How to Cook Freekeh (and the Best Ways to Serve It)

published Aug 14, 2023
How To Cook Freekeh Recipe

Learn more about freekeh, a smoky and fragrant Middle Eastern grain, and how to serve it.

Serves3 to 4

Makes2 1/2 cups

Prep5 minutes

Cook45 minutes

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freekeh in bowl being fluffed with fork
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

Just like the breakfast cereal aisle at the grocery store, the realm of cereal foods — as in  deliciously aromatic grains — is vast and quite varied. Some grains like rice, quinoa, rye, oats, and barley are prepared in several ways and can be sweet or savory. One particular grain you should add to your regular grain rotation is freekeh

Freekeh is a fragrant Middle Eastern grain made from unripened, green durum wheat and is cooked similarly to many of the grains mentioned above. In this recipe, we’ll walk you through how to cook freekeh, what it tastes like, and different ways of serving it.

What Is Freekeh?

Freekeh (pronounced free-kah) which is sometimes referred to as farik or frik. It is a Middle Eastern grain produced from unripened durum wheat that is light green in appearance. The grains are typically roasted and sometimes cracked or rubbed so that the whole grains break into smaller pieces. In fact, the name freekeh is derived from the Arabic word farak, which means “to rub.”

Freekeh is a staple grain in Middle Eastern and North African countries, such as Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. The grain, which is commonly sold whole or cracked, is extremely fragrant and has a savory, smoky flavor when cooked.

Where to Buy Freekeh

Freekeh is sold in grocery stores like Whole Foods, though you can also buy it in bulk via the online retailers listed below.

How to Cook Freekeh

Use Whole or Cracked Freekeh

You can usually buy freekeh in two different forms: whole or cracked. Whole freekeh, as the name implies, are the whole grains that have not been broken down or crushed to yield a finer texture. Cracked freekeh is less coarse and cooks slightly faster than whole freekeh. Though both varieties of freekeh are sometimes used interchangeably, you may need to adjust the cooking times or amount of liquid, depending on the recipe. 

Rinse the Freekeh Before Cooking

Freekeh is typically rinsed thoroughly before being boiled. Like rice or quinoa, freekeh can carry an excess amount of starch, which can make the finished product softer and stickier. Though some people enjoy their grains like this, if this isn’t the case for you, it’s important to rinse freekeh very thoroughly first to prevent it from being clumpy.

Sauté the Freekeh Before Boiling

In many recipes, freekeh is typically toasted in oil or some sort of cooking fat such as butter or ghee. This technique not only helps add a rich flavor to the freekeh, but the light toasting also helps the freekeh maintain some of its firmness after it’s fully cooked. Toasting freekeh also adds to the grain’s naturally smoky flavor.

Boil the Freekeh in Water

While it may depend on the recipe, you can often use a ratio of 1 cup freekeh to 2 cups water when cooking the grain on the stovetop. After sautéeing the freekeh, add the water to the saucepan or pot and let it come to a boil. Once the freekeh has come to a boil, cover it, reduce the heat to low, and let it cook for about 30 minutes.

Fluff the Freekeh Once It’s Cooked

After the freekeh is cooked and all the water is absorbed, remove the lid and fluff the freekeh a bit with a fork. This will allow steam to escape and prevent the freekeh from overcooking or becoming too soft. Fluffing the freekeh also helps to prevent it from clumping together. Lastly, keep the freekeh warm, until ready to serve.

What to Serve with Freekeh

Similar to many other grains like rice, quinoa, and barley, freekeh is often eaten as a side dish and served with some sort of protein, such as chicken or lamb. There are tons of different ways to prepare freekeh, but some common ones include cooking it with aromatics like onions, garlic, and seasonings and pairing it with roasted chicken and toasted sliced almonds, such as in the Lebanese dish, chicken freekeh pilaf.

You can also serve freekeh as a part of a grain salad like in this Mediterranean Freekeh Salad with Collard Greens and Chickpeas, and customize it to your preferences. If you’re still new to cooking with freekeh, however, you can always pair it with meat or any poultry you like, and serve it with a good amount of salt, pepper, oil, and freshly chopped herbs. 

How To Cook Freekeh Recipe

Learn more about freekeh, a smoky and fragrant Middle Eastern grain, and how to serve it.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Makes 2 1/2 cups

Serves 3 to 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    whole freekeh (not cracked, sometimes labeled coarse)

  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion (optional)

  • 2 cloves

    garlic (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 2 cups

    water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

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  1. Place 1 cup freekeh in a medium bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Swish the grains around with your hands. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer. Return the freekeh to the bowl and repeat adding water, swishing, and draining until the water runs mostly clear, about 6 more times. Let sit in the strainer to drain while you cook the onion and garlic.

  2. Grate 1/2 medium yellow onion on the large holes and 2 garlic cloves on the small holes of a box grater.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and the garlic, if using, and sauté until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the freekeh and cook, stirring occasionally, until the freekeh is lightly toasted and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. Add 2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine.

  5. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Stir once more. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook until the water is completely absorbed, about 30 minutes. Uncover and stir the freekeh with a fork. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Keep covered until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.