If salads could online date, this one would have a full social calendar. Farro and Orange Salad complements a big grilled steak, balances spicy smoked pork, and shines at a girls’ lunch or a holiday buffet table.
The main course salad
Does the word “salad” sometimes bum you out? If the answer is yes, I completely get you, my friend. Because while I luuurve a good salad and especially love making them, sometimes I want something that feels a little more substantial. Something like this Farro and Orange Salad —which has enough oomph to be a main course yet doesn’t leave you feeling like you just ate a pound of pasta. Coming from a girl who likes her pasta, that’s a big deal.
how to pronounce farro
Before we launch into the recipe, we should probably discuss how to pronounce the word “farro.” Is it “far-ro”? Or is it “fair-o”? In any case, it turns out that both might be correct. Websters has it pronounced “far-ro” and the Pronunciation Guide “fair-ro.” I thought I should try and clear that up for us. FYI -I typically say the latter so conjure that up in your head when you read this. Chances are you don’t care-o?
what is farro anyway?
Farro is old. Really old. So old it’s referred to as an ancient grain. And Italians love farro probably because it’s been ingrained (pun intended) into their culture for years. And to me, it means that if our ancestors were eating it, it falls into the healthy category.
Further illustrating its importance is the fact there are actually three different kinds of farro.
- farro piccolo (tiny) also known as einkhorn
- medio (medium) or emmer
- grande (self-explanatory) or spelt.
While each of these refers to the size of the grain, there’s also the delineation of “how” whole grain a particular farro is. Farro can also be whole, semi-pearled or pearled (the type mostly found in the US) meaning the hull is on completely, sort of left on or completely off. Respectively, their cooking time is less (in that order) but they’re all really good for you.
That being said…
health benefits of farro
- High protein: One-quarter cup of farro has 7-8 grams of protein. And let’s be honest —you’ll have a hard time eating just 1/4 cup of this salad because it’s that good. Farro has almost 5x more protein than brown rice and whole-grain wheat. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me!
- High fiber: Farro is loaded with fiber (7-8 g per one-half cup) and because it’s a complex carbohydrate, it breaks down super slowly in your system so you stay fuller longer.
- An excellent source of vitamins (especially B) and iron: Eating 1/2 cup of farro offers 10% of the daily required amount of iron and the whole-pearled variety gives you the B vitamin boost which helps convert foods to energy.
And for those of you who are interested in carbs, read on.
Is Farro High In Carbs?
Farro and carbs are kind of a “good news, not-as-good of news” scenario. You see, farro is a carb and 1/2 cup has 34 g of carbohydrates. That’s the “not-as-good of news if you are a heavy carb tracker. However, farro is thought to be easier to digest because it has less gluten than other grains. And with that whole staying power thing described above, farro as a carb is an excellent choice.
And this salad as a side, main or salad is another excellent choice.
Alright, enough with the education…we’re hungry, right?
How Do you cook farro?
Well, the obvious answer is in a saucepan or pot. 😀
You can cook farro a few ways but first, make sure to understand what kind you have. Because the whole grain hull on type takes about 30 minutes to cook while the pearled version (similar to the Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro – my favorite) cooks up super-fast. Here are some ways to cook it
- Boil in water or broth and drain.
- Simmer as you would rice
- Cook as you would risotto – toasting and adding broth a little at a time
- In your Instant Pot or pressure cooker (see below)
Speedy Farro Cooking Method
This method comes courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill. You can’t beat it because most of the work happens while you sleep! Love a good recipe that works (while you dream of food, sandy beaches, and George Clooney). Here’s what you do:
Soak farro in water overnight in the fridge. The next day, add approximately 3 cups of water to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and use as needed. Simple!!
Farro In The Instant Pot, Pressure Cooker Or Rice Cooker
Why not? Farro in the Instant Pot, pressure cooker or rice cooker makes a great weeknight meal solution. You can have a farro risotto in about 10-12 minutes using a pressure cooker! For more information, check the Bob’s link above too.
Ok – enough farro schooling. We need to eat!
farro salad ingredients
The most brilliant thing about salads is that the combinations truly are endless. You can chop up a huge myriad of ingredients, put them into a bowl, pour over some dressing and call it a salad. (Side note: when it’s hot, does it then become a “bowl”? Oh—the definitions in this post are mind-boggling.)
For this salad, I started with the star—the farro—and added some bright, happy mandarin oranges for a burst of flavor and color. Then some crunch was needed because salads are ALL about texture. Enter celery and almonds. And bringing it all home is a dressing that is part sweet, part sass thanks to some of orange juice and sriracha.
You could literally make a meal out of this if you top it with some Foolproof Chicken.
Or leftover steak. Or some seared tuna.
Assembling the Farro Salad
So now that you’ve cooked up your farro, you’ll next get your fruit and veggies all prepped (drained the mandarin oranges, chopped up the veggies and herbs, etc.).
Next, you’ll combine all the dressing ingredients into a mason jar or bowl and whisk or shake your way to tangy, sweet goodness.
And then it’s on to plating this beauty.
To freeze farro or not to freeze farro?
That is the question.
You can totally make the farro ahead of time, freeze it and then defrost to add to this salad. But since the 10-minute options are out there, I’m not sure it’s worth the time. (In case you wondered, I don’t recommend freezing any of the other ingredients in the salad).
And because I like to be “fair-o”, check out this Farro and Burrata recipe. You’ll be as even more in love with farro as I am, the ancient Romans were and your family will be.
For a crowd: Make a double or triple batch of the salad and at least double the dressing for a buffet table.
For a few: Make the recipe as described and you’ll have enough for lunches the next day or two. Serve with chicken for a main course.
Farro and Orange Salad
For the farro:
- 2 cups farro, I use Trader Joe's 10 Minute Farro
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
For the dressing:
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 T white vinegar
- 2 tsp sriracha
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 T mandarin orange juice, drained from the can
For the salad
- 2 cans mandarin oranges, 11 oz each, keep the liquid from one can
- 3/4 cup diced celery, 3 stalks washed and trimmed
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions, approx 7 green onions, washed and trimmed
- 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted, if available
- Cook farro according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool completely.
- In a glass measuring cup or mason jar, combine dressing ingredients and shake to blend completely.
- In a wide serving dish, add cooled farro and top with the remaining ingredients except reserve some of the oranges, almonds and parsley to use as a garnish on top.
- Toss with dressing. Garnish with additional toppings.
- For those with nut allergies, leave the nuts out and serve them on the side for guests to choose to add them if desired.
- Trader Joe’s has unsalted, toasted sliced almonds that work beautifully in this recipe.
- Make ahead option:
- Can be made 1 day ahead.
- Toss everything together ahead of time and reserve 1/4-1/2 cup of dressing to toss with right before serving.