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Farro Substitute: Top 10 Options To Try Today

Are you looking for the best farro substitute? Farro is one of the most-talked-about grains today. It has been around for centuries and is a staple in Italy.

The grain can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads, soups, and main courses, and is often found in risottos, casseroles, and sautés. 

Today, many vegetarians are seeing the benefits of this whole grain. The problem is, it’s not that easy to find it and you might need to look for a suitable substitute for farro. 

measuring spoon filled with farro grains

What Is Farro?

Farro is an ancient grain from wheat family, that contains all the essential amino acids. This hearty grain has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture, making it a perfect addition to soups, salads, or pilafs.

Unlike other grains, farro retains its shape and firmness when cooked, making it an ideal ingredient for dishes that require a bit of extra texture. When cooked properly, the farro should be tender but still have a bit of bite to it.

Farro enthusiasts consider it as a breakfast cereal substitute, as it is highly nutritious similar to other wheat grains. While farro is often used in savory dishes, it can also be cooked with sweet fruits and spices to create a unique and flavorful porridge or dessert.

Types of farro

There are several types of farro available on the market, each with its own distinct flavor and texture. The three most common types are: einkorn, emmer, and spelt.

  • Einkorn is the lightest and most delicate of the three types of farro. It has a slightly sweet flavor and a tender, fluffy texture.
  • Emmer is the next heaviest and most hearty, with a chewy texture and nutty flavor.
  • Spelt is the darkest and densest of the three, with a robust flavor and firm texture.

You can buy it as whole farro grain, semi-pearled farro, or pearled/pearl farro.

The whole-grain farro variant still has the bran and germ layers attached, so they should be soaked overnight. The semi-pearled and pearled versions of farro cook faster and do not require pre-soaking.

What Does Farro Taste Like? 

One of the reasons farro is gaining traction these days is its nutritional value and taste which is comparable to other whole grains. 

Farro has a chewy texture with a unique, nutty flavor similar to cashew. It tastes like a cross between barley and oats, with a slightly sweet taste similar to cinnamon. 

Best Farro Substitutes

Farro might sound like a complicated grain to replace due to its complex taste. However, there are other grains available in the market that you can use in place of farro. 

Here are 10 of the best substitutes for farro:

1. Buckwheat Groats

Buckwheat groats can replace farro because you can cook it the same way you cook farro. They even have a quicker cooking time. It will only take eight to 10 minutes to cook buckwheat groats. 

When using this wheat grain as a substitute, it’s crucial to remember that the longer you cook buckwheat groats, the more liquid they will absorb and the softer they will become. If you don’t want to use water, you can also use milk or broth, depending on what you’re making. 

If you are not using buckwheat groats as a cooked grain, you can use them as a topper for that added crunch to your dishes. All you need is to toast them until they darken in color. 

2. Bulgur

Bulgur is cracked, partially cooked, and dried wheat berries. It offers a nutty flavor with a chewy texture. It has an aroma similar to popcorn and a taste that comes very close to farro – making it a suitable substitute for farro.

You do not need to cook bulgur like you would any other grain. You just need to soak the grains or rehydrate them, and you’ll be good to go. Because of this unique quality, bulgur is one of the fastest alternatives to farro that you can use. 

3. Teff

Teff, a tropical dark brown grain grown primarily in Ethiopia, is yet another pearled farro substitute you should consider. It has a similar taste to farro – lightly sweet, nutty, and earthy.

One of the most significant factors you should consider when using teff as a substitute for farro is that teff is gluten-free, so it is perfect for those people with gluten sensitivities or gluten intolerance. 

Also, teff is the smallest grain in the world. Conversely, it is also on the expensive side because harvesting grain that size is costly. 

The cooking time for teff varies—you can cook it for 8 minutes or up to 20 minutes, depending on the amount of water you put into it. 

4. Spelt Berries 

Spelt berries, or simply spelt, are whole kernels from spelt grain that can replace farro. Spelt and farro are not the same thing but can be used interchangeably since spelt is one of the three grains that also goes by the name farro.

