Popped Sorghum: India’s Healthy Popcorn AlternativeUpdated: December 23, 2016Recipes, Snacks and Treats
Popcorn is an incredibly popular snack especially in North America. However, for reasons not yet fully understood, corn allergies are increasing which precludes many people from enjoying a bowl even if the popcorn is organic or an heirloom variety and popped in a healthy fat. This is where popped sorghum comes in!
Considered the traditional grain of India, sorghum actually originated on the African continent many millenia ago.
It’s popularity then spread via ancient trading routes across the Arabian Peninsula into Asia, most notably India and China. In North and South America, sorghum still remains relatively unknown with few people aware of it let alone enjoying its hearty flavor and attractive nutritional profile.
In India, popped sorghum is a favorite snackie food. It is prepared similarly to popcorn, but requires more TLC because of the tiny size of the sorghum grains which predispose them to burning.
In fact, the first time I tried to make popped sorghum, I burned the whole batch into a blackened mess!
Popped Sorghum Must be Watched While Cooking!
My mistake was that I tried to prepare the popped sorghum in a manner pretty much exactly how I make popcorn. Heat up some oil in a frying pan, throw in a cup or so of popcorn kernels, turn the heat down to medium-high, affix the lid and set the timer. No watching or stirring of the kernels is required.
In other words, popcorn made on the stovetop doesn’t require much babysitting. Popped sorghum most definitely does!
Once cooked, a bowl of popped sorghum looks remarkably like a bowl of regular popcorn. The pieces are just much smaller. The picture above hopefully gives you some idea.
As a bonus, sorghum grains that don’t pop are completely edible – crunchy, tasty, and not too hard to chew and eat. Feel free to include them in your bowl of popped sorghum so nothing goes to waste. This contrasts with unpopped popcorn kernels. There always seems to be at least a few, right?
Even tiny heirloom popcorn kernels are too hard to eat if they fail to pop and must be left out of the final bowl of popcorn else you risk harming your teeth.
Popped Sorghum vs Popcorn: Nutritional Comparison
Interestingly, the nutritional profile of a cup of popped sorghum is nearly identical to popcorn.
Per 100 grams, calories, fat, protein, and carbs are virtually the same.
The biggest difference is in the amount of fiber. Popcorn has 13 grams of fiber per 100 grams (1/2 cup) and sorghum has 6 grams. The difference is likely due to the fact that sorghum does not have a hull like popcorn does. So, popped sorghum won’t get caught in your teeth like regular popcorn which is great.
However, heirloom popcorn has a very thin hull which disintegrates when it is popped. This means that heirloom popcorn doesn’t get caught in your teeth either and would have a nutritional profile closer to sorghum than hybrid popcorn varieties.
With regard to minerals, sorghum has 3 times the amount of calcium as popcorn and 50% more iron.
Are you enticed enough to want to try a bowl for yourself? Here’s how to make it! I’ve also included a short video at the end to show you what the popping sorghum grains look like.
What Does Popped Sorghum Taste Like?
I was surprised to discover that popped sorghum tastes almost exactly like popcorn. The texture is a bit softer due to the lack of hulls and smaller size but that’s it as far as I can describe. Those of you who love popcorn but can’t eat it for whatever reason will be delighted to have found an alternative at last that won’t disappoint!
How to Make Popped Sorghum
1-2 gallon stainless steel pot with high sides (no lid necessary. I explain why below)
*A popcorn popper will not work and a microwave is not recommended (explanation below).
Put the 2 tablespoons oil in the pot and turn on heat to medium-high. When the oil gets shiny to indicate that it is hot, pour in the 1/4 cup of sorghum grains. Turn the heat down to medium. Leave uncovered.
Stir the grains constantly with a wooden spoon as the popping process begins (see video below for what this looks like). Note that putting a lid on the top of the pot and leaving the popping grains unattended until the popping slows down like you would with stovetop popcorn risks burning the sorghum grains.
Continue stirring as the popping continues until the time between pops is about 10 seconds.
Remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle with sea salt and optional nutritional or brewers yeast to add additional B vitamins.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Store leftovers once cool in an airtight container in the pantry. It will last there for several days to a week.
Popped Sorghum in the Microwave or Popcorn Popper?
You can definitely pop sorghum in the microwave instead of the stovetop, but I don’t recommend it as I’m not a fan of microwaves in general. If you have no other option, however, here’s how to do it:
- Place 1/4 cup of sorghum in a small paper bag (never plastic!)
- Fold the open end of the bag over tightly several times to seal
- Heat on high for 2-3 minutes
As mentioned above, using a popcorn popper won’t work for making popped sorghum. The grains are just too small!
Popped Sorghum Video
The 20 second video below shows you what the small sorghum grains look like as they are popping in a pan on the stovetop. Always remember to keep stirring them until the popping slows down, else they will probably burn like happened with the first batch I made.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
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