Teff: a tiny grain with big health benefits

As much as I love my morning oats, some days I feel the need to change it up. My back-up grain of choice?

cooking with teff


‘What?’ you say. ‘Never heard of it.’

Teff is an ancient grain, native to Ethiopia and related to amaranth. The word ‘teff’ means ‘lost’; presumably due to its extremely small size. Nearly impossible to pick up grain by grain if you spill it on the floor (ask me how I know…).

cooking with teff

Teff has a texture similar to poppy seeds and a nutty, grainy taste. It cooks in just 5 minutes (great if you don’t have much time to prepare breakfast) and can be added to home baked recipes (pancakes, muffins, cookies, protein bars) for a little extra nutritional punch.

Reasons to add teff to your diet?

  • it’s high in calcium. The calcium content in teff significantly surpasses that of all other grains (123 mg per cup cooked)
  • it’s an excellent source of vitamin C (most grains contain very little)
  • it’s gluten-free
  • it’s high in ‘resistant starch’, a type of dietary fiber that helps to stabilize blood sugars (super important for weight management and diabetes prevention) and improve colon health
  • it’s high in protein. Because teff is too small to process, the entire grain is eaten, including the protein-packed bran and germ

I prepare teff almost exactly like I’m cooking oatmeal.

I combine equal parts grain and liquid (for me, 1/3 cup teff and 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk), as well as a dash of cinnamon, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer, lid off, stirring regularly for about 5 minutes.

cooking with teff

Because the cooked mixture tends to be quite thick on it’s own (yes, I know what it looks like; I have two boys, 8 and 13…),

cooking with teff

I top my teff with a little bit more almond milk then decorate with fruit and nuts.

cooking with teff

1/3 cup teff + 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk  + 1/2 cup raspberries + 1/8 cup slivered almonds = breakfast bliss!

 (And contains 291 calories, 10 g protein, 52 g carbohydrates, 6 g total fats, 3 g sugar, 10 g fiber)

Look for teff in your favourite organic grocery store or health food shop!





  1. I am super excited about this! I have been wanting to try teff and get really excited about new grains. Have you ever tried farro? Thanks Tamara!
    Talia @ Bite Size Wellness recently posted…Sea Beans: The Green Bean of the SeaMy Profile

    • Never tried farro. I’ve read about it in Tosca Reno’s Clean Eating cookbooks, but never seen it on the shelf at the grocery store.
      Have you tried it Talia? Any tips or recipes?

  2. I’ve never heard of teff, but now I’m going to try it. My mornings are very time challenged, I’m not good at planning the night before, and boy do I get tired of cold cereal.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Your Pee Must Be Clear and Other MythsMy Profile

    • Debbie, I bet you could cook it the night before and just re-heat in the microwave (to save even more time!). And I’ve never tried micro-waving it instead of stovetop cooking. Might work too!
      Tell me what you think of it!

  3. You read my mind. I looked at the picture, read “Teff” and said, “Never heard of it.” I’ll be looking for this to try. Thanks for introducing me to Teff.
    Katie @wishandwhimsy recently posted…Mind Changed & Body Worked Out.My Profile

    • Katie, you must have spoken to me in a dream!
      Actually, I wrote this post because earlier in the week I mentioned it in my ‘breakfast ideas’ post and Alexandra (from funandfit.org) asked me what it was.
      Tell me what you think after you’ve tried it!

  4. Never heard of it but now I’m intrigued. I love my oatmeal, but a switch up might not be a bad thing. Thanks for sharing.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted…Running Un-ScaredMy Profile

    • I hadn’t heard of it before I started reading Tosca Reno’s cookbook. It’s great to have options other than oatmeal; as much as I love my oats, sometimes I need some variety!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  5. So Tef is a new one for me – haven’t heard of it but it sure packs a nutritional punch. I would have made a wisecrack about its appearance but you beat me to that above! 🙂
    Shira recently posted…Are Extreme Diets Evil?My Profile

    • Ha, ha! In a house full of boys, if I don’t make the potty jokes first, they will go on and on and on. Prevention is key!

  6. I always see this at the store but never know what to do with it. Thanks!
    PS: yay Canada 😉
    Erin recently posted…12 and 1 WorkoutMy Profile

  7. Never heard of that!!! Thank you for sharing!!!!
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Supernutrients Update & Friday Feel Good Time!My Profile

    • Ha! Something healthy that you don’t know about! So happy to share with you Jody! 🙂

  8. Thanks for the introduction! Never heard of it but will be looking for it the next time I’m at the grocery store. I love my morning oats but it’s nice to mix it up.
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…Accentuate the PositiveMy Profile

    • Angela, I totally agree. Variety is key to keep from getting bored with your diet. Let me know what you think!

      • Hi Tamara,
        Thanks for the good info about Teff. However, Teff is Ancient grain of East Africa Ethiopia. It is on every package labled as being from Ethiopia. I understand your point you are trying to make but that error will make the rest of your information not credible.
        Thank You!

  9. Hi Tamara,
    this grain looks like brown sugar:) I don’t think I have seen it anywhere but I’ll make sure to ask at the health food store about it. It’s always good to try a new type of grain that is healthier than wheat or oats.
    Mariella Lombardi recently posted…My Daughter is Overweight – How Do I Tell Her Without Crushing HerMy Profile

    • You’re right, just like brown sugar; except it doesn’t really taste sweet!
      I think you’ll like it!

  10. Have seen it in the store and never tried it. Have to get me some. Thanks for a new morning delight….

  11. Chembe Chibwe says:

    Email me about the teff seed.

  12. Just a correction, Teff is not from North Africa, its from East Africa (Ethiopia). I am from Ethiopia and I would appreciate it if you would correct that or do more research to find the fact. Thanks

  13. hey it is not from north Africa it is from east Africa Ethiopia, we eat this grain like everyday we use the flour actually and beaked it like a tiny tick pita bread i don’t know what u call it but we called it enjera then try that too it is delicious but u have to prepare some sauce to eat with and i like your preparing way too i never test it this way before it seems new and delicious too i will try it right now thank you!