Tasting Circle: Teff, the world’s smallest grain

  • Top close view of teff grain filling an orange bowl atop a wood table top. BWFolsom—Getty Images/iStockphoto

Published: 11/22/2017 3:26:53 PM

This fall Katy and I decided to team up again to lead a Five College Learning in Retirement class on ancient grains. The minute we had this idea, it seemed that food manufacturers were also incorporating ancient grains into breads, cereals and pasta. Teff, amaranth, sorghum, spelt — you name it, they were featured, perhaps because many are also gluten-free.

Katy led off and chose teff, the world’s smallest grain. It’s grown primarily in Ethiopia (and a few other countries), where it’s used to make injera, the spongy, fermented flatbread that serves both as an edible platform on which to display other dishes, and as a utensil for eating them. Katy learned about making injera from the owner of an Ethiopian restaurant in Atlanta, and with the aid of online videos, tried (four times) to make it herself. Her last attempt resulted in little injeras about 6 inches in diameter.

Each presenter was asked first to cook her grain only in lightly salted water, so that we could appreciate its taste and texture. We tried our little tan mound of teff. “It tastes better than it looks,” Carol Jolly remarked.

Katy is nothing if not ambitious, and she went on to serve us a spiced teff-date porridge, a vegetable-teff stew, an apple crumb pie with a teff crust, fudgy teff brownies and teff scones.

All were delicious and left us cowed as to our future in this class.


Teff Porridge


1 cup whole grain teff

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3 cups water

3/4 cup dates, pitted

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons honey


Topping suggestions:

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, whole milk, cream or yogurt, drizzle of honey



Heat a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add teff; stir frequently. This toasts the grains. Listen carefully, and stop when the grains begin to pop (3-6 minutes).

Add water, butter, and cloves. Stir well. Bring to a gentle boil; cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add dates, salt, and honey. Cover and continue cooking until teff is tender and the porridge is the desired consistency, 5-10 minutes. Add more boiling water if the mixture becomes very thick before teff is cooked through.

Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve porridge with one or more toppings.


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