How to Cook Millet: Nutritionist Tips

Once you know how to cook millet, you'll be whipping up recipes like millet tots in no time.

Why cook millet?

Millet falls into the category of ancient grains. Similar to quinoa, millet is a small grain that, after cooking, has a fluffy, rice-like texture. It’s a great fiber source and gluten-free alternative for anyone with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.

It’s a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Plus, it contains moderate protein per serving and almost no fat. One cup of cooked millet contains about 207 calories, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 2 grams of fiber per cup, according to the USDA. It is also a powerhouse of micronutrients with a fair amount of copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate, and pantothenic acid. (Here’s more about what is millet.)

When choosing a healthy carb source, it’s important to look at the entire nutrient profile of a food, not just the carb count. Millet is an excellent choice because, in addition to complex carbs, it packs a nutritional punch.

As a registered dietitian and a mom of two, I like to squeeze extra nutrition wherever and whenever I can for my family. And believe it or not, this dietitian is a mom to one picky eater. What’s awesome about millet is that it takes on the flavor of anything you add to it. And although it’s a carb source, the protein content makes it a great choice for kids. If you have little ones that are exclusively carb lovers, millet is a great way to sneak in some plant-based protein. In my house, we have it several times a week.

Millet cereal grains pouring in burlap sack, bag. Organic conceptDronG/Getty Images

How to cook millet

When it comes to cooking millet, it has a similar technique to rice and quinoa. But because millet seeds are so small, they cook rather quickly, so make sure to keep an eye on them.

Look for recipes with a millet-to-liquid ratio of about 1 to 2. I use one cup of dry millet and two cups of water or broth. Add dry and wet ingredients to a pot, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and then cook until all liquid is absorbed—about 15 to 18 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the millet, and voilà!

Now, although this is a tried-and-true method, it lacks the flavor factor. To enhance the rich nutty flavor of millet, toast it in a skillet before adding liquid to it. I like to add one teaspoon of olive oil to my pan and cook one cup of the grain for about four to five minutes, being mindful not to let it burn.

I then add two cups of water and a pinch of salt to the pan and allow it to boil before lowering to a simmer. Once the grains absorb the water—about 15 minutes—I remove it from the heat and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before fluffing it with a fork. This gives the millet a nutty, almost buttery flavor that really steps it up.

Favorite ways to cook with millet

Use millet as a side instead of rice

Once you know how to cook millet, you’ll be able to try cooking and eating it in many different ways. But one of the most common ways I use millet is as a side dish. It makes for the perfect, fiber-filled side dish. When people ask how to use it, I like to tell them to think about it the same way you would rice or quinoa. You can pair it with just about any vegetable and any kind of dressing, and it would be a great addition to a meal.

Top salads with millet

Let’s face it: Salads aren’t always filling. And while I pride myself on my salad-making abilities, I absolutely admit that there are salads out there that just don’t do it for me. They can be a little lackluster and leave you feeling hungry.

That’s why I like to add about 1/4 cup of millet to any salad. Not only does it make a salad more filling, it also adds a source of complex carbs and more fiber. And because millet, on its own, doesn’t have a super-strong or unique flavor, you can truly add it to any salad you want: Caesar, Greek, Italian, warm roasted veggies, anything you like. Add some healthy salad dressing and you’ve got a well-rounded meal.

Make millet for breakfast

Millet is also a great breakfast option. Much like oatmeal, millet will take on the flavor of whatever you add to it. I cook it in almond milk and cinnamon and have it as a breakfast cereal. I like to add nut butter along with some berries for added fiber and flavor.

Another great idea: peanut-butter-and-banana millet bowl. Cook millet in almond milk with a scoop of chocolate protein powder. Once cooked, top with a tablespoon of peanut butter and banana slices. It may taste like a chocolate peanut butter cup, but it’s packed with lots of nutritional goodness. (Here are other healthy breakfast recipes for when you’re sick of cereal.)

Use millet in place of breadcrumbs or flour

Another sneaky way to use millet: inside things like veggie burgers or falafel. It acts as a great binding agent to help the burger or falafel hold its shape, and it adds an extra source of whole grains and fiber to the recipe. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Sometimes I sneak it into burgers or meatballs and don’t tell my kids. Similarly, you can even use it to make millet tots.

(Here’s some advice on using millet flour for gluten-free baking.)

Bottom line

Millet is an excellent whole grain to incorporate into your meal rotation. It’s packed with complex carbs, fiber, and several micronutrients. It’s also a great source of plant-based protein for any vegetarians or picky eaters. If you’re having trouble thinking of ways to use it, think of it just like rice or quinoa—a carb source that can pretty much go with any meal.

Now that you know how to cook millet, try these millet-stuffed red peppers or this seeded whole grain loaf with millet.

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