Did you know that farro is actually just the Italian word for wheat? It’s true! Farro is a generic Italian term for wheat.
It is generally sold as whole grain and includes varieties such as spelt, enkorn, or emmer (but most commonly spelt).
Since farro is not a gluten-free grain, it’s very common that people would like to find a substitute in their recipes that will fit their allergies and dietary needs.
If you are looking for a gluten-free substitute, rice, quinoa, oat groats, or teff are your best choices. In salads, couscous and rye berries make a great substitute. When cooking, freekeh, spelt berries, or wheat berries are your best substitutes. When making soups, orzo, barley, or winter wheat are great alternatives.
We’ll be going over in more detail some of the best substitutes out there and how to use them in your recipes, as well as answering some commonly asked questions about farro.
Rice is a great substitute for farro. It is naturally gluten-free and very easy to find.
There are many different types of rice, but brown rice is your best option when seeking a gluten-free replacement for farro.
This is because brown rice is chewier and has a nuttier flavor than white rice varieties.
Brown rice is also a better nutritional source, being higher in fiber and protein than white rice. Rice can replace farro at a 1:1 ratio.
Quinoa is a well-known super food due to its low calorie, high-fiber, and high-protein content.
Originally from the mountains of Peru, quinoa has become a staple in many health-conscious kitchens in America.
As a grain, quinoa is versatile and easy to use in a variety of recipes including soups, salads, pilafs, and even casseroles or baked dishes.
Quinoa is of course gluten-free as well. For those looking for a gluten-free substitute for a grain like farro, quinoa is a great fit.
Quinoa is also a complete protein and provides all the essential amino acids in a diet, making it a great addition for vegans and vegetarians as well due to its high protein content.
Quinoa can replace farro at a 1:1 ratio.
If you’d like to learn more about quinoa, check out this page which has some great recipes and information about quinoa!
Groat is the hulled kernel of grains. Therefore oat groats are the hulled kernel of the oat grain.
Since oat groats are a whole grain, they are a great source of fiber and protein, but also contain fat, calcium and iron, making them a more nutritionally complete food.
Oats are naturally gluten-free and make a great gluten-free substitute for farro.
One cup of dry oats will yield 3.5 cups of cooked, while one cup of dry farro will yield 3 cups of cooked farro.
Teff is another great gluten-free substitute! This is because teff is actually a seed, not a grain.
You might be familiar with teff if you have ever eaten injera, the Ethiopian flatbread eaten with all meals.
Teff is an amazing source of protein, at 43 grams per cup of teff. That’s about as much as a 6-ounce serving of chicken!
Teff is very difficult to harvest, making it one of the more expensive substitutes on the list.
However, the fact that it is both high in protein and gluten-free makes it a popular choice for Celiacs and vegans.
Teff expands quite a bit once cooked and can replace farro at a 5:6 ratio.
Best Substitutes For Farro In Salads
Couscous is made from durum wheat, the same grain as farro. While some people think that couscous is a type of grain, it is actually a type of preparation of wheat and is closer to pasta than a grain.
Couscous is a traditional food from North Africa and is typically served there with soup on top.
In the U.S., couscous is a popular addition to salads because it is light and fluffy and has a delightful mild nutty flavor. Dry couscous can replace farro at a 3:4 ratio.
Rye berries are another option that is not as well-known as some of the options on this list.
Many people are familiar with rye flour, a flour popularly used in Jewish rye bread. The rye flour is actually made from toasted and ground-up rye berries.
However, you can also use whole berries in your cooking. Rye berries have a greyish color which is not very visually appealing. Molasses is frequently added to give it a more appealing brown color.
Rye berries are lower in gluten than farro or other wheat grains, making it a possible option for some people with mild gluten sensitivity.
It is also low on the glycemic index, which makes it a very healthy choice for people with diabetes.
Rye berries are hearty and toothsome and stand up very well in salads. Rye berries can replace farro at a 1:1 ratio.
Freekah is a less-commonly known grain. It is an ancient grain derived from wheat. Because of this, it is not gluten-free.
In the U.S., it is increasingly becoming popular as a substitute for rice or oats. It is often compared to bulgar wheat for its flavor, texture, and shape.
Freekah takes much longer to cook than some other substitutes on this list (about 45-50 minutes).
However, if you are looking for a unique grain to add to your repertoire, freekeh is a great option full of flavor and a satisfying toothsome texture. Freekah can replace farro at a 1:1 ratio.
Spelt berries are the whole grain version of spelt. Spelt is an ancient grain that has been cultivated for millions of years and is a type of wheat grain.
