A cereal grain indigenous to northern Africa (and a time-honored staple in Ethiopia), teff (or tef) is the smallest grain in the world, measuring approximately 1⁄32 inch in diameter. For such a small grain teff is a nutritional powerhouse, packing all 8 amino acids, 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of dietary fiber per 1⁄2 cup serving. Plus, it’s a favorable source of calcium and iron.
Teff comes in a variety of colors including black, brown, red, white, and ivory. As individually interesting as teff is in size, its flavor and texture are also unique. It has a mild, nutty flavor and when cooked it absorbs fragrant spices beautifully and takes on a texture similar to mashed potatoes. It lends itself well to creating savory hot porridges, polentas, and stews varying from sweet to savory. Teff is also favored as a finely ground flour that can be a nutritious addition to gluten-free flour blends for baking, as well as enhancing mixes designed for pancakes and waffles with protein and fiber.
The gluten-free Ethiopian flat-bread Injera is made with teff flour and has a taste and smell reminiscent of sour dough bread. With its flat, very-thin, pancake-like characteristics, this bread is often used as a “plate” upon which to spread savory sauces, stews, or mashes of legumes, then rolled up or folded over and eaten.
Tip: When considering eating Injera at a restaurant, always ask if they included wheat flour in the recipe because it is sometimes used in the United States to make this bread.
Gluten Free Kneads, a frozen cookie dough and focaccia company based in Austin, Texas, features teff flour in conjunction with amaranth flour in its Smart Flour Blend.