Let's Get Freekah: My Take on My New Favorite Grain and Yummy Recipe, Too!
You may have heard of it, or maybe you haven't. I only discovered it about a year ago. Prior to that, I foolishly believed that I was current with all foods healthy and delicious. Well, apparently not so much... which is fine, because I LOVE discovering new things. So if you're new to freekeh, read on... and if you're not, just scroll down to the bottom of this post for one of my favorite freekeh recipes, which can make a delicious breakfast, or be amended to be a savory side dish for your dinner entree.
What is Freekeh?
"Freekeh" [freak-ah], (sometimes called farik), means "to rub" in Arabic and is an ancient roasted grain that was discovered in the Middle East over 2.000 years ago, when a crop of young green wheat was accidentally set ablaze. Although most farmers would be very upset over such misfortune, these were industrious farmers and still decided to cook up what was left... and Voila! Freekeh came to be. Since then it has been a staple in Middle Eastern diets and for good reason. Not only is it absolutely delicious, but it just may be the most nutritious grain. Move over, quinoa! I never cared much for you in the first place.
To put it in laymen's terms, freekeh is wheat (so if you are gluten-intolerant or gluten-sensitive, unfortunately, freekeh is not for you). However, it's not your ordinary kind of wheat (certainly not the crappy "fortified" wheat you get in the ultra-processed bread you buy at the supermarket). The main difference is that freekeh is harvested while the wheat is young and green. It is then roasted over an open fire where the straw and chaff are burned and rubbed off, leaving only the grain on the inside, which is too young and moist to burn. This remaining grain is firm and slightly chewy, with a distinct flavor that is nutty, earthy, and some people describe as smoky.
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The key point is that green wheat is far more nutritious than regular wheat. According to the researchers at CSIRO (the national governmental body for scientific research in Australia), young, green wheat retains more protein, fiber and minerals than mature wheat. In fact, freekeh is a nutritional powerhouse, compared to other grains. It has more protein than every grain other than farro, three times as much fiber as brown rice, twice as much fiber as quinoa, and LOADS more calcium than any other grain... and yet is also lower in calories than all other grains. The extra fiber means that it keeps you full longer, and as anyone who has ever been on a diet knows, it is far easier to lose weight when you feel satiated than when you are starving. What's more, freekeh is low on the glycemic index (which means that your insulin doesn't surge then plummet, causing ravenous hunger and that it's good for diabetics and other people who are trying to keep their sugar steady) and it contains resistant starch, which is a type of fiber-like carbohydrate that also helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied for a longer stretch.
Freekeh comes in both whole and cracked forms. I personally prefer the cracked freekeh. I think it tastes better and is super quick to make (only 15-20 minutes on the stove top). Unfortunately, it is still a bit of a challenge to find, but it is available on Amazon (I've listed two of my favorite brands with the recipe below) and possibly in some local health food stores.
What Do You Do With Freekeh?
I would rephrase that question to: What CAN'T you do with Freekeh? It's delicious in soups, pilafs, salads, as a main dish, a side dish, for breakfast (think parfait with yogurt and fruit!), lunch, or dinner. You can substitute freekeh in any recipe that calls for rice or quinoa (and I do, since I never liked quinoa and rice really doesn't have much nutritional value... and then there is that "little" arsenic issue!). In fact, you can't go wrong with freekeh. It's so tasty that you can get as creative as you'd like. Sweet or savory, it has such an awesome nutty, chewy texture that I have completely fallen in love with it.
So without further ado, here's my favorite recipe... so far. I will be posting more as soon as I come up with them.
2 cups cracked freekeh, cooked
1 apple, chopped
1/2 cup dried organic tart cherries (you can substitute with dried organic cranberries)
1 onion, sliced (optional, if you like it more savory)
1/2 cup organic apple sauce
1/4 cup filtered water (or apple juice)
1 cup chopped nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
Ceylon Cinnamon Powder (the true, real cinnamon), to taste
1. Cook the freekeh to your liking. Bring it to a boil at a ratio of 1 cup freekeh to 2 1/2 cups water and once it boils, simmer it covered for about 15 minutes if you like it chewier, or about 30 minutes, if you like it softer and more mushy.
2. Optional: If you are going to add the onions, sauté them with a little olive oil or butter over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
3. After the onions are done, add them to your saucepan along with the apples, apple sauce and water (or juice) on low heat for about 5 minutes.
4. Add the nuts and simmer for 2 more minutes, mixing often to keep it from burning.
5. When ready, pour the mixture over the cooked freekeh and mix well.
Serving suggestion: If you're making this dish without the onions for breakfast, you can mix it with some greek yogurt for a tasty treat. Otherwise, it makes a delicious side-dish (see photo insert).