Like farro, spelt berries have the same nutty flavor that farro is characterized with. However, spelt berries are tougher than pearled farro and take longer to cook.

Once cooked, it should be chewy and soft like farro which is why you can use it to substitute farro.

5. Oat Groats

Oat groats are huskless oat kernels, so it is yet another gluten-free alternative to farro.

They have the same texture as farro, and they also offer a nutty taste. Many compare its taste to browned butter because of the semi-sweetness that comes with it. 

Oat groats require longer cooking times, so soaking them overnight is the best way to go. If you need a quick substitute for pearled farro, you’ll be better off with other replacements. 

6. Barley

Barley is a cereal grain most commonly known for its high fiber content and health benefits. 

Farro and pearled barley have almost the same flavor and similar texture—nutty and chewy.

Cooking barley is as easy as cooking rice – you will only need to quickly rinse it without any soaking required. Usually, it will take up to 40 minutes for barley to cook, almost the same as the cooking time for farro. 

7. Wheat Berries

Wheat berries are also an excellent replacement for farro because they taste similar. Wheat berries are stickier and chewier than farro, though. 

Using wheat berry as a substitute for farro won’t take much work but would take a bit more time.

You need to cover them with plenty of water and let them boil. After this, let them simmer in the pot for an hour or until they are soft. Wheat berries are not the best substitutes for farro if you are in a hurry. 

8. Rye Berries

Rye berries are rye grains without the hull that has an earthy taste, so they are the way to go if you’re looking for a gluten-free farro alternative. 

This substitute takes a significant amount of time to cook – they should boil over high heat. After boiling, they should simmer for at least an hour.

If you plan to use a slow cooker for cooking them, you must cook them at high heat for two to three hours. You can also put them on a low setting and let them cook for five to six hours. 

Also, rye berries are not easy to find, so they are not the most accessible substitute for farro.

9. Quinoa

Today quinoa is one of the most accessible grains on the market, making it an excellent substitute for farro. Gluten-free, quinoa is a whole grain-rich in fiber and vegetable protein.

When it comes to taste, quinoa also has a nutty flavor. However, its flavor is milder than farro, so it is best to use more spices in your dish if you use quinoa as a substitute for farro. 

Keep in mind that quinoa can get mushy when there’s a lot of water, so be cautious of adding too much water when cooking it. It also cooks faster than farro, so be careful not to overcook them, or it will have an unpleasant gummy texture.

10. Rice

Even though white and brown rice contains less fiber than farro, they can still be considered an excellent farro substitute if you are not after a high-fiber substitute. 

Rice is nutty like farro, but it tastes slightly flowery and bready. If you want something sweeter, you can go for white rice. Most people prefer to use brown rice as a farro replacement since it will offer a more nutty texture. 

Farro can be prepared and cooked the same way as white or brown rice, so there is a minimal adjustment when using rice in place of farro. 

How To Choose The Best Farro Substitute

Choosing the best farro substitute can make or break your dish.

Here are 2 tips when choosing an ingredient to use in place of farro:

  1. Take note of the cooking time.

When deciding what substitute to use in place of farro, you should consider the cooking time. Some options will cook faster and some will take longer. For instance, choose bulgur over rye berries if you need something quick. 

  1. Consider dietary needs and preferences.

It is best to take note of the dietary requirements of the people you are cooking for when choosing a substitute for farro. If you need a high-fiber replacement, go for brown rice. If you need a gluten-free substitute, go for oat groat or quinoa. 

Final Thoughts

Farro has already come a long way from being just an Italian staple. It is now a frequently called-for ingredient in popular recipes worldwide, especially in the US.

If for some reason, you cannot have your hands on farro, there are accessible and suitable ingredients you can use in place of farro that won’t compromise your dish’s flavor.

You just need to be mindful of your substitute’s cooking time and gluten content to ensure that you will get the best farro substitutes at any given time. Follow cooking instructions for each to avoid overcooking or undercooking.

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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