With unparalleled health benefits, freekeh, an ancient Middle Eastern grain being hailed as the next trend-setting ingredient. What exactly is it and how does it taste?

It’s been around for centuries, but it’s only now that North Americans are discovering this ancient grain, popular in the Middle East.

From Quinoa to Bulger to Millet, ancient grains are currently having their culinary moment. And now,  Freekeh (pronounced freek-ah) can be added to the mix.

So why is the grain so special and a cut above the rest? Amongst all grains, freekeh is packed with nutrients, is high in fibre and, best of all, is high in protein, says Jaime Slavin, Toronto Dietitian and Nutritionist. And, even though it is wheat and contains gluten, Slavin, who recently spoke about the grain at Aroma Espresso Bar in Toronto, says it’s more digestable and those who have mild reactions to wheat or suffer from the nagging “wheat belly,” may not have the same reaction to this grain due to how it’s harvested. (Note: if you have serious Celiac’s disease, this product still contains gluten and is not for you.)














Why? Freekeh is harvested young, when it’s still green, while the grains are soft and full of moisture. It is then dried in the sun before being placed over an open fire for several minutes of roasting — during which the straw and chaff burn and the wheat obtains a gold color. The grains are then polished and cracked.

This is a high-fiber, high-protein grain that is more nutrient-rich compared to many other grains.  Because it is harvested while the durum wheat is still young, it retains all nutrients.

My first experience eating this grain was at Aroma Espresso Bar in Toronto (see below), where they’ve teamed up with with Chef Geoff Scott and Slavin to create the new Freekeh Salad, as part of their Savour Summer menu. Mixed with fresh cucumber, tomatoes, pickles and carrots and a dollup of labneh fresh cheese (which I opted out of) and freekeh, this freshly- made salad is hearty and satisfying. The cooked freekeh reminded me of the taste of brown rice and it’s a salad that I plan on getting more than once this summer.


Freekeh can also be used in place of couscous or rice, added into stir-fry and soups, basically in place of rice. To cook it, it needs to be boiled for about 45 minutes until it’s tender. It’s generally recommended to cook 2 cups of the cracked grain in about 5 cups of water and bit of olive oil and salt for flavor.

Keep an eye out for this grain to hit major stores as it becomes more popular.

Here’s the nutritional value info from Bob’s Red Mill Cracked Freekeh.













—By Toni-Marie Ippolito

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