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What is Millet? And How Do You Cook It?

If you ever hold uncooked millet in the palm of your hand, it may remind you of something that you’ve seen feeding birds and the occasional greedy squirrel in your backyard. That’s right—uncooked millet with its outer shell still in tact is often used as birdseed in the United States. Fear not, this ancient grain has been eaten for thousands of years, originally by peoples in Africa, the Middle East, and China. Millet has reentered the food scene in Western cuisine because it is gluten-free and has high levels of vitamins and nutrients, including magnesium, fiber, and iron. There are a few types of millet, but yellow proso is the type most commonly found in supermarkets. When you find it in a store, the outer hull will have already been removed, making it easy for human consumption. Millet has a subtle, nutty flavor and can be cooked and served similar to quinoa, farro, and brown rice or ground into a flour for baking. With these below tips, it may become your new favorite grain.

  1. Rinse uncooked millet until water runs clear. Rinsing millet, or other grains, removes surface starch and reduces stickiness when cooked.
  2. Optional: To enhance the nutty quality of millet, toast grains before cooking in a hot, dry skillet for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Bring 2.5 cups water or broth to boil with 1 cup millet. Regardless of liquid or amount, the ratio of millet to liquid should always be 1 to 2.5.
  4. Once the liquid is boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until millet is fluffy and tender.
  5. For softer millet, increase liquid ratio to 1 to 3.5 and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. The consistency will be closer to polenta or mashed potatoes than quinoa.
  6. Fluff with a fork and serve!