Choosing Farro: Whole Grain or Pearled?

Farro Information

When buying farro, you should be clear about whether you are choosing whole-grain or pearled farro. It's important to know the difference, both for cooking and nutrition.

What does "whole grain" mean?

According to the Whole Grains Council:

"100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain."

What does "pearled" mean?

When grains are pearled, a machine is used to strip away the bran and germ. This is generally done to reduce the cooking time of the grain, and to make it more tender. If you see "semi-pearled", this simply means that a portion of the bran and germ have intentionally been left on the grain.

Which is better?

The answer depends on what you plan to do with the farro and how much time you have to prepare your dish.

From a nutritional standpoint, whole-grains are always better than pearled:

Annotaed image of a wheat berry with nutritional chart

By its nature, pearled farro will cook faster and come out more tender than whole grain farro. When time is short or when certain recipes are better suited for it, pearled farro is fine to eat. When you have the time and want the best nutritional value, be sure to choose whole grain farro.

How do I know which kind I'm buying?

Unfortunately, many packaged farro products don't specify whether they are whole-grain or pearled. You can learn to tell the difference visually, but this isn't always helpful if you are shopping online or via a catalog. 

If a product isn't specifically labelled other than just "farro", it is most likely pearled (or semi-pearled) emmer. If the product is any kind of convenience or marked as "fast cooking", it would certainly be pearled.

In some cases, the list of ingredients may note the scientific name of the kind of farro used, so you can clearly distinguish each variety:

Einkorn is triticum monococcum

Emmer is triticum dicoccum

Spelt is triticum spelta