Why you should cook a batch of this ‘new’ ancient grain

Sorghum Salad With Cucumber, Cilantro and Cumin Seed. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post.

Sorghum Salad With Cucumber, Cilantro and Cumin Seed. Photo: Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post.

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Sorghum, a whole grain that has been a staple in Africa and India for centuries, finally is getting its moment on the American table.

It is well suited for our modern world because it is highly nutritious with a mildly nutty flavor, gluten-free and easy to grow even in a drought. You cook it for about 45 minutes, just as you would brown rice, in water (or broth) until it is tender. It makes a nice change of pace for pilafs and other hot grain dishes, and you can pop the raw grain the same way you do with corn kernels!

Cooked sorghum is also amenable to being chilled for use in salads such as this one, which takes its flavor cues from Indian cuisine, with toasted and crushed cumin seed, cucumber, fresh cilantro leaves and lime. The dish pairs with anything you might be tossing on the grill this time of year, and it will hold up well at a cookout or picnic. Think of it as an easy, tasty invitation to explore this “new” ancient grain.

Sorghum Salad With Cucumber, Cilantro and Cumin Seed

Yield: 4 to 6 servings (makes about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons cumin seed 2 cups cooked sorghum, chilled or at room temperature 1 medium English cucumber, diced (about 1 1/2 cups; peeled or unpeeled) 1 scallion (trimmed), white and light-green parts thinly sliced 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral-tasting oil 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest and 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice (from 2 limes) 2 teaspoons honey 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Toast the cumin seed in a small skillet over medium heat for about two minutes, shaking the pan to avoid scorching, until they are fragrant and a shade darker. Transfer the seeds to a cutting board; use the flat edge of a large knife to crush the seeds a bit.

Combine the cooked sorghum, cucumber, cilantro, scallion and the toasted, crushed cumin seed in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the oil, lime zest and juice, honey, salt and pepper in a liquid measuring cup to form an emulsified dressing. Pour over the salad mixture and toss to coat evenly.

Note: To cook sorghum, place in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cool water. Combine 1 cup dried sorghum and 3 cups salted water; bring to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 45 to 55 minutes, or until tender (a bit chewy) and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Uncover and drain any remaining liquid. Fluff with a fork and let cool completely before using for this recipe. The yield is about 3 cups. It freezes well.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 6): 200 calories, 4 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar.

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