This Quick-Cooking, Ancient Grain Is an Absolute Powerhouse for Last-Minute Meals

Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé
·2 mins read

I eat a grain salad for lunch almost every day—heavy on the vegetables with a base of a flavorful, complex carbohydrate that will keep me full and energized through the afternoon. Farro is a favorite of mine for its chewy, toothsome texture, and quinoa is an obvious go-to option for it’s nutritional benefits. I also like couscous, but I find it to be kind of flavorless. To keep things interesting, I’m always looking for new grains to add to my salads, which is why I was so excited when I learned about Yolélé Foods, a food import company that sells fonio—a West African grain that is gluten-free, super-sustainable to grow, and high in protein.

Their products, including packages of fonio seasoned with flavors like tomato and bell pepper, onion, lime and chili, and Dakar curry, are true dinnertime heroes. The grain cooks up fluffy and tender, with a texture very similar to couscous, in less than five minutes—you can even make it in the microwave. Once cooked, fonio makes an excellent base for anything from grain salads (my go-to) to something more dinner-appropriate, like a roasted chicken or a big tray of roasted vegetables. Because it cooks so fast (so! Fast!) it has become a go-to for me on those nights when I’m super-hungry at 7:30 with no clear dinner plan in place.

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The company I owe my fonio obsession to was founded in 2017 by Pierre Thiam, a Senegalese chef who was tired of smuggling the ingredients he needed for his restaurant back to the States in his suitcases and backpacks. He now works with West African farmers to grow the grain, which is a staple ingredient in cooking across that region. Because fonio is resistant to both droughts and intense bouts of heat, it has become a core source of income for farmers in West Africa, especially as the climate changes.

You can find Yolele Foods’ fonio on Amazon, or on their site, where you can order a variety pack of their flavors (which is what I would recommend). They’re shelf stable, which I love, and their flavors are layered and nuanced without requiring any real effort on your part. Dinner is served!