Teff seed is the world's smallest grain. Within each tiny seed is a powerhouse of nutrition. Teff seed is gluten-free and high in protein, minerals, and complex carbohydrates. While still an emerging market, teff is available for purchase online as well as in a growing number of specialty retailers, and has a place in every gluten-free pantry.
About Teff Seed
The most important cereal in its native Ethiopia, teff grass is a highly nutritious and reliable crop. At 9 to 14 percent protein, it contains all eight essential amino acids. Most of the grain is made up of bran and germ, making it especially high in fiber and a good source of low-glycemic index carbohydrates. These properties make teff an excellent choice for regulating blood sugar levels and preventing type II diabetes.
Teff is especially rich in many of the nutrients that can be elusive on a gluten-free diet. Grains contribute the bulk of B-complex vitamins, fiber and iron to most diets, but according to UW Health, these nutrients are often absent in gluten-free alternatives. Adding teff seeds to your daily diet will act as nutritional insurance to make up for deficiencies or imbalances that may occur.
Cooking With Teff
As a gluten-free wheat substitute, teff seed can be ground into flour or consumed whole. The tiny grains have a sweet, nutty flavor that makes them a pleasant addition to any recipe.
The mild flavor and thickening properties of teff seed make it an ideal ingredient for a number of applications. When ground into flour, teff can be used in place of wheat flour in many recipes. Whole teff seeds can be used in much the same way as millet, poppy seeds, or barley. Try the following ideas to get you started cooking with teff:
- Combine one part teff seeds to three parts water and cook on the stovetop to make a thick and hearty porridge. Sprinkle with cinnamon or garnish with fresh fruit and toasted nuts. One cup of uncooked teff prepared this way will provide 62 percent of your daily intake of dietary fiber and 82 percent of your RDA for iron.
- Make nutritious vegetarian burgers by combining cooked teff seeds with chopped onions and garlic, together with your choice of fresh herbs. Shape the mixture into patties, brush with olive oil, and grill lightly on both sides. Serve on a gluten-free bun with lettuce and tomatoes.
- Sprout teff grains using the same technique as for sprouting wheat. Enjoy teff sprouts on salads, sandwiches, or simply seasoned with a little olive oil and garlic.
- Dry teff sprouts in a dehydrator and grind them into flour to make your own gluten-free version of Ezekiel bread.
- Stir seeds in soups and stews to add thickness, flavor and nutrition.
- Add seeds to muffins, pancakes, waffles and other baked goods by stirring them into the batter or sprinkling on top as a garnish.
Despite its wide variety of applications and power-packed nutritional profile, teff is still not widely available. If you are lucky enough to live near an ethnic market, good health food store or specialty grocer, look for teff seed alongside other gluten-free products.
If teff is not available from your favorite gluten-free vendor, consider requesting a special order. As teff is still one of the lesser-known alternative grains, many retailers might not be aware of its commercial viability. Bringing teff to the attention of local retailers could open up new options for your fellow gluten-free consumers while adding convenience to your own shopping.
Alternatively, teff can be found online from a number of specialty sources, such as:
- Bob's Red Mill has long been known for high-quality, gluten-free products.
- The Teff Company is an Idaho company that first brought Teff to the United States nearly twenty years ago.
More than just a wheat alternative, teff is a nutritional giant in a tiny little package. Few foods offer so much goodness in such a palatable and convenient format. Whether you suffer from gluten intolerance or are simply looking to get the most nutritional bang for your buck, it is worthwhile to add teff seed to your diet.