TRAVERSE CITY — Many people are familiar with quinoa and rice, but they may not know several other whole grain alternatives exist.

Oryana Outreach and Marketing Specialist Luise Bolleber said nutritious whole grain substitutes include kasha, amaranth and millet. Kasha and groats are buckwheat, which may be used in gluten-free diets.

“They’re more nutritious,” she said. “Some people can tolerate these if wheat bothers them.”

Though Bolleber hasn’t cooked much with amaranth, she said it has a porridge-like consistency. People can add cheese and/or other grains to make a savory breakfast dish.

Farro, einkorn and kamut are “ancient forms of wheat,” Bolleber said. These may still affect people with gluten sensitivities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are cooking at home more and may be looking for different meal options. Bolleber said this is a perfect time to experiment with often overlooked ingredients.

“If you get it in bulk, you can get one cup if you want to try it,” she said. “So you’re not stuck with a big container. You might find a new favorite.”

Bolleber suggested adding whole grains to salads or using them to make risotto.

“They’re nice and hearty and chewy,” she said of whole grains. “Compared to white rice, these are more healthy. If you cook it properly, you’ll get the maximum benefit from it.”

She added that soaking the grains overnight helps break down the coating and allows the human body to more easily access the nutrients. She recommends rinsing millet before cooking to prevent a sticky texture.

“Millet can make veggie patties because it sticks together,” Bolleber said. “If you cook it in broth, that makes it even tastier.”

She added people can use kasha for a twist on traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. Bolleber prefers cooking it with mushrooms.

Oryana cooking instructor and private chef Ali Lopez agreed with Bolleber that trying new ingredients can be fun. She suggested people start with meals they already have and include whole grains whenever possible.

She said her favorite grain is farro, as it has a “really nutty flavor and a lot of protein.” She uses it like she does pasta — whether in a salad, soup or sauce. She suggested adding vegetables or beans to complete the dish.

“You can add a lot of variety,” Lopez said. “They all have fiber. They’re all unprocessed, so they’re all going to be good for you.”

Couscous, she said, is perhaps the fastest to cook because all it takes is pouring boiling water over it and it rehydrates.

“None of the grains are super hard to cook,” she said. “Most cook quick unless you get the whole version.”

Most whole grains are easy to make in advance, Lopez said. They last several days in the fridge and often hold up well in the freezer.

Oryana customers can find a bulk cooking guide near the beans and rice.

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