Introduction to Farro
Farro is an ancient type of wheat that originated in the Middle East and has been grown in Italy for centuries. Sometimes referred to as emmer wheat or hulled wheat, farro dates back to ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. It was one of the first domesticated grains but became less popular once modern wheat flour and pasta became widespread.
Recently farro has experienced a resurgence in popularity for its nutritional benefits and hearty texture. Unlike more common grains, farro is left partially intact which gives it more fiber, protein and micronutrients. It’s considered a whole grain and provides 7-8 grams of protein per cooked cup along with B vitamins, zinc, antioxidants and iron.
Farro has a chewy texture and nutty, earthy flavor. It’s similar to barley in appearance but the grains are larger and darker in color. The partially processed kernels require longer cooking times of up to 45 minutes. Farro works well in soups, stews, salads, pilafs and sides dishes. It can also be enjoyed in breakfast bowls and as a hot cereal on cold mornings.
Compared to common white rice, farro is far more nutritious with almost three times the fiber and protein. It also has a lower glycemic index than rice so it won’t cause spikes in blood sugar. Farro is a good source of magnesium, zinc and B vitamins while white rice is not. For those avoiding gluten, farro does contain gluten so it is not suitable for celiac disease or gluten intolerance. But for those who can tolerate gluten, farro provides a delicious and nutritious alternative to traditional grains.
Types of Farro
Farro comes in a few different forms, each with a slightly different texture and cooking time:
- Whole farro is the entire unprocessed kernel of the wheat. It’s chewy with a bit of crunch.
- Since the bran hasn’t been removed, it has the highest fiber content.
- It takes the longest to cook – usually around 45-60 minutes. The kernels don’t fully soften.
- Semi-pearled farro has had some of the bran partially removed.
- It’s a little softer than whole farro with a bit less bite.
- Semi-pearled farro cooks faster than whole, usually in 25-40 minutes.
- Pearled farro has had the most processing, with all of the bran removed.
- It has a soft, pillowy texture when cooked.
- Pearled farro cooks the quickest in just 10-20 minutes.
- Farro can be ground into a flour to use in baking.
- It gives baked goods a sweet, nutty flavor and dense texture.
- Farro flour can be used alone or blended with other flours.
Buying and Storing Farro
When buying farro, you can choose between whole farro grains or pearled farro. Whole farro contains more fiber and nutrients since the outer bran layer of the grain is left intact. Pearled farro has had this bran layer removed, which decreases the cooking time but also removes some of the nutritional value.
When checking for freshness, look for farro grains that are uniform in size and not cracked or split. They should have a light tan color and smell fresh, not musty. Avoid any farro that looks dull, dirty, or damp.
Properly stored, farro can last for months. Keep it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from heat and light. Whole farro will keep longer than pearled varieties since the bran protects the nutrients. In hot, humid environments, consider storing farro in the refrigerator to prevent it from going rancid.
Before cooking, inspect the farro and discard any grains that look discolored or dried out. Rinsing can help freshen up farro that has been stored for a while.
Soaking farro before cooking is an important step for properly preparing this ancient grain. Soaking farro serves several purposes:
- It reduces the cooking time. Unsoaked farro can take up to 45-60 minutes to become tender when cooked. Soaking cuts this cooking time in half or more.
- It brings out farro’s delicious nutty flavor. As the grains soak and begin to hydrate, they release some of their starch and absorb water. This allows farro’s wonderful nuttiness to develop more fully when cooking.
- It’s essential for whole farro berries. The intact outer bran layer of whole farro grains makes them the slowest to cook. Soaking them ahead of time softens the bran and decreases total cooking time.
- It’s optional for semi-pearled and pearled farro. These varieties have had some or all of the bran layer removed, speeding up their cooking time. Soaking them for just 30-60 minutes can further reduce cooking time.
