Millet is a gluten-free grain that delivers fibre, protein and B vitamins. It’s an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. One cup of cooked millet, for instance, supplies 25 per cent of a day’s worth of magnesium for women and 20 per cent for men.
The ancient grain also provides some iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.
Millet also has a high antioxidant activity thanks to phytochemicals called phenols.
Research in animals has shown that millet helps lower cholesterol, blood glucose and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Release 28, September 2015.
Millet actually refers to several different grains including pearl millet, foxtail millet, proso millet and finger millet.
The most commonly cultivated variety worldwide is pearl millet, the type sold in North America for eating. It’s easy to digest and has a rather bland flavour, making it a versatile addition to many different recipes.
Proso millet is mostly grown for birdseed, and finger millet is the type used in Indian roti (also known as chapatti).
Millet has a naturally hard indigestible covering that must be removed before human consumption. When purchasing millet, you’ll find the hulled form of the grain.
Millet can be purchased on its own in the hulled form, ground up as a flour as well as part of grain mixes. It’s also incorporated as an ingredient into many breakfast cereals, crackers and breads.
It can be found at most grocery stores and health food stores, as well as in bulk food stores. When buying from bulk food stores, ensure that the products are stored in dry, airtight containers and avoid any products showing signs of moisture.
Millet should be stored in an airtight container, in a cool and dry place. It can last as long as a year or longer if stored properly.
Millet can be prepared in many different ways, allowing for it to be creamy or fluffy depending on how you cook it.
If you want to make millet fluffy, like rice, add 1 part millet to 2.5 parts boiling water or broth; it takes about 13 to 18 minutes to cook. Let stand for 10 minutes after cooking. (Check your recipe for the dryness it asks for because you may need to adjust the amount of water used.)
One cup of dry millet makes 3 cups cooked.
To impart a slightly nuttier flavour, you can toast millet grains in a dry pan until golden brown before cooking it. Cooked toasted millet is a tasty addition to salads, as a side dish, or as a replacement for rice in stir-fry or other dishes.
To make millet creamier, grind the grains in a spice grinder before cooking them. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil, then gradually whisk in millet. Cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 to 30 minutes until millet is tender. Serve as porridge or as a replacement for mashed potatoes.
You can also make millet sprouts, a crunchy addition to salads and sandwiches.
To do so, soak uncooked millet for 6 to 10 hours (or overnight) in plenty of water. (In a one liter jar, add one cup of millet and fill the rest with water.) Drain the water well and rinse the millet two or three times a day until the water runs clear each time. Let the millet sit and in one to three days you will have millet sprouts!
Baking with millet flour
In baking, you can replace any gluten-containing flour with millet flour to make a recipe gluten free. Since millet flour doesn’t contain gluten, though, it lacks that elastic and stretchy consistency that gluten imparts to products. That’s okay for cookies, but for quick breads and cakes you will need to add a gum (e.g., guar or xanthan) to provide volume and texture.
Or, replace one-half of the required wheat flour with millet flour; this will give you a nice end product as well. Note: if you are fully substituting a regular flour for millet flour, subtract ¼ cup of flour for every ¾ cups in the recipe (e.g., if the recipe requires ¾ cup of all-purpose flour, replace this with ½ cup millet flour).
Millet is similar to quinoa but has a slightly nuttier flavour. It’s an incredible versatile grain that pairs well with many foods and flavours.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy
- Make millet porridge. Add to a saucepan 1/3 cup of millet (rinsed and drained), ¾ cups of water, ½ cup of milk (or almond or coconut milk), ¼ tsp. of cinnamon, ½ tsp of vanilla and 1/8 tsp. of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook at a low simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and it is the consistency of oatmeal. Remove from heat and top with chopped nuts or coconut flakes. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup if desired.
- Make whole grain pancakes with leftover cooked millet. Try this yummy recipe!
- Add millet to your favourite muffin recipe. Try my Lemon, Blueberry and Millet Muffins.
- Add cooked millet to a green salad for an extra boost of protein and magnesium.
- Make millet sprouts and add them to a sandwich, wrap or salad for a nice crunchy texture and extra freshness.
- Add millet to your favourite vegetable soup recipe.
- Use cooked fluffy millet as a replacement for any grain, such as rice or quinoa. This is especially good for a stir-fry or side dish.
- Serve millet mashed potatoes (hold the potatoes!) as a side dish with dinner. Try this recipe made with cauliflower and millet.
- Make a soup such as this Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup to warm you up on a cold winter day.
- If you like stuffed peppers or squash, try cooked millet in place of rice in your mix.
- Make millet crackers and serve with hummus or bean dip.
Did you know?
- Before rice was widely consumed, millet was the staple grain in Asia, as long ago as 8300 B.C.E.
- India is the world's largest producer of millet, with eight African countries and China making up the rest of the top ten producers.
- Millet can grow anywhere from one to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety.