Exploring Grains: Cooking with Kamut

So I’ve really been wanting to get into cooking more with whole grains and regular wheat alternatives. I’ve dabbled with quinoa and barley in the past – these seem to be the “gateway grains.” But I wanted something more. Something exciting and new. This is when I decided to learn more about Kamut.

Exploring Grains: Cooking with Kamut

But let’s back up here for a minute. I got introduced to Kamut via my friends over at Bob’s Red Mill. They were one of the sponsors of the BlogHer Food Conference back in June. I made contact, and long story short, I’ve created a few recipes for them. You’ll see two of them in the next couple of weeks, and one a little later this year in conjunction with a Google Hangout I’ll be doing with them (I’ll keep you posted on a date for that when I find out). One cool thing about working with Bob’s Red Mill is that I was able to choose the grain that I wanted to create recipes around. I’d never heard of Kamut, but it looked really interesting so I decided to give it a whirl. I’m really glad I did.

Kamut is a member of the wheat family but is an ancient grain with mysterious origins. Some say Noah brought it on the ark and saved it in biblical times. Other sources report of it being found in King Tut’s tomb. Either way, it’s here now for us to use, and great grain companies like Bob’s Red Mill are actually producing organic varieties. Very exciting. Since Kamut is probably as new to all of you as it was to me, I figured I’d do an introduction post here before presenting you with recipes for it. Below are my tips and main takeaways from my time working with it.

Kamut: Straight out of the package

Pre-Soaking:

I have found that it’s best to soak Kamut over night before using. While you can just cook it a little longer instead of soaking, I’ve tested both ways and have found that an overnight soaking provides a more palatable “chew” to the grains. This is especially true if you’re planning to use the Kamut in a cold salad. If you’re doing a dish that will require the Kamut to be cooked further, you can better get away with not pre-soaking, but as a general rule, pre-soaking provides the best consistency.

Water Absorption in Soaking:

The Kamut berries will absorb water as they soak. This makes sense because it’s actually rehydrating. But what’s really interesting to me is that the water doesn’t all stay absorbed in the Kamut when it comes to the cooking stage. So if I soak one cup of dry Kamut, it might expand to about a cup and a half of Kamut before cooking. But once I’ve cooked it, I’ve seen it shrink back to about a cup and a quarter. I’ve tested this a few times, and it’s not an exact science. Absorption and final volumes vary, unfortunately.

Kamut: Straight out of the package

Water Absorption in Cooking:

When cooking, Kamut doesn’t really soak up that much water. Boiling and cooking Kamut is akin to boiling pasta. When you’re done with the Kamut, you will have to drain water off. The standard water to Kamut ratio is 3 to 1. That’s three cups of water to one cup of dry Kamut. I like to add a teaspoon of kosher salt to my boiling water as well. I find it helps boost the base flavor of the Kamut berries.

Final Yield:

On the Bob’s Red Mill Kamut packaging, it says one cup of dry Kamut will yield 3 cups of cooked Kamut. I did not find that to be the case when I cooked it. At best, the final yield of one cup of dry Kamut was one and one quarter (1-1/4) cups of cooked Kamut. But it did vary slightly in testing.

My advice is to just plan for one cup of dry to equal one cup of cooked. And if you have extras left over, you can toss it into some scrambled eggs or keep it for your next recipe. It stores well in the fridge for about two weeks.

Cooked Kamut

Chewiness:

Kamut is a very chewy grain. It’s not like barley or even oats where it gets all soft and plump. Even after cooking for 40 minutes to an hour, the Kamut will have quite a “bite” to it. You’ll have to embrace and accept this if you’re to be a Kamut fan. Personally, I like it. I like to feel the texture of my food. I like having to chew to process something. To me, it makes for a more satisfying experience.

Another advantage of Kamut being chewy is that it doesn’t get soggy in dishes. So you can make a salad with it the day before you need it, and it will still be as chewy as it was the day you made it. You can also add the Kamut early in the process of cooking a soup or stew, and the grain will remain intact.

Uses:

I’ve mentioned most of this already but wanted to recap. Kamut is excellent for cold salads. It is shaped like a large grain of brown rice, but it’s not starchy like rice can be. It’s also excellent in a baked dish like a casserole or in soups or stews. It’s actually very versatile, and the uses for it are endless.

Kamut is actually very high in protein so it’s great for vegetarians and vegans looking to enhance protein intake. Be advised that since Kamut is part of the wheat family, it is not gluten free so it’s not suitable for someone with celiac disease.

Cooked Kamut

So that’s a very high level introduction to Kamut. I hope that you feel a little more comfortable with it and want to try it in your kitchen. Check back on Thursday when I’ll be publishing my first Kamut recipe: Zucchini, Summer Corn and Kamut Salad. It’s fresh, light and delicious!

What about you? Let me know if you’re already using Kamut, and if so, what’s your favorite thing to make with it.

Yield: 1 cup cooked Kamut

Basic Recipe for Cooked Kamut

Overnight soaking is highly recommended for best quality Kamut, especially when you're planning to use this in cold salads. Preparing Kamut according to this recipe allows it to be used in a variety of ways including cold salads, soups, casseroles and stews.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup dry Kamut, soaked overnight beforehand
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Method:

  1. If you've not done so already, drain the soaking water from the Kamut.
  2. Combine the Kamut, three cups of water and kosher salt in a pot and fit with a tight lid. Set timer for 40 minutes.
  3. Bring water to a rolling boil then reduce to a light boil.
  4. Once 40 minutes has passed, drain Kamut and rinse with cold water.
  5. Proceed to use Kamut in the recipe of your choice. If you'd prefer to store the Kamut before using, place in an air tight container in the fridge. The cooked Kamut will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Other common yields:

  • 2 cups cooked Kamut = 1 1/2 cup dried Kamut + 4 cups water
  • 3 cups cooked Kamut = 2 1/4 cup dried Kamut + 5 cups water
  • 4 cups cooked Kamut = 3 cups dried Kamut + 6 cups water

Note: only add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt per additional cup of dried Kamut.

Preparation method adapted from the directions printed on the back of  a package of Bob's Red Mill Kamut.

Prep:5 min

Cook:40 min

Total:45 min

Print Recipe

Full Disclosure: Bob’s Red Mill provided me with two sample packages of Kamut. While I was paid to develop three recipes for them, I produced this particular post at my own expense. All opinions expressed are sincere and my own.