Tiny Teff Grains Deliver Big on Nutrition (+ teff porridge recipe)| Updated: Sep 11, 2018
I was immediately enthralled and delighted by the basket of soft, spongy flatbread that was brought to our table to use as an edible utensil for our meat stew.
Never having experienced the light, slightly nutty flavor of teff before, I asked the waitress about the bread’s origins. She proudly explained that injera is a traditional fermented bread that is a staple in Ethiopia.
Teff Consumed for Thousands of Years
According to the Whole Grains Council, teff is thought to have made its debut in the human diet around 4000 B.C. in what is today the country of Ethiopia. Ethiopians obtain approximately two-thirds of their dietary protein from teff. The ultra tiny grain, smaller even than a chia seed, is what Ethiopia’s famously competitive long distance runners credit for their energy and stamina.
The tiny size of the teff grain, which can appear dark reddish brown to yellowish brown to ivory, made it the ideal food for the semi-nomadic life common throughout Ethiopian history. Only a handful of seed as shown in the picture above will sow an average size field no matter whether water-logged or dry! Thus, this practical grain is a dependable staple no matter what the environmental conditions.
In addition to climate, teff will grow at a variety of altitudes – from sea level to nearly 10,000 feet (300 meters). Its incredible versatility and hardiness has resulted in cultivation in diverse areas around the world. This includes mountainous Idaho, dry Australia, and low lying, wet areas of the Netherlands and India.
Gluten Free Teff a Nutritional Powerhouse
Despite its tiny size, teff leads all other grains, gluten free or not, in calcium by a wide margin. This includes nutritious einkorn and millet. It leads Paleo friendly foods used to substitute for grains like cassava and buckwheat as well.
Teff also has high levels of magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, choline, Vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, and Riboflavin.
The biggest health benefit, however, may very well be in its unique type of starch.
Teff is high in resistant starch, a special type of dietary fiber only recently getting much attention from the research community. Resistant starch benefits blood sugar management, weight control, and overall health of the large intestine.
Up to 40% of the carbohydrates in teff are composed of resistant starches!
The Only Downside to this Amazing Grain …
There is only downside to this amazing grain in my experience cooking and baking with it. Can you guess? It is so tiny that most grain mills can’t even grind it into flour!
Unless you have a special grain mill that can manage teff’s ultra miniscule size, it is best eaten in whole form as a delicious, mild, slightly nutty tasting porridge. Alternatively, you can add it to soups or stews to thicken and add texture.
Teff Porridge (a Great Place to Start)
Porridge made from teff is my personal favorite beating out even that old stand-by – oatmeal. It is easy to make and a great place to start with teff in your kitchen. This is especially true if you don’t currently have a specialized grain grinder that permits easy grinding of the tiny grains into fresh flour. I don’t recommend purchasing the flour for baking, as much of the nutritional benefit is lost within a few days of grinding.
The recipe ideas below should get you started in a hurry if you are wanting to try this delicious gluten free grain right away!
How to Sprout Teff Grains
The tiny size of this gluten free grain requires only 36 hours or less to sprout – the shortest time of any grain. This is likely due to low amounts of mineral blocking phytic acid, although I was unable to find definite numbers on this to confirm.
If you would like to sprout your teff grains before cooking to add additional vitamins and render it even more digestible, follow these steps before cooking:
- Place 1 cup in a glass sprouting jar (I use these).
- Rinse the grains several times with filtered water until thoroughly wet. Drain completely.
- Lay the sprouting jar on its side to allow the circulation of air.
- Every few hours, rinse again and reset the jar on its side.
- Anywhere from a few hours to at most 36 hours (depending on the time of year and warmth/humidity in your home), the tiniest of buds will appear (they are very hard to see) and the sprouted teff grains will be ready for cooking (see toasting step below).
Soaked Teff Porridge Recipe
You also have the option to make soaked porridge if desired. Simply place the teff grains, filtered water, and a bit of sea salt in a pot, mix well and cover overnight. In the morning, add optional cloves and cook for about 10 minutes until the water is absorbed and the porridge is of desired consistency (very similar to Cream of Wheat).
Whether you choose to make sprouted, toasted or soaked teff porridge, serve with your favorite whole sweetener (I prefer raw honey) and/or fruits and nuts of choice.
I have just finished a bowl of teff porridge as I type this. I hope you enjoy this delicious, warm, and satisfying way to mix it up for breakfast!
Toasted Teff Porridge
Recipe for teff porridge that is simple and easy to make. The rich, slightly nutty flavor is a great mix-up from traditional oatmeal.
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, add sprouted (or unsprouted) teff grains and toast, stirring frequently until the grains begin to pop which takes just a few minutes.
Add the water, sea salt, butter and optional cloves.
Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Serve warm with choice of healthy fat and whole sweetener or fruit of choice.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources and More Information
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.