If you find yourself in need of a farro substitute, there are many options to choose from. This guide will help you learn about how-to-farro gluten-free substitute options and determine the best farro substitutes for your recipe.
What is farro?
Farro, also known as emmer, is a whole-grain wheat product considered an ancient grain. It's a wheat type commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Its nutty flavor and chewy texture make it popular in recipes like Sausage Farro Soup and cold salads like my Apple and Walnut salad.
Farro can be sold as pearled, semi-pearled farro, and regular. Semi-pearled is an excellent option because it retains more nutrients than pearled farro but has a faster cooking time.
What is farro used for?
- Salads: Farro makes an excellent base for salads, providing a chewy texture and nutty flavor. It can be combined with various veggies and proteins to create a meal.
- Soups: Farro can be added to soups and stews to add a hearty element. It can be used in place of rice, barley, or other grains.
- Grain bowls: They can be used as a base for bowls, such as my Salmon Grain Bowl, then topped with roasted vegetables and flavorful homemade dressings.
Considerations when choosing a farro substitute
If you're looking to substitute farro in a recipe, there are a few things to keep in mind, such as the flavor and texture of your recipe.
Farro has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor, so you'll want a replacement with a similar taste profile. Also, consider the texture and cooking time when using a farro substitute in soups, salads, or grain bowls, as this may affect the final dish.
If you're searching for a farro replacement because of dietary restrictions that prevent you from consuming wheat or gluten, be sure to choose a gluten-free grain such as rice or quinoa.
What's the best farro substitute?
The best farro substitute will depend on your recipe's flavor profile, the recipe type, and the cooking time. Some replacements may take longer to cook, which are better for stews or for recipes that call for separately added grains. For others, you may need to seek a pearled variety to match the cooking time better. If you need a gluten-free option, oat groats, and brown rice may be your best options.
Best Farro Substitutes
First up, Barley is a versatile grain that can be used as a substitute for farro in many recipes. Barley is a cereal grain belonging to the grass family and is closely related to other crops like wheat, oats, and rye. It is an excellent alternative to farro because of its flavor and texture, which complements soups and stews.
How to use it:
Barley can be used in various dishes, including cold salads and risotto-style dishes. Like farro, barley can be pearled, which helps shorten cooking time. Whole barley that has been soaked overnight will cook similarly to pearled barley. Whole barley that has not been soaked takes around 45 minutes to cook thoroughly.
What's the barley-to-water ratio?
The ratio of barley to water is 1:3, meaning 1 cup of barley to 3 cups of water. You can also use broth for more flavor. I love cooking grains in the Instant Pot because it makes the process go quickly, and you don't need to soak it.
2. Oat groats
Oat groats are the unrefined, whole-grain form of oats, with their husk removed to reveal the kernel. "Groat" describes this minimally processed state that preserves the grain. Typically, oat groats are prepared by soaking and simmering over low heat, making them an ideal ingredient for hearty stews.
How to use it:
Oat groats have a mild flavor, making them an excellent gluten-free substitute for farro. However, it's important to note that oat groats are distinctly different from quick or rolled oats and cannot be used in a recipe as a replacement for farro.
What's the oat groat to water ratio?
The oat groat to water ratio is 1:4; 1 part oat groats to 4 cups water is standard. Soaking the oat groats overnight can begin the softening process and reduce cooking time, typically around 30-40 minutes.
You can cook oat groats in the Instant Pot to save even more time.
3. Buckwheat Groats
Buckwheat belongs to the pseudocereal family, which includes grains that are technically seeds grains. It can be milled into flour, transformed into noodles, or enjoyed as whole groats. Plus, it's a fantastic gluten-free alternative to farro.
The unique chewy texture of buckwheat is reminiscent of farro, and its delightful nutty taste adds a grounded, earthy dimension to your favorite recipes.
How to use it:
Substitute buckwheat groats for farro in soups and side dishes. Its flavor is similar to farro, and it cooks slightly faster, saving you even more time. Buckwheat groats work better in quick cooking recipes. For example, soup recipes may work better than stew recipes that must simmer for a long time.
What's the buckwheat groats to water ratio?
The ratio to cook buckwheat is 1:2, or 1 cup of buckwheat, to 2 cups of water. As a result, buckwheat requires less cooking time than some other grains, only needing a 10-15 minute boil. For better digestion, you can soak buckwheat overnight or even sprout them.
4. Spelt Berries
Despite their name, spelt berries aren't berries; they are grains. Spelt berries can be incorporated into meals to add chewiness and hearty flavor.
The most significant differences between spelt berries and farro are the texture, gluten content, and cook time. They generally have a more "al dente" bite than farro. So while farro can be used in cold salad dishes, spelt berries are better suited for heartier meals with a lot of texture that require more cooking.
How to use it:
Spelt berries can be used to replace farro and will give your dishes the same nutty flavor. It can also be made into spelt flour and used as a farro flour replacement. Spelt berries are an alternative to farro that works best in recipes such as soup or stews, where its firm texture can be most appreciated.
What's the spelt berries to water ratio?
The spelt berries to water ratio is 1:3, or 1 cup of spelt berries to 3 cups of water or broth. Pearled spelt may take 20-30 minutes, whereas whole spelt may take nearly an hour of simmering to soften.
Bulgur is a wheat grain. During processing, bulgur wheat berries are parboiled and dried before packaging. While it's known for dishes like Tabbouleh, bulgur can also be seasoned, used as a ground meat alternative, and used in various dishes. Its chewy texture and quick cooking time make it an excellent choice to bulk up soup and stews.
How to use it:
There are multiple types of bulgur wheat grains; Fine, medium, coarse, and extra coarse. The finer varieties are suitable for cold dishes and porridge, while the coarse varieties are best used in soups and stews. To replace farro, considered a medium-sized grain, you'll want to choose a similar size bulgur.
What's the bulgur-to-water ratio?
The bulgur wheat to water ratio is 1:1. 1 cup of water to 1 cup of bulgur. The cooking time depends on how coarse the bulgur is; 7-30 minutes for the most coarse is typical. For farro, substitute bulgur but be mindful of cook times.
6. Brown rice
Brown rice is a popular whole grain that can easily replace farro. Its soft and mild taste makes it an excellent substitute for farro in soup, salads, and bowls. Of course, you could technically use white rice also, but brown rice has a flavor more similar to farro.
How to use it:
Brown rice takes around 45 minutes to cook, which is more closely timed with the upper end of semi-pearled farro or whole farro. Therefore, if you need to replace pearled farro with brown rice in a recipe, it may be better to par-cook the rice beforehand.
What's the brown rice to water ratio?
Typically, rice has a 1:2 water ratio, which means 1 cup of brown rice for 2 cups of water. However, you'll find that depending on how tender you like your rice, you may have slightly different preferences and prefer 1 cup of rice to 1 ¼-1 ½ cups of water.