Trendy Health Food Du Jour: Freekeh

Get the info on the latest health food trend, plus recipes

We hope you’ve had your fill of quinoa, because it’s already yesterday’s news now that freekeh has stolen the spotlight. Pronounced "freek-ah," this ancient grain is actually green durum wheat that’s harvested young, while the grains are still green and soft, and is then sun-dried, roasted, polished, and cracked.

A cousin of bulgar wheat, freekeh is native to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, and it’s loaded with protein, fiber — four times as much as brown rice! — and antioxidants. Compared with other grains, "it is higher in protein, fiber, vitamins, [and] minerals, and lower in glycemic index," according to Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Freekeh’s nutty, smoky flavor comes from the roasting process, and it’s great for pilafs, adding to casseroles, or as a substitute for rice or couscous. The best part: It only takes 20 minutes to cook!

There’s a widespread misconception that freekeh is gluten-free — it’s not, so those with celiac disease should avoid it. It does have a low glycemic index, though, so it may be suitable for a diabetic diet — check with your doctor or registered dietitian first.

Freekeh is popping up in health food markets around the country and is currently available at Trader Joe’s.

Need some recipe inspiration? Try these:

Braised lamb with freekeh pilaf

Bulgur and freekeh pilaf with roasted butternut squash

Freekeh with Costata Romanesco squash, mint and egg

— Melissa Valliant, HellaWella


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