Recommended Soaking Times:
- Whole farro: 8-12 hours or overnight
- Semi-pearled farro: 1-2 hours
- Pearled farro: 30 minutes to 1 hour
The best practice is to place the measured amount of dry farro grains in a bowl and cover with cool water by 2-3 inches. Allow to soak at room temperature for the recommended time, then drain and rinse before cooking. Soaking farro makes preparing this nutritious ancient grain even easier.
Cooking Farro on the Stove
Farro is easy to cook on the stovetop with just water and a pot. Here are some tips for cooking farro perfectly every time:
- Use a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, this helps the farro cook evenly. A 2-quart pot is a good size for cooking 1 cup of dry farro.
- The water to farro ratio is important. Use 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of farro. The farro will absorb most of the water as it cooks.
- Add a pinch of salt to the cooking water, this adds flavor. You can also use chicken or vegetable broth instead of water for more flavor.
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the dry farro and give it a stir.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Farro is done when the grains are tender but still have a bit of chewiness. It should not be mushy.
- Drain any excess liquid after cooking. Fluff the farro with a fork before serving.
- For quicker cooking time, soak the dry farro for 30 minutes before cooking. This reduces stovetop time to 10-15 minutes.
- Toast farro in a dry skillet before cooking for deeper flavor. Cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently.
- For a creamy texture, finish cooking farro in broth or milk instead of water.
- Fresh herbs, garlic, or citrus zest can be stirred in after cooking for extra flavor.
- Let cooked farro cool completely before storing in the fridge for up to 5 days. It’s great for meal prep.
Cooking Farro in a Rice Cooker
Cooking farro in a rice cooker is a hands-off and convenient method that produces perfect farro every time. Using a rice cooker to make farro provides several benefits:
- Consistent results – Rice cookers are designed to automatically switch to warm mode once the liquid is absorbed, preventing overcooking. This takes the guesswork out of cooking farro.
- Versatile ratios – Most rice cookers have measurement lines for rice that can be used for farro. Generally 1 cup of farro to 1 1/2 cups of liquid works well. The absorption method allows flexibility with ratios.
- Walk away convenience – Once farro and liquid are added to the rice cooker, it does the work unattended. This frees you up to prep other parts of the meal.
- Makes extra – Rice cookers typically make enough for 4-6 servings. The leftovers can be refrigerated and added to salads, soups, or other dishes during the week.
To cook farro in a rice cooker:
- Rinse 1 cup of farro under cold water. This removes extra starch for fluffier grains.
- Add rinsed farro and 1 1/2 cups broth, water or a combo to the pot of a rice cooker. Vegetable or chicken broth adds extra flavor.
- Cook on the white rice setting for 15-25 minutes until farro is tender and liquid is absorbed. Cooking time varies by brand of farro.
- Allow the rice cooker to switch to warm mode and keep for 5-10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. The residual heating completes the cooking.
- Fluff the farro with a fork before serving. Use immediately or allow to cool before refrigerating leftovers.
The hands-off convenience of a rice cooker produces perfect farro with minimal effort required. Adjust the liquid as needed based on the brand of farro used.
Cooking Farro in a Pressure Cooker
Cooking farro in a pressure cooker is a quick and easy way to prepare this nutritious ancient grain. Pressure cooking has several benefits when cooking farro:
- Speed – Pressure cooking farro significantly reduces cooking time. Farro can be cooked in just 10-15 minutes in a pressure cooker, compared to 40-60 minutes on the stovetop. This makes it much faster to prepare.
- Flavor retention – Pressure cooking keeps more nutrients intact compared to other cooking methods. The quick cooking helps retain the flavor and chewy texture of farro.
- One pot cooking – You can cook farro entirely in the pressure cooker, no need for pre-soaking. This saves time and dirty dishes.
- Energy efficiency – Pressure cooking uses less energy than simmering on the stovetop. The built-up steam pressure allows food to cook faster.
To cook farro in a pressure cooker:
- Use a 1:2 ratio of farro to liquid. For every 1 cup of farro, add 2 cups of water or broth. The extra liquid is needed to create steam.
- No pre-soaking is required since the pressure cooking will quickly soften the grains.
