How to Cook Farro

All your healthy recipes are about to get a lot more interesting and delicious with this ancient whole grain. Learn how to cook farro perfectly and enjoy its wonderful nutty flavor in salads, soups, or all by itself as a simple side.

Found some farro? Great! Now cook it up and make Farro Salad with Peas and Feta, a celebration of Spring on a platter. Toss a handful of cooked farro into my favorite salads--especially Mediterranean Chopped Salad or Easy Cold Pasta Salad. Feeling creative? Make your own impromptu grain salad with farro, baby arugula, sliced radishes, and your favorite of 7 Homemade Salad Dressings. There's nothing it can't do!

Farro in a white bowl.
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If you've steered away from farro because you just don't know what it is or how to cook it, I'm here to help you get reacquainted with this powerfully nutritious whole grain. It's high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, and so much more nutritious than rice.

At first, farro seems tricky to tackle-- but please believe me here--it's anything but. Once you know what to look for and how to read the labels on different packages of farro, the rest is a breeze. Farro is actually super easy to cook ahead of time and have at the ready for a week's worth of good-for-you lunches.

You can serve it warm as a twist on rice pilaf with a drizzle of good olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and a squirt of lemon juice. Or, you can add a scoop or two to any brothy soup to up the protein and fiber. And of course you can toss it in with just about any salad, because it handles vinaigrettes like a pro.

Ready to cook some farro? You'll be glad you did!

What is farro?

Farro is an ancient whole grain and a specific type of wheat that is very high in protein, nutrients, and minerals. Recipes using farro may be relatively new to the U.S., but Middle Eastern and Italian cuisine has included farro for thousands of years.

Farro grains have a medium brown, chestnut color, a mellow, nutty taste, and a delightfully chewy texture.

Some people call farro “spelt,” but that's not always 100% accurate. Technically, farro and spelt are two distinct types of wheat grain. Oh, and since farro is a type of wheat, it is not gluten-free. I've included some good substitutions below.

Shopping for farro:

Often, it can take a bit of work to a) find farro at the store, and b) figure out what kind of farro you have.

First of all, farro is usually found in the section well-stocked grocery stores with other whole grains (rice, quinoa, wheat berries, etc). You can also find it online.

And even though there are several different species of the grain (piccolo, medio, and grande) almost all of the farro we see in the United States is a species called emmer, or farro medio. If you see those words on the label, you're definitely headed in the right direction!

But that's not all! Because farro is such a hearty grain, it often undergoes some processing to have part of the husk and bran removed, to make it easier to cook. How the grain is processed (pearled) will determine how you should cook it.

Here are the three main types of farro commonly found in stores:

  • Whole farro. The entire grain is left intact (with little to no extra processing). As you might imagine, whole farro has the most flavor (and the most nutrients). However, that also means that it takes the longest to cook—30 to 40 minutes.
  • Semi-pearled farro. About half of the grain’s husk and bran has been removed in the pearling process, making semi-pearled farro cook a little bit quicker than whole grain.
  • Pearled farro. The most common type of farro found in American groceries. It has more of the grain removed, but cooks the fastest— 10 to 15 minutes. By the way, you may be able to find this type sold at Trader Joe’s. It's called "10-minute farro."

How to cook farro:

Before you cook farro, you should figure out what type you have, which will tell you how long to cook it and what method works best.

Luckily, it’s almost foolproof to cook--all you basically need is water and a little salt.

How much farro do you need? One cup of dry farro yields about 2 cups cooked. 

There are two basic methods for cooking farro:

  • The rice method, which uses a specific ratio of farro to liquid and cooking on the stove, covered, until it's tender. This is a good method for pearled and semi-pearled farro.
  • The pasta method, which uses a much larger amount of liquid, allowing the grains to simmer freely in the pot. Once tender, any excess liquid is drained off. This is the best way to cook whole farro.

