Literally everyone can rejoice at the discovery of this new carb — because yes, fonio is gluten-free. This newly popularized ancient grain, similar in taste and texture to quinoa, is about to be all anyone in the health world is talking about. Here’s why: It’s vegan, high in protein, and absolutely packed with nutrients such as vitamins and amino acids.
There’s something counterintuitive about an ancient grain being “new,” but fluctuating farming practices mean that products go in and out of style over the centuries. Chef Pierre Thiam recently broke the news of this forgotten treasure in a TED Talk in which he highlighted this hidden gem of West African farming. In Senegal, Nigeria, and other West African nations, it’s been continuously cultivated as a nutritious staple for generations. It’s about time the Western world caught up with the culinary innovation they’ve been harvesting. According to Thiam, adapting the nutrient-dense food into more meals could transform societies in Africa economically while simultaneously improving Western diets.
We agree that fonio is a ridiculous name for a grain, though it is more easily pronounceable than quinoa ever was. It’s considered a superfood, among the same class as other grains such as teff and flax. Traditionally, African cultures have used fonio to make a kind of breakfast porridge. However, the grain works well in any recipe where you’d typically use rice, quinoa, or another carbohydrate staple. Instead of a rice pilaf, you could make a fonio pilaf. Or a fonio salad.
Really, you could use fonio in any grain recipe. Here are a few delicious quinoa recipes to get you started with incorporating the new ancient grain.