Join me in exploring sorghum, a grain that’s not only gluten-free and lectin-free but also wonderfully versatile and sustainable. This easy-to-cook grain boasts a satisfyingly chewy texture and a neutral, slightly nutty flavor that complements a variety of dishes.
Whether it’s turning into a cozy porridge on a chilly morning, starring in a creamy risotto, adding substance to vibrant salads, or enriching the heartiness of stews, soups, and casseroles, sorghum effortlessly adapts to your culinary needs. Embrace this eco-friendly grain in your kitchen and explore its delightful versatility.
What is Sorghum?
Origins and Cultivation
Often hailed as “the crop of the future,” sorghum’s roots trace back to ancient Africa. This drought-resistant crop thrives in arid and semi-arid regions, a testament to its resilience. Historically, sorghum has been a lifeline in many traditional diets, symbolizing sustenance and adaptability.
Types of Sorghum
A lectin-free grain like millet, sorghum (also called jowar) comes in several varieties. Each has its unique properties – waxy sorghum with its glossy texture and gelatinous texture, antioxidant-packed black sorghum, versatile white sorghum (a culinary favorite), sweet sorghum for making syrup, and forage sorghum for animal feed. From a processing perspective, you can buy whole sorghum or pearled / hulled sorghum.
Packed with 20g of protein per dry cup, sorghum is a nutritional powerhouse. High in dietary fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, it’s also abundant in polyphenols and tannins. Its digestibility adds to its appeal, making it a healthier choice than other cereals.
Gluten-Free and Lectin-Free
A boon for those with dietary restrictions, sorghum is naturally gluten-free and lectin-free. This unique combination, shared only with grains like millet, teff, and fonio, makes sorghum a go-to ingredient for those with celiac disease or avoiding inflammation caused by lectins.
In an era of environmental consciousness, sorghum stands out. It requires significantly less water and resources than other grains, making it a sustainable choice. For instance, sorghum can produce the same yield with 30% less water than comparable crops.
Though not as globally dominant as wheat or rice, sorghum is carving its niche in Western cuisine, especially among health-conscious consumers and those with specific dietary needs. Its growing popularity points towards a more diverse and sustainable global diet.
Whole Sorghum vs. Pearled / Hulled Sorghum
Sorghum is primarily available in two forms: whole and pearled (also known as hulled).
This form retains the entire grain, including the bran. It’s nutritionally richer and has a chewier texture. A useful tip for identification: whole sorghum typically appears darker in color and requires a longer cooking time.
In contrast, pearled sorghum has its outer husk (bran) partially or completely removed. This alteration allows it to cook more quickly and gives it a softer texture and milder flavor. However, this processing also means it has less fiber and fewer nutrients than its whole counterpart.
When it comes to making popped sorghum, a delightful snack akin to miniature popcorn, the type of sorghum you use is crucial. I haven’t had much success with popping pearled sorghum. Whole sorghum, however, pops beautifully due to its intact outer layer.
When heated, the moisture inside the grain turns into steam, building pressure that eventually causes the grain to burst open, creating a light, crunchy snack. This process is very similar to how traditional popcorn pops and can be cooked similarly.
Where to Buy Sorghum
If you can’t find it in grocery stores near you, here you have two online sources (for the US market):
- Whole Sorghum, ideal for popped sorghum: Bob’s Red Mill
- Pearled Sorghum, great for everyday cooking: GundryMD
Gundry MD Pearled White Sorghum Grains
Gundry MD Pearled White Sorghum Grains is a great-tasting alternative to couscous, quinoa, and pasta — without any of the lectins, added sugars, gluten, or extra calories. You can buy Gundry MD Pearled white sorghum grains here and save up to 50%.
How to Cook Sorghum
This method applies to pearled sorghum. For whole sorghum, increase the cooking time. It can take up to 20 minutes in a pressure cooker to fully cook, sometimes even more, depending on the type of sorghum. I only use whole sorghum to make popped sorghum. I prefer pearled sorghum for everyday cooking.
Besides its versatility, one of the greatest advantages of sorghum is its ability to be batch-cooked, stored, and reheated, making it great for meal prep.
Whether refrigerated or frozen, pre-cooked sorghum retains its shape and texture, making it a versatile and forgiving ingredient in various dishes. It’s important to note, however, that sorghum, even the pearled one, requires a significant cooking time.
