Farro is a type of wheat grain that's still hard to come across at the grocery store. However, there are many available farro substitutes you can use.
Whether it's your first time using farro, you run out of it, you find it too expensive, or you're simply looking for a gluten free farro substitute, this list I prepared has what you need.
Let's look into what each of my highly recommended farro substitutes offers and learn more about farro.
What Is Farro?
You're probably curious about farro grain if you still haven't heard about it and just happen to see it in the list of ingredients in a recipe you want to try. Or maybe, you've been using it for a while but only know a thing or two about it.
As a home cook, having a good knowledge of the ingredients you use will help you whip up dishes that are not just delicious but also have a good balance of flavor.
Hence, before we proceed with discussing the best substitutes for farro, let's have a quick look at what exactly farro is.
Farro is an ancient grain commonly used in Mediterranean and Tuscan dishes but is already gaining popularity in other countries because of its nutritional value. It's rich in essential amino acids, dietary fiber, and more.
This grain is available in three varieties, and you can choose from whole grain farro, semi pearled farro, and pearl farro. The whole grain version is the most nutritious but takes the longest to cook and requires soaking before cooking.
Flavor and Texture
This nutritious grain has an earthy, nutty flavor with hints of cashew and cinnamon undertones, giving it a slightly sweet flavor. It's also known for its chewy texture.
Compared to most grains, farro will retain its firmness and shape once cooked. This is one of the reasons why one cup of uncooked farro grain will yield one cup of cooked farro.
Farro's flavor profile and texture make it a versatile grain. It can be served as “rice” or a side dish, added to soups, pilafs, and stews, and tossed in fruit, vegetable, or fruit-vegetable salads. You can also make delicious desserts and porridge with farro.
11 Best Farro Substitutes
Now the fun part: introducing to you the substitutes for farro that I have already tried and tested a few times in my recipes.
1. Whole Grain Barley
Barley is one of the best substitutes for farro that you can easily find in your grocery stores if you're cooking for individuals with no gluten restrictions.
It's an ancient grain rich in dietary fiber and protein with a similar texture and shape to farro. It also has a nutty flavor with a slightly sweet taste that will remind you of farro.
However, this delicious and nutritious grain becomes fluffy when cooked. In fact, one cup of barley produces around 1.5 cups of cooked barley. Cooking time is also longer than farro's.
Another thing to keep in mind is that barley grains release a good amount of starch while being cooked. This starch will thicken your soup or stews, most likely thicker than how you want them to be.
My solution to this? I cook the barley separately instead of adding it to the dish being cooked. Then, I just add the cooked barley a few minutes before the required cooking time ends.
Don't forget that, like farro, you must also soak barley in water for a few hours before cooking. Measurement-wise, simply follow a 1:1 ratio when you replace farro with barley.
Best for just about anything.
2. Wheat Berries
Another one of the best farro substitutes with high protein and dietary fiber content is wheat berries. This edible part of the wheat plant also has a mild nutty flavor but is less chewy than farro. Likewise, wheat berries are stickier once cooked.
Still, you don't have to adjust the measurements when replacing farro with wheat berries. Remember that, like barley, one cup of raw wheat berries will produce 1.5 cups of the cooked wheat berry.
That said, there are better options than the wheat berry if you're or someone you're serving is on a gluten free diet. You also won't want to use wheat berries if you don't have enough time to spare in the kitchen because they take longer to cook than farro.
You will need to soften them for one hour or more. To do so, place the wheat berries in a pot, cover them with water, and put them to a boil at medium heat. Once boiling, you need to adjust the heat to low and allow the wheat berries to simmer until they're soft.
Best for just about anything.
Quinoa is an easily accessible ingredient because it has become one of the most popular white rice replacements for people trying to lose weight, maintain weight, and build muscles. Not only is it low in calories and free from gluten, but it's high in fiber and protein.