Cooking farro using the rice method (for pearled and semi-pearled farro):

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add farro and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
    Farro in a large pot.
  2. To start, measure out 2 cups of cold water for every 1 cup of farro you plan to cook. Add it, along with some salt, to a saucepan. Then bring it to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the grains are tender but not mushy-- 10 to 20 minutes. Make sure you taste for tenderness as you go.
  4. When ready, drain off any excess water and spread the cooked farro out on a baking sheet to cool.
    All your healthy recipes are about to get a lot more interesting and delicious with this ancient whole grain. Learn how to cook farro perfectly and enjoy its wonderful nutty flavor in salads, soups, or all by itself as a simple side.

Cooking farro using the pasta method (whole farro):

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add farro and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. To start, add the amount of farro you plan to cook to a large pot of boiling, salted water. Bring the pot back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the grains are tender but not mushy—30 to 40 minutes. Pull out a grain after the 15-minute mark to test for tenderness.
    All your healthy recipes are about to get a lot more interesting and delicious with this ancient whole grain. Learn how to cook farro perfectly and enjoy its wonderful nutty flavor in salads, soups, or all by itself as a simple side.
  3. Drain off the excess water and spread the cooked farro out on a baking sheet to cool.
    All your healthy recipes are about to get a lot more interesting and delicious with this ancient whole grain. Learn how to cook farro perfectly and enjoy its wonderful nutty flavor in salads, soups, or all by itself as a simple side.

Tips for cooking farro for any recipe:

  • No rinsing required. Unlike quinoa, you don't absolutely have to rinse farro before you cook it.
  • But you can soak it. If you soak whole farro overnight in a bowl of water in the refrigerator, you can cut the cooking time down to 10 to 15 minutes. When ready to cook, replace the soaking water with fresh water, then boil, then simmer. (You don't need to soak pearled or semi-pearled grains.)
  • Or pre-toast the farro. Before you cook the farro, try toasting it. It adds so much flavor! You can lightly toast farro grains in the oven or in a skillet on the stove. Be careful you don’t overdo it, though—the grains are ready when lightly toasted and just fragrant.
    • Oven toasted farro. Spread the dry grains out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in an oven set at 350 degrees until lightly browned—only 10 to 15 minutes.
    • Pan-toasting farro. Cook the dry farro in a dry skillet over medium heat, (a little olive oil is okay, too) stirring frequently, until lightly browned.
  • Add aromatics. This healthy grain is a healthy blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to incorporate. Simmer it in some broth, sweet apple cider, or add some savory mirepoix vegetables (carrot, celery, bay leaf, herbs, onion) to the pot as it cooks.
  • Cool it. When you’re making a grain salad, be sure to let the cooked farro cool. During cooling, the outer layer of the grain has a chance to dry out a bit, which prevents the farro from getting too soft. It also stands up to vinaigrettes and sauces better.
  • Make ahead. You can chill the cooked farro in the refrigerator and get some advance prep out of the way. Cooled, cooked farro keeps in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Dress right before serving. Toss the grains in dressing just before you plan on eating. That way, the flavors of the dressing stay the brightest.
  • Batch prep and freezing farro. To keep farro from clumping together as it freezes, spread it out on a sheet tray in the freezer. Once frozen, store in a freezer-safe container. The future you will be so excited to have cooked grains to make this salad for dinner!

Common Farro substitutions:

Farro can be replaced with pearled barley, wheat berries, or spelt berries. Before you try one of the substitutions, refer to the manufacturer's instructions for cooking, in case they vary.

For a gluten-free farro substitute, try sorghum or brown rice.

Farro in a white bowl.

How to Cook Farro

All your healthy recipes are about to get a lot more interesting and delicious with this ancient whole grain. Learn how to cook farro perfectly and enjoy its wonderful nutty flavor in salads, soups, or all by itself as a simple side.
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 10 servings (1/2 cup each)
Calories: 126kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups farro
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • Salt

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add farro and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add water and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon) and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until farro is tender, about 15-18 minutes. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve, then spread farro out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet to cool to room temperature.

Notes

  • 1 cup farro = 2 1/2 cups cooked
  • 2 cups farro = 5 cups cooked

Nutrition

Calories: 126kcal
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