Is farro gluten free? If you have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, don’t eat farro!
Farro is not gluten free. I repeat - farro is NOT gluten free!
What is farro?
Farro is a gluten-containing grain. It’s a name that refers to three species of wheat: einkorn, emmer, and spelt.
It’s an ancient whole grain that contains a lot of nutrients and can be cooked similarly to rice. Farro has been rising in popularity and, unfortunately, for people on a strict gluten free diet it needs to be avoided completely.
Why farro is misleading
Typically, people on a gluten free diet are on the lookout for words like wheat, barley and rye. These are the top 3 gluten-containing grains that are used today and aren’t suitable for people on a gluten free diet.
Farro throws a wrench in the plans because just including “farro” as an ingredient - it doesn’t specifically call out that there is gluten in the food. Farro isn’t labelled as wheat, even though it IS a type of wheat. This can be incredibly confusing to someone on a gluten free diet.
In addition to avoiding wheat, barley and rye in foods - you also need to avoid farro, emmer, einkorn, and spelt.
Ancient grains are NOT safer
You might have heard through the grapevine that some people can tolerate ancient grains better than modern ones. There’s a rampant theory out there that ancient grains haven’t been changed or manipulated, so they are easier to digest and process than modern-day wheat.
Some people on a strict gluten free diet even claim they can safely eat gluten-containing ancient grains.
If you have celiac disease or are on a strict gluten free diet for other reasons - don’t fall for this myth. Gluten is gluten - it doesn’t matter if it’s from a strain of grain cultivated thousands of years ago or from wheat cut from the farmer’s field yesterday - all of them will still cause a reaction.
Don’t eat ancient grains such as farro, einkorn, emmer, or spelt. They are not gluten free.
How farro is cooked
Farro is cooked similar to rice or barley - it is simmered in a pot of boiling water until soft and chewy. It can be purchased as whole grain, or pearled.
Typically served in soups, stir fry or salads, farro can be eaten hot or cold (by people who can eat gluten, of course).
Gluten free alternatives to farro
Farro contains gluten and is officially off the menu for us gluten free folk. Sad, but there’s some great news - there are plenty of gluten free grains you can use instead!
- Brown rice: use brown rice instead of farro in soups or serve with stir fry. Brown rice is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s much more nutrient-dense than white rice (which is also naturally gluten free).
- Quinoa: from the amaranth family, it’s a great source of protein and fiber. Incorporate it into a salad for an extra punch of protein! You can get white, black or red quinoa - or all three as a blend.
- Buckwheat: despite the name, buckwheat is gluten free. It actually isn’t related to wheat at all! You can cook buckwheat groats the same way you would cook farro. You can also grind them up to make an amazing gluten free flour, or incorporate the intact groats in granola.
- Sorghum: it’s a grain from 25 species of flowering plants in the grass family. It’s also my favourite gluten free grain! You can boil whole sorghum, or you can grind it into a flour. I love using sorghum flour so much - it’s one of the ingredients in both my All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend and my Gluten Free Bread Flour blend.
As always, be sure to check labelling on any gluten free grains that you buy. Unfortunately, some naturally gluten free foods can become cross-contaminated with gluten during processing and packaging. Check for any warning labels and any gluten free labelling before buying.