Farro is an ancient grain initially cultivated in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. Nowadays, it is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.

Farro is actually the collective name for three different types of wheat. All are high in fiber, protein, and other important nutrients. In the United States, the most popular type of farro is emmer wheat.

This article explains what farro is, how people can use it, and the health benefits it provides.

What is farro? a close up of a bowl of farro salad with tomatoesShare on Pinterest
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Farro is an ancient grain that dates back many millennia. The term “farro” is actually a collective term that refers to three different species of wheat:

  • farro piccolo (einkorn)
  • farro medio (emmer)
  • farro grande (spelt)

Farro has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture, making it suitable for use in:

  • risotto
  • pasta
  • casseroles
  • stews
  • salads
  • some desserts

Farro does not produce high yields at harvest time. As a result, farmers have largely replaced farro with other types of wheat, such as durum. However, many people are now looking for sustainable whole foods to add to their diet, so ancient grains like farro are becoming popular once again.

Each of the three species of wheat has different nutritional values, tastes, and textures.

Farro is also processed in the three different ways, resulting in either whole grain, semipearled, or pearled farro. These different processing methods change both the flavor and the required cooking time of farro.

Whole grain

Whole grain farro consists of all parts of the grain in its entirety. This type of farro has the most flavor and nutrients, but takes the longest time to cook. A person may need to soak the grain in water overnight before cooking.

Semipearled

Semipearled farro is farro that has had part of its hard outer layers or “bran” removed. Removing some of this bran speeds up the cooking time. However, the remaining grain provides less fiber and slightly less flavor.

Pearled

Pearled farro is farro that has had all of the bran removed. Although this type of farro is very quick to cook, the fiber content is reduced even further.

Farro consists mainly of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.

According to a 2017 study of the nutritional values of ancient grains, the nutrient compositions of the three different types of farro are as follows:

EinkornEmmerSpelt
Energy (kcal/100g)333 kcal362 kcal324
Carbohydrate (g/100g)67 g72 g68
Protein (g/100g)13.3 g12.8 g14.7
Fiber (g/100g)6.7 g10.6 g5.9
Lipid (g/100g)1.7 g2.1 g2.9

Minerals

The same 2017 study also provides the following information on the mineral content of the three different types of farro:

(Note: the abbreviation “NR” refers to “not reported.”)

EinkornEmmerSpelt
Calcium (mg/100g)NRNR17.6 mg
Iron (mg/100g)3.6 mg1.5 mg3.1 mg
magnesium (mg/100g)200 mg128 mgNR
Phosphorous (mg/100g)NRNRNR
potassium (mg/100g)NRNRNR
Sodium (mg/100g)NRNRNR
Zinc (mg/100g)15 mg4.8 mgNR

Antioxidant properties

According to an older study from 2008, emmer wheat has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that help to protect the body’s cells from damage.

Importantly, the 2008 study found that emmer’s antioxidant benefits decrease significantly during processing and cooking.

Farro is a nutritious grain, offering a range of important macronutrients and minerals.

Farro is a good source of plant-based protein, making it particularly beneficial for people following a vegan or vegetarian diet. People following such diets may also benefit from the high iron content of this type of grain.

Farro may also be beneficial for people following a low glycemic index (GI) diet. Such diets are useful for people who want to control their blood glucose levels. The 2008 study found that pasta made from farro wheat had a lower GI than durum pasta.

Low GI foods also make a person feel fuller for longer. As such, farro may be beneficial for those looking to maintain their satiety while dieting.

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), white rice is less nutritious than whole grain emmer farro (WGEF). The table below provides a side-by-side comparison of the nutritional content of each grain in either grams (g) or milligrams (mg).

WGEF (per 100 g)White rice (per 100 g)
Carbohydrates72.34 g20.97 g
Protein 12.77 g2.01 g
Fiber 10.6 g1 g
Iron 1.53 mg0.14 mg
magnesium 128 mg5 mg

The method for cooking farro depends on the type of farro a person chooses.

Whole grain farro requires soaking overnight before cooking.

Semipearled and pearled farro do not require soaking overnight. However, soaking in cold water for 30 minutes just prior to cooking can help reduce the cooking time.

Once it has soaked, a person should cook the farro using one part farro to two parts water. Simmer the farro until it reaches the desired texture.

Farro contains gluten, meaning it is not suitable for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. People with either health condition should opt for healthy, gluten-free grains, such as:

The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that encourages the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. A person following the keto diet significantly reduces their intake of carbohydrates and replaces them with healthy fats, such as those found in the following foods:

A 2020 review notes that a person following the keto diet should only eat up to 20-50 g of carbohydrates a day. According to USDA figures, 1/4 cup of emmer farro contains 34 g of carbohydrates. Since farro has a high carbohydrate content, it is not suitable for people following a keto diet.

A person can buy farro from supermarkets and health food stores throughout the U.S. They can also purchase farro online.

Below are some ideas for healthy meals that incorporate farro, and their ingredients:

  • Grilled salmon with farro and warm Swiss chard salad: Farro with salmon fillets, herbs, Swiss chard, vegetables, and feta cheese.
  • Apple farro salad with chicken: Farro with grilled chicken, apples, cucumber, and herbs.
  • Italian bean and farro soup: Carrot, celery, tomatoes, farro, cannellini beans, parmesan, and herbs.

Farro is an ancient grain originally cultivated in the Middle East. Nowadays, it is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.

The term “farro” refers to three different wheat species: einkorn, emmer, and spelt. All types are high in fiber, protein, and other important nutrients. Whole grain farro contains more nutrients than semipearled and pearled varieties.

Farro is not suitable for people following the keto diet. However, it may be beneficial for people following a low GI diet. Farro is also a good source of iron and plant-based protein for people following a vegan or vegetarian diet.