Did you know that 6000 varieties of millets exist around the world – all in different colours and sizes! The virtues of millets are similarly manifold. Besides being completely gluten-free, millets are rich in almost all nutrients when compared to popular grains like wheat or rice. They are also very affordable unlike exotic grains like Quinoa.
With very low water foot-print, millets are quite suitable for small farmers without irrigation facilities. They are a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. They also are better digested than wheat or rice. It is unfortunate that despite knowing some of these benefits, people are still not able to accommodate millets in their regular diet. Our taste buds need to undergo some changes to be able to adapt to these grains, which is one of the reasons. Moreover, we also have to invest good efforts in learning to incorporate millets in our diet as we are conditioned (and trained) to cook with rice and wheat for years.
Having tried being gluten-free for a month of two, I know how challenging it can be initially to cook without wheat. Here’s an attempt to compile my learnings through 15 different healthy ways to use various millets in everyday and special dishes. These recipes are not only vegan, but many of them are also free of any oil or sugar.
Bajra, Ragi or Jowari rotis are very famous in many parts of the country. It’s true that one needs to learn the art of making millet rotis as they need to be made by hand. Here’s a great recipe of Ragi Roti, for example. However there are some tricks which lets you make rotis easily with rolling pin. Key is to knead the dough with warm or hot water and using good binding agents. Adding boiled and mashed potatoes or mashed unripe banana helps in binding the flours. I sometimes also add different lentil flours made from chana, moong dal or masoor dal. This along with flax seeds binding mix (1tbsp flax seeds kept for 5 minutes in 3 tbsp of water) works very well.
2. Rice dishes
Korra (Foxtail millet) or Sama (Little millet) can easily be replaced in all the rice dishes such as Pulao, Bisibella bath, Rice-Sambar, Puloihara, Khichadi etc. (Cook 1 cup millet in 1 cup of water, just like you would cook rice)
Daliya made of Jowar (Sorghum) or Bajra (Pearl millet) are easily available today. They can simply replace in your favorite Wheat Daliya recipe!
This is my favorite recipe of Almond-Bajra-Date cookies. I also make it with Ragi. The unique feature of this cookie is that it’s super healthy – vegan, oil-free, sugar-free and gluten-free. The best part is that it literally only takes 15 minutes to make them! Also try this Coconut-almond-bajra cookies.
Ragi laddus can easily be made with malted Ragi flour. Take 1/3 cup soft pitted dates with 1/3 cup of walnuts and 1tbsp of desiccated coconut. Roast 1/3 cup of malted Ragi flour and add it in the blender with a pinch of salt and cinnamon. Blend again until the mixture becomes sticky again. Optionally 1tbsp of coconut oil can be added if the mixture is still not binding. Take this mix out in a container and make laddus. Roll them in the desiccated coconut.
6. Porridge – baby food
My 10 month old loves ragi porridge made of malted ragi flour. The recipe is as simple as mixing it with water and stirring it on to low flame until it thickens! No need to add salt, sugar or milk. Why? Read more here with detailed recipe. Ragi-porridge also serves as a good breakfast item for adults as well!
Any millet can be used in making delicious Payasam with coconut milk! Here is the basic recipe. Please replace brown rice with any millet and follow the same recipe. (Blackstrap molasses can be replaced with Jaggery).
Muthiya is Gujarati steamed dish with a mix of grain and leafy greens or vegetables. It is very easy to make muthiya with Jowar (Sorghum). Follow the recipe here.
Simply replace rice with equal quantity of millets while making Idly or Dosa batter and voila, you got healthy millet based breakfast ready!
Like any grain, millets can also be sprouted and used in salads.
Puffed millets such as Amaranth can be very well used in bhel instead of puffed rice.
Handvo is very famous Gujarati dish. One can make millet based Handvo by just replacing Rice with Korra (Foxtail millet) in this recipe.
Today, many places sell Ragi, Jowar or Bajra based Samolina which can be readily used in making Upma, a famous South Indian breakfast item.
Roast 4 tbsp of Amaranth flour or Jowar flour in 2 tbsp of sunflower oil. Add hot water when it changes color. Mix continuously with a big spoon and add sugar to taste. Stir it for a whole until it thickens. Add more water if needed. Let it cool once cooked and add a pinch of cardamom powder. Mix well and serve!
15. Millet mylk!
Yes! You can also make vegan plant-based mylks out of various millets! Soak 1 cup millets, cook them just the way you cook rice. Let it cool down and then blend with 2 cups lukewarm water (or less if you need thick mylk). Add less water initially while blending get a smooth paste and then add the rest of the water. Strain with the help of a thin cloth (optional). Add a pinch of vanilla extract and Jaggery as sweetener. This can be a good plant based mylk substitute in various recipes or used for breakfast cereals as well!