Millet, or Why You Should Be Eating Birdseed

July  1, 2013

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. 

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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 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Milly
  • Potato
  • tamrhendy
  • Kelly Turnbull
    Kelly Turnbull
  • aimeebama
Shauna writes about food. Danny cooks it. We grow excited every Saturday morning to go to the farmers' market. This time of year, a Billy Allstot tomato is enough to make us look like goons at the stand, jumping up and down with excitement. We will eat one slice with sea salt, standing over the sink. Another goes to our baby daughter. The rest might go into the smoker to make smoked tomato salsa, or thrown together with watermelon and good olive oil for a watermelon gazpacho, or stacked with smoked salmon and drizzled with horseradish sour cream. Every day is new. I have no idea what we're having for dinner tonight. But I'm sure interested to find out.


Milly October 12, 2019
Do you know a good variety of red millet which is edible and can be grown in the UK?

Potato April 28, 2018
Also, where can I get millet besides from bird feed, I'm tired of picking it out of bird feed.
Potato April 28, 2018
I eat millet alone, I don't know why but I love it, it tastes so fresh.
tamrhendy May 19, 2017
Millet has so many benefits for health and diet.
Kelly T. July 9, 2013
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!
aimeebama July 2, 2013
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.
savorthis July 1, 2013
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.
JanetFL July 1, 2013
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!
susan G. July 1, 2013
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.)
Marian B. July 1, 2013
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!