How Can You Use Sorghum in Gluten-Free Recipes?

Farmer holding Sorghum plant, South Africa
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Sorghum is a cereal grain that originated in Africa about 5000 years ago where it continues to be an important food source today. It's sometimes called milo and in India, it is known as jowar.

Today, the United States is the largest producer of sorghum where it's primarily used for animal feed. However, the growing gluten-free market has found a new use for "sweet" sorghum, as a popular ingredient in gluten-free flour and baking mixes. The type of sorghum used in gluten-free mixes is cream-colored, usually milled to a soft, fine flour.

Protein and Sorghum

Like corn, sorghum is an incomplete source of protein. It does not supply adequate amounts of lysine, an important essential amino acid (protein). The body requires lysine for growth, bone health and for converting fats into energy.

This nutrient deficiency in sorghum is more of a challenge in developing countries than in Western-type diets which contain high amounts of animal and legume proteins which do supply lysine.

Digestibility of Sorghum

Food scientists have found that the protein in sorghum can be difficult to digest compared to other grains due to a process called "cross-linking." Surprisingly, cooking can make the proteins in sorghum even less digestible.

Using Sorghum in Gluten-Free Recipes

A variety of gluten-free flour mix brands contains sorghum flour blended with other GF flours, starches and leavening agents. Used alone sorghum produces dry, gritty baked goods -- it needs to be used in a GF flour blend for good results. Mixed with tapioca starch sorghum baked goods have better volume and texture.

Adding slightly more oil or fat and eggs to recipes prepared with sorghum blends can improve moisture content and texture. Apple cider vinegar or ascorbic acid can also improve the volume of doughs made with sorghum flour blends.

Gluten-Free Recipes Using Sorghum

Gluten-Free Sorghum Beers

Africa has a rich tradition of brewing fermented drinks, including beer made from sorghum. Gluten-free beers introduced to the gluten-free market recently are also made with sorghum, which brewers have found to have similar fermentable sugars to barley.