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The Spiel on Spelt

By Alana Sugar, March 15, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
blueberry_spelt_muffins You know the spiel about whole grains, right? But do you know the spiel about spelt? Pardon my German, but in honor of my ancestors from Deutschland, I take great pride in "spieling" about spelt; it's one of my favorite grains. In fact, it's so good it was recognized in ancient times as a fundamental health food brimming with exceptional qualities. Let me explain. Spelt is a distant cousin to our modern day varieties of wheat. According to Wikipedia, its earliest archaeological evidence comes from an area north of the Black Sea during the fifth millennium BC. However, the most abundant and best documented evidence says it originated in Europe where its popularity eventually spread to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain. In the German language the word for spelt is "Dinkel." It's a fact that dinkel was so important that towns were named in its honor - there's Dinklehausen and Dinkelsbühl. These days, unripe spelt is dried and eaten as Grünkern, which means "green grain." macaronisaladSt. Hildegard von Bingen was a visionary, mystic, musician and herbalist who taught natural ways of bringing balance to body, mind and spirit during the 12th century in Germany. She taught of the many gifts of consuming spelt including its ability to confer a happy mind, a joyful spirit and a cheerful disposition. Spelt lies at the heart of her teachings on good nutrition as she believed it to be the best and most easily digestible grain one could eat. Even today her teachings on spelt remain highly regarded. European immigrants originally brought spelt to the U.S. where it was grown until 1900 when it was replaced by newer hybrids of wheat that produced higher yields and were easier to harvest and process. Recently, spelt has regained popularity. It has a wonderful nutty flavor, a delicate taste and a good nutritional profile. In fact, spelt has more protein than conventional wheat and is often better tolerated by wheat-sensitive individuals. (Spelt does have gluten, though, so it is not appropriate for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.) Spelt delivers fiber, a complex of B-vitamins, phytonutrients and important minerals such as iron. chicken_tetrazziniTo cook whole spelt, soak overnight in water to cover. Drain and rinse. Cover with fresh water and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Longer cooking is fine too and results in a soft, split-open kernel, which is makes a great bowl of hot breakfast cereal. When baking with spelt flour, remember that because spelt is more water soluble than regular wheat, it's a good idea to use a little less water or liquid in your recipe. Here are some ideas to get you going:
  • Cook up a pot of spelt pasta. Try these recipes for Spelt Pasta with Walnuts and Roasted Cauliflower, Macaroni Salad or Chicken Tetrazzini.
  • Choose spelt breads, tortillas, crackers and English muffins. Try these awesome Tofu Fajitas with spelt tortillas.
  • Use all or part spelt flour in baking breads, muffins and cakes. Here are a couple of recipes to get you started: Blueberry Spelt Muffins or Sunflower Cherry Oatmeal Bars.
  • Serve hamburgers, hotdogs or veggie burgers on spelt buns. Here's a recipe for Mushroom Cheddar Vegetarian Burgers.
  • cherry_oatmealbars
  • Buy the whole grain, soak overnight, drain and rinse; cook in fresh water until tender. Combine with other grains such as brown rice, cracked wheat, buckwheat, barley and wild rice. Great as a whole grain salad with chopped veggies and olive oil vinaigrette.
  • Add a handful of cooked whole spelt to soups or stews in place of or along with rice or barley.
  • Add it to casseroles in place of rice or other grains.
  • Baking your own bread? Mix in whole cooked spelt for a chewy addition.
  • Love oatmeal? Look for rolled spelt flakes for breakfast, or use them just like you would old-fashioned rolled oats in cookies, pancakes, muffins, breads, etc.
  • Spelt flour makes great cookies. Try your favorite chocolate chip recipe, or try this Chocolate Dipped Marcona Almond Biscotti.
Because spelt contains less of a compound found in gluten called gliadin, it may be easier to digest than wheat for sensitive people. However, it DOES contain gluten and is NOT okay for anyone with celiac disease or any gluten sensitivity or allergy. Have you tried spelt? Got a favorite recipe? I would love to know.




