Easy Vegan Farro Pilaf with Pesto
This hearty, satisfying and healthy plant-based farro pilaf is made with a flavourful broccoli-walnut pesto! It’s an easy vegan recipe with farro that’s perfect as a filling side dish or light dinner on it’s own!
I love whole grains – I think they’re totally overlooked as a source of plant-based protein, gut-friendly fibre and energizing minerals in a plant-based diet. So I’m excited to share this nourishing farro pilaf with a flavourful raw vegan pesto – it just might become one of your new favourite nutritious plant-based side dishes!
As a plant-based dietitian, I’m here to tell you that ALL plants are good plants. You can trust me…I literally wrote the book on how to eat more plants! Yet somehow, whole grains don’t get nearly as much good press as veggies, legumes or even nuts do.
Case in point: all the “gut health influencers” out there who claim that you should ditch grains for gut health. Folks with allergies or celiac disease aside, while whole grains can be more challenging to digest for the most irritated tummies, you can actually rebuild your tolerance to these incredibly powerful plants. If you ditch them, you will lose out on the fiber that helps regulate elimination and the FODMAPs and arabinoxlyans in whole grains that boost the gut microbiome for long term health.
If you’re looking for plant-based recipes that are filling, high in fibre and plant-based protein, you need to get more whole grains on your plate! Whether you are looking for a nourishing vegan farro salad or a yummy apple pie oatmeal, whole grains will never steer you wrong.
This recipe for farro pilaf has a risotto type vibe, without the rice…kind of like my sunflower seed risotto. So while it is a lovely farro side dish recipe, it could also be an easier risotto-like thing for weeknight cravings when you want something wholesome but don’t have a ton of energy!
Different types of farro
Allow me to introduce you to farro, an ancient grain (we’re talking Mesopotamia-level ancient) that is common in Mediterranean cuisines. What we call farro is actually farro medio, also known as emmer, one of three different types of farro. There is also farro piccolo (AKA einkorn wheat) and farro grande (AKA spelt).
Farro has a rich, nutty flavour and is deeply satisfying, with a hearty chew when cooked that will keep you feeling full!
Farro is really high in fibre and protein, with ~6 grams of each per ¼ cup dry serving. Because farro is related to wheat, it contains gluten so it is not safe for someone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Farro has yet to be evaluated for FODMAPS, but it’s relatives spelt and einkorn have so it’s probably safe to say it is relatively high in FODMAPs and should be avoided during the low FODMAP elimination for IBS.
Farro Pesto Pilaf Ingredients
This vegan farro recipe requires just 10 ingredients (and that includes salt + pepper!) and about 10 minutes of hands-on time. Most of the recipe time is just the farro simmering on the stove! It’s one of those healthy whole grain side dishes that is way less effort than you think and it makes enough for 4 side dish servings or will serve 2-3 as a light meal.
Put these ingredients on your grocery list for this farro pilaf:
- Fresh basil
- Nutritional yeast
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt + Pepper
Optional: frozen peas
How to make this farro pilaf with pesto (step by step)
This is NOT a traditional pilaf…it’s WAY more simple and hands off! Instead of sauteing and simmering the ingredients together, this farro pesto pilaf comes together in just 3 simple steps:
- Cook the farro until tender in abundant salted water, like pasta. It’s a foolproof way of cooking farro! If using peas, toss them in during the last two minutes of cooking
- Process the broccoli pesto (minimal chopping required!)
- Mix the pesto into the cooked farro, add remaining basil, season and serve
What are the health benefits of farro?
Farro also contains iron, important on a plant-based diet as well as potassium for a healthy heart. Farro is also thought to be a zinc-rich food as well as containing magnesium. Whole grains are so incredibly nutrition…they’re worth eating more often!
Nutrient note: nutrition information may vary across brands, this data came from the USDA FoodData Central for Bob’s Red Mill
Farro pilaf tips, storage, + substitutions
- If you don’t have farro, you can absolutely substitute wheat berries, spelt or einkorn wheat just watch the cooking time.
- Gluten free? This pesto would be delicious mixed with cooked quinoa or some gluten free pasta.
- I like to cook my farro like pasta, because it helps me avoid having too much or too little water left when the farro is done! It is the BEST way to cook farro, in my opinion.
- To add a bit of extra green to the dish, I like to add green peas in the last couple of minutes of cooking but you can easily omit – the broccoli and basil are plenty green!
- This farro pilaf will keep very well in the fridge, covered, for 3-4 days and should freeze well for up to a month (although I have yet to have enough leftovers to try it!)
- Reheat by adding to a nonstick pan over medium heat with some water and a drizzle of oil so it doesn’t dry out in cooking.
- I love eating pesto farro pilaf this as a lazy risotto substitute. This recipe would serve 2-3 as a light main, perhaps dolloped with a bit of vegan ricotta on top!
Try these other higher fibre whole grain recipes
- Mushroom Barley Soup (Vegan)
- 15-Minute Vegan Apple Pie Oatmeal
- Tangy Tofu Vegan Banh Mi Recipe
- 5-Minute Blackberry Pie Overnight Oats
Nourishing Farro Pesto Pilaf
- 1 cup dry farro grains
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup frozen green peas, optional
- 1 batch broccoli pesto
- vegan parmesan, optional
- Food Processor
- Fill a medium saucepot with water and bring to a boil on high. Add salt and farro, then reduce temperature to medium-low and cover with lid ajar.
- Simmer until tender yet not mushy – al dente! – about 30-40 minutes. If using peas, add in the last two minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, make the broccoli pesto if you haven't already.
- In the pot or in a serving bowl, fold pesto into the cooked farro (and peas). Slice the remaining basil into thin ribbons and sprinkle over top. Serve with vegan parmesan if desired.