Gluten Free Eating – What is Teff and What Do I Do With It?

Teff is a gluten free grain that is a native of northern Ethiopia. It contains high levels of calcium, iron, fiber, and other important nutrients. Teff flour can be used with other flours for gluten free baked goods and as a whole grain, it makes a nutty porridge. The primary cross-contamination risk comes during milling; it must be milled using equipment that is only used for gluten free flour.

Teff is grain that originates in northern Ethiopia where it is the primary grain used to make injera, a pancake-like bread. It has tiny seeds (about 1 mm or about 1/32 of an inch) that are nothing like wheat, rye, or barley seeds. With such tiny seeds, it is very difficult to separate the bran from the inner endosperm, so teff flour is generally made with the whole grain.

Teff has is high in calcium and it also contains phosphorus, iron, copper, aluminum, barium and thiamine (vitamin B1). Teff is high in protein and fiber, especially compared to the “white” gluten free flours – white rice, corn starch, and tapioca starch.

You can replace some of the flour in your gluten free baked goods with teff to add both flavor and nutrients. Teff has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. You might want to start by adding teff to your muffin or bread recipes. If you like the taste, increase the amount of teff.

You might also like to try teff pancakes. You will find lots of recipes available. Make sure you choose a gluten free recipe because you will find some that call for wheat flour. Many of the posted recipes are vegan, but you will find also find recipes that include eggs and milk if you prefer.

You may also want to try teff porridge. It is made with teff seeds rather than flour. Some people toast the seeds briefly before adding water to enhance the nutty flavor. Most recipes call for four parts water to one part teff along with some kind of sweetener and a tiny bit of salt. Simmer about 20 minutes or until the water is all absorbed. If the porridge gets too thick, add a bit more water or milk.

Traditionally teff is used to make injera, Ethiopian flat bread. Teff flour, water and a sourdough-like starter or yeast are allowed to ferment at room temperature, then mixed with a little salt and cooked with a small amount of oil. The injera flat bread is used both as a plate and an eating utensil for traditional stews. If you try injera in a restaurant, make sure that no gluten flours have been used in the starter or to modify the texture of the bread.

Because the teff seeds are so much smaller than wheat or barley seeds, the only real cross-contamination concern with teff comes when it is milled into flour. It is virtually impossible to clean equipment used to mill wheat well enough to mill gluten free grains without cross-contamination. As a gluten free consumer, this means you have to take the extra step to make sure your flour is safe. Make sure you ask the manufacturer if the teff was ground on shared equipment. If they purchase the teff in bulk and repackage it, follow the trail back to the milling company.

You may also like