The Good Life, Gluten-Free

Millet, or Why You Should Be Eating Birdseed

By • July 1, 2013 • 6 Comments

Every week, Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef -- and Gluten-Free Girl Everyday -- will be sharing smart tips and smarter recipes that will please even the most devout gluten-eaters among us. Come one, come all -- we're going flourless. 

Today: You may think you have never eaten or seen millet -- but you have. Here's why you should start working it into your meals. 

Look closely at that photo. Does it look familiar? It should, because millet fills most birdseed mixes. That's right: if you're gluten-free (or even if you're not), I'm encouraging you to eat birdseed. 

But really, it's not so bad. Millet is one of the most delicious whole grains you have the opportunity to eat. Because most people haven't eaten it -- and associate it with food for the birds -- millet is one of the least expensive whole grains available at the market. And it has been grown for nearly 10,000 years, in ancient China and other Asian countries.

That's the funny thing about the gluten-free grains now starting to appear in American homes: they seem unfamiliar, strange, a little daunting. But those same gluten-free grains, like sorghum, teff, amaranth, and quinoa, have been the staple crops of people around the world for thousands of years.

If you think millet sounds boring, think of what you can do with it: make it into a creamy, sweet porridge with butter and muscovado sugar. Add cheese and chives for a savory take. Make fritters from cooked millet, and top with mushrooms and Parmesan. Try millet waffles with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, and capers. (Actually, that one is in our new cookbook.) 

More: A cheesy millet porridge the whole family will enjoy.

Millet has this wonderful chameleon quality: it takes on the flavors of everything around it. You can pair it with onions, eggs, and cheese for a deeply savory dish or surround it with cinnamon, sugar, and soy milk for a sweet end to the evening. You decide.

Millet flour is one of my favorite whole grain flours for gluten-free baking. It's one of the three flours in our all-purpose flour mix. It lends protein, a slightly nutty taste, and a good crumb to quick breads and savory breads alike. It's pretty essential in our kitchen. 

So the next time someone asks me if I eat birdseed if I'm gluten-free, I'll proudly say yes! Indeed, I do eat millet. And I love it.

Top photo by Shauna Ahern, bottom photo by James Ransom 

Jump to Comments (6)

Tags: the good life gluten-free, gluten-free, gluten free, millet, grains, special diets

Comments (6)

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about 1 year ago Kelly Turnbull

I love your gluten-free postings here. (I've been a follower of your blog as well.) Millet is wonderful. In the past couple years I've just started using many of those gluten-free ancient grains and grinding them into flours. Thank you for your love of different gluten -free flours!

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about 1 year ago aimeebama

We put a mix of millet, oats and rice (1 : 2.5 H2O) in the slow-cooker overnight on low with water, salt, butter and cinammon for porridge in the morning. Top with fruit and a drizzle of cream.

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about 1 year ago savorthis

I'm glad to see this! As I understand it, colorado is the top producer for millet in the states and I've tried it a few times, but have yet to develop a real excitement for it.

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about 1 year ago JanetFL

That is what I hear, savorthis. I, too, am trying to find the excitement. If there is a way that you can contact me privately, I would love to send you a loaf of "birdseed bread" from a baker in Crested Butte. It has made me a believer in millet!

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about 1 year ago susan g

I cooked with millet in the 70's, then went into a long hiatus. More enlightenment appreciated! (And it's common in Africa too, I believe.)

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about 1 year ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Confession: I want to like millet, but every time I make it, it tastes chalky -- I can't get over the texture. Am I just not using enough liquid? Not cooking long enough? Help!