Farro Substitutes

Farro is an ancient grain with a robust nutty flavor and a satisfying chewy texture, making it a popular choice in a variety of dishes ranging from salads to soups. This whole grain forms part of the wheat family and has been a staple in Mediterranean, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern cuisines for centuries. However, due to dietary restrictions such as gluten intolerance, or simply because you might not have farro on hand, you might find yourself looking for suitable alternatives.

Fortunately, there are numerous substitutes that can closely mimic farro’s texture and taste. Grains like barley and quinoa offer similar nutty flavors and can be used in equal proportions to farro in most recipes. Brown rice, with its slightly chewier texture, also makes a fine replacement, particularly for those seeking a gluten-free option. Each of these substitutes brings its own unique nutritional profile and cooking times, but they can be easily integrated into your meals.

When selecting a substitute, consider the dish you’re preparing. Certain grains may work better in specific recipes, ensuring that the end result closely resembles the original intention with farro. For instance, wheat berries or spelt berries could be an excellent choice for heartier meals, while lighter dishes might benefit from the fluffy texture of quinoa or the softness of bulgur. Understanding these subtle differences will help you make the best choice for your cooking needs.

Understanding Farro

Farro is an ancient grain that encompasses three different wheat species: spelt (Triticum spelta), emmer (Triticum dicoccum), and einkorn (Triticum monococcum). These grains are prized for their rich, nutty flavor, chewy texture, and nutritious profile. Typically, when you encounter farro, it will be whole grain; however, you may also find it pearled or semi-pearled, which affects its cooking time and nutritional content.

Types of Farro:

  • Whole Grain: Retains all the nutrients of the grain since the bran, germ, and endosperm are intact.
  • Pearled: The bran is removed; it cooks faster but has a lower nutritional value.
  • Semi-pearled: Part of the bran is removed, offering a balance between nutrients and cooking time.

When considering the nutritional profile of farro, it’s rich in protein, making it a filling and energizing grain option for your meals. Farro also provides a good amount of dietary fiber, aiding in digestion and promoting a sensation of fullness. This ancient grain is an excellent source of magnesium and iron, two minerals essential for overall health, as well as zinc, manganese, vitamin E, and vitamin B, which play vital roles in supporting the body’s immune system, skin health, and energy metabolism.

NutrientBenefit
ProteinSupports muscle repair and growth
FiberAids in digestion
MagnesiumEssential for many body processes
IronCrucial for blood health
ZincSupports immune function
ManganeseImportant for bone health
Vitamin EProtects cells from damage
Vitamin BVital for energy production

Farro’s complex, nutty flavor and robust texture make it an excellent addition to your diet, serving as a versatile base for various dishes, from salads to soups.

Health Benefits of Farro

Farro is a nutritious grain that brings multiple health benefits to your diet. As an ancient grain, it’s rich in fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Incorporating farro into your meals can be beneficial for your gut health and may aid in the prevention of digestive issues.

Nutrient Profile of Farro:

  • Fiber: Supports digestion and provides a feeling of fullness, which can help with weight management.
  • Protein: Farro is a good source of plant-based protein, pivotal for muscle repair and growth.
  • Magnesium: Plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions, including energy creation and muscle movement.
  • Iron: Necessary for the transport of oxygen in your blood.
  • Vitamin E: A powerful antioxidant important for skin and immune health.
  • B Vitamins: Vital for various metabolic processes and energy production.

With its generous protein content, farro is particularly helpful in rounding out vegetarian and vegan diets. It’s richer in these nutrients compared to more common grains like wheat or rice, making it a robust addition to any meal.

The inclusion of magnesium and iron in farro supports your energy levels and can help combat fatigue. The B vitamins present are crucial for your body’s ability to convert food into energy.

Farro’s complex carbohydrates break down slowly, providing you with steady energy throughout the day. This attribute, combined with its dense fiber content, may contribute to better blood sugar control, a factor that can be especially important if you have diabetes or are watching your glucose intake.

Lastly, due to the presence of vitamin E, consuming farro could enhance your skin health, while also lending support to your body’s defense mechanisms.

Farro Substitutes for Specific Dishes

Choosing the right farro substitute can depend on the dish you’re preparing. The following options will help you retain taste and texture.

