Freekeh (pronounced free-kah), is an ancient grain that’s had new-found popularity lately. If you haven’t seen it on supermarket shelves or on the menu at your favorite restaurant, be on the lookout; you will soon.
What is Freekeh?
In Arabic, the word freekeh means “to rub.” About 2,000 years ago, the grain was created by accident when a Middle Eastern village was attacked and their young green wheat crop was set on fire. The villagers rubbed off the burnt outer layers and cooked up the grain, and thus freekeh was born. It has a crunchy, nutty taste, which has been described as a cross between brown rice and barley.
What Makes Freekeh So Healthy?
One half cup of cooked freekeh has about 130 calories, 1 gram of total fat and 8 grams of protein. It’s free of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. This ancient gem is an excellent source of manganese, providing 70% of your recommended daily amount. It’s also a good source of fiber (with 4 grams per ¼ cup dry), plus phosphorus and magnesium. Freekeh is a whole grain so adding it to your diet can help you meet the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines to make half your grains whole.
Freekeh is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two plant chemicals that have been shown to aid in eye health. This ancient grain also seems to work as a prebiotic, helping good bacteria flourish in the digestive tract.
What To Do With Freekeh?
Freekeh is cooked just like rice. For each cup of dry freekeh, use 2 ½ cups of water, broth or stock. Let it cook for 20-25 minutes until tender.
Use freekeh anywhere you would rice: in pilafs, soups, chili, stuffed peppers, tacos and paella. Make a double batch and store in the fridge for a delicious weeknight side or next-day lunch. Or combine freekeh with veggies, lemon and dill in this mouthwatering skillet recipe.
Lemon Chicken With Dill, Carrots and Freekeh
From 30 Ways to Freekeh! Cookbook. Reprinted with permission by the author, Bonnie Matthews
Prep time: 8 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
1 8-ounce package cracked freekeh (1 cup) (Freekeh Foods Rosemary-Sage variety works great in this)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cups carrots diced
4-6 garlic cloves, diced
4 tablespoons Earth Balance spread or butter
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
3-4 chicken breasts, whole, skinless, boneless
1 bunch fresh dill (about 1 cup), chopped
Juice of 2 lemons or about 4 tablespoons
Fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste
In a large skillet, heat up olive oil over medium heat. Toss in carrots, onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add Earth Balance® or butter to skillet and add in uncooked freekeh. Stir to coat freekeh. Add chicken broth. Place chicken in the liquid with the freekeh and vegetables. Top with the dill and the juice of one lemon. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for an additional 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is done. Add a little dill and cracked pepper, plus the rest of the lemon juice and serve.
Option: For extra bite, add whole green peppercorns during cooking.
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