When it comes to fashion, I'm certainly no trendsetter. But when it comes to all things food and nutrition, I know what's up. And right now, what's up is freekeh! In terms of grains, everything old is new again, and this grain is positively ancient. With a ton of nutritional benefits, freekeh is poised to become the next supergrain, knocking quinoa out of the rice cooker.
What Exactly Is Freekeh?
First things first, it’s pronounced free-kah. And, in short, it’s wheat.
Freekeh (sometimes called farik) is wheat that’s harvested while young and green. It's roasted over an open fire, then the straw and chaff are burned and rubbed off. The grain on the inside is too young and moist to burn, so what you're left with is a firm, slightly chewy grain with a distinct flavor that's earthy, nutty, and slightly smoky.
Think of freekeh as a “new” ancient grain. It's been a staple in Middle Eastern diets for centuries, but only recently started surging in popularity stateside. And for good reason! Aside from tasting delicious, it's loaded with nutritional benefits.
The Freekeh vs. Quinoa Nutritional Smackdown
When it comes to nutritional benefits, there's no question that supergrain freekeh has the upper hand. It dominates quinoa (and a lot of other grains).
Freekeh is low in fat and high in protein and fiber. Serving for serving, freekeh has more protein and twice as much fiber as quinoa. (A 42g serving of freekeh has six grams of fiber and six grams of protein, versus quinoa’s three and five-and-a-half, respectively.) This means freekeh keeps you feeling full long after you've eaten it, so it's a smart option for anyone focused on weight loss Dietary fiber and body weight. Slavin, J.L. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota. Nutrition, 2005 Mar;21(3):411-8. Effects of a high protein diet on body weight and comorbidities associated with obesity. Clifton, P. Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia. The British Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S122-9.. Freekeh is also lower on the glycemic index (wholegrain freekeh GI = 43), making it a great choice for people managing diabetes or those just trying to keep their blood sugar steady. To top it off, this power-packed grain is high in iron, calcium, and zinc, and acts like a prebiotic, promoting the growth of good bacteria in your digestive system.
One caveat: If you’re gluten-free, freekeh isn’t a match for you, as it’s a wheat product.
Get Your Freekeh On
Freekeh is so easy and versatile to incorporate into your diet, and it works well in both savory and sweet dishes. Use it anywhere you'd use whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, farro, bulgur, or wheat berries. If steel cut oats or whole oats are your thing, try a hot freekeh breakfast cereal instead. Add cooked freekeh to your salads, use it in collard wraps, and add it to homemade soups.
Kelli Dunn is a contributing editor at The Kitchn and recently published Everyday Freekeh Meals, a digital cookbook with 30 easy-to-make, (mostly) healthy freekeh recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and, of course, dessert. With recipes like Pumpkin Spice Freekeh Waffles, Fall Harvest Freekeh Salad, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Freekeh Sliders, and Freekeh "Fried Rice," this cookbook is a must-have for whole-grain lovers. Click here to learn more or to get your own copy.