Substitutes for Salads

For grain salads, a good farro substitute should offer a similar chewy texture and nutty flavor. Quinoa and bulgur are excellent choices for their comparable bite and full-bodied taste.

  • Quinoa: Use it to maintain a protein-rich profile in your salad. Adjust cooking times as quinoa generally cooks faster than farro. Farro Quinoa 1 cup 1 cup
  • Bulgur: A great pick for a quicker meal, since it requires less cooking time compared to farro. Farro Bulgur 1 cup 1 cup

Substitutes for Soups

In soups, the substitute should not only match farro’s texture but also stand up to longer cooking times without becoming mushy.

  • Barley: A robust option that is ideal for simmering in soups. Use it as a one-to-one replacement for farro. Farro Barley 1 cup 1 cup
  • Rice: Specifically, brown rice is preferred for its similar chewy texture and slightly nutty taste, which won’t overpower other flavors in your soup. Farro Brown Rice 1 cup 1 cup

Grain Substitutes Based on Cooking Properties

When choosing a substitute for farro, your focal points are to match the cooking time and texture characteristics of the grain to achieve a similar final dish.

Similar Cooking Time

Grains with a cooking time comparable to farro, which usually takes about 20-30 minutes, ensure your meal preparation remains consistent. Here’s a brief rundown:

  • Barley: It requires about 30-40 minutes of cooking, which is slightly longer than farro but still in a close range.
  • Bulgur Wheat: Ready in about 12-15 minutes, bulgur is a quicker option but can be used when timing is adjusted accordingly.

Similar Texture Characteristics

The chewy texture and the grain’s ability to retain its shape are important when substituting for farro.

  • Spelt Berries: Offer a chewy texture much like farro, and they hold their shape well.
  • Wheat Berries: They have a robust chewiness and their cooking time is extended, but they provide a texture very similar to farro once prepared.
  • Kamut: Also known as Khorasan wheat, has a rich, nutty flavor and retains a firm texture, it may require soaking and a longer cooking time.

For a substitute that brings a comparable texture and shorter cooking time, opt for triticale berries or rye berries. These grains bring a desirable firmness and slight chewiness to dishes similar to farro.

Gluten-Free Alternatives to Farro

If you’re in search of gluten-free alternatives to farro, there are several nutritious and tasty options available. Each offers unique flavors and textures that can replace farro in your dishes while maintaining a gluten-free diet.

Quinoa: Considered a complete protein, quinoa is an excellent alternative to farro. It is a versatile seed that cooks quickly and provides a fluffy texture similar to couscous. Quinoa’s mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a suitable base for salads, pilafs, and soups.

Brown Rice: Brown rice serves as a hearty substitute with a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. It is an ideal replacement in recipes where farro is used as a grain base, offering a similar level of satisfaction without any gluten.

Buckwheat: Despite its name, buckwheat is completely gluten-free. It has a robust flavor profile and can be used in place of farro for a distinct taste and a satisfying, chewy mouthfeel in your meals.

Sorghum: Sorghum is a versatile gluten-free grain with a light texture and sweet flavor. You can use sorghum in a variety of dishes, including those that call for farro, such as grain bowls and salads.

Here is a quick guide to cooking ratios for some of these gluten-free substitutes:

SubstituteRatio (Substitute: Water)Cooking Time
Quinoa1:215-20 minutes
Brown Rice1:245 minutes
Buckwheat1:210-30 minutes
Sorghum1:350-60 minutes

When replacing farro in your recipes, consider the cooking time and water ratio of these substitutes to achieve the desired texture. Adjust seasonings accordingly, and you can confidently enjoy your favorite dishes in a gluten-free fashion.

Nutritional Comparison of Farro Substitutes

When you’re considering substitutes for farro, it’s important to compare their nutritional profiles. Each substitute offers different benefits, and your choice may depend on dietary restrictions or health goals.

Barley: A common alternative to farro, barley is rich in fiber and contains a notable amount of protein. However, it is not gluten-free.

  • Protein: Moderate
  • Fiber: High
  • Iron: Moderate
  • Magnesium: Moderate

Quinoa: This gluten-free seed is high in protein and provides a complete amino acid profile, which is rare for plant-based foods. Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium and iron.

