Ancient teff supergrain is a complete protein, packed full of essential minerals, it's the smallest seed in the world and completely gluten-free.
Say hello to teff supergrain
Teff is an ancient species of lovegrass native to Ethiopia, where it is the most important cereal crop. Teff has been used for many years to protect Ethiopia from famine and hunger. It can provide people with enough nutrients to sustain them for long periods of time.
History of teff supergrain
Teff is an ancient crop and was likely domesticated more than 6,000 years ago in The Horn of Africa, which is the major center of the plant’s diversity.
The name teff is thought to originate from the Amharic word teffa, which means “lost” and likely refers to the minute seeds. Teff is a labour-intensive crop and requires significant soil preparation to ensure even sowing and proper seed depth.
Seasonality and availability
Teff is a self pollinating annual cereal grass. It's a c4 plant which allows it to more effectively fix carbon in drought and high temperatures.
It's grown for its tiny seeds and its straw to feed to cattle. It produces the smallest seeds in the world. 3000 grains weigh about 1g! Teff is a fast growing crop, almost twice as fast as wheat.
Teff is the most important crop for production and consumption in Ethiopia. The fermented pancake injera provides livelihood for about 6.5 million small farmers in the country. In 2006, the Ethiopiam government outlawed the export of raw teff grain, for fear of the same fate as some South American countries after the explosion of quinoa consumption in Europe and USA.
The Ethiopian government feared if exports were allowed, farms would not be able to provide enough teff for the domestic market and local prices would become unaffordable. Processed teff in the form of injera was allowed, mainly for the Ethiopian and Eutherian diaspora living around the world.
Teff yields have been increasing year on year and prices remain stable which led the government to partially lift the ban in 2015. To ensure the domestic production would not be minimized, the export license was only granted to 48 farmers who have not cultivated the crop before!
Lack of mechanisation is a barrier to potential increases in teff exports, yet the increasing demand rising each year is encouraging the country to speed up modernisation of agriculture and boost research.
Because of it's potential as an economic success, a few other countries including USA & some European countries are already cultivating teff.
Teff is a highly nutritious ancient supergrain. It's a rich source of protein, complex-carbohydrates, fiber and essential minerals.
Here are some of the main nutritional highlights:
Teff is an excellent source of protein, proudly boasting all the essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein in your body. Ethiopia is famous for its long-distance runners. Some attribute the health of these runners to teff. Ethiopians get about two-thirds of their protein from this tiny grain.
Teff is a good source of dietary fiber including resistant starch which is a recently discovered class of fiber that helps us manage blood sugar, weight, and, colon health.
Teff contains no gluten and thus can provide many of the health benefits without damaging our digestive system.
Teff is good news for our muscular, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. It contains 69% of our daily value of magnesium. Magnesium is a cofactor for many of our body processes and can help us avoid things like migraines, heart attacks, and diabetes.
We can access 10% of our daily value of vitamin B6 (Pyridoxin) in a serving of teff. Vitamin B6 helps out all over the place. Dee Sandquist, MS, RD, CD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association explained the function of vitamin B6. “It is important for cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular, and nervous system function. It is one of the vitamins that are behind the scenes.”
Zinc is an ally to our immune systems and genetic code. It helps us fight off disease and builds proteins. A serving of teff can provide 10% of our needed zinc.
Teff easily leads the grains in calcium content (123 mg/1 cup cooked teff). This is almost 5 times more than whole wheat. We all know what that means for our bones and teeth!
This is something special about teff. Most grains don’t boast vitamin C content. But teff is actually a good source of the vitamin so crucial to our immune system, body tissues, and skeletal system.
One cup (125g) of cooked teff contains approximately:
- 255 calories
- 1.6 grams fat
- 20 milligrams sodium
- 50 grams carbohydrates
- 7 grams dietary fiber
- 10 grams protein
- 0.46 milligrams thiamine (31 percent DV)
- 0.24 milligrams vitamin B6 (12 percent DV)
- 2.3 milligrams niacin (11 percent DV)
- 0.08 milligrams riboflavin/vitamin B2 (5 percent DV)
- 7.2 milligrams manganese (360 percent DV)
- 126 milligrams magnesium (32 percent DV)
- 302 milligrams phosphorus (30 percent DV)
- 5.17 milligrams iron (29 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligrams copper (28 percent DV)
- 2.8 percent zinc (19 percent DV)
- 123 milligrams calcium (12 percent DV)
- 269 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
- 20 milligrams sodium (1 percent DV)
- Aids circulation
- Promotes weight-loss
- Relieves PMS symptoms
- Boosts immune system
- Supports bone health
- Aids digestion
- Supports cardiovascular health
- Manages diabetic symptoms
- High source of plant protein
- Gluten-free grain alternative
Reference: for more details on health benefit please visit Dr Axe
How to cook teff supergrain
Cooking teff is similar to quinoa; it cooks quickly, and it’s very easy.
Here’s how to cook the grain:
- Add one part teff to 3 part water into a medium-sized pot.
- Bring to a boil slowly with a pinch of salt.
- When the water boils, turn down the heat to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid.
- Remove the teff from heat after 15–20 minutes or when the water is completely dissolved.
Alternatively, you can dry-cook the grains for 4 minutes on low heat in a dry pan before adding the water.
Teff may need more water than quinoa when cooking. Start by adding one cup of teff and three cups of water. You will notice immediately that teff is smaller than quinoa. Top up the water as it is cooking if there is still a little bite to it.
Once you’ve cooked your batch, there are plenty of options for how to eat teff. If you are new to cooking with teff, think of it as quinoa and experiment with a few different recipes.
Teff grain and teff flour are wonderful alternatives to wheat, barley and rye for those on a gluten-free diet.
You can add teff flour into numerous recipes such as:
You can use teff grain for making:
There really are no limits to how you can incorporate teff into various recipe.
What does teff taste like?
Teff has a delicious, nutty flavour and comes in two varieties; Ivory white teff and brown teff. Both are equally as nutritious.
Ivory and brown teff are sweet-tasting grains unlike any other. Brown teff has a subtle earthy, hazelnut, almost chocolate-like flavor and a moist texture similar to millet. Ivory teff has a milder flavor than the brown.
My favourite teff recipes
Injera is one of my all time favourite foods to eat, the first time I tried it I was a little surprised. I was not familiar with the slightly sour tasting pancake. When you eat this all together with Ethiopian curries and pickles you are in for a memorable culinary experience.
Here is a link to a great variety of healthy teff recipes
Unique teff supergrain facts
- 500g of teff seeds can grow 1 acre of teff.
- Teﬀ flour is fermented by a symbiotic yeast living in the soluble ﬁber on the grain’s surface (like the blush on grapes).
- Teﬀ requires only 36 hours to sprout, the shortest time of any grain.
- Three thousand grains of teﬀ weigh just one gram.
Where to buy
Fortunately teff is widely available and can be easily found in local health food stores and online retailers.