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If you’ve never heard of fonio I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s an ancient grain from Africa that has only recently been introduced to the US market and is being touted as potentially becoming the next quinoa. It contains four times as much protein as brown rice and is high in the amino acids methionine and cysteine, which tend to be deficient in most grains.
Fonio is actually a variety of millet with a texture and appearance similar to quinoa or couscous and a mild slightly nutty flavor. It is naturally gluten-free so this makes it a perfect substitute for couscous for those who need or choose to avoid gluten in their diet.
This was my first time working with fonio and I was happy how fast and simple it is to prepare. I also found it gentle on the stomach and easy to digest. I can see why it is popular as a breakfast cereal in Africa.
To prepare this salad I added some fresh crunchy veggies including Persian cucumbers, red pepper, and radish. I also had some lovely fresh apricots on hand and they seemed like the perfect addition to add sweetness and vibrancy. If you can’t access fresh apricots where you live, or if they are not in season you could substitute with dried unsulfured apricots. Fresh mango could also work nicely.
The salad also includes shallot, jalapenos, fresh herbs and a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It really is worth buying the best quality olive oil you can afford, especially when you only use it in uncooked dishes.
At the moment my favorite brand is this Ice Pressed Olive Oil from Mary Ruth Organics, which is pressed in the complete absence of heat making this a truly raw olive oil. The flavor is wonderful and you can really notice the difference. Just a drizzle of this on my salad with fresh lemon juice and Himalayan salt is all I need!
If you are sensitive to spicy food I recommend removing the seeds from the jalapenos, otherwise adjust the amount of seeds to your preferred level of heat.
The recipe as outlined will work as a side dish and would be great as part of a summer buffet. Most of the time I do prefer one-dish meals because it makes things much more simple. So to make this a complete meal I served it on a bed of fresh leafy greens, then topped it with pumpkin seeds, sliced avocado, and microgreens.
This would make an enjoyable dinner for when you feel like something nourishing but also light, which makes it perfect for the summertime. For an all-raw version, you could substitute the fonio with cauliflower rice.
I’ve been loving the microgreens lately as they not only look so pretty, they also add a burst of flavor and nutrition to just about anything.
- 2/3 cup fonio couscous
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 medium lemon
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 fresh apricots chopped
- 2 Persian cucumbers chopped
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 1 radish chopped
- 1 medium shallot minced
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
- 1/4 cup chives chopped
- 1/2 cup basil chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint chopped
- Microgreens for garnish
- Prepare fonio couscous according to instructions on the package.
- When finished place in a large salad bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile prepare the salad dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, raw honey, Himalayan salt, and pepper.
- When the fonio has cooled add the chopped apricots, cucumber, red pepper, radish, shallot, jalapeno, and fresh herbs to the bowl.
- Then add the salad dressing and toss well to combine.
- If you want to make this a complete meal, place a bed of salad greens in individual serving bowls. Top each serving with a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds, half an avocado, and a generous sprinkling of microgreens.
- If desired you can drizzle with a little extra olive oil.
This recipe makes enough for three to four servings. Leftovers (without the optional additions) will keep for at least a day or two in the fridge in a sealed glass container.
Have you ever tried fonio?
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