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Demystifying Ancient Grains: Millet

March 5, 2015

New Recipes for an Ancient Wheat Alternative

pearl-millet-204099_1280An ancient grain that is getting a new life is millet. It’s a gluten-free food that’s gaining popularity as many Americans seek out wheat alternatives that are easy to digest. You may recognize millet as an ingredient common in bird seed. That’s true. This tiny, inexpensive grain has been feeding birds, and people for thousands of years. So, what exactly is millet and what do you do it with? If you are looking to incorporate more healthful, low fat, vegetarian recipes into your repertoire, millet will be a great addition.

Get to Know Millet

 Millet can be used and cooked much like other similar grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, and farro. You can find millet both in seed and flour form, making it a versatile food, especially for those looking for a gluten-free baking flour alternative.


Millet is believed to predate rice and is a descendant from wild West African grass which grew in what is now the Sahara desert over 4000 years ago. It’s been cultivated and used as a food source, often as porridge or in soups, since prehistoric times. Some cultures use millet to brew alcoholic beverages such as beer or distilled liquor.

What It Is

Actually, millet is a variety of grasses widely known as a cereal crop around the world, and is important in Asia and Africa especially in India, Nigeria and Niger. India, by far, is the world’s largest producer of millet, where it is used as a food staple. It grows fast and tall and wild in Africa and across Asia where it can top fifteen feet tall.

Four Major Varieties of Millet

  • Pearl millet (Bajra, Bajri, Sajje, Kambu, Cambu ,Sajjalu)
  • Finger millet ( Ragi, Kelvaragu, Nachani)
  • Foxtail millet (Tinai, Korralu, Navane)
  • Proso millet (common millet, broom corn millet, hog millet, white millet)


Millet is basically fat free, low in calories, high in fiber, and high in nutrients – especially copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Recipe: Basic Hot Millet Cereal (courtesy: The Food Network)


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup millet
  • 2 cups boiling water

In a large sauté pan, heat oil. Add 1 cup millet and cook, stirring until the millet begins to toast and become brown. Add 2 cups boiling water, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed. Let stand for five minutes, then serve with milk, fruit of your choice, and brown sugar.

More Recipes:


Millets are used in many Indian recipes. Check out this blog to learn more.



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