If you’ve ever watched a cooking show or competition before; you might have seen contestants talk about and use something called sorghum. Sor-what?
First, let’s talk about how to pronounce this funny sounding grain’s name. Sorghum is pronounced “Sor-gum”. Not the most common ingredient used in American dining but it has gained more and more popularity in recent years. So now you’re left wondering what is sorghum and what is it used for?
Known as a super grain and a nutritional powerhouse, sorghum is an ancient grain that is also packed with nutrients. As it turns out, the United States is the largest producer of sorghum in the world. Though not native to the United States, the earliest domestication and cultivation of sorghum took place in Northeast Africa around 8,000 BC in what is now known as modern-day Egypt and Sudan.
So, what can you do with sorghum? Originally known for its uses in livestock industries, sorghum has recently built a name for itself in the consumer market. Its substantial nutritional value and gluten-free nature make it trendy for baking and cooking delicious treats like muffins, desserts, flatbreads, pasta, and more.
Sorghum is gaining tons of popularity in American cuisine, and we’re here to tell you all about it—keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this nutrition-packed ancient grain.
What Are The Different Types of Sorghum?
To truly understand everything, you need to know about sorghum; it’s essential to know about different varieties. Let’s dive in.
Whole Grain Sorghum
Whole grain sorghum is the complete, unprocessed grain form of sorghum. It’s commonly converted into a replacement for flour, which its mainly used for. In addition to being a perfect substitute for flour, whole grain sorghum can also be consumed as a hearty side dish, perhaps alongside a baked chicken breast.
Pearled Grain Sorghum
Also, an excellent solution for making gluten-free meals pearled grain sorghum is just the regular whole grain sorghum with the bran layer removed. A perfect addition to your weekday grain rotation as it subs in nicely for couscous, quinoa or pasta to give you some variety in your side dishes.
Flaked Grain Sorghum
Sorghum flakes are a great garnish to any meal, adding a particular crunch while maintaining a light and airy texture. Flaked sorghum is also delicious when eaten as a cereal or baked into granola bars and cookies.
When sorghum grains are placed over a heat source, they’ll pop up into beautiful little nutritious snacks that can be eaten just like regular popcorn would be. This is a trendy snack in India, also known as Jowar Dhani. Read below to learn how to make this light and crunchy snack.
What is Onyx Sorghum – Is It Different Than Whole Grain?
Onyx sorghum is a unique type of sorghum that is dark red and black in color instead of the pale beige of regular whole grain sorghum. Created by genetics at Texas A&M University, this genetically modified form of sorghum is very high in antioxidants and is often referred to as a “miracle grain.”
Like berries and other plants, the dark hue in onyx sorghum comes from the vast amounts of antioxidants within the grain. Being significantly more potent than ordinary fruits, berries, and vegetables—onyx sorghum also helps lower sugar and carbohydrate absorption in your gut.
Sorghum syrup is an excellent way to add a sweet touch to some of your favorites. Along with your morning cup of coffee, sorghum syrup is also popularly used in salad dressings, barbeque sauces, and more. While sorghum syrup is like molasses, they have some differences. For example, molasses is better for cooking and baking, while sorghum syrup is more garnish or addition. Check out our article here learn more about the differences between these syrupy sweeteners.
Nutritional Benefits of Sorghum
Sorghum is a powerhouse food that is rich in protein, dietary fiber and dietary minerals. Playing a vital role in the diets of 500 million people, there are numerous reasons why this ancient grain is gaining popularity.
Grown, cooked and eaten, here are the nutritional facts for a quarter cup of whole-grain sorghum:
- 170 Calories
- 4 Grams of Protein
- 0.5 Grams of Fat
- 36 Grams of Carbohydrates
- 8 Grams of Fiber
Sorghum also has excellent numbers for micronutrients, such as iron—in which a single serving accounts for up to 10% of your daily recommended iron intake. It contains many other micronutrients like potassium, niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6, and phosphorous.
In the table below we compared the nutritional information for 10 different ancient grains from Bob’s Red Mill and below are the results. Ounce for Ounce, whole grain sorghum delivers the highest dose of fiber along with low fat content as compared to the other grains.
The Glycemic Index of Sorghum Grain
The glycemic index is a common way to measure the nutritional compositions of certain foods. Considering the number of carbohydrates, this measure can determine the impact on the blood sugar levels in the body.
