Teff (Eragrostis tef): An Alternative Grain

Teff is an annual grass that is native to Ethiopia and Eritrea. Sometimes called lovegrass, teff is the smallest grain, and it is gluten free. It is highly nutritious, and according to the whole grains council, it can be grown in a wide range of climates where many other grains can not. Teff is a grain crop, but also a hay and forage crop throughout the U.S.

Why is teff so popular lately? Recently we talked about special diets, and teff nicely fits into a gluten free diet, heart healthy diet, vegetarian/vegan diet, plant based diet, mediterranean diet, even the diabetic diet. Teff is high in protein, high in dietary fiber, and high in calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and some of the B- vitamins. It is low in fat with good omega 3 fatty acids. This tiny, nutty-flavored grain can easily be considered a “superfood”.

We first heard of teff at the local Ethiopian restaurant where we used to live. We were out for an anniversary looking for somewhere different to eat, and stumbled upon this little vegetarian Ethiopian restaurant. Ethiopian meals are often served with, or on top of injera, a sponge textured sourdough flat bread made from teff. The restaurant was a one man show, run by an older man from Ethiopia. We ordered a sample platter, and from that moment on we were sold. I’ve heard some negative thoughts on the taste of injera, but what we had was made fresh in the traditional fashion, and we thought it delicious, not to mention all the yummy foods served on top.

When we got home we began to look for teff to buy, so we could make some injera ourselves. We found a small bag at the health food store, and the adventure began. We didn’t actually make injera. At the time we couldn’t find a workable recipe, or teff flour, but there was a nice recipe on the bag for teff porridge.

Following is a basic recipe for teff porridge. It is a great hot cereal that is a nice breakfast option in place of rice or oats. With more savory seasonings and add ins, you could easily served for lunch or dinner as well.

Teff Porridge 

1 cup teff

3 cups water

Assorted toppings: cream, milk, nuts, berries, fruits, dates, raisins.

Maple syrup or honey for sweetness

* Toast teff in a medium size heavy sauce pan, stirring constantly until it starts to pop.

* Slowly add water. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn heat down. Cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. A heat diffuser placed under the pan can help prevent accidental burning.

* Serve into bowls. Mix in cream or milk if desired. Add desired toppings. We like to add coconut milk, raisins, and apples, but the idea of trying more interesting fruits with our porridge is appealing.

After finishing off the small bag of teff, we decided we needed to have a bulk supplier to make it affordable since our family is quite large. We ordered a 25 pound bag of ivory teff and brown teff, from here, and proceeded to eat teff porridge for breakfast on a regular basis.

A little while ago, we ran out of teff  and never graduated beyond eating the porridge. We no longer live near an ethiopian restaurant, so,we plan to place a new order for teff and teff flour, and hope to get a little more adventurous with our Ethiopian menu. We will post some Ethiopian recipes as we find some we like, and hopefully a good recipe for injera too.

With my garden this year, I’m even considering growing a small plot of teff grass. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Let us know in the comment section below if you have a favorite teff recipe, have grown teff, or have a different alternative grain you think we should blog about.

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