Food & Recipes

Freekeh Is the Superfood Whole Grain That’s Better for You Than Quinoa

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When you hear more about freekeh’s nutritional benefits, you’ll be shocked that more people aren’t familiar with this healthy grain. Fortunately, this superfood is finally starting to get the attention it deserves — and a front-row spot in pantries everywhere.

What is freekeh and how do you cook it?

Freekeh, pronounced “free-kah,” is a grain that’s commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. (You may have seen it spelled “freekah,” “firkeh,” “farik,” or “fireek.”) Farmers harvest freekeh before it’s fully matured and roast it over a fire. The straw and chaff protecting the grain are burned off, so freekeh has a nutty, smoky flavor.

There are two types of freekeh: whole or whole grain and cracked. What’s the difference? Cracked freekeh is essentially just whole freekeh that’s been split into smaller pieces. Some people prefer cracked freekeh because it cooks faster (10 to 20 minutes for cracked freekeh versus 30 to 45 minutes for whole freekeh).

Cooking freekeh is similar to other grains like brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and spelt, in that they all need to be boiled with water before they’re added to other ingredients. The ratio of water to freekeh is roughly one part freekeh to two or two-and-a-half parts water, depending on which brand you use. One cup of uncooked freekeh makes roughly three cups of cooked freekeh, so you may need to double that if you’re feeding a large family.

Is freekeh gluten-free?

“Is freekeh gluten-free” is a common question from curious eaters. Unfortunately, freekeh is not gluten-free, as it is a type of wheat. 

Some people say that people who are gluten-sensitive have an easier time eating freekeh because the processing denatures the gluten in the grain — but it’s up to you to decide if you want to risk an upset stomach. We recommend speaking with a doctor or a nutrition specialist before adding freekeh to your diet if you have a gluten intolerance.

Freekeh Nutrition Benefits

One big reason to cook with freekeh is its amazing health benefits. “Because it’s harvested when its young, [freekeh] retains more nutrition — providing more protein, fiber, and minerals than in wheat that’s harvested mature,” Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, told Prevention.

Freekeh has roughly eight grams of fiber in a cup compared to quinoa’s five grams. It also barely beats out quinoa in terms of how much protein it has. The amount of calories in a serving of freekeh versus quinoa is roughly the same.

On top of that, freekeh is a low GI food. The glycemic index looks at how quickly the carbohydrates in a food are absorbed in the body and how much they affect blood sugar levels. Foods that have low GIs not only help balance blood sugar, but they also speed weight loss and reduce your risk of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Freekeh Recipes

Because freekeh can be used to replace just about any grain, the number of freekeh recipes are endless. Enjoy freekeh in the morning with berries as a replacement for oatmeal, or swap out brown rice for freekeh in your stir-fry. The sky’s the limit when it comes to delicious ways to incorporate freekeh in your diet.

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Freekeh, lentil and roast vegetable cakes. One of my favourite things to do with leftovers is to throw them together to make a patty or cake like these. I still had about a cup and a half of cooked freekeh, 1/3 can lentils and 3/4 cup roasted veggies. I combined them all with some onion powder, salt, mustard seeds and an egg and formed them into flat, rounded shapes on a baking sheet. Baked for about 20 minutes in a moderate oven. I’ve served them here with salad and homemade beetroot, red cabbage and caraway pickle. My husband requested they go into rotation for breakfast, lunch or dinner! . . . #freekeh #lentils #roastedvegetables #fritters #veggiepatties #beetrootpickle #leftovers #vegetarian #vegetarianfood #healthyfood #healthyrecipes #healthylifestyle #healthy #healthybreakfast #plantbased #plantbaseddiet #fitfoodie #bluezones #dailydozenchallenge #doctorsofinstagram #lifestylemedicine #eattherainbow #plantpowered #eatmoreplants #cleaneating #delicious

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If you try freekeh and fall in love, just remember that it’s one of many superfood grains that make for a healthy diet. Mixing and matching freekeh one night and quinoa another will satisfy your stomach and simultaneously slim you down — all while keeping you full. Sounds like it’s time to get your freekeh on!

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