What Is Farro?

Updated: Dec. 19, 2023

A wholesome ancient grain, farro is worth adding to your repertoire.

Ancient grains—whole grains that have been part of the human diet for thousands of years—are nutritious additions to your pantry. Mild-tasting, versatile farro is an easy ancient grain to incorporate into your diet. But what is farro, exactly, and how do you cook it?

What is farro?

Farro is an ancient grain, a form of wheat that’s about 20,000 years old. With roots in Mesopotamia, farro is a staple of Mediterranean diets, especially in Italy. Farro is sold in whole grain form, and might be one of three varietals of ancient wheat: einkorn, emmer or spelt. All forms of farro have a pleasant nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture after cooking. It’s a hearty addition to a whole-grain dinner.

Types of Farro

In American grocery stores, farro is generally found in three forms: pearled, semi-pearled and whole. Pearled farro is the most common and the quickest to cook, since the bran has been removed from the grain. Unfortunately, removing the bran also reduces the amount of fiber and nutrients. You can also buy semi-pearled farro, which retains some of the bran, as well as whole grain farro.

Nutrition Benefits of Farro

Farro, especially in whole-grain form, is an excellent source of fiber and protein. It’s rich in antioxidants, as well as iron, magnesium and zinc.

Is farro gluten-free?

Since farro is a form of wheat, it is not gluten-free. Gluten-free alternatives to farro include whole-grain quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat, millet and wild rice.

Where to Buy Farro

You can find farro in the pasta, rice and grains section of your national grocery store. You can also buy it online through places like Whole Foods.

How to Cook Farro

Cook farro as you’d cook any whole grain: simmer in liquid until tender. Many cooks soak farro before cooking. Whole grain farro should soak overnight, while pearled and semi-pearled varieties benefit from soaking for 30 minutes or more. Cook farro in water or broth at a ratio of one part farro to three parts liquid. Soaked farro will cook in about 15 minutes, while unsoaked or whole grain farro will be al dente in 30 minutes or so.

It’s simple to cook farro in a pot on the stove (similar to cooking brown rice). You can also use a rice cooker, which will cook farro hands-free, or a pressure cooker (like the Instant Pot) to cook farro quickly.

How to Eat Farro

Cooked farro tastes delicious in a grain salad, where its pleasant chewiness adds texture and substance. Farro makes a hearty side dish for fish and other heart-healthy dinners. You can also stir cooked farro into a soup or stew.