What is Spelt?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes


Getty Images/Harald Walke/EyeEm 

Spelt is an a heirloom grain that's causing waves in the bakery world. This type of whole wheat is packed with fiber and flavor, and is popular among home cooks, chefs, and bakers. You can find this grain in whole berry form and more commonly as a flour.

What is Spelt?

Spelt has origins in early European agriculture. Legend has it the grain came to Greece as a gift from the goddess of harvest, but the first documented evidence of spelt dates back to the fifth millennium BC in what is now Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Spelt found its way to American farms in the 1890s, but more bread-friendly wheat suited to larger-scale production became much more popular over the following decades. In the early 2000s, organic farming helped revitalize spelt, and today the husked grain is hailed as an heirloom food. It's found in artisan breads, hot cereals, and baked goods.

Getty Images/aluxum 
Getty Images/Agenturfotograf 
Getty Images/etienne voss 
 Getty Images/Westend61
Spelt cake
Getty Images/Westend61 

What to Do With Spelt

Spelt is delicious in any dish that calls for whole wheat flour or grains. Try it in muffin batter or weekday porridge for a boost in texture and flavor.

The Dutch distill jenever using spelt mash, and in Poland some vodkas use spelt as the base grain. In Bavaria and Belgium, spelt is used to brew beer, and some home-brew beer kits found in the U.S. include spelt instead of the usual base grains of barley, rye, and corn.

What Does Spelt Taste Like?

This ancient grain has a lighter flavor than traditional whole wheat, and is slightly sweeter, with a pleasing nuttiness. While the nuances are mild, it has enough of a taste difference that you may not want to sub it for whole wheat in dishes that relay on the blandness of basic flour. But when played right, those toasty, sugary notes can add a new layer to your baking repertoire.

Spelt Recipes

Use spelt the same way you would whole wheat flour or wheat berries. It's a tasty grain that goes great in bread and other baked goods, or cooked whole and served as a savory course.

Where to Buy Spelt

Unless you live in Germany, spelt is still a specialty item. It can be found in just about any natural market or health food store as spelt flour or whole grain form. The former is easier to source, but whole berries can easily be bought online in small amounts or in bulk.


Store spelt like any other flour, in a dry, sealed container in a dark place or refrigerator. Whole grains should be stored in an airtight container in similar conditions.


Spelt is spelt, or Triticum spelta to be exact. It's a single-strain wheat, though it closely resembles other ancient grains including einkorn and khorasan.