This gluten free farro substitute has a mild nutty taste and more of a fluffy texture than a chewy one when cooked. It requires a shorter cooking time than farro, barley, and wheat berries.
However, there are three important reminders I would like to emphasize when cooking your quinoa.
One is to make sure you rinse your quinoa before cooking. Another is to use the right amount of water if you don't want to have mushy quinoa.
Lastly, avoid overcooking your quinoa unless you want it to have a gummy texture. You'll know your quinoa is cooked once you start seeing the quinoa's hull separating from the inside germ.
To substitute farro with quinoa, simply follow a 1:1 ratio. You may also add a few spices and herbs, such as cumin and cinnamon, if you want to add more flavor to your quinoa. This step, of course, will depend on your recipe.
What I love most about quinoa is that a little goes a long way, allowing you to save money. Expect that one cup of raw quinoa will produce three cups of cooked quinoa.
Best for just about anything.
4. Oat Groats
Before we start talking about oat groats as an alternative to farro, I would like to point out that they aren't the same as rolled oats since oat groats are unprocessed hull-free oat kernels.
With that out of the way, oat groats are another nutritious, gluten free substitute for farro that won't disappoint. They have a similar texture to farro and a nutty flavor with hints of sweetness.
Like farro, you need to soak the oat groats in water overnight before cooking. Cooking time will take more than one hour.
Substitution-wise, use the same amount of the groats as what your recipe calls for farro. However, make sure you don't cook a lot of oat groats since one cup of uncooked groats produces four cups of cooked oat groats.
Best for soups and porridges.
5. Spelt Berries
Spelt berries are wheat kernels that have been used for centuries but are starting to become a popular option for health-conscious individuals. While it isn't a farro gluten free substitute, it's rich in antioxidants, protein, and dietary fiber.
It has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor that almost resembles farro. Texture-wise, they're a bit harder than farro, but once cooked properly, they have a farro-like chewy texture.
Ideally, you must allow them to boil and then simmer in low heat for about an hour. I find that the best indication that spelt berries are cooked is when a third of them already popped while the remainder is tender.
To replace farro with spelt berries in your recipe, simply follow a 1:1 ratio. Just keep in mind that one cup of raw spelt berries will yield 2.5 cups of cooked spelt berries.
Best for breakfast bowls, salads, stews, and soups.
6. Bulgur Wheat
If your reason for needing a substitute for farro is you don't have enough time to spare for cooking, bulgur wheat is your best option! These dried, cracked wheat grains have been pre-cooked, so you only need to boil them for a few minutes until they soften.
In fact, I don't even cook it when I'm rushing. What I do is soak the grains in hot water for a few minutes or until they're well-rehydrated.
With a similar nutty flavor and chewy texture, add the same amount of bulgur wheat to your dish as what your recipe requires for farro. In terms of how much raw grains to cook, you must remember that one cup will yield three cups of cooked bulgur wheat.
I also love that bulgur has a popcorn-like aroma that will surely make most mouths water once you serve your dish.
That said, there are two things to consider before choosing bulgur grains. One is that they aren't gluten free. Another is they're high in calories. However, these grains are rich in omega-3, protein, and fiber.
Best for bread, salads, and stews.
7. Buckwheat Groats
Also known as kasha, these groats are your best option if you're looking for an easy-to-cook farro gluten free substitute. You only need to simmer them until they're soft, which usually takes around eight to 10 minutes.
The reason for this short cooking time is they tend to absorb liquid quickly. Thus, you will end up with too soft or even mushy groats.
When cooked right, buckwheat groats will have a chewy texture that's almost similar to farro. I also love that they have a strong nutty flavor, making it easier to incorporate in most recipes requiring farro.
But what I love most about buckwheat groats is you can also simply roast them for a few seconds and use them as toppings.
Nutrition-wise, buckwheat groats are high in antioxidants, protein, and dietary fiber.
To substitute farro with buckwheat groats, use the same amount as what the recipe calls for farro. For the amount of buckwheat groats to cook, one cup of raw groats will yield up to three cups of cooked groats.
Best used as a side dish and topping.
8. Rye Berries
Are you serving someone who has diabetes? Then substitute one cup of farro with one cup of rye berries. They have a low glycemic index and less gluten than farro. Not only that, but rye berries are also rich in magnesium and dietary fiber.
Rye berries have an earthy, nutty flavor and a good amount of sweetness that won't throw off the balance of your dish and a firm texture. They have a gray color that might not appeal to some of you, but every ingredient will look great with the right plating techniques.
However, I must warn you that finding rye berries in your local grocery store isn't easy. It's why I try to stock up on it to ensure I have something to use when needed.
To ensure you don't waste this precious grain, remember that a cup of raw rye berries will yield around three cups of cooked rye berries.
Like most of the best substitutes for farro I included in my list, rye berries require longer cooking time. You need to boil them at high heat and then simmer for an hour.
If you have enough time and prefer a low-heat setting, allow the rye berries to simmer for five to six hours. Otherwise, you can use your slow cooker and let them cook for two to three hours.
Best for bread, pilafs, salads, risottos, stews, and soups.
9. Winter Wheat Berries
Aptly named, winter wheat berries are a type of grain that can withstand cold temperatures, so they get harvested during the spring or fall. They're more easily accessible than farro but have a tougher texture.
As such, you need to soak winter wheat in water for about 12 hours. Once done, drain the water and boil the grain for one or two hours.
Cooked winter wheat should have a chewy texture. Flavor-wise, the grain has the same flavor profile as farro.
When you replace farro with winter wheat, simply follow a 1:1 ratio. In terms of how much cooked winter wheat is produced from one cup of the raw grain, it's approximately 2.5 cups.
Best for just about anything.
10. Triticale Berries
A hybrid grain made from wheat and rye grain, triticale berries have the same nutty flavor as farro. They're also rich in antioxidants, fiber, and protein and can help those who want to lose weight.
Triticale berries also have a similar texture to farro when cooked properly. You must soak them in water for 12 hours, drain the water, put them in a pot and fill it with water, and boil them for one to 1.5 hours. Once cooked, replace farro with the same amount of triticale berries.
Like most of the other grains in this list, a cup of uncooked triticale berries will produce around three cups once cooked. Thus, make sure you keep this in mind to avoid wasting the ingredient.
Best for baked goodies and desserts.
11. Brown Rice
The most accessible and affordable gluten free substitute for farro is brown rice. However, I only advise you to use it when you have no other options.
While it also has a nutty flavor, it tastes slightly flowery and bready, which can affect the overall flavor of your dish. Likewise, brown rice has a softer texture than farro.
Nonetheless, it requires a shorter cooking time than farro, and you use the same amount of brown rice as farro. Brown rice is also cost-efficient because one cup of uncooked rice will yield around three cups once cooked.
Best for side dishes and snacks.
Let These Substitutes Save Your Day!
Now, you don't have to worry about not being able to make delicious dishes that require farro grains. You have several substitutes to consider. All the ones I listed above are healthy; some are even ideal for individuals with allergies and other health conditions.
When choosing among the options, always consider the cooking time, the specific dish you're making, and your and your guest's dietary restriction.
Best Farro Substitutes
- 1 cup whole grain barley
- 1 cup wheat berries
- 1 cup quinoa
Option 1: Whole Grain Barley
- Use the same amount of whole grain barley to replace the amount of farro the recipe requires. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of farro, use 1 cup of whole grain barley instead.
Option 2: Wheat Berries
- To use wheat berries in place of farro, use the same amount as the recipe calls for. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of farro, use 1 cup of wheat berries instead.
Option 3: Quinoa
- Use a 1:1 ratio of quinoa to farro. If the recipe asks for 1 cup of farro, use 1 cup of whole grain barley.
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