What grows tall like corn, is drought-resistant, and has a name that sounds made up, even though it’s a cereal grain? If you answered sorghum, you’d be correct. But while sorghum is one of the five leading crops in the world, many haven’t heard of it before.
What is Sorghum?
A truly versatile crop, sorghum is an ancient cereal grain that can be grown as a gluten-free grain alternative (you can use the grain or ground it into flour as a wheat flour substitute) or a sweet crop. In fact, sorghum is especially popular in the South, where it is used as a sweetener and often called “sorghum molasses”.
Introduced to America from Africa (where it is said to have been transported over via slave ships), America produced 480 sorghum bushes in 2016 alone. Because it is highly drought-resistant, sorghum can successfully grow in hot, dry climates like Oklahoma, where the lack of water doesn’t affect its ability to flourish. Sorghum is also Africa’s second most important grain. Eighty percent of the world’s area devoted to sorghum production is located in Africa and Asia.
Sorghum has a rich and chewy texture and emits a slightly nutty, almost corn-like aroma and taste. As a whole grain, sorghum looks small, beadlike, and ranges in color from ivory to a deeply hued red, brown, or purple. As a gluten-free flour, sorghum has a mild taste with subtle sweet undertones. It becomes truly pronounced when made into a syrup. This is done by boiling the liquid inside of the stalks of sweet sorghum plants into a deep, coffee-colored syrup. Finally, popped sorghum is reminiscent of popcorn, only miniature in size — it’s nutty, fluffy, and a great snack.
For gluten-free eaters and people without dietary restrictions alike, sorghum is a healthy choice. Not only is sorghum high in fiber, protein, B vitamins, and iron, but it is also high in select antioxidants.
One-fourth cup of sorghum flour has 120 calories, four grams of protein, and three grams of fiber, and is both gluten-free and non-GMO.
Where to Buy
You can purchase sorghum in a variety of different forms. Due to the population’s general interest in all things gluten-free, sorghum is increasingly easy to find, in whole, popped, syrup, and flour forms. Check out Whole Foods Market, find Bob’s Red Mill products (they sell it in flour and whole grain form), call your local grocery store, or order it online.
How to Store
Sorghum can be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid in a cool and dark area. The whole kernels last for years.
Sorghum flour, much like the whole kernels, should be kept in a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dark area. The flour should last several months but may last slightly longer if refrigerated.
Sorghum syrup is a lot like honey or maple syrup — it should stay good for months — maybe even years — if kept in a kitchen cabinet.
You can treat sorghum like millet, quinoa, or bulgur, and use it to bulk up your salads with protein, fiber, and texture, like in this Roasted Beet Sorghum Salad With Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette recipe, pictured above. Swap in sorghum for quinoa in this Healthy Quinoa Salad, or in this Sweet Potato, Quinoa, and Red Lentil Stew. Mild and sweet, this Sorghum Banana Paniyaram: Indian Steamed Bread is high in protein and calcium, and is conveniently gluten-free. Additionally, this recipe for Taco-Spiced Veggie Meat Stuffed Avocado calls for either sorghum, millet, or quinoa.
You can pop sorghum by placing the small grains in a lidded saucepan over medium-high heat, but remember not to use oil during the cooking process. Try using sorghum in this recipe for Bourbon Caramel Popcorn or even these Popcorn Energy Bites for when you’re on the go.
Sorghum flour makes a variety of different sweet treats, like this Marble Cake or even these decadent Cookie Dough Cupcakes. However, sorghum can also go the savory route, and make these gluten-free Udon Noodles.
If you’re looking for more gluten-free flour alternatives, check out this Guide to 15 Types of Gluten-Free Flour on the Food Monster App, which you can download on your Android or iPhone. You can also find it on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day.
Lead image source: Roasted Beet Sorghum Salad With Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette