Recipe for Millet that Turns Out Perfect Each Time

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Millet is a staple food for about a third of the world's population despite its antiquity. Its origins are in Africa and northern China. Millet has a mild corn flavor and is naturally gluten-free; it is also high in iron, B vitamins, and calcium.

While raw millet may look like birdseed at first glance, this is only an appearance. However, once cooked, these tiny yellow beads take on a lovely, airy texture; they also cook quickly due to their diminutive size; and they can be used in a wide variety of dishes, from breakfast to dinner.

Toasting millet in a skillet before adding liquid brings out the grain's natural nuttiness and is a common practice when I prepare it. Afterward, you can prepare it in one of two basic ways: First, you can follow the instructions below to make a whole-grain side dish that resembles quinoa in texture and flavor.

Second, you can use three cups of water rather than two, resulting in a porridge with a creamy, polenta-like consistency that's perfect for breakfast. If you go this route, make sure to stir it frequently. You can cool this creamy variation the same way you cool polenta, then slice it like polenta and fry it in the form of croquettes or savory squares; it's delicious either way.

How many cups of cooked millet can you get from 1 cup of millet?
About three and a half cups of cooked millet can be obtained from one cup of raw millet.

Millet: how much water should I use to cook it?
It takes 2 cups of water to cook 1 cup of millet pilaf-style (described below). The porridge will be creamier if you use 3 cups of water.

Does anyone know how long millet needs to be cooked for?
Millet needs to be toasted for a few minutes, then cooked for about 15 minutes, and fluffed for another 10 minutes. Time to prepare: about 30 minutes

Must I always wash my grains before using them?
Probably not My only regular practice when it comes to washing grains is with quinoa, which has a bitter coating of saponin. In my opinion, rinsing millet is neither necessary nor helpful. A few unhulled grains may look like tiny black pebbles in your millet. Don't worry about it; just choose which ones to ignore and move on.

How can I best put millet to use in the kitchen?
Millet is a popular alternative to oatmeal porridge for breakfast. millet can be used in many other ways besides that Incorporating raw millet into baked goods like cookies, muffins, and quick breads adds a satisfying crunch. For this reason, I find it particularly satisfying in granola. Add it to soups to make them thicker, or use it as a foundation for warm grain salads of your choosing. You can also find millet grits on the market, which cook in a fraction of the time it takes to cook traditional grits or polenta but are equally delicious in all the same dishes.

Millet — where can I find it?
Millet and/or millet grits can be found in health food stores like Whole Foods and grocery stores like Thrive Market and online at places like Bob's Red Mill.

  • alcohol-free
  • kidney-friendly
  • peanut-free
  • low-potassium
  • pork-free
  • pescatarian
  • gluten-free
  • tree-nut-free
  • low-sodium
  • red-meat-free
  • low-fat
  • wheat-free
  • fish-free
  • vegetarian
  • shellfish-free
  • sugar-conscious
  • low-sugar
  • soy-free
  • egg-free
For each of the assumed four servings Daily Value (in %)
  • Calories 189
  • Fat 2.1 g (3 2%)
  • Saturated 0.4 g (1 8%)
  • Carbs 36.4 g (12 1%)
  • Fiber 4.3 g (17 0%)
  • Sugars
  • Protein 5.5 g (11 0%)
  • Sodium 7.2 mg (0 3%)
  • 1 cup
  • 2 cups

    liquid (you can use broth instead)

  • 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon

    Butter, unsalted (optional)

  • Cover for a saucepan that holds 2 quarts

  1. The ratio of raw millet to cooking liquid (water or broth) is 1 cup millet to 2 cups liquid.

  2. Millet can be toasted in a large, dry saucepan over medium heat for about four to five minutes, or until the grains turn a deep golden color and release a pleasant aroma. Take care that they don't catch fire

  3. When you pour the water and salt into the hot pan, you may hear a small explosion as the water vaporizes from the pan's surface. A good stir is in order after adding the water and salt to the millet.

  4. Raise the temperature to high and bring the liquid to a rolling boil.

  5. Turn the stove down to low, add the butter, and cover the pot to create a slow simmer. Allow the grains to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed (they will continue to soak up water as they sit). Never peek too often or stir too much (unless something is actually sticking to the bottom). Too much stirring will cause the grains to break apart and the consistency to change.

  6. Millet, like most grains, benefits from being taken off the heat and allowed to stand while the liquid is absorbed. Keep it covered and out of the oven for 10 minutes.

  7. Serve with fluff When millet has had time to sit, fluff it with a fork. You can always season to taste with more salt. As you can see in the Additional Notes section below, millet does not keep well and is best eaten fresh.

Although I've labeled the butter as "optional," I find that it's essential for preventing the millet from sticking together, and a little bit of salt goes a long way.

Millet porridge requires three times as much liquid as usual and constant stirring during the simmering process.

It's important to note that the millet's tiny beads vary in size, so some will cook faster than others. Some grains may be soft and tender, while others may be chewy or even crunchy. To me, this is a positive development.

Also, millet is a very thirsty grain that doesn't keep very well overnight. Millet tends to get quite dry when leftover, so while I usually make extra of other grains so I have lunches for the week, I don't do that with millet.

Warm millet is preferred.

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My new cookbook, "Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons" (Ten Speed Press, 2013), will be available in bookstores and online in December of this year, and it features many whole grain recipes. Check out my weekly blog, A Sweet Spoonful, for information on my upcoming book as well as a variety of other whole-grain breakfast and snack ideas.

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