What is Fonio? This grain from the millet family is reportedly nutrient-rich and low GI, meaning that the claims of powerful health benefits are definitely well-founded.

Common Names

Fonio, white fonio, fundi, hungry rice,  hungry millet, fundi millet, petit mil, hungry, acha

What does fonio taste like?

Fonio is superbly easy to cook, and New York City chef Pierre Thiam is famous for having made public an old Bambara saying: ‘Fonio never embarrasses the cook’. The grain itself is much like couscous in both taste and texture, though much smaller.

It has a rich, earthy, and nutty flavor, making it an ideal replacement for couscous in a number of recipes. 

With this powerful, distinctive taste, and the fact that it is incredibly fast-growing, fonio is sometimes called ‘food for royalty’, and has been served to guests of honor for centuries.

Currently, there is a lot of work going into making fonio more available. Because of its delicious taste and powerful health benefits, it’s likely to experience the same boom that quinoa had in recent years.

However, chefs and farmers want to avoid the boom-and-bust pattern that quinoa went through as demand outpaced supply. Luckily, the grain can be harvestable in as little as six weeks from planting, there are white and black varieties.

It grows well on land that is not very fertile,  so farming is a very appealing job thanks to the fairly quick and stable profits. 


What Is Fonio Health Benefits?

Fonio is very nutritious and has many health benefits. It is a whole grain and naturally gluten-free, it is also:

  1. A great source of protein – One cup of the cooked grain provides 2 grams of protein. It contains amino acids that are not found in other cereal grains like rice, corn, sorghum, and wheat. Leucine, methionine, valine, and cysteine are amino acids found in fonio.
  2. Fonio has a low glycemic index and low sugar content when eaten, it doesn’t cause a spike in sugar levels, it is favorable food for diabetics.
  3. Fonio contains 1 gram of fiber in one cup of cooked fonio, fiber aids in digestion, prevents constipation. Studies also show that soluble fiber lowers cholesterol, lowers blood sugar, increases fullness, and helps with weight loss. 1. 2. 3.
  4. A great source of iron so it helps to prevent anemia.
fonio in a wooden bowl on a marble background

What is fonio good for?

Fonio’s great in all of the places that you might currently use other grains like quinoa. More specifically, it’s useful as stuffing or part of the main meal, as well as in flavourful side dishes.

When being used as part of the main dish, it’s particularly delicious if it is stuffed inside of bell peppers or mushrooms, as couscous may be.

The reason for this is that when it is cooked, be it steamed or boiled, it becomes almost sticky, like rice. Therefore, when it is added to the center of a piece of veg, it can form into a crumbly, rich, and decadent filling.

It can also be used as a side, in the same way, that quinoa might be. It’s typical to steam or boil the grains of this size, before adding some small amount of fat and herbs to give them a bit of a flavor boost.

It is very similar to couscous, some great herbs and spices to add could be cilantro, rosemary, basil, turmeric, smoked paprika, and garlic granules – this will make a very impressive side dish.

Fonio can be processed into flour and be used in baked goods. It can also be made into a cereal porridge.

Is fonio gluten-free?

Fonio is one of the grains that are gluten-free, it doesn’t contain any gluten at all. This is good news for people who suffer from gluten intolerance, and may soon be on the restaurant menus here in the USA.

Whether you’re a grain-iac or a grain novice, fonio seems like a brilliant up and coming foodstuff that’s going to take the culinary world by storm before we know it. Try some out soon!

Fonio is sold in a few Whole Foods or on Amazon.

You can substitute fonio for quinoa in these quinoa recipes, Jamaican Quinoa And Peas, and Cajun Quinoa Pilaf. 

fonio in a silver metal measuring sputula

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