Jowar: The Traditional Grain of India

Did you know that sorghum is the traditional grain of India? No wonder, it is popularly known as the Indian millet! While it seemed to have originated in Africa, particularly near Egypt, a few thousand years ago, it is now cultivated in other tropical parts of the world and widely grown in India, where it is commonly known as jowari/jowar/milo. 

Having grown up in India, I often make the classic jwarichi bhakri (unleavened sorghum flour flatbread) to go with bharli vangi curry. I also fondly remember, as a child, eating the roasted green, tender sorghum called hurda in my mother tongue, Marathi. I still get it every once in a while, when I find it in the frozen section of the Indian store, and enjoy it with garlic chutney, just the way I remember having it at the hurda parties at my grandmother’s farmhouse in the village.

The Health Benefits and Versatility of Sorghum 

It’s one of those superfood “grains” that is underrated and under-appreciated, even though it’s one of the most important cereal crop in the world. In the United States, sorghum is primarily grown for livestock consumption and ethanol production, but it is slowly gaining popularity due to its health benefits. Sorghum is a gluten-free pseudo-grain, much like millet or quinoa. It resembles Israeli pearl couscous in appearance and has a taste reminiscent of farro or wheat berries. Sorghum is soft yet delightfully chewy, nutty, mild, and almost flavorless, making it a blank canvas that can absorb any flavor it’s paired with. Furthermore, it is packed with fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates, so a comparatively smaller portion will leave you feeling full and satisfied for longer periods.

Discovering Jowar: From Flour to Nutty Salad

While I’m familiar with the flour and the tender, green grain, it wasn’t until recently that I had the ancient grain in the form of a delicious salad at my friend’s place! I instantaneously fell in love with it, and she was kind enough to share her recipe, which I tried right away. It’s super easy to make! You can either cook it in a pot of boiling water and let it simmer for about an hour (yes, it does take a bit of time!) or pressure steam it in the Instant Pot in about half the time. Once it’s fully cooked, it becomes soft, but its texture is al dente with a chewy bite to it and a deliciously nutty taste.

My Warm Jowar/Sorghum Salad Recipe

I’ve been experimenting with it quite a bit and recently created a wholesome salad packed with a variety of seasonal summer vegetables such as sweet corn, zucchini, and summer squash. Additionally, I’ve included some added extras like sliced green onions, cilantro, crumbled goat cheese, and red walnuts (which are the same as regular walnuts but in a vibrant ruby red color). These ingredients are chosen to add a splash of color, texture, and flavor to the salad. The variety of components keeps every bite interesting and will have you coming back for more!

This Warm Jowar/Sorghum Salad with summer vegetables is not only delicious but also highly nutritious. It’s packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, making it a healthy choice. Furthermore, it’s bursting with flavor and is suitable for those following a gluten-free and vegetarian diet (easily made vegan by omitting the goat cheese). Plus, it’s incredibly satisfying!

One of the great things about this salad is that fully cooked sorghum maintains its texture and stays fresh longer in the refrigerator. That means you can prepare a large batch of this recipe over the weekend and have convenient, ready-to-eat lunches for busy work days during the week. So, why wait? Grab a bag of sorghum and let’s get cooking in the kitchen! I have outlined step-by-step details below that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

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Warm Jowar/Sorghum Salad


  • Author: Vasanti

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup wholegrain sorghum (see Variations)
  • 2 cups water or stock, for cooking + 1 cup of water for Instant Pot
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 23 cloves or garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 ear of fresh corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2 inch sized cubes
  • 1 medium summer squash, diced into 1/2 inch sized cubes
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 45 sprigs of cilantro, leaves and tender parts of stem, chopped
  • 23 green onions, thinly sliced
  • crumbled goat cheese, as needed, for topping
  • raw red or regular walnuts, as needed

Instructions

  • Place a cup of sorghum in a stainless steel insert pan or directly in the inner pot of the Instant Pot and rinse under cold water.
  • Add 2 cups of water or stock to the rinsed grain and set aside.
  • Add 1 cup of water to the inner pot of the Instant Pot.
  • Place the trivet inside and then place the pan with sorghum and water/stock over it.
  • Close the lid, turn the steam valve to sealing position.
  • Press the Steam button. Set the time to 20 minutes and pressure to high.
  • When cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally. This will take about 15 minutes.
  • Open the lid and gently fluff the cooked sorghum and set it aside till you are ready to use.
  • Alternatively, you can cook 1 cup of sorghum with 2 cups of water in a pot over a stove by bringing it to a boil and then simmering it covered for about 1 hour.
  • In a deep sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat and once it starts shimmering (having light waves), add in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes.
  • Let them sizzle for 30 seconds and then stir them for another 30 seconds to let the oil infuse with their flavor.
  • Add in the corn and stir.
  • Sauté the corn for 4-5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, till it sweats and lightly caramelizes.
  • Add in the diced zucchini and summer squash and continue sautéing over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Turn the heat off.
  • You don’t want to cook the zucchini and the squash too much. They should retain the freshness and the crunchy texture.
  • Finally add in the cooked sorghum and toss well to combine.
  • Adjust seasonings, if needed.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with sliced green onions and chopped cilantro. Top with crumbled goat cheese and raw walnuts.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature (see Notes for storage instructions).

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

Place a cup of sorghum in a stainless steel insert pan or directly in the inner pot of the Instant Pot and rinse under cold water. Add 2 cups of water or stock to the rinsed grain and set aside.

Step: 2

Add 1 cup of water to the inner pot of the Instant Pot. Place the trivet inside and then place the pan with sorghum and water/stock over it. Close the lid, turn the steam valve to sealing position. Press the Steam button. Set the time to 20 minutes and pressure to high.

Step: 3

When cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally. This will take about 15 minutes. Open the lid and gently fluff the cooked sorghum and set it aside till you are ready to use. Alternatively, you can cook 1 cup of sorghum with 2 cups of water in a pot over a stove by bringing it to a boil and then simmering it covered for about 1 hour.

Step: 4

In a deep sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat and once it starts shimmering (having light waves), add in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Let them sizzle for 30 seconds and then stir them for another 30 seconds to let the oil infuse with their flavor.

Step: 5

Add in the corn and stir.

Step: 6

Sauté the corn for 4-5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, till it sweats and lightly caramelizes.

Step: 7

Add in the diced zucchini and summer squash and continue sautéing over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Step: 8

Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Turn the heat off. You don't want to cook the zucchini and the squash too much. They should retain the freshness and the crunchy texture.

Step: 9

Finally add in the cooked sorghum and toss well to combine. Adjust seasonings, if needed.

Step: 10

Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with sliced green onions and chopped cilantro. Top with crumbled goat cheese and raw walnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature (see Notes for storage instructions).

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Make Ahead Recipe

The salad can be made ahead as a part of meal prep or in large batches for ready-to-eat lunches and is easily portable for potlucks or picnics. It stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days when stored in an air-tight container. You can let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours to come to room temperature or reheat in the microwave oven for about 1 minute before serving.

Recipe Variations

Substitute with the same amount of Israeli couscous or orzo if you can’t find whole grain jowar/sorghum. Cook the couscous or the orzo according to the instructions on the package.

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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