Millet Bowl with Black Beans and Pico de Gallo

Millet isn't just for the birds! Try this gluten free grain in this Mexican millet bowl, topped with spicy black beans and fresh salsa.

In today's post, I'm going to teach you how to eat like a bird.

Now don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to eat birdlike portions of food. Nor am I going to teach you how to peck at teeny, tiny bites of food to keep the pounds away. I'm going to literally teach you how to eat like a eating what birds eat.

No, not worms, silly! Birdseed. Or rather, millet!

Although millet is more commonly associated with birdseed, it's actually a human-consumption friendly, completely nutritious, whole grain. Millet is an ancient grain, just like quinoa, farro and spelt. If I wasn't for the whole birdseed thing, I think it would be just as popular. It's quick-cooking, versatile, and most importantly, delicious.

Millet originated in North Africa, where it has been eaten since prehistoric times. It is still widely consumed in Africa and Asia in flatbreads, like roti, and sweet and savory porridges. What I love most about millet is it's versatility. It can be prepared so it's thick and creamy, or fluffy like rice. Millet flour can be used to make gluten free flatbread. Raw grains can be mixed into baked goods for crunch. It can even be popped like popcorn!

With it's mild corn flavor, I find most people prefer the taste of millet to other gluten free grains, that is, once you convince them to try it! There are many reasons to get past the whole birdseed thing and make millet a part of your diet. Like quinoa, it is a high protein whole grain. Studies indicate it raises blood sugar less than the two most commonly consumed whole grains, wheat and rice. Millet is a rich source of antioxidants, magnesium and niacin and may also lower triglycerides and inflammation.

Okay, so it's healthy and all, but what do you do with it? I started cooking with millet a couple years ago, and since then, I've tried it all different ways. Here are my favorite millet recipes:

Millet Muffins (Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson) - Raw millet is added to a citrus-scented whole grain batter, giving the muffins a little crunch. I made these with coconut oil and added freshly grated ginger. This is my third favorite muffin ever, after my wild blueberry corn muffins with meyer lemon-thyme curd and this ricotta muffin from Smitten Kitchen (although in all fairness, the latter probably qualifies as cake, giving in an incredibly unfair advantage).

Warm Millet Salad with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms (Whole Foods) - I served this as a side dish to roasted chicken, then transformed it into lunch the next day by serving it over arugula with toasted walnuts for vegetarian protein and crunch.

Millet Flatbread or Roti (Indiaphile) - There are a few dishes I've made in the year since I started blogging that I could kick myself for not taking pictures of because it was so delicious! This is one of them. I made a similar dish with a mixture of millet and chickpea flour then added cilantro, green onions and cumin and served it with stewed eggplant and mint chutney. If you follow a gluten free diet, this is sure to satisfy your bread cravings.

Millet Cauliflower Mash (My New Roots) - I actually like this cauliflower and millet mash,with it's creamy consistency and light flavor, better than any lightened mashed potato recipe I've ever tried.

Millet Breakfast Porridge (Edible Perspective) - Millet tastes similar to corn, so millet porridge, naturally, reminds me of grits! Why not just make grits? This takes10 minutes while good, stone-ground grits take 40-50.

The recipe I'm sharing today is a good beginners millet recipe. It's basically a vegetarian brown rice bowl, but with millet rather than rice. Use the basic millet recipe as a foundation for a millet skillet (ha!) or as a simple side dish.

Millet Bowl with Black Beans and Pico de Gallo

Serves 4


For the millet:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup millet

For the beans:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

For the pico de gallo:

  • 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime


  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup organic yogurt
  • Sliced green onion
  • Hot sauce


  1. First, prepare the millet. Heat olive oil in a medium pot on medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add millet and toast in the skillet, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Slowly pour in 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Let sit 5 minutes before uncovering and fluffing with a fork.
  2. Next, make the beans, In a small pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Saute 3 minutes until tender. Add the beans and a couple tablespoons of water. Once warmed through, about 2-4 minutes, add the red wine vinegar. Season with salt.
  3. While the millet and beans are cooking, mix the ingredients for the pico de gallo and season with salt to taste.
  4. Divide the millet between four bowls. Top with black beans, pico and garnish as desired with avocado, yogurt, green onion and hot sauce.