What’s ancient is new again, at least when it comes to whole grains. Freekeh, the latest superfood darling, has made a splash in the culinary scene, appearing on diverse menus that span cuisines to suit all tastes. It’s been around since biblical times, rooted in traditional Middle Eastern and North African cooking, but has recently reinvented itself as the latest nutritional superstar of North America. Even those immune to food trends should take note of this vital ingredient, bearing volumes of flavor and potential to enliven just about any grain dish.
What is freekeh?
Also referred to as “green wheat” or “young wheat,” it may come as a surprise that this distinctive grain is really the same old cereal we know and love, but treated in a different way. Harvested early while still moist and plump, the kernels are then roasted and frequently cracked, giving them the appearance of bulgur. The similarities end there, made obvious at first bite. Toothsome and chewy, the texture alone is utterly crave-worthy, but the woodsy, nutty, toasted taste and aroma truly seal the deal.
Does that sound ordinary to you, pedestrian even, in the face of so many exotic grain options? It did to me, for years resonating as little more than a silly name, but all that will change with your first spoonful. Trust me, eating is believing; I don’t usually cook up big batches of plain grains, but even without a single pinch of salt or pepper, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
Despite devouring a heaping helping of plain freekeh all by its lonesome, I knew there was even more hidden potential locked within those broken kernels. Starting with such a perfect blank canvas, it didn’t take much to coax that untapped inspiration out of hiding.
Of course, I couldn’t resist a good pun, either. With a name like “freekeh,” the possibilities are ripe with witty opportunities. Dirty freekeh, a riff on standard dirty rice, brings so much more than another boring side dish to the party. It sings with spices, bursts with fresh vegetables at every turn, and supports a healthy dose of vegan protein within a hearty grain base. If anything, it’s more like a clean rendition of dirty rice, forgoing the livers and gibbets in favor of tempeh, a swap that even staunch omnivores might appreciate.
What’s a good substitute for freekeh?
Even if you can’t get your hands on those rarefied bags of cracked freekeh, any grain can be made dirty, so to speak. Just substitute 3 cups of your favorite cooked and cooled whole grains, such as quinoa, barley, farro, or of course, rice.
Dirty freekeh, a riff on standard dirty rice, brings so much more than another boring side dish to the party. It sings with spices, bursts with fresh vegetables at every turn, and supports a healthy dose of vegan protein within a hearty grain base. If anything, it’s more like a clean rendition of dirty rice, forgoing the livers and gibbets in favor of tempeh, a swap that even staunch omnivores might appreciate.
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
- 1 8-Ounce Package Tempeh, Diced
- 1/2 Cup Minced Button Mushrooms
- 1 Medium Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
- 3 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 2 Celery Stalks, Diced
- 1 Jalapeño Pepper, Seeded and Finely Chopped
- 1/2 Medium Red Bell Pepper
- 1 Cup Mushroom Broth
- 3 Cups Cooked Cracked Freekeh (From 1 Cup Raw)
- 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 6 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
- 3 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, Minced
- 1 - 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
- Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and wait until it start shimmering. Add in the tempeh and saute, searing the outsides to a crispy golden brown. Stir gently so that you don’t break the cubes into smaller pieces. Once evenly browned on all sides, transfer to a plate and return the pan to the stove.
- Pour in the remaining tablespoon of oil, turn down the heat to medium, and toss in the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cook for 6 – 8 minutes, until aromatic, before introducing the celery, Jalapeño, and bell pepper as well. Stir frequently, sauteing until all the vegetables have softened and are just beginning to lightly brown around the edges.
- Quickly deglaze with the mushroom broth, scraping the bottom of the pan thoroughly to dislodge anything that might have stuck, preventing the goodies from burning. Introduce the cooked freekeh along with all the spices. Stir well to incorporate and distribute the vegetables throughout.
- Turn down the heat to medium-low, allowing the mixture to cook gently until all of the broth has been absorbed. It should still be moist, but not soupy. Turn off the heat, add the cooked, crispy tempeh and fresh herbs into the freekeh.
- Finally, season to taste, and don’t be afraid to get a bit aggressive with the salt to bring out the most flavor. It may look like a lot on paper, but it’s a whole lot of freekeh we’re talking about!
- Serve hot, or let cool, chill thoroughly, and enjoy as a cold grain salad later.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 242Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 667mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gProtein: 13g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.
34 thoughts on “Freekeh Friday”
This is definitely something I want to make! Yum!
I just bought some freekeh! Yay! I’m happy to have your recipe :)
Yes, the name makes me giggle, but it sounds wonderful. I really like farro and this sounds as though it might be similar. So much more interesting than plain rice. :-) I’ll try your recipe with farro for now and look for freekah. Make me smile just to type it. Have a wonderful weekend, Hannah.
