Meet This Grain: Spelt

This grain (a wheat relative) has more protein and B-vitamins than wheat and may be tolerated better by those with wheat sensitivities. Get better acquainted with whole grain spelt and my investigation into the spelt vs. farro debacle.

This grain has more protein, B-vitamins and iron than its cousin wheat. Have you experimented with it in your baking? Get started.

What Is Spelt?

You may have heard folks refer to spelt as the Italian grain “farro,” which always puzzled me because they look very different. (Where’s Mario Batali when you need him? I bet he would know.) After doing some research, I've figured out they're not the same grain despite what you might read in some cookbooks and magazine articles. Spelt takes much, much longer to cook, so if you try to use them interchangeably, you’ll have some major issues when it comes to cooking times. I actually found this amusing New York Times Magazine article where the author ran into that exact problem.

But back to spelt -- you can find this grain in most health food stores (I get mine at Whole Foods) and it comes as whole kernels (or “berries”) or ground flour. Spelt flour is often used in breads, muffins and cookies -- you may even see it in the packaged baked goods at your health food store. Some grocery stores carry spelt pasta and whole-grain cereals that feature crunchy spelt flakes. It has a nutty flavor, similar to whole wheat.

Spelt flour is also lower in gluten than wheat flour, which means some people with wheat sensitives may be able to enjoy it as a wheate alternative. If you have a gluten intolerance, however,  skip it.

Why Is Spelt "Healthy Eats"?

Spelt is similar in calories to other whole grains like brown rice; one cup of cooked spelt has 245 calories, 8 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein. It also contains 13% of your daily needs for thiamin and 25% of daily niacin -- both are important B-vitamins that help with energy production. Spelt flour also contains more iron than whole-wheat flour.

What To Do With It?

You can use spelt berries in any recipe that calls for cooked grains like rice, quinoa or wheat berries; they work well for side dishes, salads and hearty soups. To prepare, soak the berries overnight, drain, rinse and then cook them for about an hour in boiling, salted water.

As for baking, you can replace some or all of the flour in a bread or muffin recipe with spelt. It will give the food a sweet, nutty flavor and an extra dose of protein and vitamins. I like to use spelt flour in carrot, apple or pumpkin muffins. Experiment with your favorites to see what works best.

    Recipes to Try:
Keep Reading

Next Up

Meet This Grain: Polenta

You might be surprised to learn that whole-grain cornmeal is packed with nutrients. Wait until you discover all the things you can do with the versatile Italian delicacy, polenta.

Meet This Grain: Amaranth

This under-appreciated grain is a perfect way to get in your whole grains, plus it’s gluten-free. Get tips on cooking it and creative recipes to try this tiny grain.

Meet This Grain: Farro

This ancient whole grain has been making a comeback! It's versatile, easy-to-make and downright delicious.

Meet This Grain: Kamut

This ancient treasure has been around for centuries and is considered to be the great-great grandfather of grains. Find out how to cook this high protein grain and why it’s back in fashion.

Meet This Grain: Bulgur

Although bulgur wheat is not as well known as the other whole grains, it’s just as nutritious and delicious!

Meet This Grain: Freekeh

Freekeh is a whole grain that's had new-found popularity lately. If you haven't seen it on supermarket shelves you will soon.

Meet This Grain: Couscous

Okay, couscous isn't technically a standalone grain but it is made from them. Find out more about this international delight and easy ways to enjoy it.

Meet This Grain: Oats

We’re all pretty familiar with old-fashioned rolled oats, but there’s more to this whole grain than oatmeal -- steel cut oats, oat flour, oat bran and more.

Katie's Healthy Bites: Spelt's Whole-Grain Goodness

Lately I've been feeling bored with traditional grains, so I've added spelt into my regular repertoire. If you haven't tried this nutritious, nutty and oh-so-satisfying grain, try it today! Here are some tips on buying, storing and, of course, cooking spelt.