laura livingston says ...
I recently found out that Whole Foods is pulling raw milk off its shelves. I will not shop at any Whole Foods stores until raw milk is back on their shelves. This is a hardship for people drinking raw milk as well as the farmers dedicated to supplying it for a rediculous reason that has nothing to do with health or safety if the real data were considered. I am a Weston A. Price chapter leader and will be sharing this information.
03/15/2010 1:28:10 PM CDT
Diana says ...
Awesome, now I know where to buy "Gruenkern" :-) I am from Germany and I love "Dinkel" and "Gruenkern", especially when used as subsitute for meat in veggie burgers.
03/15/2010 1:49:03 PM CDT
Kendra says ...
I use spelt and almond flour mixture (1/4 cup of almond flour to 3/4 cup spelt) for all of my baking! Oatmeal cookies sweetened with molasses and honey, banana bread, etc. Love it!
03/15/2010 1:51:34 PM CDT
Mary http://www.mygreendiet.com says ...
I can't believe I haven't tried Spelt before! I think I am missing out. This looks amazing and I love you can use it as a substitute for wheat. I think my daughter is a bit sensitive to wheat so I can going to try spelt asap! Thanks. p.s. Kendra, I like the almond spelt mixture idea!
03/15/2010 4:23:31 PM CDT
Pam says ...
I am gluten intolerant and eat Spelt bread. I limit myself to 5 slices a week. So far I have had no adverse reaction. But again I have an intolerance not celiac disease.
03/15/2010 5:35:38 PM CDT
Joe @ Eden Kitchen says ...
I love spelt. I used it for making Christmas cookies and they turned out perfect - slightly softer than with wheat flour.
03/15/2010 5:42:11 PM CDT
Kristin says ...
Soda Bread: whip 4 T butter with 1/4 c brown sugar. Blend 1/2 c rye, 1/2 c quick oat, 1 c wheat, 1 c spelt with 1/2 t baking soda and pinch of salt. Mix flour mixture with butter sugar mixture with fingers until crumbly. Stir in 1 1/2 cup butter milk or vinegar milk just until moist. Bake one hour at 350 in lightly oiled loaf pan. Best soda bread I have ever tasted.
03/15/2010 6:53:23 PM CDT
Alisa - Go Dairy Free says ...
I have been making variations of spelt bread, which we love better than wheat. No wheat issues here to speak of, but spelt just has a nice nutty flavor as you mention. Here is a 100% spelt (cinnamon) bread recipe I made recently - http://www.onefrugalfoodie.com/2010/02/26/simply-cinnamon-spelt-bread/
03/16/2010 9:20:25 AM CDT
jmason says ...
My mom made me spelt pasta, and it was soooooo good! It broke apart easier than with regular flour, but the taste and texture was amazing. Although, you can't even begin to compare store-bought pasta to homemade. She said it took her about 20 minutes from start to finish! Yummy! =)
03/16/2010 8:43:46 PM CDT
Jennifer says ...
Just a suggestion Whole Foods - I read your blog all the time and love it. Especially posts like this explaining ingredients with which I'm not familiar. The problem is, I get excited after reading this to try some spelt recipes, but have checked all my city's Whole Foods stores, and none of them carry it! When you publish something like this, could you make sure at least one store in a city/region carries it, or please publish substitute ingredients that might work in the recipes? Otherwise, it's kinda disappointing. Thanks - and keep up the good work!
03/16/2010 11:21:11 PM CDT
Kelcey Reina says ...
I have been buying sprouted spelt flour. I use in in all my recipes -- I usually replace half the whole wheat flour with the whole sprouted spelt flour. It's got a nice light color and texture which is good in just about everything from muffins to cookies and quick breads.
03/17/2010 4:18:23 PM CDT
Amber says ...
