Recipe Spotlight

How to Cook Farro: Tips and Recipes from Cook’s Country

A simple three-step method will make you want to include this versatile grain in everything.

Published June 2, 2022.

Farro is an ancient grain, adored for its nutty flavor, slightly chewy texture, and versatility. It makes a nice pilaf to serve as a side dish, can be used as the base of a grain salad, and can be cooked risotto-style to make a creamy dish known as farrotto.

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Sizing Up Farro

In Italy, farro can be found in three different sizes: farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt). The most common size you’ll find in the United States is farro medio.

Farro can be processed in four different ways: whole-grain, semipearled, pearled, and quick-cooking. Here’s what you need to know about each type.

  • Whole-grain farro has the inedible husk removed, but its bran and germ are left intact. In this form, the farro contains the most fiber and nutrients.
  • Semipearled farro has part of the bran removed. The bran might also be lightly scratched to facilitate quicker cooking.
  • Pearled farro has the outer bran layer removed or scored so it cooks even more quickly than semipearled farro.
  • Quick-cooking farro has all the bran removed and typically cooks in just 10 minutes.

How To Cook Farro

My colleague and Cook’s Country Test Cook Amanda Luchtel recently developed a recipe for Basic Farro Pilaf. She opted to use pearled farro because it is easy to find in supermarkets in the United States, and it offers the texture and flavor of a whole grain without the long cooking time. (You can use whole-grain farro, but note that you’ll need to soak it for 8 to 12 hours first, and it might take on the longer end of the time range to cook.)

Basic Farro Pilaf

Central Italy’s popular grain is worthy of a place at your table.
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Amanda’s recipe starts by calling for toasting the pearled farro in olive oil. Taking a few minutes to toast the farro gives it a nice nutty flavor that works equally well in a stand-alone pilaf or a grain salad.

First, toast the farro in olive oil.
First, toast the farro in olive oil.

Once the farro is toasted, water, salt, thyme sprigs, and a bay leaf go into the pot and the heat gets cranked up to high. As the water comes to a boil, the farro will start cooking. Reducing the heat to a simmer allows the grains to cook evenly. Cooking the farro in an abundance of water like pasta ensures that it will become tender with no need to worry about all the liquid being absorbed before it is ready. 

When using the pilaf method (which relies on a set ratio of liquid to grain), all the liquid could get absorbed before the farro is done cooking because different brands of farro can have different cooking times.

Then boil the farro with aromatics until tender, with a slight chew.
Then boil the farro with aromatics until tender, with a slight chew.

Due to those inconsistent cooking times, it’s best to check the farro for doneness after 10 minutes (it can take up to 20 minutes). You’ll know the farro is ready when the grains yield slightly to the bite and are not overly hard or chewy. It’s normal for some of the grains to split open by the time the farro is done.

The farro can then be drained and finished with some minced garlic, salt, and olive oil for a pilaf, or it can be used in a grain salad.

Finally, drain the farro.
Finally, drain the farro.

Basic Farro Pilaf

By Amanda Luchtel

Serves 6

We developed this recipe using Bob’s Red Mill Organic Farro. You can also use whole-grain or semipearled farro here if you can find it, but note that the cooking time will be on the longer side of the range given. To use whole-grain farro, soak it for at least 8 hours or up to 12 hours and drain it thoroughly before starting with step 1. Do not use quick-cooking farro here.

  • 1½ cups pearled farro
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt, plus salt for cooking farro
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

1. Combine farro and 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until farro is fragrant and just starting to darken in color, about 6 minutes.

2. Add 2 quarts water, 1 tablespoon salt, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until grains are tender with slight chew, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain well. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

3. Return farro to saucepan. Stir in parsley, if using; garlic; salt; and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish and serve.

How to Use Farro in a Grain Salad

Amanda developed two beautiful and flavorful grain salads to showcase the perfectly cooked farro. (If using the farro in a salad, skip step 3 of the Basic Farro Pilaf recipe). One salad is lightly dressed with lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil and features asparagus, radishes, and arugula paired with fresh mint and dill. It’s just the thing to make for a springtime lunch. 

Farro Salad with Asparagus, Radishes, and Parmesan

Central Italy’s popular grain is worthy of a place at your table.
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The other (my favorite) is a riff on antipasto. The dressing switches to a red wine vinegar base, and the salad is full of antipasto platter favorites: cherry tomatoes, diced salami and provolone, marinated artichoke hearts, and pitted green olives. This grain salad also gets a little arugula and some fresh basil to finish it off. It’s perfect for the transition to summer.

Antipasto Farro Salad with Arugula

Central Italy’s popular grain is worthy of a place at your table.
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However you decide to serve it, just remember, cooking farro like pasta will lead to the most consistently cooked grains.

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