You’re Probably Ignoring This Incredibly Nutritious Grain — Here’s Why That’s a Mistake

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
|
July 1, 2022
sorghum growing in a field

You may not have heard of sorghum, but chances are you’ve eaten it: this ancient grain is often processed into a syrup and used to sweeten foods. It’s also used in beer production, and it’s a common ingredient in animal feed. It’s the fifth most produced cereal crop on the planet, but most of us have never eaten a bowl of it like we regularly do with rice, oats, or quinoa.

What is sorghum?

A delicious, nutritious grain, sorghum is an excellent choice if you’re looking to craft your eating habits into those that are more sustainable for the world. While it comes in an assortment of colors and varieties, the most common is beige. Whether you use it as a flour, eat products made with it, cook it up as a base for proteins and vegetables, or pop it like popcorn, sorghum is a wise addition to your diet.

This grain offers 3g of protein and 2g of fiber per ounce, and it’s a beneficial source of vitamin B, magnesium, copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc, too. Its protein content is higher than quinoa, which is lauded as particularly high for a grain, but only contains 1.3g per ounce. Sorghum also contains more than double the fiber content of quinoa, and even greater amounts of the amino acids quinoa is notorious for. 

It’s naturally gluten-free

Sorghum can be made into flour, but it doesn’t contain any gluten. This makes it a great choice for anyone looking for nutritious, gluten-free flours to work with. Because the flour is made just by grinding up the grain, it has similar amounts of the valuable nutrients that whole sorghum does. Because it doesn’t have gluten, it can’t offer binding power, but it can be used the same way you’d use brown rice flour or chickpea flour to add structure and nutrition to baked goods. If you have a sensitivity to gluten, always check packaging to ensure ingredients weren’t processed in a facility that also processes foods containing gluten.

What does sorghum taste like? 

Sorghum can be described as similar to whole wheat or brown rice in taste. It isn’t as mild as white rice, and it has some earthiness to it. Its texture is a bit chewier than brown rice, even when it’s well cooked, and is similar to wheat berries. If you enjoy hearty grains like brown rice, chances are you will like the taste and texture of sorghum. 

Read next: 9 Ancient Grain Bowl Recipes That Taste Great Hot or Cold

This grain does not need to be soaked before cooking, but many people find that they prefer the texture of it better that way. Soaking sorghum overnight will not only speed up the cooking process, it will soften the grain significantly. If cooked after soaking, the sorghum will be similar to the texture of well cooked brown rice. 

Why sorghum is so sustainable

In a global climate where we’re constantly concerned about, well… the climate, knowing how our food is grown and manufactured is key to making smarter choices. Sorghum is a highly sustainable ingredient because it is both heat and drought resistant. It takes about thirty percent less water to grow sorghum than is required for other grains, and ninety-one percent of sorghum grown is watered purely by rain. Beyond those great statistics, sorghum also removes carbon from the air, helps regenerate soil, and is grown in the United States. That means that unlike global grains such as quinoa, which has a high carbon footprint from being shipped to the U.S. from South America, sorghum is grown right here at home and doesn’t require international transport, so it uses less fuel to transport. 

sorghum

Image credit: Shutterstock

There many ways to enjoy sorghum

Whether you’re someone who enjoys cooking or not, there is no shortage of ways for you to add more sorghum into your diet. These are some of our favorites:

Whole grain

Eating sorghum as a grain couldn’t be easier. It’s sold by popular manufacturer’s like Bob’s Red Mill, and cooks in boiling water or stock just like rice does. You can use it as a base for a grain bowl, or alongside your favorite protein or vegetable dishes. Beyond eating it plain, you can cook sorghum whole and use it in recipes like this coconut breakfast pudding.

Flakes

If you’re a fan of hot cereal like oatmeal, sorghum is a great addition or swap to our usual hot breakfast. You can also use it to make granola bars, treating it similarly to how you’d use rolled oats, or toast it into granola along with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

Flour

Sorghum flour can be used in place of other non-binding gluten-free flours in baking. Consider making chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, carrot cake doughnuts, or even focaccia with it. If creating your own recipes with sorghum flour, you’ll want to add binding ingredients, be that eggs or other flours with starches, to ensure that your baked goods hold together nicely. 

Snacks

Sorghum has a cute little secret: it can be popped into adorable little kernels that are like itsy bitsy popcorn kernels. The taste is quite similar to popcorn, and you can make it yourself with a popcorn maker. 

If you like popcorn but prefer it to have flavored, Pop I.Q. has a line of popped sorghum snacks. They’re available in classic popcorn flavors like cheddar, sea salt and pepper, and sweet-salty kettle. Nature Nate’s makes popped sorghum in more modern flavors such as rosemary and garlic. 

For fans of chips (especially fans who’d rather not eat fried goods) Pop Bitties line of popped chips is magic in a bag. They have both sweet and savory flavors: think maple and sea salt, vegan sour cream and onion, and hickory barbecue. We find them as tasty as chips could be, and the only trouble with them is how challenging it is to not eat an entire bag in one sitting!

Any one with portion control challenges knows that small packages take the responsibility on your behalf. For fans of single serving snacks, Poplettes sells popped sorghum in flavors like cocoa cinnamon and “Mediterranean Magic.” Chasin’ Dreams Farm also makes individual packages of popped sorghum, in simpler flavors like cocoa. 

Syrup

While sugar is best avoided in general, if you do choose to sweeten your foods with a caloric sweetener, sorghum syrup is a slightly more healthful choice. That’s because the syrup contains all the same vitamins and minerals as the whole grain does. It’s similar to molasses and maple syrup, both of which are often considered slightly better choices than cane or beet sugar. Because it’s highly concentrated in sweetness, you may be able to use less sorghum syrup than you would other liquid sweeteners. 

Quick recap

Sorghum is a nutritious grain, full of protein, fiber, and assorted vitamins and minerals. It’s also highly sustainable, requiring much less water than other crops. You can buy sorghum whole and use it like rice, ground into flour for baked goods, or popped into a snack similar to popcorn. It’s inexpensive and grown right in the United States, but most of us aren’t familiar with it. When you’re thinking about how to get more healthy and planet-friendly ingredients in your diet, consider adding sorghum to your grocery list. 

Read next: Everything You’ve Wanted to Know About Ancient Grains

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