Most folks know millet, that tiny, spherical, golden grain, for the role it plays in feeding backyard birds. Americans have been pouring it into our bird feeders for decades now, so it’s understandable why many people are a little incredulous to the idea of eating millet themselves. But the thing about this grain is that, at least in this case, what’s good for the sparrow is good for the human.
Millet is of great importance in many cuisines. Its ability to grow well in arid climates and to grow quickly from seed to harvest makes it an invaluable food source in developing countries. But there’s even more to love about millet: it’s not just a starchy filler grain. It contains loads of antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium, and iron, and it has been shown to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic test subjects. While more research needs to be done on the subject, for now we can say that millet is an excellent grain to include in your diet, especially if your diet is plant-based and allergen-friendly.
So now the question is, what do you do with millet? Like most grains, millet is incredibly versatile, lending itself to use as both a flour and a whole grain. It can also be used in every meal of the day. Millet has the advantage of being relatively quick-cooking, especially in comparison to brown rice. This makes it a great candidate for both breakfast and weeknight cooking.
For breakfast, try switching up your morning porridge routine with a millet breakfast cereal. Cook millet slowly in either water or your favorite non-dairy milk, or cook it in water and stir in milk at the end of cooking to add creaminess. Drizzle with a little maple syrup or sweeten lightly with coconut sugar, and serve with fresh or dried fruit and something to add a little protein, whether that’s chia or hemp seeds.
If you like to bake, you can also add whole, uncooked millet grains to your gluten-free breads, quick breads, muffins, and pancakes for added nutrition. The seeds add a pleasant crunch and a beautiful dappled, rustic look to homemade baked goods.
For lunch, cook millet ahead of time and eat it as a starch with vegetable and protein or turn it into a grain salad. Toss millet with a simple homemade dressing, then add any vegetables you like. For crunch, add something like celery, cucumber, or fennel; for flavor, add fresh herbs like dill, cilantro, or parsley; and don’t forget to add some little extras, like kalamata olives, dried cranberries, or sauerkraut.
For dinner, millet can stand in as a more wholesome but still quick substitute for white rice. Turn it into a pilaf by sautéing onions in a little olive oil, then adding the millet and toasting it in the oil before adding vegetable broth. You can also toss cooked millet with seasonings and vegetables and stuff it inside halved acorn or butternut squash for an impressive vegan main course. Try turning it into a grain salad in much the same way you would quinoa. Finally, try turning it into a creamy, dairy-free risotto by cooking it in vegetable broth until very tender and stirring in some fresh herbs at the end of cooking.
If you’re tired of rice and quinoa, millet is the perfect grain to introduce to your dinner table (or breakfast nook, or lunchbox). It provides a boost of quick energy along with long-lasting satiety and plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to fuel your busy life.
Megan’s abiding passion is culinary arts. Her career in food began on a small farm, transitioned to extensive food and cooking research, and finally led her to working for the iconic cookbook, the Joy of Cooking and with natural food brands across the country in her role at HEART: Creative Culinary Agency.