Cooking sorghum on the stovetop takes a long time. You follow the same preparation steps as pressure cooking but simmer on low heat until the grains are fully cooked. If necessary, add more hot water during the cooking process. Typically, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
For this reason, I prefer to pressure-cook sorghum.
Pressure Cooking Sorghum
1 cup of dry sorghum will yield 3 1/4 cups of cooked sorghum (drained)
Works with an Instant Pot or another type of pressure cooker.
- Preparation: Start by thoroughly rinsing one cup of sorghum under cold water. A common question that comes up is: ‘Should I soak sorghum before cooking?’. The simple answer is no — traditional soaking isn’t necessary for sorghum. However, during the rinsing process, you will naturally immerse the grains in water for a few minutes as you wash them. Continue this process until the water runs clear. This step is sufficient to prepare the sorghum for cooking.
- Cooking: Place the washed and rinsed sorghum in a pressure cooker and add 4 cups of filtered water. Seal the cooker and set it to high pressure. Cook the sorghum for 12 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally before opening the lid. This method significantly reduces cooking time while thoroughly cooking the grain and maintaining its integrity.
- Draining and Storing: Once cooked, drain any excess water. Store the sorghum in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, freeze it in individual portions for easy use in future recipes.
- Reheating and Using for Other Dishes: Cold sorghum will continue to absorb liquid, so depending on how you plan to use it, you can rehydrate and reheat it on the stove. See below for more creative ideas to use sorghum.
- Nutritional Value: From one cup of raw sorghum grain, you can yield approximately 3 1/4 cups of cooked grain. A typical serving size is about 3/4 cup of cooked sorghum, equivalent to 1/4 cup when raw. This portion provides 5 grams of protein and 3.2 grams of dietary fiber, along with 30 grams of net carbohydrates. Additionally, sorghum is a valuable source of essential nutrients including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and a variety of B vitamins.
Taste and Texture of Cooked Sorghum
Cooked sorghum has a pleasantly chewy texture that maintains its shape even after boiling, a characteristic I personally find very satisfying.
This unique texture can sometimes leave first-time cooks uncertain about whether the sorghum is fully cooked. By following the previously mentioned cooking times and instructions, you can ensure the grains are fully cooked yet firm.
In its unseasoned state, sorghum has a subtle, neutral flavor with a hint of nuttiness. I prefer not to add salt or spices during the initial cooking process, choosing instead to season the grains when preparing a specific dish. This approach allows the natural taste of sorghum to absorb a wide variety of flavors in different recipes.
Creative Ways to Use Pre-Cooked Sorghum
- Sorghum Porridge: A hearty and nutritious breakfast option. Rehydrate the cooked sorghum with your favorite milk, add spices, a sweetener, and nutritious add-ons like nut butter and chopped nuts. Serve warm. Check out our Sorghum Porridge with Walnuts and Warming Spices recipe here.
- Sorghum Risotto: An inventive twist on the classic Italian dish. While you can use dry sorghum to make risotto the same way you would rice, that would take a long time and require a lot of liquid (and patience). So whenever I make risotto, I use pre-cooked sorghum.
- Soups, Stews, and Casseroles: Adds texture and wholesomeness, like in this Beef and Cabbage Casserole or this Seafood and Okra Gumbo.
- Diversity Bowls / Buddha Bowls: Brings a nutty flavor and adds a satisfying and nutritious bite.
- Salads: Enhances salads with its chewy texture and mild taste.
Sorghum, with its delightful versatility and health benefits, stands out as an exceptional gluten-free and lectin-free grain alternative. Whether you’re incorporating pearled sorghum into salads, soups, or stews, or exploring creative dishes like sorghum risotto and porridge, this grain brings both nutrition and flavor to your table.
For snack enthusiasts, whole sorghum pops into a crunchy, popcorn-like treat, offering a fun and healthy option.
In the world of baking, sorghum flour emerges as a top choice for those adhering to lectin-free and gluten-free diets, proving its worth in everything from hearty sorghum breads to delectable treats. Don’t miss exploring its potential further in our article 10+ Sorghum Flour Recipes.
The story of sorghum is one of enduring resilience, adaptability, and rich nutritional value, having journeyed from ancient fields to contemporary kitchens. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a newcomer to the realm of healthy grains, sorghum invites you to embark on a culinary adventure, promising both delight and discovery in each dish.
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