Glycemic index is measured on a scale of 0 to 100, and food is placed in three separate glycemic index categories. Low glycemic is 0 to 55, medium glycemic is 55 to 69, and high glycemic is 70 and above.
While it’s GI score changes depending on how its processed, whole grain sorghum weighs in with a glycemic measurement of 62, putting it in the medium GI range. This means that whole grain sorghum is safe for those with diabetes if it’s eaten in controlled quantities.
How to Cook Your Sorghum Grain?
Now to get to the things that truly matter—the best ways to prepare your sorghum. You feel like you’re ready to begin cooking with all the necessary background knowledge you’d ever need about sorghum. There are a couple of ways you can do this; here they are.
Cooking Sorghum on the Stove
If you’ve ever cooked rice or quinoa before, you can handle cooking sorghum on the stovetop. With a ratio of 4 cups of water to 1 cup of whole-grain sorghum, start by combining sorghum and water in a medium saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover, allowing sorghum to cook for about 45-50 minutes or until grains are tender. You can stir occasionally and add more water if you feel necessary. After an hour, drain any of the remaining liquid, fluff and serve.
If you cook pearled grain sorghum, your ratio and cook time will be slightly different. For pearled grain sorghum, you’ll use 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of pearled grain sorghum. Additionally, pearled grain sorghum will cook faster than whole-grain—only 30 minutes of simmering compared to the 45 minutes for whole grain sorghum.
Looking for an enhanced flavor? Using chicken stock with the same ratios mentioned above adds richness to your sorghum to elevate the dish.
Cooking Sorghum in the Microwave
While it’s an option, we do not recommend cooking Sorghum in the microwave. Sorghum takes longer to cook than other grains and the microwave does not tend to cook the grain consistently.
Pro Tip: Soaking the grains overnight can help reduce the overall cook time.
However, if you’re really short on time and you forgot to soak your grains overnight but would still like to enjoy sorghum with your meal you can try this method:
You’ll start by combining ½ cup of pearl grained sorghum with 1 ½ cups of water or stock in a glass or ceramic bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 15 minutes (stirring halfway through) or until the sorghum reaches an al dente texture. Drain the sorghum in a strainer and rinse. [Note that this cook time is based on a 1200-watt microwave so check your microwave and adjust cooking time if necessary.]
In the mood for Popped Sorghum? Here’s How to Make it!
Now that you know how to cook sorghum as a healthy dinner side. How about learning how to pop sorghum for a quick and healthy snack. It’s as easy as those Orville Redenbacher popcorn bags (except you have to put the kernels in your own paper bag)!
Simply scoop ½ cup of whole grain sorghum into a small brown bag. Next, fold down the top of the bag and place the folded side down in the microwave. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes until you hear no popping for at least 10 seconds and then remove bag. Pour into a bowl and sprinkle your popped sorghum with a pinch of salt or your favorite popcorn seasoning.
Where To Buy Sorghum Grain?
Sorghum can be purchased in various grocery stores—however, these will mostly be higher-end or health-conscious grocery stores. For example, Kroger’s, Jewel-Osco, and Food City are less likely to carry sorghum. You’ll have luck obtaining your sorghum if you visit stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Marianos. Check the grain aisle, near where you would typically find rice.
Sorghum can also be found at online retailers such as Bob’s Red Mill, Nu Life Market and of course on Amazon.com
How to Eat Sorghum Grain?
Sorghum’s size, shape and flavor make it easily adaptable to be used in wide-variety of dishes. Most people enjoy their sorghum served alongside other healthy foods such as steamed, roasted, or raw vegetables or with grilled chicken. However, it’s also trendy to cook your sorghum kernels into a breakfast porridge on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. The choice is yours!
Gluten-Free, Sustainable and Delicious
As you might have noticed by now, sorghum is, in fact, gluten-free. Sorghum has genuinely taken the spotlight as one of the top alternatives to flour for those living with celiac disease. On top of being gluten-free, sorghum is also an environmentally responsible grain. Using far fewer resources in its production, as compared to other grains, it’s highly sustainable and friendly to our planet.
Try It Out At Home
Now that you know just about everything that there is to know about sorghum try it out at home! As an excellent substitute for flour, and with the rising popularity of gluten-free diets—don’t be surprised if you start to see it on the shelves at your everyday grocery stores.
With delicious flavor and a simple cooking process, it’s no wonder why this exceptional substitute for flour is becoming widely used in gluten-free baking and so many other dishes.
For some recipes to get you started, check out this excellent resource.