You may have noticed that I use spelt a lot on this blog. A lot. I’m having something of a love affair with spelt.
In the beginning days of this diet I went through a phase of experimenting with a bunch of different kinds of flours. Using all whole wheat just didn’t taste very good. I used buckwheat for quite a while, but had problems with it not rising right in certain recipes. Almond flour is great, but is also super expensive so I had to stop that. (I’ve since found that Trader Joe’s has almond meal for like a third of the price of other places, though, so I’m using it again these days!)
Then I found spelt. And I’ve never looked back.
Spelt is a grain, but it’s what’s called an “ancient grain.” Ancient grains are grains that exist in the same form that they have for thousands of years. Presumably, this makes them friendlier to our bodies since they’re things humans have eaten for a long time, as opposed to the newer varieties of wheat that have taken over. I don’ t know for sure if this is true or not but it’s what I’ve read, and I will say that my body does react to the spelt much better than modern wheat for whatever reason.
There are a lot of different ancient grains – rye, millet, quinoa, amaranth, to name a few – but spelt and kamut are the only ones that also have gluten. Gluten is kind of an ugly word these days because of so many people being gluten sensitive, but there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about gluten. It’s fine to eat if it doesn’t make you feel sick – and the reason a lot of people get sick on gluten anymore is partly because of how much it’s been altered and manipulated in modern wheat. People didn’t used to have a problem with it the way we do these days. This is the reason people cite for the fact that many gluten sensitive people find they can tolerate spelt just fine. Not all can, though, so if you’re gluten sensitive be careful with it.
This fact that spelt is an alternative to wheat, but also still contains gluten, is one of the reasons I like to use it so much. It’s a no-brainer. I can simply substitute whole grain spelt for the flour in any recipe, and I know it will turn out. Gluten is the thing that makes breads have the structure to rise nice and fluffy, so using a gluten-free flour is a lot more complicated. I can use this in the same way I’d use whole wheat flour without any worries.
But, it tastes SO MUCH better than whole wheat! When I first tried my Browned Butter Banana Bread I tried it with sprouted whole wheat flour, and it came out dense and sort of bitter. Not tasty at all. I tried it again with whole grain spelt…and it was great! The flavor of the spelt is much milder and more palatable than that of whole wheat. I try to avoid wheat these days because of how it makes me feel, but even if my body didn’t have a problem with wheat I’d still use spelt instead because it tastes so, so, so much better. (Also, substituting almond meal for some of the flour really helps in making a great flavor and texture. I usually do half and half when converting recipes, and it always works great.)
I buy my whole grain spelt flour at Whole Foods in the bulk bins because it’s the cheapest source I’ve found near me. Bulk bins are much, much cheaper than the pre-packaged stuff, so look for them!
When using any whole grain flour, you have to store it in the freezer, so stick it in as soon as you buy it. Whole grains go rancid quickly, so they’ll go bad if you just keep them in your pantry. This is another of the reasons I like to get my spelt flour from the bulk bins at Whole Foods: it’s not only cheaper, but it’s also fresher. I can tell by the taste. Spelt that’s sold in bags on the grocery aisles typically have been sitting there for a long time, and I can really notice the difference in flavor. When I made the Spaetzle with my whole grain spelt, it tasted great. My mother in law made some (in deference to me) with a bag of Bob’s Red Mill that she’d bought, and it was much less palatable. Very noticeably so. Really, the best thing would be to have a grain mill and buy whole spelt berries and grind it yourself. But, since most people don’t have that, look for bulk bins that seem to be popular (meaning they’re renewing it often.) It’ll be much better.
I also buy spelt pasta. I found some linguine at our local Amish market that was really great. It’s the best of the spelt pastas I’ve eaten.
That only comes in linguine shape, though, and is probably not going to be found in a lot of stores. So, the other spelt pasta I have found is Vita Spelt. It comes in whole grain and partly-whole-grain varieties, so you want to be sure to get the all whole grain kind.
My local Whole Foods has spaghetti and angel hair. I wanted to be able to make things like macaroni and cheese and other favorite recipes, though, so I ordered these huge boxes from Amazon.
They were cheaper to get 12 at a time, so I did! And then I had to figure out where to keep it all….
I decided to get shells and egg noodles, figuring that those shapes would work for a lot of different recipes.
I also buy spelt bread. I’ve found this Berlin Bakery spelt to be really good, and even my kids like it. They kind of rebelled against my other favorite bread, Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted wheat. This is a bit more kid-friendly because of the mild flavor and smooth texture. It’s also more expensive, though. I’ve found it in the freezer section of different health food stores, as well as Whole Foods.
So, I hope this clears up any questions about what spelt is, and why I use it so much. It really is a great flour, and is very easy to use. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you’ve never used it before, or have maybe never even heard of it before. It’s just a different, older variety of the wheat you’re already used to using, only better. If you’ve tried using all whole wheat and haven’t liked it (and I wouldn’t blame you), then give this a try!