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Warm Roasted Apple Spelt Salad with Toasted Sunflower and Sage

By Chef Devan


Updated on

My mind on August 31: WOW it’s SO HOT…let’s BBQ everything! Oh man, I love BBQin!

My mind when the first day of September drops 5 degrees: Did you smell that? Is that cinnamon spice? Pumpkin spice? I want dishes with more FAT, and I want COMFORT FOOD! (this may be me always actually…)

It only takes 1 day of slightly colder weather during the end of summer and my mind flips like a light switch to fall recipes.

And this roasted apple spelt salad is the result of my mind craving all things autumn.

It makes a great side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanuka and it’s hearty enough to be enjoyed when the temperature gets a little bit colder.

The spelt salad with fresh sage, apples and sunflower seeds around it.

This Warm Spelt Salad is the Pumpkin Spice Latte of Salads

There’s a lot of fall flavour going into this dish, so I hope you’ve already accepted that summer is over because there’s no going back now.

It will probably hit you the hardest once you start frying the apples in butter.

The house will start to smell amazing and fellow roommates/family members may come running, wondering if you’re already breaking out the apple crumble.

But the star of the show today is the spelt. It’s a little heartier than barley, very similar to farro and always reminds me of autumn.

Frying the apples in butter and flipping them over.

What’s the Difference between Spelt and Farro

The words spelt and farro are often used interchangeably but that’s incorrect, as mentioned in Heidi Julavits’ New York Times article.

I’ve seen spelt labelled farro, farro labelled spelt and at least 5 different types of “spelt” grains in various grocery stores.

The package I used said “spelt” on the bag but I’m convinced it’s actually a different type of farro or emmer.

Then again, things in the Netherlands are labelled differently so it’s hard to say.

The strained spelt in the pan.
I would call this farro or “emmer”, but the package said, “spelt”.

But generally speaking, spelt has more of a bite whereas farro is softer and with more starch.

That makes spelt the better choice for salads whereas the creamy starch from farro is better in risottos.

Spelt is usually darker and with shorter grains; farro is usually lighter and with longer grains.

I’ve always preferred spelt (especially the juicy, al dente crunch of spelt berries!) but don’t worry if you can’t find that grain because you can use both in this recipe.

Roasted apple spelt salad in a bowl with sage leaves and a spoon beside it.

How to Cook Spelt Perfectly (and Know When it’s Ready)

If you’re not sure what grain you have don’t worry, just use your cooking intuition.

Some farro grains can take upwards of 45 minutes of cooking time whereas some farro cooks almost as fast as barley.

The trick is to just plan for at least 1 hour of cooking and keep a close eye on it while it cooks. Spelt berries will always have a bite to them, even if you cook them for 2 hours long (I’ve tried).

But you won’t have to worry about over-cooking spelt as you do with rice as spelt and farro grains are pretty forgiving.

Think of cooking spelt like cooking pasta. Once the grain has a desirable bite to it, it’s ready. If it needs more water, then add more water and continue cooking.

Spelt Salad Ingredients

Here are the key ingredients you’ll need for this spelt salad:

Fuji Apples: Fuji apples are perfect because they’ll hold their shape after roasting. Other good choices would be Crispin, Honey Crisp, Gala, Pink Lady and Spy apples work well too. Avoid McIntosh, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples which will turn to mush.

Sage: The crispy sage makes a great garnish for this dish. But you could also add chopped sage to the apples right before roasting for a similar flavour. Just please don’t use dried sage! You’ll miss out on so much flavour.

Sunflower seeds: Toasted sunflower seeds are AMAZING with apples. But toasted apples, pecans or walnuts would be a good fit too.

Butter: I mean… it is autumn now, right? Butter adds so much flavour but you can leave it out if you’re lactose intolerant. Use vegan butter or more vegetable oil instead.

Spelt: As mentioned above, there are many different types of spelt and farro. Try to find spelt, but if they don’t have that then farro will also work. Just keep in mind that the range of cooking time can vary from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

(Optional) Chicken stock: Cooking spelt in chicken stock is a match made in heaven. It adds so much flavour but the downside is it can be expensive. Although it won’t be as good as fresh chicken stock, you can also add a bouillon cube to the cooking water. Vegetable broth or bouillon will make a great vegetarian alternative.

Spelt Salad FAQ

Spelt or farro?

