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Packed with protein, farro is a smart grain choice for hard-training triathletes. Incorporate it into your diet using one of these tasty recipes. Now that training season is in full swing, I’ve been thinking of ways to get some extra protein into my diet—naturally, of course. Farro is very popular in Italy (it was purportedly the grain of choice for the Roman legions) and incredibly versatile. Nutritionally, it packs a punch with 7 grams of protein per serving, and it’s low in gluten. But it’s still chewy and has a nice nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. I’ve been substituting it for my regular oatmeal in the mornings, along with some toasted coconut, almonds and fresh berries.
I like to make my own endurance snacks, so for my long bike rides, I’ve been using the grain in my “cucidati” or fig cookies. Cucidati are traditional Italian holiday cookies stuffed with figs. Among many nutritional benefits, figs are high in potassium. For athletes, potassium helps to regulate muscle function and prevent muscle cramps. I’ve added farro into the cookie crust for added protein. Stick these snacks in your bike’s bento box, or enjoy them as breakfast on the go!
Farro Cucidati (Fig Cookies)
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup farro (regular or ground if you can find it)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup almond milk (can substitute regular milk)
¼ cup dark molasses
2 T maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg white for brushing the tops of the cookies (optional)
1 8-ounce package (1 ½ cups) dried figs, remember to remove the stems
2–3 pitted dates
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
To make the filling, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend well. The mixture should start to stick together, like Play-Doh. Remove from the food processor and place in a small bowl. The filling can be made up to a week in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. To make the dough, cook the farro according to the package instructions. Allow to cool to room temperature. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the whole-wheat flour, cooked farro, baking powder and soda, ground cinnamon and salt. While the processor is running, slowly add the two beaten eggs. Blend well. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the almond milk and molasses. Heat on high for 30 seconds. Pour the molasses and milk mixture into the food processor and blend to combine. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract, and blend. The dough should start to form into a ball in the bowl of the food processor. It should be slightly sticky, but still firm and able to be formed into a ball with your hands without creating a mess. If it seems too wet, add some more flour, 1 T at a time. Remove the dough from the food processor and split into two equal parts. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust your workspace very lightly with flour. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is about 12 inches long, 4 inches wide and ¼-inch thick. Place the filling in a line along the center of the rolled-out dough. Roll the dough around the filling and press to close. Cut the roll into bars, about 2 inches long. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and brush with the egg white to give the cookies a nice shine. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool. The recipe makes about 20 cookies, and you can store them in the fridge for up to a week. If you have extra filling, you can store it in small plastic bags and use it as an energy gel!
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Coconut Farro Oatmeal
1 cup farro
2 rounded T ground flaxseeds
2 cups coconut milk, plus additional for serving
1 T maple syrup
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened preferred)
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup fresh blueberries
Pour the farro, ground flaxseeds and coconut milk into a medium pot. Heat on medium-low on your stovetop, adding in the seasonings and sweetener (maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg). Simmer until tender and liquid is absorbed—about 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the shredded coconut and almond slivers onto the baking sheet. Toast for about 5-8 minutes, keeping a constant watch, as the nuts will toast quite quickly. Toss halfway through the baking process to ensure an even browning. Remove from oven and set aside. Scoop the cooked farro into serving bowls. Top with a little extra coconut milk, fresh blueberries and dried cranberries. Sprinkle with the toasted almond and coconut mixture. This recipe makes 2-3 servings.
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