5 Quirky Grain Switch-Ups You've Got to Try

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Amazing grains, how sweet the sound! (That is how the song goes … right?) Either way, there’s no denying the awesome powers of whole grains. Beyond the obvious health benefits of swapping them in for pasta, white rice and more, using grains as a nourishing alternative brings a welcome quirkiness to your go-to side dishes.

1: Take the rice out of your fried rice by using farro instead.

The glory of digging fried rice out of a takeout container could never be fully replaced, but making a good grain swap is a sure way to keep things interesting. Look to farro, an Italian grain of wheat that’s satisfyingly tender and chewy, for Healthy Farro Fried “Rice” (pictured above) that ups the texture of the classic Asian staple.

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2: Swap barley into your risotto.

Besides bringing the health perks of using barley instead of Arborio rice, Slow-Cooker Mushroom Barley Risotto also manages to achieve the same creamy, starchy consistency as regular risotto without the constant, laborious stirring over a hot stove.

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3: There’s more to pilaf than rice.

Pilaf is traditionally made by simmering rice in broth, but Quinoa Pilaf comes with a notable nuttiness. Though technically a seed, quinoa is often grouped in with the whole grains in terms of prep, and it adds yet another layer of flavor to Giada De Laurentiis’ Mediterranean-inspired dish of bell peppers, mint, cucumber and lemon zest.

4: Using bulgur may keep with tradition, but millet works as a stellar alternative base.

Instead of bulgur-based tabbouleh, Toasted Millet Tabbouleh comes with a great source of plant protein and is also gluten-free. Since millet is so delicate, toasting it before simmering it in liquid keeps it sturdy, while cooking untoasted millet will result in a creamy porridge-like consistency.

5: Instead of cooking up some rice to accompany your taco night, consider using quinoa.

Complement an indulgent Tex-Mex meal with a lighter alternative: jalapeno-spiked Mexican Green Quinoa mixed with cilantro and spinach.

Get more grain recipes from our friends:

Weelicious: Mushroom Barley

Virtually Homemade: Easy Yellow Rice

Feed Me Phoebe: Maple-Chia Overnight Oatmeal

The Wimpy Vegetarian: Mujadara with Roasted Tomatoes and Greens

Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Indian Spiced Quinoa Pilaf with Peas

The Heritage Cook: White and Wild Rice Pilaf

The Mom 100: Red Quinoa Salad with Arugula, Artichoke Hearts and Olives

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Wild Mushroom, Sweet Pepper & Leek Risotto

Red or Green: Spicy Barley Risotto

Taste with the Eyes: Brown Rice Noodles paired with Tamarind Fish

The Cultural Dish: Three Ways to Make Risotto

Creative Culinary: Rice and Egg Bowl with Salmon and Peas

Swing Eats: Stir-Fried Quinoa with Chinese Vegetables