  • Protein: High
  • Fiber: Moderate
  • Iron: High
  • Magnesium: High

Brown Rice: A gluten-free option, brown rice provides a modest amount of protein and is a good source of fiber.

  • Protein: Low to Moderate
  • Fiber: Moderate
  • Iron: Low
  • Magnesium: Moderate

Bulgur: Although not gluten-free, bulgur is a processed wheat product that’s high in fiber and magnesium, with a moderate protein content.

  • Protein: Moderate
  • Fiber: High
  • Iron: Moderate
  • Magnesium: High

Teff: This tiny grain is nutritious and naturally gluten-free. It offers a decent amount of protein and is particularly high in iron.

  • Protein: Moderate
  • Fiber: High
  • Iron: Very High
  • Magnesium: Moderate

Keep in mind that these are general nutritional trends, and the exact values can vary depending on the specific product and how it’s prepared. Consider your specific dietary needs when selecting a substitute.

Culinary Uses and Versatility

When you’re exploring farro substitutes for your culinary creations, there’s a diverse array of grains you can opt for, each offering distinct flavors and textures that work across various dishes. Farro itself is recognized for its versatility in the kitchen. Typically used in salads and soups, farro brings a chewy texture and a subtle nutty flavor that complements a variety of ingredients.

In Salads:

  • Quinoa: With a fluffy, chewy texture, quinoa pairs well in salads, offering a nutty essence similar to farro. Plus, it’s gluten-free, which is great for those with dietary restrictions.
  • Bulgur: This grain contributes a light, slightly nutty flavor, perfect for a refreshing tabbouleh or mixed greens salad.

In Soups and Stews:

  • Barley: A hearty choice that adds a chewy consistency, making it ideal for robust soups and stews. Barley takes a bit longer to cook but can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Brown Rice: Another gluten-free option, brown rice can provide a slightly firmer bite, enhancing the texture profile of your soup.

Substituting farro in your cooking is straightforward, and these alternatives allow you to tailor your dishes to specific dietary needs or simply to work with what you have in your pantry. Remember to adjust cooking times and liquid ratios as necessary, as each substitute may have different requirements. By swapping in these grains, you ensure your dishes remain diverse and flavorful.

Availability and Accessibility of Substitutes

When you find yourself without farro or if it’s unattainable, various substitutes are readily available that can meet your needs in both flavor and texture. Quinoa, for instance, is an excellent alternative that is widely accessible in most supermarkets. It’s a nutritious substitute, rich in protein and gluten-free.

Buckwheat, another valuable replacement, may not be as prevalent as quinoa but can usually be found in health food stores or the organic sections of larger grocery stores. Its robust flavor and nutritional profile make it a strong contender as a farro alternative.

Couscous, despite being pasta-like, is a convenient substitute that cooks quickly and is widely available in most grocery stores. Similarly, white rice is ubiquitous and can serve as a farro substitute, especially in dishes where its neutral flavor and softer texture won’t overshadow other ingredients.

Here’s a glance at the availability:

  • Quinoa: Health food stores, supermarkets, online
  • Buckwheat: Health food stores, select supermarkets, online
  • Couscous: Almost everywhere, including small grocers
  • White Rice: Universally available

Remember that these substitutes can vary in cooking times and water ratios compared to farro, so ensure you follow the correct preparation method for each. When substituting, consider the similarity in texture and flavor to ensure the integrity of your dish is maintained.

How to Choose the Right Farro Substitute

When selecting a replacement for farro in your recipes, consider key aspects such as flavor, texture, nutrition, and availability. Farro is a whole grain known for its chewy texture and nutty flavor, so you’ll want to look for substitutes that offer similar qualities.

Flavor: Look for grains with a nutty profile.

  • Barley: Closest in taste to farro
  • Brown Rice: Milder, but still possesses a nutty touch
  • Quinoa: Slightly different but complementary nutty flavor

Texture: Aim for a pleasing chewiness.

  • Wheat Berries: Quite chewy, mimicking farro well
  • Spelt Berries: Similar in chew yet slightly softer
  • Oat Groats: Offer a robust chew akin to farro

Nutritious: Consider the health benefits of your substitute.

  • Teff: High in protein and fiber
  • Winter Wheat: Often whole and nutrient-packed
  • Bulgur: Quick-cooking and can be a healthy alternative

Availability: Choose a substitute that you can find easily.

