Millet: On-Trend, Healthy and Flavorful


Katie Harris, Product Development & Nutrition Scientist
Millet Burger

Millet is making a comeback in the agricultural sector and is the preferred crop in many areas around the world.  This is because millet has a short growing season, and it is highly tolerant to extreme weather conditions. It’s also an ancient grain that provides fiber and nutrients along with a great texture and taste.  Millet’s mild flavor makes it the perfect “companion” for inclusion in grain blends.

Because of its visual appeal, millet is a common topping and inclusion to a variety of baked goods.  For a delightful “crunch” millet may be added as a whole grain in either the raw or toasted form into or on top of bread dough before baking.  The applications that use millet vary from baby food to cooked side dishes. Millet expands tremendously when cooked or boiled and makes a great alternative to oatmeal or porridge for breakfast. Hulled millet can also be air-popped to produce a crunchy, satisfying snack (similar to popcorn).

Millet flour can be used in yeast raised breads up to 30% FWB.  Because millet flour lacks gluten forming properties, it must be combined with high protein wheat flours to enable the bread to rise and provide the proper structure.

Millet also provides flavor, texture, and color to gluten-free applications like pasta and baked goods.  Some millet varieties have a deep yellow appearance (helpful for gluten-free pasta), mild flavor profiles, and a nutty cornmeal flavor that enhances the sensory experience of gluten free products.  In addition, it is an alternative to rice in extruded and processed foods because of its mild flavor, light color, and good expansion capabilities.

This year’s Natural Products Expo shows highlighted a number of developing trends for millet with products such as millet tots, millet burgers and millet inclusion in a number of bakery mixes. Its inclusion in toddler food and snacks along with other ancient grains indicates millet has the ability to breathe new life into existing categories as well as shine for new emerging brands.

Millet is an above average nutritious cereal with great health benefits.  Millet is rich in both essential and non-essential amino acids including Leucine, Cysteine, Tryptophan, and Phenylalanine.  It is packed with vitamins and minerals that the body requires such as Calcium, B vitamins, Zinc, Iron, and antioxidants.  It is also a good source of Copper, Manganese, Phosphorus, and Magnesium.

Another reason millet is a healthy inclusion in the diet is its high fiber content.  It acts as a prebiotic to feed important beneficial bacteria in your body, and starves harmful bacteria and yeasts like Candida albicans.  Despite its high fiber content, it is still easily digestible, causes minimal GI distress, and can be included in the diet of those with Celiac disease.  Millet is also an alkalizing agent which assists in regulating body pH.

More than a healthy and flavorful inclusion, proso millet, cleaned and dehulled at Bay State’s Sterling, Colorado facility and sold under the CleanDirt Farm™ name supports local farmers through direct grower relationships. As a rotation crop, millet sustains soil fertility and helps reduce erosion. Millet is a highly resilient crop with a short growing season requiring less water and insect control than other grains. Co-products as a result of the cleaning and dehulling process are pelletized and sold to local Colorado farms as animal feed. In other words, millet is exceptionally eco-friendly!

Jay Freedman, Product Applications Specialist, contributed to this blog.

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