By Elaine Gordon
Although teff has been a staple of traditional Ethiopian cooking for thousands of years, this gluten-free grain is quickly climbing to super-grain status in our country. (Watch out, quinoa.)
Teff is a gluten-free whole grain that, despite its size (about the size of a poppy seed), is mineral-rich and high in protein. In fact, the Whole Grains Council estimates that Ethiopians get about two-thirds of their dietary protein from teff. And long-distance runners from Ethiopia have credited their energy and health to the grain.
One serving of dry teff (a quarter-cup) offers 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 25 percent of your daily recommended magnesium, 20 percent of your daily iron and 10 percent of your daily calcium, Vitamin B6 and zinc.
Teff has a mildly nutty flavor and is incredibly versatile. When cooked on a stovetop with water, it creates a creamy product similar to porridge or cream of wheat that would be a nice twist on the usual hot breakfast cereal options. It also works wonderfully in stews, adding both thickness and texture.
In Ethiopia, teff is ground into a flour and fermented to make injera, a spongy, sourdough flatbread that is soft, porous and thin like a pancake. Traditional Ethiopian restaurants serve injera with all meals as an edible serving plate topped with meats, vegetables and sauces.
As America embraces this ancient grain, teff can be found in gluten-free recipes for pancakes, breads, crepes or waffles and is showing up in products such as cereal, snacks, wraps and more.
Nutrient-packed bran and germ make up the majority of the teff grain, which is why the nutrient content is so high compared with more common grains. Teff offers the most calcium (1 cup of cooked teff offers 123 milligrams, which is equivalent to half a cup of cooked spinach). And most grains don’t offer Vitamin C, but teff is an excellent source.
Plus, according to the Whole Grains Council, teff is high in resistant starch, a newly discovered type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood-sugar management, weight control and colon health.
Recipe: Southwest teff burgers
This recipe is a spin on the standard veggie burger. Teff serves as a binding agent, and roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, oats, onions and scallions make up the rest of the dish. The burgers are loaded with Southwest flavor from fresh cilantro, lime juice, garlic, cumin, agave nectar and jalapeño pepper. They are baked (more healthful than pan-frying), making them slightly crisp on the outside and slightly moist inside.
Serve the burgers with whole-wheat or gluten-free buns and your favorite toppings. They’re also great served on a salad or in a “lettuce sandwich.” Or simply dip them in guacamole.
Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is creator of the healthful recipe site EatingbyElaine.com. Find her on Twitter at @EatingbyElaine.