There are Alternative Grains to Wheat


In an effort to have a more healthy diet, many people have incorporated whole grains into their meals. Whole grains consists of three parts:1. Bran, containing a small amount of protein, three major B vitamins, trace minerals and insoluble dietary fiber. 2. Germ, the baby plant, contains a large share of B vitamins, some high quality protein, trace minerals and some fat. The germ is often separated from the flour in milling to extend it’s shelf life. 3. Endosperm, the source of white flour, makes up the largest share of protein, carbohydrates, iron and B vitamins. It is also a source of soluble fiber. This whole food keeps you feeling full longer, keeps your blood pressure under control, balances blood sugar, and stores well.

There are more varieties of whole grains than just wheat. When you shop in the bulk section of your grocer, you will find many choices. Don’t be overwhelmed by the variety, it’s a good thing to have choices. Whole grains pick up flavors from whatever they’re cooked with and are easy to cook, many within 20 minutes. Those that take longer, can be cooked ahead and refrigerated for up to five days, or frozen and reheated. Pre-soaking them over night will also shorten cooking times. This primer will help you understand their features.

alternative grains

Amaranth – has been cultivated for 8,000 years by Aztecs. It must be cooked to be digested and can also be popped like popcorn. Amaranth has 13-14% protein and contains the amino acid lysine. To cook bring 2 cups liquid to boil, add 1 cup grain, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Yields 2 1/2 cups. Season it with olive oil and herbs or serve it as a cooked breakfast cereal like oatmeal. Grind two tablespoons and add to basic bread flour or pancake batter for added nutrition.

alternative grains

Buckwheat – is not a grain cereal but rather related to rhubarb, so it is considered a fruit seed. It is gluten-free for those who are sensitive to wheat or other grains. The component rutin strengthens capillary walls. Nutrients in buckwheat may help control blood sugar and manage diabetes. It is a good source of magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow. To cook boil 2 cups of liquid, add 1 cup of buckwheat kernels and simmer for 20 minutes until tender, Yields 4 cups. Its nutty flavor goes well with hearty vegetables like mushrooms or carrots. It works well as a filling for stuffed peppers, also.

alternative grains

Millet – not just for birds, this tiny gluten-free grain is a food staple in India, Africa and China. It is high in magnesium and aids in nerve and muscle function. Tastes like a cross between quinoa and corn., cooks in about 30 minutes, and requires no pre-soaking. Toast it in a skillet for 4 minutes to enhance its nutty flavor. To cook boil 2 1/2 cups liquid, add 1 cup millet, cover, simmer for 18 minutes and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluffing it with a fork gives individual grains. Cook it with more water and stir frequently to make a creamy, porridge type dish. It can be added to cornbread or muffin mixes or served like mashed potatoes.

alternative grains

Quinoa – Domesticated for human consumption 3,000 – 4,000 years ago, this ancient South American crop is high in protein. Available in three varieties, red, black and white, this seed has an earthy taste. Related to the beet and spinach family, it lacks gluten and can grow in dry soil. To cook boil 2 cups of liquid, add 1 cup quinoa, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Yields 3 cups. Serve as a side dish instead of rice or toss it in a vegetable salad containing sauteed cherry tomatoes, olive oil, basil and Parmesan cheese. Freezes and reheats easily.

alternative grains

Barley – a versatile grain, comes in both hulled and pearled varieties. Hulled, has had the outermost hull removed. Pearled has had the hull and the bran removed. It has a nutlike flavor and is chewy, like pasta in consistency. When fermented, barley is used as an ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages. Hulled barley takes about an hour to cook. This time can be shortened by pre-soaking overnight. To cook add one cup of barley to three or four cups of water (like cooking pasta). One cup will yield 3 cups. It is starchy and soaks up liquid like a sponge. Add it to a big pot of simmering soup. Barley’s fiber helps with regularity and intestinal health. Presoaking overnight with a tablespoon of yogurt in the liquid allows lactobacillus bacteria time to begin fermenting barley’s insoluble fiber. This fiber is food for these friendly bacteria residing in your intestine. Friendly bacteria populations keep your intestine healthy.

alternative grains

Teff – the smallest grain in the world, this nutritional powerhouse has been a staple of Ethiopian cooking for thousands of years. Teff has a mild nutty flavor and contains lots of calcium, protein and fiber. It is added to porridge, stews, pilaf or baked goods. It is gluten-free as well. To cook bring 3 cups liquid to a boil, add 1 cup teff, cover, and simmer 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Yields 2 1/2 cups. It can be eaten as a breakfast cereal or added to pancake batter.

alternative grains

Wild Rice – is a grass, the only native grain in North America, originally harvested by Native Americans in canoes. Wild rice contains the bran, endosperm and germ so it takes longer to cook than white rice. It remains chewy after cooking with a distinct nutty flavor. Cook like pasta in lots of boiling liquid, cover, and simmer 45 minutes to one hour, Yields 2 1/2 cups. Mix with brown rice, use in stuffing or serve with sauteed mushroom. This is a great addition to soups or salads with nuts and fruits.


Any of these alternative grains can be prepared in the SUN OVEN®.

Cook 1.5 – 2 hours until grains are soft. Be sure to add salt when cooking, it brings out the flavor. Resist the urge to stir the grains, just fluff with a fork when moisture is absorbed.


Billie Nicholson, Editor
July 2014


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