Most people (especially vegans) would be shocked if you said you’d never heard of quinoa. However, there is a similar untapped wonder that you’re likely missing out on. This under-recognized grain called Fonio merits just as much attention for its versatility and nutrients. If you’re getting bored with the same ingredients or are looking to diversify your diet, give this a try!
What is Fonio and Where Can I Find it?
Foods Resource Bank/Flickr
Originating from Africa, Fonio is a gluten-free grain that falls into the millet group. It features a mild, nutty taste and looks similar to couscous, and it comes in different colors like quinoa. It’s an essential staple to the diet within its region but has yet to reach the rest of the world. Coincidentally, Fonio is the perfect crop to attain mainstream status because it germinates quickly and doesn’t require as much water as similar grains. It can also grow in soils that others are unable to, making this ideal for different fickle climates.
Fonio is available at most health and specialty stores, including mainstream chains such as Whole Foods. You can also find it widely online.
What Benefits Does it Offer?
Fonio is very easily digestible as well as low in fat and calories but provides sustained energy. With 10 percent protein by weight, the fuel this provides is superior to many of its grain counterparts. The protein itself in Fonio is also more substantial than others such as rice, maize, and wheat. For this reason (among many others), it’s worth swapping your usual grain for this to enjoy some added health perks.
Fonio is also packed with a swath of vitamins and minerals. With low carbohydrates and a naturally gluten free composition, it’s perfect for celiacs and the carb-conscious. What’s more, Fonio has a low glycemic index which makes it preferable for diabetics or anyone avoiding blood sugar spikes.
Aside from the few perks mentioned, here is a rundown of even more nutrients that Fonio has to offer:
- Vitamin B1, B2, B3, and B6
- Folic acid
Consuming Fonio can also help with a wide variety of body functions. Some of these include enhanced digestion and weight management as well as cardiovascular health. In addition, Fonio promotes optimal hair, skin, and nail quality. This is due to its methionine and cysteine levels which can prevent aging as well as reinforce hair and nail health.
How to Prepare Fonio
To cook fonio, first give it a good initial rinse as you would with most grains. Next, you can measure out two parts water to one part of fonio. Bring this to a boil and then add your fonio to the mix. At this point, lower the heat and cover to simmer for about 3 minutes. Ideally, let it sit for 5-10 minutes after removing the heat so it can set. Now it’s ready to enjoy and add to your favorite recipes!
Fonio can also be made easily in a rice cooker if you’ve got one handy in your home.
Fonio has a wide range of uses to experiment with. Luckily, it’s also quite easy to make and can be fixed without difficulty if you cook it too much or too little. Traditionally eaten as a cereal in Africa, it’s also great in sauces, salads, baking, and anything else you can imagine. Although countless more uses exist, here are a couple easy ideas to get you started. The recipes below list quinoa as the grain of choice but you can substitute fonio as the grain instead and it will work perfectly.
- Fonio Stir Fry – swap it for the quinoa in this Indian Quinoa and Chickpea Stir Fry
- Fonio Pilaf or Risotto – like this Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
- Cold Fonio Salad – use it in some Cucumber Quinoa Salad with Blackberries
- Fonio Brittle or Granola – give it some crunch factor in Quinoa, Apricot, and Oat Muffin Clusters
- Add to soups for extra protein and thickness, like in this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- Blend and form as the base for your pizza by using as the grain in some Quinoa Pizza Crust
If you still aren’t sure how to integrate Fonio, just swap it in any other recipe where you usually use quinoa. It’ll provide the right flavor and texture while still giving you a different experience.
Creamy Fonio Hot Cereal with Dried Fruit/Yolele Foods
If Fonio isn’t available at your local store, you can easily find some great options online, like this brand Yolélé. This one in particular is pre-washed and perfect for beginners. Yolélé also offers vegan fonio recipes to experiment with, including classic hot cereal and even fonio sweet potato sushi.
As you likely now know, Fonio offers an abundance of perks and can be the cornerstone of endless delicious and nutrient-packed meals. Even if you’re tentative about trying new things, the advantages of this grain are too good to pass up. Let quinoa take a back seat for a while and explore all that Fonio has to offer — you won’t be disappointed!
To find more recipes to inspire your next meal, check out the Food Monster App on your Android or iPhone, as well as on Instagram and Facebook! You’ll find new ideas every day helping you to experience delicious plant-based dishes.
Lead Image Source: Biodiversity International/Flickr