Teff – Exotic Supergrain, Gluten-free, Soon at Your Local Grocer?

injera bread - made with gluten free teff

image: amateurgastronomer.com

Injera is a staple bread of Ethiopia, helping million of farmers get through yet another hard day without an empty stomach. Its main ingredient is a teff, a locally grown grain that is ground into flour, fermented with water and starter yeast and then baked into large spongy pancakes that are slightly sour.

Teff is an ancient grain that is more challenging to grow compared to barley, wheat, or corn. Thus it has been limited to a small geographic region of Ethiopia and Eritrea. About 20% of Ethiopian farmland is dedicated to teff, and the government want to double that number in the next 2 years in order to start exporting to Europe and and the US.

Why the sudden popularity of teff?

Teff is a tiny grain with a larger proportion of bran to endosperm, so when it is ground into flour the nutritional profile is very nice. It is high in fiber, calcium, and iron, as well as other nutrients. Another important feature is that teff is gluten-free. With the rise of gluten intolerance in the Western World, manufacturers and consumers are looking for alternative flours.

One of the concerns the Ethiopian government needs to tackle is the effect of mass exports on poor farmers who will now prefer to sell their crop instead of eating it. This is what’s happening now in Bolivia and Peru, where quinoa, once a lowly staple of the poor, has become a major export, but too expensive for the farmers who actually grow it to consume.

Teff is not widely available in US supermarkets yet. You can purchase it in specialty stores, but also online on Amazon.com or from Bob’s Red Mill.

Teff Flour - Bob's Red Mill

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  • Aria Gonzalez

    I can see why Teff would be better than wheat flour… gluten free… but what makes it so ‘super’? I honestly would consider it a waste of time.

  • Cactus_Wren

    I would — with all possible respect — revise one sentence to read, “With the rise of perceived gluten intolerance in the Western World, and the recent American fad for gluten-free products, manufacturers and consumers are looking for alternative flours.”

    • Dot Parker

      How astute you are Cactus Wren. Excellent comment!

  • JackieB

    We played with Teff in culinary school. The only stand out recipes were Teff pancakes and waffles. Great texture and taste. We had a difficult time using it in other areas such as breads and muffins. I honestly do not see this grain taking off. Its not an easy substitute.

  • rich

    It is being dubbed a supergrain…not a superfood or supermeat. In other words it is better than your typical grain. Nowhere does it say that teff is better than meat or veggies.