Get Your Freekeh on

I love carbs. For me, a properly plated dinner has a protein-rich food — from animal or plant sources, doesn’t matter — veggies and a grain food of some type. When my now-husband and I were dating, he credited me with introducing him to couscous, favoring the pearled, Israeli-style over our usual go-to grain of white or brown rice. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with other grains. 

Several months ago, I attended a trade show and sampled a dish that contained freekeh, a whole grain made from immature wheat grains. Freekeh — pronounced FREE-kah — is harvested while the grain is still green, maximizing its fiber, protein and nutritional profile. It’s a hearty grain with a similar toothiness to farro, a close cousin to barley, and when it cooks it smells like bacon (yes, really!). But rest assured that freekeh is completely vegan, but not gluten-free, since it is made from wheat. 

Freekeh cooks similar to quinoa in that it requires about 2½ cups water for every 1 cup of grain. It is not quite as mainstream as quinoa, and finding it at your grocery store might be difficult. I went to three different stores before ultimately finding it at a local natural foods grocery chain. You also can order it online.  

I recently brought a freekeh salad to a neighborhood potluck, and everyone was asking for the recipe. You can use any combination of vegetables you like — I just used what happened to be on-hand when I was pulling this salad together. This makes for delicious leftovers — I placed a sliced, hardboiled egg on top for a complete lunch the next day!

Freekeh Salad  

Serves four 


  • 2½ cups water or stock 
  • 1 cup freekeh 
  • ¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano or other sharp cheese 
  • 2 chopped Roma tomatoes 
  • ½ chopped red onion 
  • ½ cup frozen peas & carrots, thawed (I’ve also used fresh, uncooked broccoli, which has more crunch) 


  1. Place water or stock and freekeh in a medium saucepan on high heat and bring to a boil. Cover with lid and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. 
  2. While freekeh is cooking, place cheese, tomatoes, onions and peas & carrots (or other veggies of choice) in a bowl. 
  3. Add cooked freekeh to bowl. It’s OK if the freekeh is still hot — it will soften any raw veggies and slightly melt the cheese. 
  4. Toss well and serve either warm or chilled.  


Elana Natker on InstagramElana Natker on Twitter
Elana Natker
Elana Natker, MS, RD, is a nutrition communications consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, and overseer of the Sage Nutrition Network. Her blog is at, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Handmixer Quill