Great Grains: Millet, Ancient Grain Ready to be Discovered Again

Millet grains washed, draining in a colander, ready to cook

Not many of the foods we eat have as ancient and proud a history as millet, the small seeds of grasses which have been cultivated for some ten thousand years. In fact, millet predates rice as a staple food in China and is mentioned in a recipe for bread in the 4th chapter of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible, and the French, who know a thing or two about food, were eating it long before the Roman legions arrived. Even today millet is eaten from China and Japan, through India and into Africa and Europe. Russians eat it as a sweet porridge with sugar and milk, the Chinese as a savory porridge with beans or sweet potatoes. How sad that it is known in the U.S. mostly as bird food (not sad for our birds, I might add).

Traditional Chinese medicine recommends millet for problems of blood sugar and the pancreas.  Western science notes that it is 11% protein, high in B vitamins, folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, and is gluten free. Some sources believe that millet is the one grain which has an alkalizing effect on our body.

So, how to use millet? Serve it as a grain in place or rice, or potatoes. Add it to soups as you would barley. Make croquettes. Cook it soft and eat as a morning cereal. Cook up a pot and you’ll see how versatile it is. My recipe for Sweet Corn-Millet Croquettes is here. Millet cooking instructions after the jump…


Wash one cup of millet and drain thoroughly in a colander. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot.  When the oil is hot, add the millet and a little sprinkle of sea salt. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add three cups of boiling water.  Turn heat to very low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.  Uncover and fluff.  If you want drier, lighter millet, use only two and a half cups water.  If you want soft, creamy millet, add three and a half cups water. In either case, keep an eye on the millet, check about half way to make sure it has enough water and isn’t scorching on the bottom (stoves, pots and lids vary so much, it is impossible to write a recipe which is the same for every situation). Millet will firm up, like polenta, when it cools and will keep well for several days, refrigerated. I’ll post more millet recipes from time to time on this blog.

One response

  1. Gary, Your millet photograph has the shape of a heart! And from your description of its positive values, it has great heart and help for us now, as it has through the ages. Thank you for bringing millet forward for us. I do feed the birds, and they are happy and healthy. I can do the same for myself by adding millet to my pantry!

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