This is the first time I’ve heard of the grain! I’d love to try it. Currently on a tri-colored quinoa kick ;)
I have only had freekah in a bag of mixed grains (from Costco). I did like though! This pilaf/salad looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it.
This looks wonderful!! And the recipe name is making me giggle. I think I have found my new favourite grain, and I haven’t even tried it yet, entirely based on it’s pun potential.
And now I have to try it! :-)
The unforgettable name does induce giggles! I’ve had it a couple of times before: the first recipe was simply steamed and the other was an Indian pilau variation. I prefer freekeh with some aromatic spices and vegetables.
I love freekeh and nowadays always have it in my pantry:)
So since this is from the wheat family, does it possess the high levels of gluten like wheat does? Is it also genetically modified or has it somehow escaped that?
Freekeh is wheat, so I’m afraid it’s not gluten-free. As of this time, all freekeh is non-GMO though.
I recently bought a bulk amount of freekah and have been wondering what to do with it! thanks for the recipe :)
I’ve seen this on the shelves, but hesitated to buy it. Might have to now just to try your recipe!
Yum yummy yum! Freekah has been doing a sort of cyclical thing for years now. I remember buying some back in my hippy mung bean days (I must have been about 15 and was dabbling in vegetarianism for the 10th time ;) ) and not being able to work out what to do with it. The next uprising was about 17 years ago and I noticed some gorgeous packaging on the “legume and grain” shelf at the local supermarket and saw various boxes of Freekah with dried veggie packages inside. It was very tasty but also very expensive (imported from the U.S. no less) so I didn’t buy much more than my initial packet. I don’t remember seeing it at our local health food shop so odds are I won’t be able to get it here but it has a lovely flavour and is well worth dirtying up in this unctuous rice. Another clever and most tasty meal to make vegans shine Ms Kaminsky, I bow to your flavours :)
FYI Freekeh is definitely NOT gluten free, but because the wheat is harvested when it’s still green, the gluten is “denatured.” Some people with low gluten tolerance find they can eat the “denatured gluten.” Still, if someone has celiac’s disease – it’s really not a good idea to try it! But for others with an intolerance, it might be worth experimenting with.
I learn something new every time I visit you! I would really love to try that recipe!
I haven’t tried it yet although I’ve seen it in stores. I guess I’ve not really been sure how to use it.
I’ve been doing Freekeh Fridays on my blog, too! I love the grain- you can do so much with it! Your Dirty Freekeh is a great example, Hannah!
This is something new to me! Thanks for introducing something new to me! :) A lovely dish!
I haven’t had freekeh for ages! My Mum bought me a package back from a trip to Jordan and I used it a couple of times and then forgot about it. I’ll definitely be making this recipe. Thank you :D
I haven’t tried freekeh yet, but am obsessed with wheat berries. I’ll try these next!
[…] but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Leave it to Hannah, genius that she is, to make a “dirty freekeh” (a riff on dirty rice) that has me perched to pick up some Freekeh this […]
interesting – I’m always up for trying something new!
I’ve been travelling in nutrition circles for years, but I haven’t encountered freekeh on my plate yet. It does seem to be having a Renaissance.
Oh wow, does this look crazy delicious!! I will be jumping on board the freekeh train now!! It’s so interesting, and I cannot wait to give this a go! :-)
It’s so funny.. Until recently I had never heard of freekeh. I then went to Dubai and bought a bag of an unknown ingredient to take home, cooked with it and love it and all of a sudden I see it pop up everywhere… And your version looks delicious! I have some leftovers so will sure try this. It’s sadly hard to find here too.
I discovered freekeh not so long ago, and I’m quite fond of it – the nutty taste is really nice. Also, anything you can cook called dirty freekeh is worth a go!
Well all I can say is this sounds freaking great! I adore things like bulgur, farro and barley, so this sounds like something i would enjoy. Thank you for the introduction to both this product and Village Grains, a company I do not know. I love new foods-even if they are old!
This is the first I’ve heard of freekeh! Looks intriguing!
I had the opportunity to try freekeh few years ago and made a curried freekeh salad (for some reason, someone made fun of my name resembling it). I love the earthy, nutty flavor and chewy texture. I prefer this over couscous or brown rice sometimes. Your Dirty Freekeh plate looks miam, I want to eat it all for lunch right now…
We made this tonight and enjoyed it. I added a few leaves of minced kale with the onions.
I’m delighted to hear that! The kale addition is pretty brilliant, since I’m always looking to pack more greens into my meals. I’ll have to take that suggestion next time around, too.
[…] In fact, these staples are more commonplace than peanut butter and jelly. Triticale, einkon, freekeh; their names sound like snippets of poetry to the lyrically-inclined ear, and their flavors are […]
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