- For pearl farro, cook for 10 minutes at high pressure. For whole grain farro, cook for 12-15 minutes at high pressure.
- Allow the pressure to release naturally. Quick releasing may cause the farro to foam up.
- After cooking, fluff the farro with a fork and drain off any excess liquid if needed. Enjoy the perfectly tender grains!
Pressure cooked farro is ideal for hearty farro salads, veggie farro bowls, or as a base for stews and braises. This hands-off method yields light and fluffy farro with great texture.
Cooking Farro in a Slow Cooker
Cooking farro in a slow cooker is a hands-off, convenient way to prepare perfect farro every time. The low heat and extended cooking time of the slow cooker break down the grains thoroughly, producing tender farro with a pleasing chewy-creamy texture.
There are several benefits to slow cooking farro:
- The low and slow cooking ensures even cooking, preventing under or overcooked grains.
- It brings out the natural sweetness in the farro without scorching.
- You can prep it in the morning and have perfect farro ready by dinnertime.
- A slow cooker doesn’t require watching or stirring like stovetop methods.
- It frees up your stove and oven for other dishes.
For best results, use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to farro. The farro will absorb most of the cooking liquid as it slow cooks. For 1 cup of dry farro, use 2 cups of water or broth.
Cooking times can vary based on the type and age of your slow cooker. Most farro takes 2-3 hours on low heat. Check the farro after 2 hours, then continue cooking until the grains are fluffy and tender. For softer grains, cook up to 4 hours. You can’t really overcook farro in a slow cooker as the low gentle heat prevents sticking or scorching. The longer cook time ensures super tender grains.
Slow cooked farro works beautifully in soups, stews, and as a side dish. The hands-off cooking method and pleasing texture make it an excellent choice for easy weeknight meals.
Farro is a versatile ingredient that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Here are some delicious recipe ideas:
Savory Farro Recipes
- Farro Risotto – Make a creamy risotto by cooking farro in broth and white wine, then stirring in Parmesan cheese, vegetables like mushrooms, and fresh herbs.
- Warm Farro Salad – Cook farro, let cool, and toss with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, olives, fresh basil, and a red wine vinaigrette.
- Farro Minestrone Soup – For a hearty soup, simmer farro with veggies like carrots, zucchini and spinach in broth. Finish with Parmesan and olive oil.
Sweet Farro Recipes
- Farro Breakfast Bowl – Make a protein-packed breakfast by topping cooked farro with fresh fruit, nuts, honey or maple syrup, and milk or yogurt.
- Farro Energy Bars – Mix cooked farro with nut butter, oats, seeds, honey and dried fruit. Press into bars for a tasty snack.
- Farro Pudding – Simmer farro in milk with cinnamon and vanilla. Once thickened, stir in maple syrup and top with fruit. Delicious warm or chilled.
With its nutty flavor and chewy texture, farro can be used in diverse ways in both savory dishes and sweet treats. Get creative with farro in your home cooking!
Storing and Reheating Leftover Farro
Properly storing leftover farro will help maintain its delicious flavor and texture. Here are some tips:
- Let farro cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Farro can be kept refrigerated for 3-5 days. The starches in farro can harden if it’s refrigerated when still hot.
- For longer term storage, cooked farro can be frozen for 2-3 months. Portion it into usable amounts and store in sealed freezer bags or airtight containers, ensuring to remove as much air as possible. This prevents freezer burn.
- Reheat leftover refrigerated or frozen farro in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Add a tablespoon or two of water or broth to help restore moisture.
- For the best flavor, reheat frozen farro in a saucepan with a splash of broth until heated through. The stovetop allows the flavors to mingle back together.
- Avoid reheating farro more than once. Multiple reheats can degrade the texture.
- If the farro seems dry after reheating, stir in a bit of olive oil or butter to coat and revive it. Fresh herbs, salt, and pepper can also help rejuvenate the flavors.
With proper storage and reheating, leftover farro will retain its wonderful chewy texture and ability to absorb other flavors. Enjoy it as a quick base for grain bowls and salads all week long.