Cheesy farro is an easy vegan side dish that satisfies a mac and cheese craving with the chewiness of farro and added nutrition of kale and tomatoes. Oil-free with a nut-free option. Ready in 30 minutes!
Can we ever have too many cheesy vegan side dishes? I don't think so. And with a world full of interesting grains, why eat the same ones over and over again?
"Farro" refers to several types of ancient wheat and has been cultivated for thousands of years. It has a deliciously nutty flavor and hearty chewiness, which means it holds up well in soups, stews, and salads. Farro is also rich in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Types of Farro
Purchasing farro can be a little confusing because it comes in several varieties - whole, semi-pearled, pearled, and quick-cooking (10-minute). Pearled farro has had the outer bran layer removed and is the most common variety in the U.S.
Packaging and labeling on different brands of farro aren't consistent, adding to the confusion. So it's always a good idea to refer to the ingredient list on the back of the package. For example, this Bob's Red Mill farro is simply called "farro" on the front of the package, but the ingredient list clarifies that it's pearled.
When shopping for farro from grocery store bulk bins, don't be afraid to ask a staff member for clarification if the variety isn't clearly labeled.
For today's recipe I recommend using pearled farro for its faster cook time. In fact, whole-grain farro needs to be soaked in water overnight before cooking. So if you only have access to whole-grain farro, keep in mind that preparation will differ from the instructions in this recipe.
To make this simple farro side dish you'll need a blender and a large soup pot.
A high-speed blender like a Vitamix is great for creating ultra creamy sauces like this one. A standard blender will also work, but it's best to soak the cashews/sunflower seeds in hot water for about an hour, then drain and rinse.
How To Make Cheesy Farro
1. Begin by rinsing the farro under cold running water. Drain well and add to the pot.
2. Add broth, water, and minced garlic, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
3. Cook uncovered until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the farro is tender and chewy, about 18 minutes for pearled. While the farro cooks, blend the cheesy sauce.
4. Add tomatoes and chopped kale to the pot, and cook until the kale is dark green and wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Pour the cheesy sauce into the pot, and cook for a few more minutes, until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened. The sauce will continue to thicken as it sits.
Serve cheesy farro as a side with classic vegan main dishes like:
Or transform this farro dish into a complete, 1-pot meal by adding cooked cannellini, pinto, or other beans after the cheese sauce is added.
Baked or sautéed tofu, seitan, or tempeh also add extra meatiness and protein and turn this cheesy side into a comforting weeknight meal.
Storage and Meal Prep
The flavors of the cheese sauce develop and soak into the farro even more overnight, making this a great recipe for weekly meal prep.
Store leftover farro in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
I hope you enjoy this creamy and nutritious farro with tomatoes and kale. If you try the recipe be sure to leave a comment below to let us know!
More Vegan Farro Recipes
Black Lentil and Farro Salad
Farro Breakfast Pudding With Dates
Use farro as a replacement for barley in:
Mushroom-Sage Barley Risotto
You might also like:
The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
Pimento Macaroni Salad
Vegan Pimento Cheese
Vegan Cheese Stuffed Breadsticks
Vegan Chili Mac
Cheesy Vegan Farro With Tomatoes and Kale
For the farro:
- 1 ½ cups uncooked pearled farro, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called lacinato or dino)
For the cheese sauce:
- ½ cup raw cashews or ⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds - See Notes re: soaking.
- 3 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 ½ ounces roasted red pepper from a jar (about 1 small pepper)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup water
- If using sunflower seeds or if not using a high-speed blender, see Notes below for tips on soaking.
- Combine the farro, garlic, broth, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the farro is chewy/tender, about 18 minutes.
- While the farro is cooking, combine the cheese sauce ingredients in a blender, starting with just 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Blend until completey smooth. Set aside.
- Add tomatoes and kale to the pot with the farro. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted and hot. Pour the cheese sauce into the pot, and stir to distribute. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling hot and thick. Remove from heat, taste and add more lemon juice and salt, if desired. Serve hot.
SoakingSoaking sunflower seeds helps reduce their unique flavor and aroma. So if you're using the seed option, even if using a high-speed blender, I recommend first soaking the seeds in hot water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. If using a standard blender, soak cashews/seeds in hot water for about 1 hour, then drain and rinse. This helps soften them for blending.
StorageStore leftover farro in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.
Next time I’d omit the salt and cut back the lemon to a teaspoon or two to start for the sauce. Two tablespoons was too tangy for me. I added a dash of smoke paprika to cut that.
Delicious! The texture of the farro was great. I didn’t have the jarred pepper, so I used half of a fresh red bell pepper and a quarter teaspoon of smoked paprika. My boyfriend went back three times! Great recipe
I just made this. Ding Ding Ding we've got a winner! Hubby called it company worthy. Recipe says 8 servings but in my world it's just 3 served with pita chips. Thanks.