Since it is related to wheat, it is not gluten-free. Spelt berries look a bit like sunflower seeds and are not actually a berry at all!
Spelt has a lovely sweetness and mild nuttiness to its flavor. In terms of nutrition, spelt is an excellent source of fiber but does not have the same protein levels as farro.
Spelt works as a great substitute in cooking recipes and can be used in baking, or even as a mash to make hot cereals.
Spelt berries can replace farro at a 1:1 ratio.
Did you know that there are many parts of the wheat plant that we eat? Wheat berries are the edible part of the kernel of the wheat plant.
Wheat berries are very mild flavored, with a hint of nuttiness and a nice chewy texture.
They are very healthy, full of fiber and protein, and make a great addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet due to their being a good source of protein.
Since the wheat berry comes from the wheat plant, it is not gluten-free and will not work for someone on a gluten-free diet.
Wheat berries are very versatile and take on the flavors of the dish they are being cooked in.
They work well in soups or salads, sweet dishes, and savory dishes. They can replace farro at a 2:3 ratio.
Orzo is a type of pasta shaped like rice. Unlike most of the substitutes on this list, orzo is not a whole grain at all.
It cooks up very quickly and is available at any grocery store, making it a very easy substitute for soups or salads.
However, orzo does not have nearly the same nutritional value as the many whole grains on the list. Orzo can replace farro at a 1:1 ratio.
Barley is a fantastic substitute for farro. It is probably closest in flavor, shape, and texture to any other substitute on this list. Cooked barley is chewy and slightly nutty and sweet, just like farro.
It is high and fiber and protein, and is great in a soup, salad, or just served on the side with some chicken or roast beef.
Barley is also more well-known than farro, making it a super easy substitute for farro that might even be easier to find in the grocery store.
It’s important to note that barley takes a bit longer to cook than farro, so you will want to be careful about cooking times when adding it to your recipes. Barley releases a lot of starch when cooked, thickening up soups easily.
If you prefer a thinner soup, we recommend cooking the barley separately and adding it to the soup at the end.
One cup of dry barley will yield 3.5 cups of cooked barley, while one cup of dry farro will yield 3 cups of cooked farro.
Winter wheat is one that is less well-known. It is wheat that is harvested in springtime (funny, right?) but is very hearty and can withstand cold winter temperatures.
Winter wheat tastes very similar to farro and has a similar texture as well. As it is a much tougher grain, it does take longer to cook and requires soaking before eating.
If you choose to use winter wheat in place of farro, be sure to adjust your cooking times as necessary. Winter wheat will replace farro at a 1:1 ratio.
Choosing The Best Substitute
There are going to be a few things you want to consider when choosing a substitute for farro.
You will want to consider the main purpose of the farro in the recipe. Is the farro there to bulk up the recipe?
Is there to add flavor, texture, or fiber and protein? The original purpose of the farro and also the qualities that you prefer will inform how you choose your substitute.
Some recipes want to highlight the chewy texture of farro, while others are more focused on the nutty flavor.
Some recipes only call for a little bit of farro while others call for farro as the main ingredient. These pieces of information will also inform which substitute you choose.
Finally, any dietary needs you have such as gluten-free needs, or increased fiber or protein intake are also going to factor into your decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Farro A Whole Grain?
Farro can be a whole grain, although it is often processed and sold in a way that makes it technically not a whole grain.
For example, many places very lightly score the farro grain to make cooking faster and easier (pearled farro).
However, scoring the grain makes it technically not a whole grain.
How Do I Know When Farro Is Ready?
Farro is ready to eat when it is tender but not hard. It should not be soft and mushy but instead, have a bit of bite to it. Farro is very easy to cook. Bring a pot of water up to a boil.
Add the farro and a big pinch of salt, then simmer until ready. For pearled farro, it will cook up in about 20-30 minutes. Whole-grain farro will take 40-60 minutes.
How Do You Use Farro In A Recipe?
Add a cup of farro to your next batch of chicken soup, warm salad with butternut squash and goat cheese, or use it instead of rice for a super nutritious buddha bowl! The possibilities are endless.
Check out this simple recipe from Bon Appetit for a delicious mushroom-farro soup. Mushroom-Farro Soup Recipe | Bon Appétit (bonappetit.com)
There are so many fun grains out there to try these days with so many diverse uses! Farro is a delicious and nutritious grain that adds flavor and fun texture to your cooking.
Hopefully, this list gave you some great ideas for your next cooking adventure!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.