Is Farro Gluten Free?

Ancient grains are commonly thought of as more healthy and safer alternatives for eating than contemporary grain.  Farro is a type of wheat that falls into the category of “ancient grain”, but don’t let it fool you. 

Following a new diet can be overwhelming as you learn to navigate what you can and cannot eat. This can certainly be the case when starting a gluten free diet, with confusing and sometimes conflicting information out there. The Gluten Free Society wants to be your go to source of trusted information to help guide your gluten free journey. 

It is fairly obvious when identifying foods that contain gluten to assume that most bread products contain gluten. But there is often confusion around what non-bread products are gluten free. Many people confuse wheat free with gluten free and assume that other grains are safe. For example, a common question among those who are trying to avoid gluten and looking for alternatives to their favorite gluten-filled carbohydrates -”Is farro gluten free?”  Let’s dive into this question below.

What is Farro?

Farro is considered an ancient grain. While the name farro is Italian for “ancient wheat grain,” farro actually originated in Mesopotamia. Its single name makes it sound like farro refers to one grain, but farro is actually used to describe three different grains:

  • Einkorn: Farro piccolo (Triticum monococcum)
  • Emmer: Farro medio (Triticum dicoccum)
  • Spelt: Farro grande (Triticum spelta)

The name farro is used to describe all three grains in different regions and countries, but the kind that is most commonly found in the US and Europe is emmer wheat. 

Farro is sold dry and prepared by cooking it in water until it is soft, similar to other grains like rice and quinoa. After cooking, farro looks similar to barley and has a distinct nutty flavor and chewy texture.

Gluten in Farro

Though considered an ancient grain, farro is actually a form of wheat.  It contains gluten, and should absolutely be avoided for those with celiac disease and non celiac gluten sensitivity.  It’s important for gluten-free eaters to know that all grains contain gluten. While many often think only of wheat, the truth is, all grains contain gluten. Some sources claim that farro has a different gluten structure than wheat and so it is better tolerated by those with gluten sensitivity, but this is simply not true. The gluten in farro is just as damaging to those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity as other forms of gluten. In fact, like many grains, hybridization of farro crops has increased the amount of gluten in farro in modern years.  Keep in mind that it only takes a very small amount of gluten exposure to cause an inflammatory reaction.  Some research shows that even small amounts can stop someone with celiac disease from fully recovering.  

In addition, research has shown that ancient grains can contain immunotoxic gluten peptides and can cause a positive antibody response. Research has also concluded that a strict gluten-free diet in celiac patients, including avoidance of ancient strains of wheat, is recommended.

What are some gluten-free alternatives to Farro? 

Farro is commonly used in hearty salad dishes. You can often find farro mixed with veggies and sometimes protein, tossed in a light vinaigrette. In these cases, you can substitute farro with a grain free pasta or grain-free orzo

Farro is also used as a side dish, in a similar way to rice. In these cases, you can substitute a vegetable rice like cauliflower rice or broccoli rice (either homemade or purchased). 

Gluten-Free Farro Alternative Recipes 

Farro can be easily swapped for gluten free alternatives. Below are some of our favorite recipes that can stand in for farro as a main dish or side dish:

In addition, one of our favorite substitutes for grain-based recipes is Warrior Bread. It is simple to mix up and incredibly versatile. You can use Warrior Bread in anything from basic bread and buns to savory and sweet dishes like chicken fingers, onion rings, muffins, cinnamon rolls, and more. Check out our collection of over 60 recipes featuring this nutritious and delicious mix.

Conclusion

While farro is off the table when following a gluten free diet, there are several healthy and delicious alternatives to satisfy your cravings.  Want more information about safely navigating the gluten free diet?  Check out Glutenology. This free masterclass can help you fast track your gluten free diet knowledge.

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