Freekeh: An Underappreciated Ancient Grain

Freekeh: An Underappreciated Ancient Grain

freekeh-roni

By Kristen Simonds, BSc, Contributing Blogger 

Just when you finally learned how to correctly pronounce quinoa and kamut, there’s another ancient grain with a tricky pronunciation hitting the supermarket shelves. Freekeh (say it with me, “free-kah”) is common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and is made from wheat that has been harvested early, toasted, dried, and rubbed. The result is a nutty tasting grain with a chewy texture.

Nutrition Lowdown

Because freekeh is harvested when it’s young, it retains more protein, fiber, and minerals than mature wheat. A serving of freekeh (1/4 cup, uncooked) is less than 130 calories and contains a whopping 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. The grain has three times the fiber of brown rice and more protein and fiber than quinoa! That means this whole grain helps keep you fuller longer and is good for your heart.

Freekeh is packed with essential nutrients like selenium, potassium, and magnesium as well as iron and zinc. Because of its robust nutrient profile, it’s a great plant based protein for vegan and vegetarians. However those suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease should take caution, as freekeh is not gluten free.

Versatility

You may come across whole and cracked freekeh on grocery store shelves, but there is no nutritional difference between the two varieties. Cracked freekeh has simply been broken into smaller pieces, which shortens its cooking time from 35-45 minutes to just 20 minutes. Freekeh is not only nutritionally dense, but also extremely versatile. You can use the grain in place of brown rice or barley in dishes like pilafs, risottos, soups, and salads. With its chewy texture, whole cooked freekeh pairs nicely with Greek yogurt and fruit in a parfait.

Storage Tips

Like all whole grains, freekeh should be stored in a cool, dark place and will keep in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Cooked freekeh can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 7 days in an airtight container. Alternatively, cooked freekeh can be frozen for up to 1 year and reheated without losing its great flavor and texture.

Recipes

Freek-eh-Roni (pictured above) from Street Smart Nutrition

freekeh-chicken-cabbage-soup-by-emily-kyle-nutrition-16-e1483386195923

Freekeh Chicken & Cabbage Soup from Emily Kyle Nutrition

butternut-squash-with-freekeh-732x417

Freekeh Butternut Squash by Triad To Wellness

freekeh-sunflower-burgers

Freekeh Sunflower Burger from Nutrition Nuptials

Kristen Simonds, BSc is a graduate of the Honors Specialization Nutrition and Dietetics program from Western University in London, Canada. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian in the near future and use her love of food, nutrition, and fitness to better the lives of others. She is passionate about culinary nutrition and cooking nutritious plant-based recipes for her family and friends.

1 Comment
  • Merbs
    Posted at 18:58h, 06 October Reply

    But…freekah’s not an ancient grain. It’s young durum wheat – aka “pasta wheat” – same stuff semolina is from. This is important because there are a growing number of people who are developing allergies to modern (hybridized) wheat who can eat ancient grains. It was eaten in ancient times before hybridizing, but that’s not the freekah that we see now. I envy for being able to eat it – it sounds great!

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