What is Teff?

What is Teff?

The question, what is teff is a good one as the unusual name could pertain to just about anything. Teff is an Ethiopian grain that is very small, hence its Aramaic name which means "lost". This grain has been around since ancient times, yet other areas of the world have only recently discovered it. The rising demand for this tasty grass crop and nutritional whole grain has made it easily obtainable in health food stores as flour, flat bread, or in grain form.

Benefits of Grain

The question, what is teff has been answered but what exactly is in it to make you want to consume it? Teff, the smallest whole grain in the world, is low in gluten and does not induce allergies in those that are sensitive to wheat. A healthy grain, it is rich in fiber, protein, and carbohydrates as well as iron and calcium. It has no sugar but is loaded with all eight of the amino acids that the body needs to function and maintain itself. Additionally, when compared to barley or wheat, teff also has higher amounts of lysine, an amino acid vital to the body's survival but not made by the body so it must be obtained via consumption.

Cooking with Grain of Teff

Teff can be substituted for wheat but cooks quite differently, so any wheat recipes need to be modified when teff is used in baking, because it does not react to yeast the way wheat does and will not rise. For instance teff is used by the Ethiopians to make a sourdough-type bread, with the addition of teff that is flat due to teff’s low gluten levels. The teff grain however can be used with much more ease in baking and cooking as a substitute for nuts, seeds, and other grains. Just remember that teff is small so you might only want to use a half a cup of this grain when you would normally use a whole cup of another grain or seed.

To further define what is teff in regards to cooking, you might be interested to know that it is also a thickening agent. You can use it in place of flour or cornstarch to thicken stew, soup, or gravy so that your meal is not only healthier but it also has more flavor. Teff is also a good substitute for oats or other grains in porridge or polenta.


What is teff in for breakfast? If you would like to try one of the many teff recipes, you can start with by learning what is Teff banana pancakes.

  • 2 Ripe bananas
  • 2 Tablespoons flax seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ Cups vanilla soymilk
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ Cups teff flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ Teaspoon cinnamon

Place flax seeds in food processor; process to a fine powder.
Add soymilk, honey, banana, vanilla and oil to the processor; process to mix.
Combine in a large bowl the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.
Add flour mixture to mixture in food processor; mix until well blended.
Place a large skillet over medium heat; brush with a little vegetable oil.
Place a tablespoon of batter into hot skillet for each pancake.
Allow pancake to cook 3 to 4 minutes; turn over and cook 2 more minutes.


  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¾ Cup teff flour
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt
  • About 4 teaspoons oil for frying

Combine flour and salt together in bowl; beat eggs, milk and 1 tablespoon oil in separate bowl.
Gradually beat egg mixture into the flour mixture until very smooth.
Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat crepe pan or flat bottom skillet over medium heat with ¼ teaspoon oil in bottom.
Pour in about 2 tablespoons of batter all at once tilting the pan so batter covers bottom.
Cook until surface looks dry and the edges turn brown; turn crepe over and cook other side.
Repeat until all batter is cooked; stack crepes on plate with pieces of wax paper between.
Can be made ahead and refrigerate for up to 3 days; wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
Bring to room temperature before using; fill with favorite fillings. Or with following.


  • 1 Egg
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 Cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 Cups shredded Jack cheese
  • ¾ Cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ½ Cup cooked squeezed and chopped spinach
  • 16 to 18 Crepes
  • Spaghetti sauce

Beat eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg in medium bowl.
Mix in ricotta cheese, Jack, ¼ cup of Parmesan, 1 tablespoon parsley and spinach.
Spoon an equal amount of mixture down center of each crepe; roll up.
Spread spaghetti sauce in bottom of 9 X 13 inch baking pan.
Place single layer of rolled crepes seam side down in sauce.
Cover with more sauce and sprinkle with remaining ½ Cup Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350F degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve; serves 4 to 6.


  • 2 Cups teff flour
  • 2 Tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
  • ¼ Cup sesame seeds
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ Cup

Combine flour, milk powder, sesame seeds and salt; cut in butter with pastry cutter until crumbly.
On floured board, knead dough until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes.
Shape into a ball, cover and let stand 10 minutes.
Divide and shape into 8 balls for 9 inch tortillas; 12 balls for 6 inch tortillas.
Keep balls covered to prevent them from drying out.
On lightly floured surface roll balls out one at a time until very thin.
As each tortilla is rolled place on preheated griddle or skillet over medium high heat.
Bubbles will appear almost immediately; use wide spatula to press down firmly over the top.
Turn and cook other side until blisters are golden brown.
Stack cooked tortillas in tightly covered dish or wrap tightly in foil to keep soft. Serve warm.

Now that you know the definition and uses of teff you can start enjoying its health benefits. You can cook dishes to share with family and friends and when they ask you what is teff, your new secret ingredient, you can easily answer with confidence.