There’s A New Gluten-Free Grain In Town

Refrigerators never die in the middle of winter, when all you’d need to do is open a window to keep the milk cold, they die in the middle of a New York City heat wave when it’s 104 outside and 80 inside.  The fridge was cool — ish (about 55 according to the inside panel), but anything with an expiration date was out of luck.  The milk was hardest hit. Didn’t stand a chance. The yogurt, with its already soured cultures, wasn’t so needy of the cold, but I still had to keep it in a pot in the fridge filled with ice cubes.  Only problem was the freezer – in a gesture of solidarity – had decided to conduct a work slow-down and was dropping ice cubes into the tray at the rate a hen lays eggs – one a day.  The yogurt would be heading to a slow death.

So in light of the mechanical failure, I had to start using things up that would not survive the two-day repairman wait. This included eggs, leftover vegs and carrots starting to wilt. I needed a plan.

I had never heard much about the grain millet (except that I recall filling our bird-feeder with it when I was ten). I started getting curious though when I noticed it on the store shelf one day. It’s believed to have been the first grain ever cultivated – well before rice, and is commonly eaten in East Africa and parts of China where it grows well in drought-like conditions.

It has a pop corn-like taste with a consistency similar to couscous or quinoa, so decided it would be a perfect candidate for Millet Cakes – savory flat cakes into which I would add the must-be-used-up foods.

Get the savory Millet Cake recipe.

Millet’s Merits

  • Gluten-free.
  • Pretty good source of protein (about 4 g/quarter cup dry) which is higher than rice, but a bit lower than quinoa (about 5 or 6 g/quarter cup). It does not, however, contain the amino acid lysine (a protein) that quinoa is well known for.
  • Good source of iron (about 50% higher than quinoa).
  • As versatile as rice, couscous, barley, or quinoa.
  • Cheap. (Half the price of quinoa.)

You can also buy millet flour for baking.

Millet. It looks like quinoa and couscous. Label your containers.

A touch of flour helps to bind things. Whole wheat or white is fine, since you use so little.

The dill is critical both in the cakes and on top of them.

I don’t find the flavor of millet quite as appealing on its own as other grains, but if you’re using it with several other ingredients, and millet’s flavor and texture are not carrying the team, then give it a try.

I also have to give a shout-out to WholeFoods whose quinoa cakes first inspired me to get creative and invent a version of my own. I find theirs a bit greasy with not enough vegs for my tastes, so these are very light and loaded with vegs.

Ever used millet? Recipes in which you’re using quinoa where perhaps millet could take its place?

Related Posts
Grains Don’t Want You To Eat Them (Some properties that make grains hard to digest and what you can do to mitigate these.)
Are Whole Grains Making Us Fat (About our over dependence on grains in the diet)
Alternative Pesto (Pesto would also work great on top of the Millet Cakes)


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  • Jen C.


  • MindyKannon

    I love you stories as well as the simple recipe and the gorgeous pictures.  Thanks

  • jmacncheese

    Yummy. I used to get a bread years ago (in Michigan) that was chock full of whole millet seed and I found hard to live without. I haven’t been able to find anything that comes close. 

  • Rivki Locker

    What a lovely and innovative recipe. I remember trying millet years ago and really enjoying it. Will have to pick some up soon. 

  • Cato442

    I spent three years in West Africa where people’s main food source is millet. I grew to love it in all the various ways they serve it, my favorite being millet porridge with milk. Here, in the States, I’ve since adapted a cookie recipe to make sweet use of millet…and, every now and again, I still throw some out for the birds.

  • Ann

    I’ve never used millet, but it sounds delicious – and it DOES look like cous-cous!

  • Shelly B

    I am eager to try these. I love millet, and use it as a substitution for couscous and orzo (avoiding gluten). If you toast the grains before cooking, it gives it a nice nutty flavor. Any suggestions for something other than wheat for binding?
    I have had a fridge die twice (and yes its always in the summer), but I wasn’t nearly as creative about it as you! Thanks for your blog.

    • Michelle Madden

      Since you’re using so little (1 T for an entire batch) any kind of flavor will do -rice, potato, millet (!)… though gluten-free flours won’t bind quite as well as its the gluten in flours that gives the stickyness.

      You could also leave out the flour- the egg is really the main binding agent here, and the olive oil helps too, so I think you could get away without flour.

  • amy chase

    i LOVE millet and agree with shelly b == great to toast it up a bit, before cooking.  i make a big batch and enjoy it heated up with a little coconut oil and dried fruits in the morning, and savoried up in all kinds of manner for dinner… looking forward to trying these little cakes of yours michelle!  it’s also the grain that i have the most success cooking and having come out, and remain over a few days, fluffy.

    • Michelle Madden

      Have tried the toasting before and agree, it def gives an even nuttier flavor. It also seems to eliminate any bitterness that can occur with some grains if you don’t rinse well pre cooking. Love the coconut oil addition idea!

  • Fred

    Not only sounds tasty/delicious but they have an appealing countenance.  If you decide to sell them for profit give me a holler……could help with the fridge repair bill!

    • Michelle Madden

      An outstanding idea! Sell 1000 at $2 each and I’m covered (ok so it was only an $800 repair bill…)

  • Dennis

    Anything with dill, I want to try!!

    • H Den

      my wife has been a celiac for years and to my knowledge has never used millett. I’m delighted to be able to pass on the tip to her.

  • guest

    I always toss a handful of millet into my homemade breads.  It adds a nice bit of texture and flavour.

    • Michelle

      You cook it first and then toss it in? Or raw?? Guessing the former!

  • Carla @ Gluten Free Recipe Box

    I love millet, and teff, too!

    • Michelle

      I don’t know teff- how do you cook with it?

  • Carla @ Gluten Free Recipe Box

    Michelle, in answer to your question, “How do you cook teff?” – I have never cooked it, myself. I have only used teff and millet as flours – just a little added to gluten-free bread recipes.

  • TrishDSugrFree

    I also like puffed millet for breakfast, with fresh fruit, unsweetened almond milk – or as a low-calorie snack by itself in the afternoon. 

  • Lisa

    Okay so this is the 3rd time millet has come up this week! Operation ‘Millet’ is in effect. (Plus I have a lonely bag of it in the pantry that has been asking to be used.) Think I will whack a soft-boiled egg on it and call it brunch this weekend. Thanks for the lovely recipe. Lisa x

    • Michelle Madden

      Send us a photo (or a description) of your creation!

  • Michelle Pfennighaus

    Millet is great! I have a recipe on my site for mashed millet – like mashed potatoes but using the grain and cauliflower and tahini. Yummy.

  • Brenda

    Awesome. My husband has been eating millet for months. But until now, the grain just hasn’t appealed to me. Thanks for this yummy spin.

  • Dr Kim

    I love to use millet in baking:  I first encountered it in these delicious millet muffins at the Metropolitan Bakery in Philadelphia:  I still dream about them.
    I use it in muffins, scones, and crisp toppings as well as homemade muesli.  It gives baked goods a delicious crunch that I just adore.

  • bevybev

    hummmmmmm,millet cakes… sounds good!

  • Alex_newell

    This recipe sounds SO YUMM, and I can’t wait to try it…. but I can’t eat eggs! Do you have any suggestions for how to substitute the egg? Some sort of oil? Thanks so much!!

    • Michelle Madden

      Yes, I would add a little bit extra oil and be sure the vegs are super finely peeled or finely chopped and this will help keep things together.  I would also watch them in the oven very closely and perhaps undercook them a little as they could easily dry out while cooking without the egg.

      • Alex_newell

        Thank you!! Can’t wait to try!