If you're wondering how to cook farro, you'll be happy to know that you have several options. To make the best choice, you need to know the type of farro you'll be cooking (whole grain, pearled, or semi-pearled) and how farro fits into your recipe. Is it the main component (as in a farro salad or pilaf)? Or does it play a supporting roll (as it does in many soups and stews)?
Among many delicious whole grains, farro is an ancient grain that stands out for it's nutty flavor and chewy texture. It works beautifully as a base for salads, a hearty addition to soups and stews, and a nutritious alternative to processed grains for pilaf and risotto.
There are three types of farro that the term refers to and all are species of hulled wheat: einkorn, emmer, and spelt . Or in Italian, respectively: farro piccolo, farro medio, and farro grande. In Italy and the United States, Emmer is the most common variety.
What is the difference between Whole Farro and Semi-Pearled Farro?
Whole grain farro is hulled, but has the bran intact. It's the most nutritious option and has 5 grams of fiber in a ¼ cup. It takes longer to cook than the pearled varieties, but has the most nutty flavor and pleasantly chewy texture.
Semi-pearled farro has part of the bran removed. It has a faster cooking time than whole farro, but has fewer nutrients and fiber.
Farro of all three varieties (einkorn, emmer, and spelt), are types of wheat and are not gluten free. For a gluten free farro substitute in recipes, use brown rice, oat groats, or quinoa.
Farro contains phytic acid which binds to nutrients and blocks their absorption. Cooking whole grains, including whole farro, reduces this acid, but soaking reduces it even further making grains more nutritious and digestible. Soak farro in enough water to cover (and a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to be even more effective) for several hours or overnight.
Soaking also reduces cooking time and lends a more even texture in the cooked grain.
Farro is very nutritious. It's not only a good source of fiber and antioxidants, but high in protein, zinc, magnesium and some B vitamins.
Farro typically has a powdery coating that should be rinsed off before cooking.
1 cup of dry farro yields about 2 cups cooked.
How to Cook Farro
When cooking farro, you have several cooking methods to choose from: stovetop rice method, stovetop pasta method, instant pot, and rice cooker.
In the basic recipes below, note that water can be swapped out for broth or other flavorful liquids and aromatics (like apple cider and bay leaves in the Charlie Bird Farro Salad). And salt is optional, but it does enhance the nutty farro flavor.
Whole Farro: Stovetop Pasta Method (not pre-soaked)
Add 1 cup of farro (rinsed) to 2 quarts of boiling, salted water (salt as you would if you were making pasta). Boil uncovered until tender or al dente (your preference), 25 to 35 minutes. Drain and serve.
Pre-Soaked Whole Farro: Stovetop Pasta Method (soaked for several hours or overnight)
Bring 1 cup of rinsed and soaked farro, 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and serve.
Whole Farro: Stovetop Rice Method (not pre-soaked)
Bring 1 cup of farro (rinsed), ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and 2 ½ cups cold water to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until tender, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered 5 minutes. Drain excess water and fluff with fork. Serve.
Pre-Soaked Whole Farro: Stovetop Rice Method (farro soaked for several hours or overnight)
Bring 1 cup of rinsed and soaked farro, 2 cups water, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt to boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain excess water and fluff with fork. Serve.
Whole Farro: Rice Cooker Method (Not Pre-Soaked)
Place 1 cup rinsed farro, 1 ½ cups cold water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of kosher salt in a medium (6-cup) rice cooker. Stir to combine; let soak 1 hour. Close cover and set machine to Regular/Brown Rice cycle. When machine switches to Keep Warm cycle, allow farro to steam for 10 minutes before fluffing with a wooden rice paddle or spoon. Serve. (Adapted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook)
Note that this method calls for a substantially lower water to farro ratio than other methods as the water cooks into the farro completely, nothing to drain. It has a firm, pleasant bite. If you prefer softer farro, increase the water to 2 cups or more per 1 cup of dry farro.
Whole Farro: Instant Pot (Multi-Cooker) Method (Not Pre-Soaked)
Place 1 cup farro (rinsed), 3 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt in an instant pot. Set valve to sealing. Set for 12 minutes on manual setting and high pressure. Quick release pressure; drain excess water and serve. (adapted from Bob's Red Mill)
Semi-Pearled Farro: Stovetop Rice Method
Bring 1 cup of semi-pearled farro (rinsed) and 2 ⅔ cups of cold water to boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered 5 minutes. Drain excess water, fluff with fork, and serve.