The New York Times printed a correction heard ‘round the food world read, “An earlier version of this article misstated Modern Farmer’s new ‘it’ grain. It is sorghum, not quinoa.” Twitter went crazy, and cooks took note. In other words: step aside, quinoa. It’s sorghum’s time to shine.
It’s a Gluten-Free Powerhouse
So what is sorghum? One thing it’s not is a new kid. Sorghum has been cultivated for about 8,000 years—as long as its brethren barley and wheat. The grain found its way to the U.S. in the 17th century, most likely brought over by African slaves, and has been a diet staple around the world for centuries. But it’s only recently that the U.S. has used it in anything other than animal feed. Now, alongside the rise of so-called ancient grains like spelt, millet, amaranth, teff, and yes, even quinoa, naturally gluten-free sorghum is attracting a new wave of eaters. This chewy grain has a mild flavor but is a nutritional knockout: it’s high in protein, iron, fiber and antioxidants.
It Works As a Sweetener
In the American South, sorghum syrup—made by cooking down the sugary juice of the plant—is a beloved traditional sweetener that gets poured on everything from hot buttered cornbread to sticky pork ribs. Bottling it is a backcountry art practiced in the late summer through the fall, and the season is feted with dozens of festivals in the region. In recipes, it can be substituted in equal measure for maple syrup, honey or molasses.
Sorghum Is Delicious As a Whole Grain
Cook 1 part sorghum to 3 parts water for about an hour, and there’s (almost) nothing it can’t do. Its spherical shape and chewy texture make it a great substitute for Israeli couscous or farro in a grain salad. Try eating it for breakfast, with a splash of almond milk and a sprinkling of fruit and nuts, or to make a hearty vegetable dish like our Whole Grilled Carrots With Sorghum And Dill recipe shipping this summer. You can also pop it, like corn, for movie night.
Baking With Sorghum Is Delicious
Traditionally, Indian jowar roti flatbreads are made with sorghum flour. Follow suit in your own kitchen by making gluten-free, whole grain pancakes for breakfast. Some gluten-free flours, like rice, can add a gritty texture to baked goods, but sorghum’s smooth texture and mild flavor means it works well in delicate baked goods like breads, cookies and muffins, as well as your favorite Saturday morning pancake recipe. Maria Speck, author of Simply Ancient Grains, recommends replacing 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount of all-purpose flour with sorghum flour.
(Image: Fountain Avenue Kitchen)