Whole Foods: How to Cook Millet (A Good Sub for Couscous)

This is part of a series on Core Ingredients (how to cook them). Find more in this post: Cooking/using Amaranth, Beans, Buckwheat, and Cacao Nibs.

Wondering how to use millet? It’s a wonderfully crunchy little grain, when added to breads and cookies (Oatmeal Millet Cookie recipe here); for a softer version, it can also be cooked like brown rice. It’s a lot like couscous that way, only whole-grain and full of extra minerals and nutrition.

Measuring cup of oats, millet, walnuts, sunflower seedsI like to soak millet for a day, then rinse and let sit in a strainer in the cupboard for one more day. This process helps remove phytates, and makes the millet more digestible. Even if you plan to boil it or add it to baked goods, this pre-treatment is a helpful step.

Soaking might seem like it’ll take too much thought, time, and/or effort. And it can be inconvenient! But I started soaking a full 2 cups’ worth, which is a lot for just my husband and me. But then, after the one or two day soaking process, I have a few options for storing it.

  • #1) Package up portions for the freezer. Strong little zip-lock bags work for this, but it lumps together some due to the remaining moisture. (Thawing resolves this though!)
  • #2) Spread soaked grains on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Let dry in a warm oven (preheated to about 140 degrees works). Stir grains occasionally; leave in all day to let them slowly dry, heating oven again if necessary. This dehydrated millet won’t stick to itself, so you can freeze a big jar of it. But I’ve found I can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, since it keeps better in a dried state.
  • #3) Dry in a dehydrator and store in a jar in the fridge.

My husband and I eat sourdough breads (or breakfast bars) made with millet; it can also be made into a porridge. For those short on time in the morning, some boiling water can be added to the soaked millet the night before. Then in the morning, it should take just a few minutes more for it to finish cooking. It does make a super-healthy, non-extruded “cereal”. (See Sally Fallon’s article on extruded cereals, here, if you want to be inspired to replace your cereal with whole grains…)

For a nice change of pace, millet can be substituted for rice or pasta as a side dish. It will take about as long as brown rice- 45 minutes of simmering once it’s come to a boil. But it’s worth the wait! It can be a vehicle for flavored oils (even butter), or extra herbs or garlic. It can be topped with toasted nuts too; hazelnuts were a recent favorite in my book.

You might want to brown the millet in a dry pan first, to bring out the flavor. Or you can just add boiling water. Use double the water; a 2-to-1 ratio of water to millet (like with brown rice). Cook until the millet has kind of expanded into a light, fluffy grain. It is a bit like cous cous, but more nutritious. For folks looking for gluten-free, millet is perfect! Oh, plus, it’s delicious.

PS I shared this on the blog, “Delicious Obsessions”, on the “Traditional Tuesdays” post. (Featuring real food, no weird refined stuff…)

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