  • Brown Rice & Quinoa: Widely available in most stores
  • Barley & Bulgur: Commonly stocked in bulk sections

Remember, the right substitute will also depend on the recipe and whether gluten content is a concern for you. Here’s a simplified guide to help you decide:

GrainFlavorTextureNutritious ValueAvailability
BarleyNuttyChewyHighHigh
QuinoaNuttyFluffy, chewyHighHigh
Brown RiceMilderLess chewyModerateHigh
Wheat BerriesNuttyVery chewyHighModerate
Oat GroatsMildChewyHighLow

Choose based on what aspect you value most, be it taste or health benefits, and ensure that it’s a suitable match for your recipe to achieve the best results.

farro recipe

Creamy Parmesan Farro Made on Stovetop

This super-easy farrotto (risotto) recipe for parmesan farro has a cheesy, nutty flavor that comes from savory broth and parmesan cheese.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4
Calories 302 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Medium yellow onion diced small
  • 2 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ Cups of farro
  • 2 Cups of unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 Large garlic cloves peeled and smashed
  • 1 Cup of cold water
  • 3 Tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ Tsp of kosher salt or salt to taste
  • Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ Cup of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • ¼ Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ½ Cup of parsley minced and loosely packed (including stems and leaves

Instructions
 

  • Heat your olive oil inside a medium-sized pot. Next, add your onion and begin cooking over medium heat. Stir the onions until they are translucent, which should take up to five minutes.
  • Add in your garlic and farro. Toast the farro for 1-2 minutes. Stir them often to allow an even oil coat and for them to cook evenly.
  • Now, add in your chicken stock, 1 cup of cold water, and kosher salt. Bring everything to a boil before lowering the pot to a simmer and cooking for around 30 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally just until your farro's texture reaches al dente absorbing most of the fluid. Pro-Tip: I highly recommend the Diamond Krystal Kosher salt brand, that's preferred by most professional chefs and recipe inventors.
  • Remove pot from heat. Stir in your unsalted butter, then add in 12 turns of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Scoop into bowls and serve. Top with your remaining cheese and a few pieces of parsley (optional).

Notes

Some folks have told me that this farro recipe came out a bit too salty for their taste, which is why I reduced the salt, but feel free to add additional salt to taste.
Often the saltiness of a dish can depend on what brand you're using. The brand I and most chefs trust is Diamond Cyrstal kosher salt. The sodium content found in Morton's is incredibly high, and using fine table salt can result in the dish tasting saltier because of the higher amount per volume.

Nutrition

Calories: 302kcal
Keyword comfort food, cooking farro, creamy parmesan farro, easy farro recipe, farro, farrotto, how to cook farro
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Frequently Asked Questions

When exploring farro substitutes, you want options that align with dietary needs, maintain texture, and work within the flavor profile of your recipes. Below are answers to common queries about replacing farro in your cooking.

What grain can I use in place of farro if I require a gluten-free option?

Your gluten-free selection for replacing farro includes rice, particularly brown rice due to its chewy texture and nutty flavor. Quinoa is another suitable gluten-free alternative offering high protein content and a light, nutty taste.

Can barley be effectively used as an alternative to farro in recipes?

Yes, barley can be used as a substitute for farro because it provides a similar chewy texture and nutty flavor. However, it’s important to note that barley contains gluten, so it is not suitable for a gluten-free diet.

What are the best farro substitutes to maintain a similar texture in dishes?

For a comparable texture to farro, consider using wheat berries, barley, or spelt berries. These grains offer a chewy bite that is similar to farro, making them good replacements in recipes where texture is key.

In what way is freekeh comparable to farro when used as a substitute?

Freekeh, like farro, has a smoky flavor and a firm, chewy texture. It makes an excellent substitute in recipes calling for farro, adding both robust flavor and a satisfying mouthfeel.

How does bulgur compare to farro in terms of flavor and use as a replacement?

Bulgur has a milder flavor than farro but can still be used as a substitute. It tends to cook quicker and can provide a somewhat similar texture, proving convenient and versatile in various dishes.

Is it possible to use rice as a substitute in dishes that typically call for farro?

Yes, rice can be used, particularly brown rice for its chewy consistency and fuller flavor profile. It’s easily accessible, gluten-free, and works well in most dishes where farro is called for.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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