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What the heck is teff? Why this ancient grain is making a serious comeback

Gluten-free grains are big this year. Here's all you need to know about the unusually named teff.

by: Elizabeth Mamacos | 25 Feb 2019
teff grain

Trendy quinoa’s reign as a superfood might be in peril, as another ancient grain seems to be making a comeback.

Teff is a fine grain popular in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it is the staple grain of their tasty cuisines. Due to its nutritious properties, versatility and unique flavour it’s becoming increasingly popular around the world. High in fibre, protein, calcium and antioxidants, it’s no surprise that more and more health conscious foodies are flirting with this gluten-free grain. Yes, it’s naturally gluten-free too and offers those with gluten-free diets an exciting alternative.  

Much like quinoa, teff comes in a variety of colours, each with its own unique flavour. The more common brown teff has a subtle hazelnut taste and a moist texture, according to connoisseurs, while the popular Ivory teff has a milder flavour.In its homeland, teff is ground into flour to make the traditional bread, injera. The flat, pancake-like bread is made from fermented batter and complements the exotic spices used in much of their cuisine. 

Where to buy teff

While I have yet to find teff on the shelves of my local supermarket, it is easily available online from Faithful to Nature, Health Food Warehouse, Urban Ethnic Market and Yellow Submarine. If you prefer to purchase in person then try your nearest Wellness Warehouse as they sometimes carry stock in store.

Prices seem to range between R40 and R100 per kilogram of flour, depending on where you buy it, and R30 and R80 per kilogram of the grain. 


How to use teff

Teff grains can be used much like rice, oats, quinoa or millet. To cook teff grains to use in salads, or to serve as a side to stews and curries, add one cup of teff to two cups of water with a pinch of salt and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for ten minutes with the lid on before fluffing with a fork.

To make teff porridge, add another cup of water and simmer for 12 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency. Teff flour can be used in baking much like regular wheat flour, to make cakes, pancakes, muffins and more.

ALSO READ: Your one-stop guide to different flours and their functions in baking

To make teff pancakes, whisk together 1 egg, 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of teff flour, half a tsp ground cinnamon and half a tsp vanilla essence. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes before frying the batter in batches to a golden brown, or for two to three minutes, on each side. 

Teff flour can also be added directly to smoothies. Start by adding a teaspoon to your favourite smoothie mix, and increase to taste. 

While teff is only just gaining popularity locally, internationally it is better known and there are a few dedicated websites offering hundreds of tasty teff recipes to try. Take a look at and for enticing recipes and inspiration. 


Get your grains and seeds in with these great wholesome recipes

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Images via Getty Images

Read more on: superfoods  |  gluten free  |  grains

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