile—great in porridges, breakfast bars, salads, sides, and any other number of recipes—and also come with a good boost of protein and fiber. But, millet and quinoa aren’t always interchangeable. Keep reading to learn more about their unique characteristics, the best ways to cook them, and how they can be utilized in a range of dishes.
MORE ABOUT MILLET
Millet is a true cereal grain that’s able to thrive in harsh, arid, dry environments and has a short growing season, which has made it a more popular option for farmers and grocers (though it has been cultivated in Asia for nearly 10,000 years). The most common type is called Pennisetum glaucum, also known as pearl millet.
It appears as small round, yellow balls that look somewhat like birdseed—but don’t let that turn you off. Its ability to be used in a variety of foods, as well as a high nutrient content and suitability for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, has placed it in the spotlight in recent years.
In fact, millet is fast becoming a staple in some developing countries, and for good reason, since it’s packed with energizing B vitamins and protein as well as filling fiber that can help with weight management and digestion. It also has good doses of calcium, which helps maintain the health of bones and teeth, as well as magnesium, a mineral touted for its anti-inflammatory effects.
How to cook millet
Millet is quite easy to prepare—all you need is one part grains to two parts water. Rinse the millet in a sieve or colander, and then mix the grain and water together in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat to low and let the mix simmer for 10-15 minutes. After that time, the water should be completely absorbed and you’ll have a tasty grain that just needs a little fluffing with a fork to serve. This is the ideal way to make millet if you’re intending to add it to a sauce or mixing into a soup or another rich base.
If you’d prefer to add some grilled veggies on top or want to mix the grains in with some kale for a filling salad, you might want to make the millet a bit more moist. To do so, simply add some more water (roughly three parts water to one part grain), which will make the millet a bit thicker. Cooking with vegetable, beef, or chicken stocks instead of water can also up the flavor factor as can adding a mix of herbs and spices.
Recipes featuring millet
Now that you know how to properly make millet, here’s how to add it to a number of creative dishes.
Over oatmeal? Ditch your regular morning bowl and go for something deliciously soft and creamy that’s simmered with almond and coconut milks. Spices like cinnamon and cardamom make it especially flavorful, and you can add in a bit of honey or syrup for a subtle hint of sweetness. Try it a few times a week, and change up your breakfast mixture by throwing in fresh berries, nuts, and even a few cacao nibs for variety.
Millet is an amazing addition to this colorful dish, making it even heartier and more filling. As its name might imply, rainbow chard has bright pink, yellow, and red stems contrasted by huge, dark green leaves, making it an absolute beauty to behold in the kitchen. This recipe sautes the greens with bacon and leeks to add some unexpected flavor, while the use of apple cider vinegar adds zest. Sprinkle a helping of cooked millet on top to give this salad some more texture and depth, and provide a good helping of protein.
Pair a side of cooked millet with fresh salmon and some roasted veggies for an impressive (and incredibly easy) weekday dinner. Roasted beets and fennel are a unique pair that give a bit of smokiness to the light seafood, while the finishing touch provided by the honey mustard glaze will feel like it’s restaurant-quality—though the whole dish comes together in under half an hour. Save some of the glaze to add to the millet, providing a cohesive meal that everyone will love.
MORE ABOUT QUINOA
Continue reading about Quinoa here >Millet vs. Quinoa