Aim for spelt, but farro will also work. Spelt is usually better suited for salads whereas the starchy farro grains work better in a risotto.

How do you cook spelt?

Spelt cooks more like barely instead of rice. Boil it in seasoned water until it’s soft. Spelt berries will always have a bite to them, whereas farro may be softer. Once it’s ready, simply drain off the water.

How do you eat spelt?

Spelt is great in salads, warm side dishes or even made into a risotto. Although, it’s better to choose farro than spelt if you’re making risotto as farro generally has more starch.

Is spelt gluten free?

Nope. Both spelt and farro are derived from wheat which means they are not gluten-free.

Roasted apple spelt salad in a bowl with sage leaves and a spoon beside it.
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5 from 1 vote

Warm Roasted Apple Spelt Salad with Toasted Sunflower and Sage

A warm roasted apple spelt salad with toasted sunflower seeds, crispy sage and a grainy mustard vinaigrette. An ideal side for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any day during the colder months.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 3 people
Calories 650kcal
Cost $12/6€



For the Spelt

  • ½ lb spelt grains (200g) spelt berries are ideal, but farro also works
  • 1 pc bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or a bouillon cube
  • salt to taste

For the Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp grainy mustard
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp honey (optional)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil or any other neutral oil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil use the good stuff

The Rest

  • ½ bunch fresh sage
  • 5 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 2 whole Fuji apples, cored
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp butter, unsalted


  • Rinse the spelt in cold water a few times to wash it.
    Fill a large pan with chicken stock, vegetable stock or add a bouillon cube to about 4 cups of water. Season with a little salt but not too much as some chicken stock can be salty.
    Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes or until grains are tender but still have a pleasant bite.
    A pot cooking the spelt.

Make the Mustard Dressing

  • Meanwhile, make the mustard vinaigrette. The best way to make the dressing is to blend everything except the oils in a blender and very slowly add in the oil until an emulsified dressing is formed.
    But you can also add everything to a mason jar and shake really well before serving. It won't be emulsified, but it's a lot simpler.
    The mustard dressing in a squeeze bottle.

Make the Crispy Sage Leaves

  • In a large cast iron pan, over low-medium heat, heat the vegetable oil.
    Before you start, have a plate lined with a paper towel and a metal fish spatula (or spider strainer) ready by hand.
    Once it's hot (but not too hot), add the sage leaves to the hot oil and move around in the pan until crispy. *The sage leaves will make a loud frying sound at first and may spit hot oil so be careful*.
    Once the bubbles stop, the sage leaves are ready. Drain them over the paper towel and season them right away with salt.
    Discard the excess oil (or save it for something else) and keep the pan ready for the apples.
    Crispy sage leaves on a plate with paper towel.

Finishing Up

  • Once the spelt is ready, strain it from the water and let it cool on a tray or leave it in the pan.
    The strained spelt in the pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
    Core the apples and cut them into large slices. Fry them in some butter over medium heat.
    Frying the apples in the butter.
  • Once the apples turn golden brown, flip them over and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes.
    Frying the apples in butter and flipping them over.
  • Add the sunflower seeds to the pan and then put the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes.
    Adding the sunflower seeds to the pan.
  • Remove the pan from the oven once the sunflower seeds are light golden brown.
    The sunflower seeds, toasted in the pan.


  • Scoop the cooked spelt into a bowl and add a few tbsp of the mustard dressing. Mix well and check the seasoning. Add salt or pepper as needed.
    Mix in the hot apples and sunflower seeds, but save a few for the top.
    Adding the mustard vin to the spelt salad in a bowl.
  • Finish the spelt salad with the rest of the apples and seeds. Garnish with a little more mustard dressing and top with the crispy sage.
    The finished spelt salad in a white bowl.


If the water level gets too low while cooking the spelt, just top it up with more water and continue cooking. The grains should always be submerged in water during the cooking process. 
This spelt salad is delicious when served warm, but the leftovers can also be eaten cold the next day.
Leftover spelt is better left undressed, so only mix what you think you’ll eat that day.


Calories: 650kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 27g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 536mg | Potassium: 437mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 162IU | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 5mg
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About Chef Devan

With exceptional talent and passion for gastronomy, Chef Devan has over 15 years of experience across the culinary world, bringing a wealth of experience to the table, even from Michelin-starred restaurants. He's here to help you captivate the senses and delight everyone with easy recipes you could cook at home. Learn more about Braised and Deglazed's Editorial Process.

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