Is Teff Gluten-Free and How To Cook It?

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Teff. How can you cook with it and is teff gluten-free, are just some of the questions answered in this helpful guide. This supergrain is an excellent alternative to quinoa and offers many health benefits.

This article will prove to you just why you should give teff a try. It’s one of the most nutritious ancient grains, and it’s easy to make.

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What is Teff?

If you’re into Ethiopian cuisine, you’ve probably tried injera, the spongy pancake-like food that functions as a utensil. Teff is ground into flour to make foods like injera and baked goods (source). Teff is a staple food of Ethiopia and Eritrea, its native countries (source). Tella (beer) and kitta (unleavened bread) are other traditional food and beverage made from teff (source). The first of its kind was likely grown over 6000 years ago (source).

Like barley, teff is an ancient grain that comes from the grass family. Teff’s name originates from teffa, an Amharic word that means “lost” (source). The term lost could possibly be explained by the size of teff grains. Teff is the smallest cereal grain in the world and no greater than a poppyseed (source). Similar to its counterpart quinoa, it is a pseudo-grain because it’s technically a seed.  The two types of teff seeds are brown and ivory (source). Teff is described as nutty and earthy in flavor (source).  

Is Teff Gluten-Free?

Yes, teff it is naturally gluten-free and safe for those with gluten intolerance.

Teff Nutrition

Teff is high in calcium, vitamin B1,  potassium, and manganese (source, source). All essential amino acids are in teff (source). The highest amounts are leucine and lysine (source). Teff is also rich in unsaturated fatty acids like oleic and linolenic fatty acids (source).  

 Teff is rich in carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.

1/2 cup Teff

  • 260 calories
  • 12 grams of protein
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 70 grams of carbohydrates
  • 10 grams of fiber
  • 120 milligrams of calcium
  • 11 milligrams of iron
teff nutrition facts sign on table with teff in bowl

Benefits of Teff

Weight Control 

Teff can potentially help with maintaining a healthy weight because it is rich in protein and dietary fiber.  You’re much more likely to hold off hunger when you’re eating protein-rich and fiber-rich foods like teff.

Bone Health

A ½ cup of teff has the same amount of calcium as a ½ cup of yogurt. Teff is also rich in manganese.   Deficiencies in these bone-strengthening nutrients can cause quicker bone losses after menopause (source). So eat your teff because both calcium and manganese are crucial to keeping your bones healthy.

Gut Health and Disease Prevention

About 20-40% of teff’s carbohydrate content comes from resistant starches (source). Resistant starches are a type of dietary fiber and vital for good digestion.
People who eat high amounts of dietary fiber have a lower prevalence of developing coronary heart disease, constipation,  diabetes, obesity, stroke, hypertension,  and certain gastrointestinal diseases (source).

Heart Health

Potassium is a nutrient known to help with lowering high blood pressure (source). Teff also has heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids. One of these fatty acids is oleic acid, which helps your heart by reducing inflammation.

teff in a heart-shaped bowl and with spoon

Brain Health

Thiamin, or Vitamin B1, is crucial for helping your body make neurotransmitters and energy (source). Research has found that those with Alzheimer’s disease also had thiamin deficiency (source). Teff may be the food you need to help keep your brain sharp.

Total Body Health

Amino acids are involved in many processes in your body. Your body relies on getting these essential nutrients from foods like teff. Amino acids have many benefits for muscle growth and repair, hormone balance,  fluid balance, energy metabolism, and a lot more.

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Where To Buy Teff

Local health food store

If you’re ready to cook teff, you may be able to find it at your local health food store.  

Ethiopian Food Market

Try a quick google search to see if there are any local Ethiopian food markets in your city. If there isn’t one, check out any Ethiopian restaurants in your area to give teff a taste. You may even ask the restaurant staff where they get their teff.

E-Commerce

Teff is available online through Amazon or Bob’s Red Mill. You can also get it through Whole Foods but may be difficult to find in a Whole Foods store.

Cooperative

Purchasing through a “co-op” or cooperative is a money-saving way to order teff in bulk for a reasonable price. If you aren’t looking for 5 pounds or more of teff, you could split the package with a friend or family member.

How To Cook Teff

Cooking teff is simple. It’s very similar to cooking rice and other grains. Teff is an ingredient in many main dishes and side dishes. You can eat teff in the morning with bananas or in a vegetable stew in the evening. 

how to cook with teff, teff flour on table with rolling pin

To get your teff to be seedier in texture, you can try a dry cooking method (source). Dry cooked teff works well as a topping onto foods like vegetables, salads, and soups. 

Basic Recipe for Cooking Teff

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add 1 cup of teff to your water and bring the pot to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Dry Method for Cooking Teff

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to boil.
  2. Add 1 cup of teff and bring the pot to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for 6-7 minutes.

Bottom Line

Teff is a gluten-free ancient grain that will provide you with whole-body nutrition. It will give you a healthy dose of calcium, iron, and manganese. It’s also high in both protein and fiber. You don’t have to be intimidated by the thought of cooking teff. If you can cook rice, you can cook teff. Teff is easy to cook and has versatile uses in cooking.

teff guide

Author

  • Lisa Hugh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Leap Therapist. She has a Masters of Science in Healthcare Administration. As a a Food Sensitivity Expert, her passion is helping people with complex medical and nutrition needs find food and groceries that are safe and enjoyable. Lisa enjoys helping clients in her private practice.

  • Gabrielle McPherson is a Registered Dietitian and Freelance Writer. Gabrielle has a masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and a bachelors degree in Dietetics. She has worked extensively with pediatrics and works as a freelance health and nutrition writer.

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