What is sorghum flour?

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What is sorghum flour?
(United States Deparment of Agriculture - Public Domain)

Grains that have been used for centuries around the world are becoming increasingly popular as food sources in the United States as well. Sorghum and the flour made from it is an example of one of these grains. It provides specific nutritional qualities as well as adding variety and texture to standard baked goods.

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Background and History

A grain common in Africa and India throughout history, sorghum is also grown in the United States and is becoming more widely available for consumer purchase. According to the U.S. Grains Council, sorghum is the third most important cereal crop nationally and the fifth most important around the world. Sorghum has long been used in the United States as a grain feed for animals but is now viewed as an alternative grain for human consumption. The whole grain kernel is ground into a flour that can be used for cooking and baking. It is also known as milo flour.

Nutritional Benefits

A major reason why sorghum flour has entered the health food spotlight is because it is gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in many grains such as wheat, barley, rye and oats. While some people choose to eat gluten-free foods because of mild intolerance, this type of diet is essential for those who have coeliac disease. The disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction to gluten that can result in the malabsorption of nutrients as well as severe abdominal pain and related symptoms. People with coeliac disease must eat a gluten-free diet, which makes sorghum flour ideal for cooking and baking. Sorghum has a similar nutritional make-up to corn although it is higher in protein and fat and lower in vitamin A.

Uses for Sorghum Flour

Traditionally this flour has been used as a cereal food to create pancakes and fermented and unfermented porridges and flatbreads throughout different cultures, such as the jowar roti in India. In the United States, it is becoming more common to use sorghum flour in baked goods. It can be added or substituted in any recipe that calls for flour such as cakes, cookies, breads and muffins.

Considerations When Using Sorghum Flour

Sorghum flour has a bland flavour that can be beneficial for baking because it won't add an unfamiliar or distinctive taste. However, because of its lack of gluten, it does have an influence on the texture of baked goods. Gluten acts as a binder in foods, so consider adding an alternative binder such as cornstarch to recipes when using sorghum flour. In addition, sorghum often produces a drier, crumbly final product. Adding extra oil or another fat source and eggs can improve the texture, and adding a leavening agent such as baking powder or baking soda will help the dough rise.

Where to Find It

Sorghum flour can be found in many speciality health food stores in the same section as other grains and flours. You might also find it in the gluten-free section if the store has one. It can also be found at ethnic food markets. It may be listed under another name. For example, in the Indian culture sorghum flour is referred to as jowar atta.

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