What is Teff Grain? Plus an Ethiopian Injera Bread Recipe

Teff is another ancient grain that is very popular in parts of Africa, Ethiopia in particular and also in India and Australia. Teff is the grain used to make the staple injera bread, eaten in so much of Ethiopia.

If you are a fan of Ethiopian food as I am, then you have eaten this bread in a restaurant, because it is a part of every meal for them. I am including a recipe to make your own at the end of this article.

It is also a gluten-free grain so beginning to gain in popularity in the USA as well.

Properties of Teff Grain

Teff is the smallest grain in the world, measuring only about 1/32 of an inch in diameter and taking 150 grains to weigh as much as one grain of wheat.

Its name is thought to come from the Amharic word teffa which means “lost” because of its small size and how easily it is lost if dropped.

Because it is so small most of the grain is the bran and germ and so it is very nutrient dense.  This grain has a very high calcium content and contains high levels of phosphorous, iron, copper, aluminum, barium, and thiamin.

It also has high lysine levels, an amino acid, which helps the body absorb calcium.   Teff is high in protein (higher than wheat, barley or rice flour), carbohydrates, and fiber.

Baking With Teff

Teff is excellent for gluten-free baking because it contains twice the protein of rice flour and it is a gluten-free grain that actually offers structure to the baked goods.  It is soft and will make baked goods light and airy with a chewy crust on the outside.

It is mildly sweet and will add some moisture to the baked goods as well.  It is one of the better grains for those who need to do egg-free baking.  It can also be cooked like rice or used to thicken soups and stews.

Teff comes in two colors: light and dark.  The darker variety has a nuttier flavor and is easier to find.  The lighter color has a milder flavor that is more reminiscent of chestnuts.

In the 1800's it seems that the wealthier folks consumed the lighter grain and the servant class more of the darker color.

Injera Bread

This recipe is adapted from Versa Grain.

Ethiopian Injera Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups ground teff or teff flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon salt to taste
  • butter or oil for the skillet

Instructions

  • In a small storage container, thoroughly mix teff with the water. Cover with an airtight lid and allow to ferment overnight or longer at room temperature. It could take as long as 3 days. It is ready when it has the consistency of thin pancake batter , bubbles, and has a sour taste to it.
  • Slowly stir salt into fermented batter.
  • Lightly oil a skillet (8 inches or larger)(or a larger one if you like) and heat over medium-heat.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the bottom of the skillet. Then spread it around by turning and rotating the skillet in the air (like a crepe). The batter should be thicker than crepes but thinner than pancakes (so adjust poured amount accordingly).
  • Only cook on one side. It is done when holes form on the top and the edges begin to separate from the pan (this may take several minutes). Leave it alone but do not let it brown.
  • Remove and allow to cool. To prevent injera pieces from sticking together, place plastic wrap between each piece.
  • To serve, place one injera on a plate and top with your main dish or break off pieces and scoop up your main dish when eating. In Ethiopia it is often served with a spicy chicken recipe.
Jennifer Dages
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