Once again, a gluten-free diet has the power to bring international flavor, tradition, and culture into the North American gluten-free kitchen with ingredients that you may never have otherwise discovered. One of the lesser known gluten-free ingredients, ragi is a gluten-free cereal grass that is not regularly mentioned in the lineup of gluten-free grains that includes amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, quinoa, and teff. More commonly known as finger millet or African millet, ragi is a nutritious food staple that is native to Africa and has also been cultivated for centuries in India, dating as far back as 1000 BC. Its flavor has a slightly bitter tone but is pleasant to the palate, and while the texture can have a gritty quality, its fiber content is similar to flax meal and has a sticky, viscous quality that will bulk up your dish.
In Africa, ragi is used to make porridge to accompany other foods. Ragi flour is widely used in India to make the well-known bread or leavened pancakes known as Dosa, or the less-leavened version known as Roti. Ragi roti is a traditional breakfast food of India that is made using ragi flour, grated coconut, onions, and green chilis. This food is often modified to include various vegetables as a stuffing like carrots, peas, and cauliflower.
While ragi flour is common in other cultures, to procure some ragi flour for your gluten-free North American kitchen is more challenging. But if you’re looking to broaden your pantry’s gluten-free ingredient profile, you may find the time well spent. Begin shopping for ragi flour in specialty Asian markets, spend some time online shopping for it, and browse Indian cuisine cookbooks for recipes utilizing this unique ingredient. As the gluten-free food industry continues to grow, ragi just might be an ingredient to watch.