Millet is a small grain with a large nutritional profile. The grains are small, round, and are mostly grown in developing countries around the world. A single cup of the cereal grain contains well over 200 calories as well as other nutrients.
There are several kinds of millet, and even though they don’t all belong to the same group, they are all highly nutritious. The major spices include finger millet, pearl millet, and foxtail millet.
Millet is often used for various foods and beverages, including bread, cereal, cake, and even beer. It is so versatile that you can use it for a host of recipes. It also falls into the category of whole grains like quinoa that can be used for breakfast porridge dishes, and soups.
What is the best substitute for millet? The best substitute for millet is sorghum. Like millet, sorghum also originated in developing countries in Africa. It can replace millet in almost all recipes because it has a similar texture and nutrient composition. However, sorghum’s nutty taste is quite different from millet’s sweet taste.
An Overview of Millet
Much like quinoa, people have known about millet for a long time. As a result, they’ve had plenty of time to understand and create recipes around it. Millet is especially popular for its versatility and high nutritional value. Besides being calorie-dense, the grain also contains fiber, protein, fat, and minerals like magnesium and iron.
Species like the finger millet also contain high calcium levels and 13% of the daily recommended amount per cup. While millet has a sweet flavor, it also adopts the flavor of whatever food it’s cooked with. This makes it a highly nutritious ingredient in many diets. You can get millet as grain, flour, or even flakes at most food stores. All the various species are also available.
Why Replace Millet?
- You want even more nutrients: There’s no doubt that millet is packed with amazing nutrients. However, it isn’t the most nutritious grain out there. Also, it lacks some vitamins and minerals that are present in other substitutes.
- You want a different taste: Millet has a sweet and slightly nutty taste. But most of the time, the flavor gets lost in the recipe. Thankfully, there are substitutes with strong flavors that will show up regardless of what you cook.
- You’re avoiding negative effects: As nutritious as millet is, it also has some negative effects. The grain contains anti-nutrients, which are compounds that reduce the body’s absorption of other nutrients. As a result, you may not be getting the full benefits of your meals. Millet substitutes can prevent that.
- You want a richer texture: Millet grains are very small. And if you purchased ground flour millet, most of the taste and texture will be lost in whatever you’re cooking. Larger grain substitutes can give you different texture while still delivering calories and fiber.
Best Substitutes for Millet
Best Overall Substitute for Millet: Sorghum
Sorghum shares a similar heritage with millet, having originated from Africa. But more than that, it also shares its taste and versatility. However, sorghum has a stronger nutty flavor, making it a favorite among many kitchen recipes. Sorghum is also much richer than millet, as it contains vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.
Sorghum may be added to grain salads, baked into bread, or used in other millet recipes. It is also widely popular as livestock feed, especially in the U.S. Sorghum takes twice as long to boil as millet, so you’ll need to adjust for the cooking time when making recipes.
Best Substitute for More Texture: Brown Rice
Rice is a beloved grain all over the world, from Africa to Asia to North America. But most people don’t know that it’s an excellent substitute for millet, especially when you’re looking for a familiar chewy texture in your recipes.
Brown rice is excellent because it is packed with calories, fiber, protein, and calcium. Unfortunately, brown rice grains are much bigger than millet’s. This makes it unsuitable for recipes like soups.
Best Substitute for Nutrients: Quinoa
Quinoa is a highly nutritious grain that has a recipe list of its own. It contains vitamins, minerals, calories and fiber. Quinoa also currently holds the record for the most proteinous grain. In addition to its phenomenal nutritional profile, this grain has a crunchy texture and mild flavor. So if you prefer grains that won’t take over your recipe’s taste profile, quinoa is your best bet.
Quinoa is also highly versatile, being sold as whole grain, pasta, and even flour. This makes it suitable for any millet recipe you can conjure and then some. When cooking with quinoa grains, be sure to remove the outer coating to get rid of the bitter taste.
Best Substitute for a Strong Flavor: Buckwheat
Buckwheat has been around for a long time but hasn’t quite got the reputation it deserves. The grain is an excellent substitute for millet if you’re looking for strong flavors that will appear in your recipe. It has a nutty, earthy, and mildly bitter taste.
The grain works best for pancakes but blends with other recipes just fine. Buckwheat is rich in calories, protein, sugar, and fiber. It is also packed with vitamins and minerals like manganese, copper and iron.
Best Substitute for a Classic Nutty Taste: Barley
Lovers of barley can almost taste the nutty flavor every time they hear the name. The grain crop also has a chewy texture that gives recipes like casseroles consistency. Barley’s strong nutty tang is a welcome addition to millet’s mild taste profile. Barley contains healthy quantities of iron, potassium, fiber, and several calories per serving.
Barley takes longer to cook than millet, so it’s best to consider this when cooking. Additionally, pearl barley is often better for slow-cooked meals since it doesn’t require an overnight soak. Barley tends to cause fullness or bloating in some people, but this is usually an initial reaction, and it fades with continuous consumption. It can be consumed by adults and children alike.