What is Kamut? What You Need to Know About this Ancient Grain

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Originally published on May 20, 2020. Updated and republished on January 30, 2022. 

Kamut is not a very common ingredient in most grocery stores, so you might be asking, What is Kamut?

This ancient grain is also known as Khorasan wheat. 

Kamut is versatile, delicious, and nutritious. It can be purchased in several forms and used in many types of recipes. While it is not gluten free, some people who can’t eat wheat or other gluten foods may tolerate Kamut. (Kamut is not recommended for people with a wheat allergy or celiac disease).

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What is an Ancient Grain? 

Grains have been a part of our human existence for thousands of years. Wheat, corn, rye, rice, oats, and barley are all grains or seeds (source).

Ancient grains are defined by The Whole Grains Council (source) as “grains that are largely unchanged over the last several hundred years.”

One of the earliest forms of wheat, emmer, gave rise to durum wheat (source) which is commonly used for pasta.

Ancient grains have become more popular over the years for being considered unchanged, which has preserved their natural reputation, high quality, and favorable nutrition profile (source).

Ancient grains are sometimes referred to as heirloom grains.

Ancient Grains – Wheat Family

Some examples of ancient grain varieties in the wheat family are (source):

  • Bulgar
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer / Farrow
  • Kamut (Khorasan Wheat)
  • Spelt

Wheat Free Ancient Grains

Non-Wheat Ancient Grains and Pseudo Grains include (source):

  • Amaranth
  • Black Barley
  • Blue Corn
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Red and Black Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Wild Rice

What is Kamut? 

Kamut (pronounced Kah-MOOT) is an ancient grain that is related to wheat and is thought to have originated in ancient Egyptian times. 

It is rumored that the grain was found in Egyptian tombs and was brought to America in the 1900s. In 1964, Bob Quinn was introduced to the grain at a country fair when he was given Khorasan wheat samples. 

After studying plant biochemistry and organic farming out of state, Quinn returned to Montana to his family’s farm. By 1989, he and his father had an entirely organic farm cultivating the grain that would become very high in demand. 

The Kamut brand Khorasan wheat was trademarked in 1990 (source). The common name is Khorasan wheat.

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Since World War II, modern wheat has undergone many years of rigorous breeding programs. Chemicals were added to increase crop yields.  New strains of wheat varieties were developed to create bigger bread yields and loaves (source).

The history of these hybridization practices and other information about how wheat is grown has pushed consumers to seek out ancient grains like Kamut.

Unlike modern wheat, Kamut Khorasan wheat has not endured the breeding systems that have altered modern wheat. It is never hybridized or genetically modified. It is only grown as a certified organic product (source).

Kamut Grain

The Kamut grain is three times the size of a modern wheat grain and is much tastier because of its nutty and butter flavor (source). The grain has a hump or rounded shape. 

Other Names for Kamut

Kamut is sometimes referred to as:

  • King Tut’s Wheat (due to its origin story of being found in an Egyptian tomb).
  • Camel’s Tooth (due to the shape of the grain).
  • The Prophet’s Wheat (due to a legend about Noah bringing the grain on the Arc). 
  • Khorasan wheat

Food Family

The scientific name of Kamut is Triticum turanicum (source). 

Kamut is part of the Poaceae (Grass) food family (source).

Nutrition 

The hump-shaped grain is higher in protein by 20-40 percent compared to modern wheat kernels (source).

A cooked cup of Kamut provides (source):

  • 227 calories
  • 47 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 10 grams of protein
  • 7 grams of fiber 

This ancient grain contains more vitamins, minerals, and amino acids than modern wheat, making it more desirable to those who value good health (source).

Kamut is part of the grains and cereals food group and is a source of complex carbohydrates. 

Benefits

Kamut has an impressive showcase of nutrients including minerals like selenium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc (source). These aid in giving the health food its touted benefits.

See these five benefits of consuming Kamut.

Weight Loss 

Kamut’s high protein and fiber content can promote weight loss by helping with satiety. One study proposed 30 grams of fiber intake each day can lead to weight loss and further benefits such as blood sugar control (source).

