Your Guide to Healthy Whole Grains

Learn all of the wonderful ways you can prepare hearty whole grains, then add them to your recipe rotation.

Great Grains

Whole grains have all three of their edible parts intact: the endosperm, the bran and the germ. Learn the tastiest ways to prepare these hearty grains and how to take advantage of their flavors and textures.

Amaranth: 1 cup grain + 1 cup water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a pot. Add 1 cup of amaranth. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: Golden-colored minuscule seeds with an earthy, sesame-like flavor. Sprinkle popped amaranth over cereals, casseroles or salads. Cooked amaranth makes a great polenta or porridge.

Barley: 1 cup grain + 1 1/2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Sort and rinse barley. In a medium saucepan, add water and barley and simmer, covered, until tender, approximately 1 hour.

Use: Chubby, dense and chewy grains with a slightly sweet, malty flavor. Hulled barley is minimally processed and best used in soups, stews and nubby grain salads; pearled barley is polished to remove the bran and hull and works best in risotto and puddings. 

Brown Rice: 1 cup grain + 2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Rinse 1 cup of brown rice well, then put in a saucepan with 2 cups of liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the liquid simmers, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Use: Whole-grain rice with a deep nutty flavor. Short-grain cooks up sticky; long-grain turns fluffy. Use whenever white rice is used, in pilafs, casseroles or rice salads. Holds up beautifully in stir-fries.

Buckwheat: 1 cup grain + 2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Wash in cold water. Add 1 cup buckwheat to 2 cups of boiling water. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes. Fluff to cool for salads.

Use: Triangular pale-green seeds with a delicate flavor; fast-cooking. Not related to wheat or any grain. Makes a comforting porridge; buckwheat flour is best used in pancakes and waffles.

Bulgur: 1 cup grain + 2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Bring water to a boil, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain off excess liquid.  Serves 4. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: Steamed, dried and husked wheat berries, cracked into various grinds. Use fine bulgur in tabbouleh or any other grain salad, or as a last-minute thickener for soups. Coarse bulgur is ideal for making pilafs, casseroles and stuffing.

Farro: 1 cup grain + 2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Add farro to boiling salted water. Boil for about 40 minutes for regular farro, and about 20 minutes for semi-pearled or pearled. Drain if needed. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: Old-World variety of wheat with a nutty, mild earthy flavor and pleasant chewy texture. Use instead of rice or pasta to make a hearty grain salad.

Freekeh: 1 cup grain + 2 1/2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Combine 1 cup freekeh with 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so the water simmers, and cook, covered, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: Fire-roasted, threshed and sun-dried young green wheat. Distinctive nutty and smoky taste. Add it to soups and stews or serve on its own, tossed with a little olive oil. 

Khorasan: 1 cup grain + 3 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: In a medium saucepan, bring the liquid to a boil with the salt. Then add the khorasan (aka Kamut) grain, and bring back to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover with tight-fitting lid, and cook for 90 minutes. (To reduce cooking time, soak in water overnight.) Remove from the heat, with the lid on, and let it rest to steam for 10 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid.

Use: Large, elongated, golden kernels with a rich, buttery flavor. An ancient wheat. Add to soups and salads.

Kasha: 1 cup grain + 2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Mix kasha and 1 egg white in a bowl until kasha is well coated. Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add kasha mixture; cook for 3 minutes or until grains are separated and dried out, stirring frequently. Add water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. The egg white will keep the kasha from becoming mushy when cooked. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: Toasted buckwheat seeds with an assertive earthy taste and a toasty, mushroom-y aroma. Traditionally used to make kasha varnishkes. Great with creamy mushroom sauces or as a pilaf.

Spelt: 1 cup grain + 2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Rinse well before cooking. Combine 1 cup spelt with 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so the water simmers, and cook covered, until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: An ancient hulled wheat grain; chewy, versatile and slender with a reddish bran and nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Can be used as a substitute for pasta or in soups. Spelt flour is great for baking.

Millet: 1 cup grain + 2 1/2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Wash in cold water and place 1 cup of millet in a pan with 3 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Use: Small bright golden grains with the delicate flavor of toasted cashew nuts. Use in place of oatmeal for a hot breakfast cereal or as a couscous or polenta substitute. 

Oats: 1 cup grain + 1 1/2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Bring water to a boil. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 cup of steel-cut oats. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes (al dente) to 20 minutes (creamy). Stir every few minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 2 minutes. Serve in 4 bowls.

Use: Rolled, steel-cut, quick or instant oats have a delicate natural sweetness and creamy texture. A real crowd-pleaser in oatmeal and oatmeal cookies, but try them also in soups, in pilafs or as a crisp topping for baked fruits.

Quinoa: 1 cup grain + 1 1/2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Rinse well before cooking. Combine 1 cup quinoa with 1 1/2 cups of water (2 1/2 to 3 cups of water for white quinoa) and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so the water simmers, and cook uncovered, until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: The seeds of this Andean plant unravel into small coils when cooked. Faintly grassy, vegetal taste. Nutritious and quick-cooking. Use in soups, as a couscous substitute or as a porridge sweetened with honey and cream.

Teff: 1 cup grain + 3 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Combine 1 cup of teff with 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 to 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. For extra flavor, lightly toast the grain before cooking.

Use: The staple grain of Ethiopia; its name translates to "lost" because the brown, red or ivory seeds are tiny. The grain is best used in stews, the flour in baked goods, like bread and waffles. Also great in a sweet breakfast porridge or a savory polenta.

Wheat Berries: 1 cup grain + 3 1/2 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: Soak overnight before cooking. Combine 1 cup wheat berries with 3 1/2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so the water simmers, and cook covered, until tender but still chewy, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Use: Entire hulled wheat kernels with a nutty, chewy texture. Perfect for heartier dishes and substantial grain salads.

Wild Rice: 1 cup grain + 2 1/3 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook: In a medium saucepan, bring the liquid to a boil and then add water and rice. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover with tight-fitting lid, and cook for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat, with the lid on, and let it rest to steam for 10 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid. Fluff with a fork, salt to taste and serve.

Use: An aquatic grass, not related to rice, with an aromatic tea scent and intense woodsy, vegetal flavor. Can be too assertive on its own; mix with white or brown rice and use in a savory pilaf. Stunning in chicken soup.