Eat Clean with Gluten-Free, Whole Grain Millet

Gluten-Free Whole Grain Millet

My friend Cherie asked us over for a dinner party the other day and while we were on the phone she wanted to know if I had any ideas for a healthy side dish. I suggested a whole grain pilaf of some sort made with millet. I was on my cell phone standing in the checkout lane at Publix when I gave Cherie the suggestion and when I got off the phone the cashier asked “Isn’t millet bird food?” Hmmm……I’ve been eating millet for years now and I had never thought about it like that. But, after a few moments of thinking I realized yes, millet is a food birds eat. But, it’s also perfectly healthy for people too. And no, Publix doesn’t sell millet. However, you can easily find it at any natural foods store. It’s cheap and you can buy it in bulk.

What does Millet Taste Like?

Teeny-tiny and butter-colored, millet has a mild, pleasing and ever so slightly nutty taste (pan-roasting enhances the nutty flavor.) It has a texture and taste somewhere between egg-rich pasta and cornmeal.

Millet swells tremendously when cooked and makes a great alternative to oatmeal for breakfast. It is particularly delicious with almond milk, chopped baked apple, cinnamon and a drizzle of raw honey.  Millet is also a fabulous whole grain for fall because it combines particularly well with sweet winter squash and root vegetables. For variety, I often substitute millet for a number of different basic rice dishes (for example, instead of making a pilaf with rice I’ll use millet instead.) In the Caribbean, millet is served with peas and beans but I especially like the combination of millet, chopped parsley, julienned sundried tomatoes packed in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and black beans. Yum!!

Millet Nutrition

Although a lot of people in the United States have probably never eaten it, millet is a nutritious whole grain and a staple food of almost a third of the world’s population, including Africa and Asia. Millet is alkalinizing, easy to digest and particularly rich in B-vitamins and heart healthy magnesium.

Unrefined whole grains, including millet, should be a staple food in any clean eating diet because they supply an excellent source of energy along with a wide variety of nutrients and fiber.

As a plant-food millet is rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals (also called phytonutrients.) Phytochemicals are only found in plant-based foods (animal foods such as chicken and beef don’t have phytochemicals.) But, since research shows it’s not just one phytochemical from one particular plant-food but rather a combination of lots of different phytochemicals from lots of different plant-foods that really protects your body best, it makes sense to eat a wide variety of different whole grains and other plant-based foods.

One of the reasons I like including millet so much in my own diet is because it’s a great alternative to ubiquitous wheat. Assuming you don’t have gluten intolerance or wheat sensitivity there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wheat other than the fact that it’s eaten SO SO much. Millet is a great nutritious whole grain wheat alternative.

Is Millet Gluten-Free?

Yes! if you have a wheat or gluten intolerance millet is a gluten-free whole grain you can safely eat. Along with brown rice, millet is also a good first food for babies because it is particularly easy to digest. And, because millet is rarely allergenic it makes a good staple whole grain food for the whole family.

How do You Cook Millet?

You basically cook millet the same way you cook rice, which makes it a quick-cook whole grain perfect for easy weeknight dinners. You can cook millet stovetop or in a rice cooker. I cook pretty much all of my whole grains in a rice cooker (with the exception of oatmeal) because it’s just so incredibly easy and hassle-free. But, below are the directions for how to cook millet two ways, stovetop or in a rice cooker. By the way, whenever I make any whole grain I cook a big huge batch and store it in a covered container in the fridge for at least 3 days. After cooking millet I eat it tons of different ways…added to soups, for a hot breakfast in the morning, sprinkled on salads, as a pilaf, etc. Here’s how to quickly cook  millet:

How to Cook Millet Stovetop:

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked millet
  • 3 cups water or organic vegetable broth (such as Pacific Natural Foods)
  • Pinch of unrefined sea salt
  1. Rinse millet with cool water in a strainer and place in sauté pan over medium heat. Gently stir millet until it starts to give off a nutty aroma. Keeping the pan on the burner, add water or broth and salt, cover, reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 18 to 25 minutes). Millet is done once it becomes fluffy. Drain off any extra water (there shouldn’t be much), fluff and serve.

How to Cook Millet in a Rice Cooker:

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked millet
  • 3 cups water or organic vegetable broth (such as Pacific Natural Foods)
  • Pinch of unrefined sea salt
  1. Rinse millet with cool water in a strainer. Put water or broth into the rice cooker. Pour millet into the rice cooker and add a pinch of salt. Turn the rice cooker on and cook for about 20-25 minutes.

How do You Pan Roast Millet?

As mentioned earlier, pan-roasting enhances the nuttiness of millet. To pan roast millet place the grains in a heavy skillet (such as cast iron) over low heat and add the millet. Stir continuously until millet becomes fragrant and starts to brown (about 3 minutes).

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  1. Hi Gabby! I’m so happy you tried it and liked it ;) The Italian additions sound delish!!

  2. Hi, I had to come all the way to inner Mongolia to discover the benefits of the nutritious and gluten free millet! It is a Mongolian staple. I have gladly had it for breakfast with fresh yogurt for several weeks now. I am from Canada teaching locals a new oilfield technique that saves water, fuel, resources and the environment while producing oil and gas. toasted millet, yogurt and a little stevia of fruit will become a regular breakfast of mine no matter where I am. I am a ravenous eater, but millet satisfies for a long time!

  3. Hello, we just made egg stir fry with millet for the first time. My husband and I have never knowingly eaten it and have never cooked it. We live in Italy so gave it an Italian flair by substituting carrotts and leeks with zucchini and red peppers (capsicum) and adding a few prawns. Delicious! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. I like to cook millet for breakfast. I soak it overnight in filtered water with some lemon juice and salt added to it. In the morning I rinse millet and cook it with dried organic figs. It turns out creamy and more satisfying this way.


  1. [...] to add a little texture to your next batch of banana bread – look no further than a little millet and a handful of jam-packed granola. We all need the occasional sneak-it-in strategy when it comes [...]

  2. [...] just like couscous, making it the perfect gluten-free grain substitute for your couscous recipes. Read more about millet HERE. P.S. The quickest and easiest way to cook millet is in a rice cooker. Millet can be bought at any [...]

  3. [...] is vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free. It’s also very easy to make! If you are not familiar with millet you can read more about it and how to cook it HERE. You can also substitute whole wheat couscous for the millet if you like (but then of course the [...]

  4. [...] Beyond its reputation as birdseed, millet really is very tasty and super versatile too. If you aren’t familiar with this whole grain, I discuss millet nutrition, millet cooking tips and millet gluten free facts HERE. [...]

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