Teff, The Gluten-Free Grain With Exceptional Nutritional Value
Image Credit: Teff grains, Britannica.com

As interest in "ancient grains" grows, teff is gaining popularity beyond the Horn of Africa. These grains are defined as unaltered by selective breeding or genetic modifications, making them even more appealing to health-conscious consumers. Different teff varieties are available, mainly distinguished by the seed colour. White or ivory teff is usually milled into flour, although whole seeds are available online. Brown and red teff seeds can be purchased individually or mixed with or without white seeds. These varieties are generally interchangeable in their usage.

What is the origin and nutritional value of teff?

Teff is a seed from the Eragrostis tef plant, also known as Williams' lovegrass or annual bunch grass. However, it is commonly used as a whole grain, similar to barley, wheatberries, and quinoa. Being a type of millet, teff is an excellent gluten-free grain choice suitable for individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Although it is pricier than other whole grains due to the challenges in harvesting the world's smallest grain, teff proponents argue that its remarkable nutritional value makes it worth the extra cost. Teff is also available in flour form, like many other grains.

Cooking Teff: Ratio and Tips 

To cook teff, you'll need to adjust the amount of liquid according to your desired texture. Use a 1:1 ratio of teff to liquid for a slightly crunchy and chewy texture. This works great as a topping for oatmeal, soup, or steamed veggies.

If you want a creamier consistency, like a breakfast porridge, increase the liquid to 1:4. For dishes like pilafs, stuffings, and casseroles that require longer cooking time, use 1 3/4 to 2 cups of water or stock for every cup of dry teff.

A bowl of raw teff grains, Image Source: Depositphotos

To cook, bring the liquid to a boil and add the teff. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer until the teff absorbs all the liquid. The cooking time can vary from 8 to 20 minutes, depending on the amount of liquid. After cooking, let it stand for 5 minutes, covered, before fluffing it with a fork. To enhance its flavor, toast it in a dry skillet before cooking. One cup of dry teff yields around three cups of cooked teff.

Teff's Taste:

Teff's taste is commonly characterized as nutty, similar to most grains. According to The Teff Company, an Idaho-based grower, the darker variety hints at the chocolate flavor and tastes like hazelnuts.

Teff has a small, seed-like appearance, similar to flax or brown poppy seeds. You can find it in most natural food stores and well-stocked grocery stores, in the whole grains section, in the baking aisle, or with other breakfast grains like oatmeal. It is less likely to be found in bulk bins than in other whole grains. You can also purchase teff online directly from producers or from grocery retailers.

Teff flour can also be found in most natural food stores, well-stocked grocery stores, or online.

Storage Recommendations:

For optimal shelf life, store dry teff in a cool, dark, dry place in an airtight container for up to a year. On the other hand, teff flour should be stored in the freezer or refrigerator, as the cold air slows down the natural oxidation process of the seed's germ oils. It is advisable to use it within a few months and discard it if it has a bad smell, which indicates rancidity.

Cooked teff can be kept in the fridge, tightly sealed, for up to five days, but it does not freeze well as the softer texture tends to become mushy when defrosted.