Hi! I really appreciate you guys putting this out there. My family follows the blood type diet where spelt is pretty much a staple. However, please start carrying more of the spelt products in your stores. I live walking distance from the arabella station store in NOLA and they have completely stopped selling many of the spelt items. No more white spelt flour (loose or packaged), limited amounts of spelt pasta and they even got rid of the spelt filo dough. It is a shame that I have to order my bread and pasta products from Berlin Natural Bakery when a whole foods is so close to my home. Thank You.
03/17/2010 4:48:28 PM CDT
Mooydeen Frees says ...
I am wheat intolerant but I do OK with spelt. Your house brand of spelt bread has WHEAT flour added! This takes away from spelt's naturally digestible qualities. I, therefore, have to buy Ruddy's or Berlin spelt bread which does not have added wheat. It would be nice if you would re-think your recipe to eliminate the wheat flour.
03/18/2010 9:10:44 AM CDT
Susan says ...
I am new to spelt. I added it to coconut flour and almond flour to make banana bread. I once had the best apple pie in N.Y. at a health food store that had a spelt pie crust but I never found a recipe. Does anyone know of a good recipe?
03/20/2010 10:09:39 AM CDT
Lauren says ...
Love spelt products- especially French Meadow Bakery's Healthseed Spelt Bread. So good, and so good for you.
03/22/2010 11:20:11 AM CDT
Tom says ...
I'm a speltie. I can't always make the time to prepare spelt dishes, but I discovered a wonderful spelt pizza dough at Whole Foods called Spelt Right. Makes amazing pizza crust, but you can also make pita bread. There's a great recipe at http://speltrightbaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/here-is-one-of-my-all-time-favorite.html for a Lebanese Fitayer. Really good. They also make awesome spelt bagels. Yum!!
04/02/2010 1:37:22 PM CDT
Roger Brown says ...
Hello, I am now in Austria and will be soon be coming home to California. With a great chili recipe that calls for Grünkern. Do you know if it is available in Cal or especially at Whole Foods? Sugar?
08/30/2011 10:37:31 AM CDT
janejohnson says ...
@Roger Welcome back to the USA. Since our stores offer different products by store and region, the best way for you to get the most accurate information on the offerings of your community's Whole Foods Market is to contact that store directly. Below I've included the link for the store search page where you will be able to identify your community store and reach out to them directly. Safe travels! http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/
08/30/2011 10:47:52 AM CDT
Vernita Blocker says ...
I have an intolerance to yeast. Is there any correlation between spelt flour and yeast?
08/12/2012 4:59:10 PM CDT
nikki.newman says ...
@VERNITA - Thanks for your question! The correlation between spelt flour and yeast is that the yeast is going to make the flour rise, if you were to make bread. If you decide to make a yeast free spelt bread, the bread will come out more moist and have a higher density, but still tasty! Leaving out yeast will also speed up the baking process since you don't have to wait on the flour to rise. Hope this helps!
08/13/2012 10:22:57 AM CDT
Mary Jane Wallace says ...
Whole Foods used to carry some delicious spelt cookies, but I haven't seen them in a long time. If you can tell me where I can order or buy some, I would be very happy. I shop at the Whole Foods in Los Gatos, CA regularly, but would be glad to order spelt cookies wherever they are. Thank you! Mary Jane Wallace
01/23/2013 12:22:05 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MARY JANE - Do you happen to recall the name/vendor of the cookies?
01/25/2013 3:24:34 PM CST
Andreas Bousdoukos says ...
Just to let you know the origins of spelt aka German dinkle. Originated from Greece about 8k years ago. With proof that we have the seeds fossilized with a chronometric time of 8 thousand years in multiple locations through out Greece. I'm not saying this to be spiteful. But just to be helpful.
02/22/2013 12:19:41 AM CST
Regine Haardoerfer says ...
Do you know where I could buy unripe spelt in the US? I'm German and have a fabulous recipe for burgers using unripe spelt. Thanks!
06/13/2013 10:10:44 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@REGINE - Our products vary between locations so I would suggest reaching out to your local store if this is something they carry!
06/13/2013 5:02:40 PM CDT