8 Tasty Ways to Get Your Whole Grains On
Sure, we love digging into brown rice bowls and plumping up our vegetable soups with barley, but there’s an array of other (sometimes obscure) good-for-us whole grains — from spelt to farro — we should be eating on the regular. Don’t overlook these nutritious alternatives hiding in grocery store bulk bins.
Tracing its roots back to circa-5000 or 6000 BC Iran, tough-husked spelt is laden with protein and fiber. In flour form it makes an apt substitute for whole wheat, leading to delightfully fluffy loaves of bread. But in this recipe, the nutty kernels get the New Orleans treatment, mingling with the likes of Cajun seasoning, Canadian bacon, green bell pepper and garlic.
Bulgur, the parboiled and cracked Middle Eastern grain, most often stars in refreshing salads. In these chile powder, cumin and cayenne-spiked cakes, they acquire a falafel-like quality, melded with kidney beans, and, for a Mexican flourish, sour cream, shredded cheese and lime zest.
Give chewy wheat berries a good overnight soak, then add these sweet, nutty whole kernels to an Indian-inspired mélange of coconut milk, curry powder, currants and cashews served over basmati rice.
Reverence for quinoa has been long, first making an impression during the heady days of the Incan Empire. Washing the gluten-free superfood before cooking is an essential nuisance — it’s the only way to alleviate an unappealing soapy taste — but its versatility leads to infinite preparations, like this homage to Mexico made with spinach, cilantro, jalapeno and Cotija cheese.
Typically, we savor our steel-cut oats in a comforting bowl of morning gruel (or in a toothsome cookie). It turns out they also add earthy heft to risotto, like the one in this recipe, which unites them with freshly shucked corn, Parmesan and dill.
You can call it Khorasan wheat — named after a region in Afghanistan — but these kernels, twice the size of everyday wheat, are better known by its trademark name, kamut. The high-protein grain, once relegated to cattle feed status, makes for a great salad, or less predictably, a base for this crushed plum tomato marinara sauce with extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and a dusting of Parmesan.
Bulgur usually steals the show in the beloved Middle Eastern side dish, tabbouleh. Instead, shake it up with millet, the delicate, fiber-rich grain that paves the way for downy rice dishes and creamy porridges. Brightened with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, this version is strewn with Persian cucumbers, radishes and scallions.
After making frequent cameos in salad and risotto, the chewy Italian grain, faro, finds new life as “rice” in this vibrant Asian stir-fry with fresh ginger, bean sprouts and toasted sesame oil.
Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern.