Grain Spotlight…Millet!

ImagePhoto credit: Michael Newman

If you’re from the United States, there’s a good chance you may not know what millet is–or if you do, maybe it’s because you’re familiar with its use as birdseed. However, even though it may be underrated in the US, millet is a nutritious cereal grain that actually serves as a staple in many other cultures around the world, and is gaining traction in health food stores and even some conventional grocery stores here.

There are many different types of millet that grow throughout Asia and Africa, with India and Nigeria serving as the biggest producers in the world. The crop does well in dry, hot regions, even in infertile soil, making it valuable in areas where other crops may be suffering from drought. Millet grains have even been found in Asian archaeological sites, with some dating back to 8300 BC!

The most common type of millet today is pearl millet, and many people with gluten sensitivities enjoy it as another gluten-free, alternative grain. The cooked texture is fluffy like rice with a similar flavor that adapts well to any other ingredients it may be cooked with. One cup of the cooked grains provides 23% of the daily value for manganese, 19% for magnesium, 17% for phosphorus, 2.3 grams of fiber, and 6.1 grams of protein!

Millet porridge is a common way to enjoy the grain, made by boiling one part millet grain to about three parts water, then letting the mixture simmer for about 25 minutes. Honey, vanilla, cinnamon, or fruit can then be added as well. To make a millet cereal for babies, use ground millet powder: mix 1/4 cup of ground millet with 1-2 cups of water and whisk thoroughly while heating to avoid clumps. For more flavor, add puréed fruits or veggies!

For older toddlers and the rest of the family, try this recipe for Slow Cooker Millet Cereal!

Ingredients (about 8 servings):

1 cup millet
1 quart water
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium apple, peeled and diced (or 1 cup applesauce)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients into the slow cooker/crock pot and stir. Cover, set the slow cooker on low heat, and cook overnight or for 8-9 hours.

Have you ever tried millet before? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Written by: Lauren Mesaros

Recipe adapted from Mosher Products
Wholesome Baby Food
Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
Progress with Proso, Pearl and Other Millets
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of Americ