Millet: What is it and How to Use it

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Millet: What is it and How to Use it

Each month we feature one of our whole grains on our website. We like to share and feature the health benefits, cooking tips and recipes. For November, it’s millet!

Millet is a cheap and hearty grain that has been used in cooking for thousands of years. It isn’t just one grain; it has been given to a group of several different small-seed grains from several different grains. There are four different millets that are most common and are cultivated worldwide. They are:

  • Pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum]
  • Foxtail millet [Setaria italica]
  • Proso millet – also called hog, common, or broomcorn millet [Panicum miliaceum]
  • Finger millet – also called ragi in India [Eleusine coracana]
  • Fonio [Digitaria exilis]

Believe it or not, before rice was widely consumed in Asia, millet was one of the staple grains in this region. Millet has a strong legacy in the Chinese language, where the sign for ‘millet’ and ‘mouth’ together make the word ‘harmony’ and contribute to the word for ‘peace.’ Evidence indicates that millets were in the Black Sea area by 5000 B.C.

Millet today represents the sixth most important grain. India is the world’s largest producer of millet, while eight African countries and China make up the top ten producers.

Health Benefits of Millet

Millet is a gluten-free grain that carries a high antioxidant level and is very high in magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that helps the body maintain normal muscle and nerve function.

Click here to learn about recent studies that highlight the health of millet.

Cooking with Millet

Millet grains can usually be identified by it’s small, round size and yellowish color. The grains have a mild flavor and pairs very well with other foods. Most food recipes prescribe cooking millet with about 2 1/2 cups of liquid for each cup of millet grain.

Millet is very versatile and can be made into pilafs or breakfast cereals, or just added to bread, soups or stews. Generally, you can substitute up to about 30% millet flour into your favorite baking recipes.

  • Creamy Millet: Grind 1 cup of millet in a spice grinder. In a medium pot on high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil, then gradually whisk in the millet. Cover; lower the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for 15 – 20 minutes or until the grits are tender. This makes a great porridge or a polenta.
  • Sticky Millet: In a medium pot over high heat, bring 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil with 1 cup of millet. Simmer for 18 minutes and then let stand for 10 minutes. This sticky millet then can be molded into croquettes or patties.
  • Fluffy Millet: Toast 1 cup of millet for about 6 minutes in a dry pan over a medium-low heat. Then add the millet to 2 1/4 cups of boiling water, simmer for 18 minutes, then let stand for 10. 

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