Getting Started With Kernza
Perennial Pantry Recipes
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Learn more about Kernza®
To grow as a new food crop, Kernza® perennial grain needs ongoing research and development. Through a partnership with The Land Institute, The University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative, and the Artisan Grain Collaborative, we are excited to invite you to participate in culinary research through a new Citizen Science Experiment. Your baking experience can help us understand why and how people use Kernza® flour—and the delicious results that are possible!
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Using Kernza to its Full Potential
When it comes to Kernza, think flavor. It is one of the main reasons this particular wheat grass was selected for cultivation over 100 other perennial grains, so don’t worry too much about that perfect oven spring or open crumb. Though it will rise, it generally tends to favor going “out” instead of “up.” Focus instead on coaxing out its incredibly intricate flavor and aroma, and expressing it to the fullest extent! Hints of many ingredients have revealed themselves to us through tasting: toasted nuts, honey, brown sugar or maple, cinnamon, even raisin. The list goes on. Interestingly enough, this flavor profile will lead you in the proper direction when you start cooking with it. It almost tells you exactly what to bake. We’ll go into a little more depth below.
Kernza Flour is a fun addition to your baking arsenal. It can be used as a stand-alone ingredient, a substitution, or replace a certain amount of flour a given recipe calls for. As mentioned above, take note of the flavor and aroma. Additionally, consider the look and feel of our Kernza flour:
As you can see, Kernza flour is a bit more varied than your standard all-purpose white flour. We arrived at this grind after running a series of initial baking trials. The less refined nature of this flour is a main contributor to its nuanced flavor. It is a whole grain: bran, germ, and endosperm are all included. Look closely and you can see bits of the outer shell (bran), along with varying color shades of the flour itself. These are signs of great texture and a lot of subtle flavor. In the future, we intend on milling various grind sizes, but in the meantime, if you would like a finer or more coarse grind, look into milling our whole grains at home!
Cooking with Kernza Flour
As mentioned above, think flavor: cookies, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, denser loaves of bread, perhaps even muffins or cakes. The theme here is foods that can be sweet and savory with minimal rising. Pancakes with maple syrup are a great example, especially when you consider the fact that Kernza flour itself has notes of maple. Our Cornbread recipe is another example of a balance between sweet and savory.
Make these connections, and Kernza will set you right up for success! Of course, you are not limited to baked goods that need to be sweet and savory. This is just a flavor combination we think brings out the best of Kernza, and it is a great starting point! You cannot go wrong if you follow the flavor! There are wonderful recipes in our Perennial Test Kitchen and many fantastic community contributions in our Community Recipes blog. Start there!
Using Kernza Flour as a Substitution for Wheat
Try substituting in recipes that utilize whole wheat flour. The baking properties are somewhat comparable, and there has been success using Kernza as a 1 to 1 substitute for whole wheat. That being said, you may need to add a little more water depending on the recipe and substitution; Kernza is very “thirsty.” This, in part, is due to the presence of all components (bran, germ, endosperm) in the flour. They each compete for water absorption (especially the bran), so it’s totally normal to adjust water content accordingly. We also suspect (as we have yet to test this ourselves) recipes using soft wheat (as opposed to hard wheat which is ideal for those “springy” bread loaves) and cake flour will also lend well to a Kernza substitution. These baked goods might again include cookies, cakes, biscuits, as well as tortillas, pitas, and other flat breads.
Additionally, there has been success with a small addition of kernza into recipes that do not require whole wheat or soft wheat flour. If trying something like this, start small; take away about 10-15% of the flour called for in the recipe, and add it back with Kernza flour. The exact results will not quite be attained, but it will be fairly close in most cases. The flavor change, however, will be noticeable! Recipes that call for commercial yeast will be the most forgiving in this case.
Kernza Whole Grain
Your grain may contain small traces of wheat or other grains. Do not be alarmed! This is a byproduct of a Kernza as a new grain. Perennial Pantry is actively working to reduce this imperfection, but for now it is just a fun “bonus”. Your cooking will not be affected!
Cooking with Kernza Grain
For a good place to start, head to the “How to Par-Cook Kernza” post. Here you’ll find a straightforward method to cook the grain both on the stove top, or in a pressure cooker (in this case we used an Instapot). These methods are meant to provide you with a neutrally flavored cooked grain that you can flavor any way you’d like, making it much easier to substitute in or add Kernza to recipes you may already have on hand. You can even experiment with adding flavors straight into the cooking method. For example: Use chicken or vegetable stock instead of water, and throw in some chopped onion, garlic and herbs.
Substitutions and Additions
Kernza is incredibly versatile when it comes to adding or substituting. Recipes that utilize brown rices or ancient grains like farro will work very well, because their flavor tends to be more complex, like Kernza. Through our experience, certain warm spices like clove, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon pair exceptionally well with Kernza’s flavor profile. However, by no means are these spices the only ones you can pair with Kernza. They are just a few of our favorites. Our Middle East Inspired whole grain recipe utilizes a few of these spices.
We hope this along with our recipes will make getting started with Kernza an enjoyable experience. Please continue letting us know if you would like to see any other cooking methods, or have any questions. We would also love to see any suggestions on what recipes we should develop next. Have fun!
Oct 12, 2021 • Posted by Catherine N
Macro nutrients, fibers and vitamins and minerals.
How does it compare to other grains?
Oct 12, 2021 • Posted by Catherine N
What is the nutritional profile of Kernza grain and Kernza flour?
Oct 09, 2020 • Posted by Amanda
Oh my goodness. I definitely should have read all these tips and reviews before diving into baking with my new Kernza flour. I substituted 50% regular wheat flour in my sourdough formula and am very surprised by the results. It fermented FAST and clearly has less gluten and strength. But it smells amazing!!! Truly smells like maple cinnamon bread and it’s just simply flour, water, and salt. I can’t wait to taste it.