What is Spelt? New Ways to Love this Old Grain

Recently I wrote about freekeh, an ancient grain that is a great ingredient to incorporate into your cooking. Spelt is another grain that has made a bit of a comeback as a healthy alternative to wheat and wheat gluten. 

vegan scones
Vegan Berry & Mac Nut Scones made with spelt flour

Spelt does contain gluten, but since the protein molecule is not quite the same as wheat, some people with wheat intolerance (but not Celiac disease) can handle spelt. Spelt is often called dinkel wheat too, and it is commonly confused with farro (triticum turgidum L. group dicoccum)– another ancient wheat relative. We can blame the Italian language for the mix-up; the Italian name for spelt (Triticum spelta L.) is farro grande, or “big farro.” 

Though spelt was a common grain historically (with references back to the Greeks) and was important in Europe during medieval times. Spelt fell out of cultivation when wheat, which was easier to grow with chemical fertilizers and to harvest mechanically for mass production, became more popular.

Spelt generally has a milder, nuttier flavor that wheat, and works great for pilafs, salads, and warm grain-based dishes. 

Spelt can be found as whole grain, as flakes, as flour, or increasingly in packaged goods like pasta and baking mixes. I have loved using both whole grain and white spelt flour for years, and have had good luck using it as a replacement for wheat flour in almost all recipes. I always use spelt flour for my homemade vegan scones. Whole spelt is lighter than whole wheat, but still heavier than all-purpose flour. White spelt flour is also available for lighter baked goods like cakes and brownies. 

I tried using whole spelt flakes for this golden granola, and it was a revelation: I’ve been making granola with oats for years, but this just became my new favorite. The texture is familiar, but firmer, nuttier, and altogether more pleasant. It’s only lightly sweetened with maple syrup and the spelt itself has a nice sweetness to it. Swap out the seeds and nuts based on what’s in your pantry, and just trust me on the olive oil– it works wonderfully! Try it today and get ready to fall in love with spelt.

vegan spelt granola
Spelt flakes + olive oil + seeds = a most excellent breakfast.


Homemade Spelt Granola

2 cups rolled spelt
1 cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup whole flax seeds and/or chia seeds
½ cup flaked coconut
1 cup roughly chopped cashews
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 300ºF. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a very large bowl, mix spelt, seeds, coconut, and nuts.
  3. Drizzle maple syrup and olive oil atop mixture, and sprinkle in salt. Stir to combine fully, and let rest five minutes. Stir again, then pour onto prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring granola at the halfway point. Remove from heat, and let cool completely.
  5. Once granola is cool, store in an airtight container for up to a month.
  6. Serve with coconut yogurt, atop salads, soak to make a quick muesli, or eat out of hand for a quick snack.

Yield: About 4 cups granola

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About Andrea Bertoli 597 Articles
A vegan chef, cookbook author, wellness educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in Honolulu. Follow my delicious adventures on Instagram

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