Farro is an ancient whole grain that is high in fiber and protein, with an appearance of over-sized barley. It has a nutty flavor with a chewy texture and in the United States, this staple ingredient has grown in popularity as a cheap and easy dinner option.
Increasingly, recipes call for the staple in soups, stews, pilafs, salads, and even desserts. If you can’t get your hands on a bag or you simply want an alternative then keep reading; we’ve compiled a list of suitable farro substitutes that will fit into in any recipe that calls for the original ingredient.
What can I substitute for farro?
To replace farro in your next recipe the best options are spelt berries, freekeh, wheat berries, whole grain barley, or cracked wheat. Use the same quantities of each alternative but keep in mind that some options will require different cook times. Pay close attention to cooking instructions on the packet. They will provide better results than following the original recipe that called for farro.
1. Spelt berries
Although the name suggests a fruit, spelt berries are actually the whole kernels from spelt grain. Once cooked, they offer a nutty flavor similar to farro or bulgur and are great added to soup, stew, or any rice-based dish.
The names “spelt” and “farro” are often used interchangeably in the kitchen, especially by Italians. Although related, they are not the same thing and differ in taste, texture, and even gluten content. The main difference you will find is that spelt has a tougher al dente texture that’s perfect for a grain salad; farro has a noticeably softer texture that lends itself well to risottos and soups.
Freekeh, also known as frik or farik, is comparable to farro although it does have its unique characteristics. This whole grain is produced when farmers harvest unripe durum wheat and remove the chaff by burning the stalks. The young grains which survive the fire are rubbed vigorously to release the green kernels. Freekeh has a smoky taste that differs from farro’s nuttiness, but it does mimic the chewy texture. Use it in savory dishes to add an extra depth of flavor.
3. Wheat berries
Wheat berries look almost identical to farro with a similar brownish-red color. Once cooked, they have an earthy, nutty taste but the texture is lighter and chewier than that of farro.
Wheat berries are versatile and can be turned into a wholesome breakfast with honey, cinnamon, and milk. They are also excellent scooped into chili and soup or served as a side dish. You will find that longer cooking time is needed so keep this in mind if you decide to use them as your substitute option.
Did you know? Cracked wheat is made by milling raw wheat berries. This product is quicker to cook as the pieces are smaller; its nutritional goodness, which comes from the bran and germ layers, is still preserved.
4. Hulled or Whole Grain Barley
Hulled barley has had minimal processing with only had the tough outer hull removed so it is an extremely healthy ingredient. As with much of this list, it has a nutty flavor with a chewy texture that is similar to brown rice or farro. Use it as a blank canvas for your morning porridge and add fruit and nuts for additional flavor. Alternatively, it can be added to savory dishes like stir-fries or casseroles.
Bulgur is a whole grain that is produced from dried cracked wheat. It has a nutty, light flavor and is chewy once cooked, a lot like quinoa or couscous. The benefit of this ingredient is that it is already par-cooked when you buy it, so this reduces the cooking time. If you always seem to be in a hurry on weeknights, then this replacement may be a good option for you. Use bulgur as a delicious addition to gazpacho.
6. Rye berries
Rye berries are a hulled whole grain that comes from the rye plant and are high in fiber. Once cooked they have a firm texture and a mild nutty flavor. Although excellent in everyday soups and stews, they are also lovely added to more exotic tabouli, risotto, or pilaf. People also enjoy using rye berries as a filling breakfast cereal, combined with grated apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Rye berries have a lower glycemic index than farro and also contain less gluten. Although they have a similar nutty flavor to farro, there is also a slightly sweet and sour undertone.
Kasha is more common in Eastern Europe than it is in the United States, but it can still be found in specialty stores or online. It is a cereal made from buckwheat groats that have been roasted, soaked, and then cooked until soft. This process enhances the nutty flavor and results in a firm, gummy consistency.
If you decide to use kasha, then avoid overcooking as it will turn out mushy. The secret is to use the correct ratios. For every cup of uncooked kasha, you’ll want to add 1 1/2 cups of liquid. This grain also cooks quicker than rice, so give it 7 minutes on the boil and test.
8. Triticale berries
Triticale berries are nutty and sweet grains that don’t have a history that goes back thousands of years (like most other grains). They were developed in 1875 by a Scottish botanist who crossed rye with wheat. Triticale berries are a lot larger than farro and have not been stripped of their nutritious germ or bran. They also require a little more time investment as you will need to soak them in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.
9. Oat groats
Oat groats are a highly nutritious, gluten-free food that results from hulling oats. They are best soaked overnight, before adding to soups and stews. For a hearty hot cereal, oat groats are an excellent option.
Fast facts about farro
- The grain has been traced back over 20,000 years to the early Mesopotamia period.
- There are three types of farro: Spelt (farro grande), Emmer (farro medio), and Einkorn (farro piccolo). Medio is the most common variety sold in the United States.
Farro is a staple ingredient in Italy and various other parts of Europe.
- The flavor and cook time are determined by how it is processed. In the United States, pearled farro is commonly found in supermarkets as it is popular for having a relatively short cook time.
- There is also semi-pearled and whole farro; the latter has the grain intact and is the most nutritious, although it does require soaking overnight and longer cooking time.
Farro is a nutritious, low-cost ingredient that doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It can easily create a more filling dish without putting your food out of balance. If you can’t find any at the store or don’t enjoy eating it, then you’re going to need a replacement. The best substitutes for farro are spelt berries, freekeh, wheat berries, whole grain barley, or cracked wheat. Although they all have their subtle differences, any of these options would make a worthy addition to casseroles, soups, salads, or as a breakfast cereal.
What is your favorite whole grain breakfast cereal? Please let us know in the comments below.