Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. It is mentioned in the Bible as an ingredient for unleavened bread. Millet is available pearled or hulled (opt for hulled, which is the true whole-grain variety) Millet seeds look like tiny yellow beads with dark dots on the side where the plant’s stem was attached
Millet is thought to have originated in Ethiopia, and is still an extremely important food staple in many African countries. Millet was introduced to the U.S. in 1875, was grown and consumed by the early colonists like corn, then fell into obscurity. Only in recent years has it begun to make a comeback and is now becoming a more commonly consumed grain.
Fun Fact: Millet is technically a seed and not a grain
A Healthy Grain
Millet is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available and is gluten-free. It is non-acid forming and contains a myriad of beneficial nutrients plus being nearly 15% protein.
- High amounts of fiber
- B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin
- Essential amino acid methionine and lecithin.
- Particularly high in the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.
- Rich in phytochemicals, including Phytic acid and Phytate (which is associated with reduced cancer risk)
Cooking with Millet
The flavor of millet is enhanced by lightly roasting the grains in a dry pan before cooking; stir constantly for approximately three minutes or until a mild, nutty aroma is detected.
There are many cooking variations to be found for millet. A good general guideline is to use 3 parts water or stock and 1 part millet, add millet to boiling water, and simmer covered for approximately 30 minutes or until water is completely absorbed. Remove from heat and let steam, covered for ten minutes more. If millet is presoaked the cooking time is shortened by 5 to 10 minutes.
Millet is delicious as a cooked cereal and in casseroles, breads, soups, stews, soufflés, pilaf and stuffing. It can be used as a side dish or served under sautéed vegetables or with beans. You can even use it popped like corn for use as a snack or breakfast cereal. Millet may also be sprouted for use in salads and sandwiches.
Millet can be made creamier and almost like mashed potatoes when more water is added during the cooking process. For interesting taste and texture variations it may be combined with quinoa and brown or basmati rice.
Fun Fact: Traditional Couscous is made from cracked millet
Baking with Millet
Millet can be used in all baked goods such as cookies, muffins and pancakes. Grind into a very fine texture and add during the preparation of the batter. For a delightful crunch in baked goods the millet seeds may be added whole and raw before baking. Millet is also ideal for use in flat breads like roti.
For yeast breads up to 30% millet flour may utilized, but it must be combined with glutinous flours to enable the bread to rise. It is commonly seen in a 7 grain bread.