Digestive Health

Kamut’s fiber content alone is enough to reap benefits for your digestion and help lower cholesterol. 

Promotion of probiotic strain growth may be another benefit of consuming Kamut found in a 2012 study. Probiotics keep your digestive tract in good shape (source).

Hormone health

Our hormones can be affected by genetics, health, environment, and many other factors.

Selenium is a vital nutrient for hormonal health. If you are deficient in selenium, your thyroid hormone production may drop (source).

Immune Health

A zinc deficiency could make you more prone to infections caused by immune dysfunction (source).

Studies have shown zinc to be helpful in reducing symptoms of the common cold and fighting against viral infections (source).

Bone health

Manganese plays a role in the body’s bone formation processes (source).

Furthermore, Kamut is rich in phosphorus which is also important for bone health.

Is Kamut Gluten Free? 

Gluten-free grains do exist, but Kamut is a form of wheat and therefore not a gluten-free grain. 

People with celiac disease or wheat allergy should not consume Kamut. Kamut is not a gluten free food. 

However, some people with gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, or wheat sensitivity may be able to consume Kamut even when they experience negative symptoms after eating conventional wheat (source).

We recommend working with a Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Leap Therapist, or Allergist if you have any of these conditions.

What is Kamut Flour?


Kamut Flour is a whole wheat, whole grain flour made from Kamut. 

It can be used in place of conventional wheat flour in a 1:1 ratio. Kamut flour can be used to make Kamut bread, muffins, baked goods, pizza crusts, and much more. 

Is Kamut Flour Gluten Free?

No, Kamut Flour is not gluten free.  

Is Kamut Vegan?

Yes, Kamut is suitable for most vegan diets.

Is Kamut Whole Grain

Yes, Kamut is a whole grain. It can also be described as whole wheat. 

Is Kamut Keto?

Even though Kamut has a higher protein percentage than some other carbohydrate sources, it is not generally included in most ketogenic diets. Kamut is a source of complex carbohydrates.

Can Kamut be Sprouted?

Yes, Kamut can be sprouted. 

How to Purchase

Kamut can easily be ordered online or found at your local health food store. Kamut can be purchased and cooked as:

  • Kamut Flour
  • Kamut Pasta 
  • Kamut Puffs Cereal
  • Whole Grain Kamut (also described as Kamut Berries or Kamut Grains)
  • Kamut Hot Cereal

How to Cook

For best outcomes, soak Kamut berries in water overnight (source).

Follow recipe instructions to cook Kamut by stovetop, slow cooker, or instant pot (source) or simmer in water for about 45 minutes until they are softened but retain a firm texture.

Kamut berries can be used in many ways:

  • In cold salads
  • In place of rice
  • In warm salads
  • In Stews
  • In Soup

Substitutes

From a cooking and food group perspective (grains / complex carbohydrates), the following may be used in place of Kamut. Kamut may also be used as a substitute for these ingredients. 

Be sure to consider the flavor and texture profile of what you are preparing. Be sure to also consider the differences between grains, pseudo grains, and gluten containing grains. 

  • Amaranth
  • Brown Rice
  • Black Barley
  • Black Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgar
  • Corn
  • Einkorn Berries
  • Farrow
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Red Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Wild Rice

Recipes 

Kamut can be incorporated into innumerable food recipes from beverages to desserts, appetizers to main dishes, and snacks to breakfast items (source). Keep in mind that Kamut has a rich nutty flavor. 

Also, Kamut flour can be used to make bread and other baked goods. Kamut flour can generally be substituted for whole wheat flour in a 1:1 ratio, but some recipes may need further adjustments. 

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Final Thoughts

Kamut is a nutrient-rich single ingredient grocery item that can benefit your immune and digestive health.

This ancient grain is versatile enough to be used in various dishes.

Kamut contains gluten but may be better tolerated than conventional wheat by some people. Kamut is not recommended for people who have a wheat allergy or celiac disease. 

Need another reason to give it a try? Kamut is a single ingredient grocery item, and there are lots of reasons to choose single ingredient groceries

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Authors

  • 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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