What is Spelt? New Ways to Love this Old Grain
Last week I wrote about kamut, an ancient grain that is a great ingredient to incorporate into your cooking. Spelt is another grain that, like kamut, has made a bit of a comeback as a healthy alternative to wheat and wheat gluten.
Though spelt was a common grain historically (with references back to the Greeks) and was important in Europe during medieval times. According to Twelfth-century mystic St. Hildegard, “The spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grain. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful. If someone is ill boil some spelt, mix it with egg and this will heal him like a fine ointment.” Even today, the German abbey founded by St. Hildegard is still promoting spelt– you can find spelt products and even spelt liqueur.
But spelt fell out of cultivation when wheat, which was easier to grow with chemical fertilizers and to harvest mechanically for mass production, became more popular.
Spelt is often called dinkel wheat too, but more commonly it is confused with farro (triticum turgidum L. group dicoccum)– another ancient wheat relative. We can blame the Italian language for the mix-up; the Italian name for spelt (Triticum spelta L.) is farro grande, or “big farro.” Spelt has a similar nutritional profile to whole grain wheat.
Whole grain spelt can be used in the same way as wheat berries or like kamut in this Autumn Jewels Salad made with beets, carrots and greens. Spelt generally has a milder, nuttier flavor that wheat, and works great for pilafs, salads, and warm grain-based dishes. You can use whole grain spelt in porridges too, like this slow-cooker oatmeal.
Spelt can be found as whole grain, as flakes, as flour, or increasingly in packaged goods like pasta and baking mixes. I have loved using both whole grain and white spelt flour for years, and have had good luck using it as a replacement for wheat flour in almost all recipes.
I’ve used both whole grain spelt flour and white spelt flour, and liked both for various uses. Just as with whole wheat flour, whole spelt is heavy, and thus works best for baked goods that already have some weight, like pumpkin bread or banana muffins. White spelt flour is perfect for scones and could be used in cookies and brownies too.
This recipe for golden spelt flake granola was a revelation: I’ve been making granola with oats for years, but this just became my new favorite. The texture is familiar, but firmer, nuttier, and altogether more pleasant. It’s only lightly sweetened with maple syrup and the spelt itself has a nice sweetness to it. Swap out the seeds and nuts based on what’s in your pantry, and just trust me on the olive oil– it works wonderfully! Try it today and get ready to fall in love with spelt.
- 2 cups rolled spelt
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup whole flax seeds and/or chia seeds
- 1/2 cup flaked coconut
- 1 cup roughly chopped cashews
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a very large bowl, mix spelt, seeds, coconut, and nuts.
- Drizzle maple syrup and olive oil atop mixture, and sprinkle in salt. Stir to combine fully, and let rest five minutes. Stir again, then pour onto prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 30 minutes, stirring granola at the halfway point. Remove from heat, and let cool completely.
- Once granola is cool, store in an airtight container for up to a month.
- Serve with coconut yogurt, atop salads, soak to make a quick muesli, or eat out of hand for a quick snack.
Other Delicious Recipes with Spelt
- Velvety Spelt Scones
- Spelt Salad with Fava Beans
- Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Pumpkin Scones
- Speedy Spelt Biscuits (use unsweetened soymilk mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice for vegan buttermilk)
- Strawberry & Macadamia Nut Scones
- Spelt and Wild Mushroom Risotto
- Rolled Grain Cereal with Spelt Flakes
- Multi-grain Irish Soda Bread