Get to Know Your Grains and How to Cook With Them

How many grains can you name?

Get to Know Your Grains & How to Cook With Them |

Most people can only name 2 or 3 grains. And I’ll bet you buttons to dollars that the first grain named is “wheat”.

Americans are really ingrained (no pun intended) in using wheat. Everything is wheat. It’s no wonder that so many people are allergic to wheat, have celiac disease, intolerances, etc. to wheat. It’s overused. Over abused. Although it’s a healthy grain, too much of it can have a negative effect.

Why should you know about other grains? For one, as a cook and baker, it opens up a whole new world of recipes and possibilities.

So what are some of these “goodies” to learn about and cook with? Let’s talk about a few: Amaranth, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Millet and Spelt.

Let’s start with the “A’s”:

Amaranth [am-uh-ranth]


Amaranth is a tiny, tiny grain but packed full of punch for such a tiny grain. Did you know it contains more calcium and magnesium than milk? So this is a GREAT grain for those who are looking for different alternatives for calcium. It’s also very strengthening to your lungs.

How to use in cooking: Think “thickener”. It’s a great thickener for soups. Toss it in breads or muffins. You can also “pop” it like popcorn. Preheat a pot over high heat, slowly add 1-2 tablespoons seeds. Stir continuously with a spoon as they pop. Quickly remove from pan. Repeat.

How to cook amaranth:

  1. Combine 1 cup seeds with 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff gently with a fork.
  3. For porridge: use 3 cups water to one cup grain and cook a little longer. Serve with milk and fruit for a healthy breakfast.

Buckwheat [buhk-hweet]

Toasted Buckwheat

Despite it’s name, it is not related to wheat making it gluten-free, which is great for those with celiac disease or wheat intolerance. Buckwheat is rich in minerals, fiber, and has about 20% daily amount of protein needed per one cup serving–more proteins than most grains. It is also known by the term “kasha”–a Russian term for cereal. You may have seen “kasha” cereals in the grocery store. It’s high in rutin, a flavonoid, which protects against blood clotting and strengthens capillaries, which is helpful if you suffer from varicose veins!

How to use in cooking: Use this roasted grain for a hot cereal. It has a wonderfully nutty flavor, so grind it into flour and make fantastic pancakes and waffles. It’s also good in livening up salads, sauteed asparagus, etc. It’s usually served as a side for meats or in pilafs.

How to cook buckwheat (kasha):

  1. To Toast: To enhance buckwheat’s flavor and firm its texture, place 1 cup groats in a dry pan over medium heat stirring constantly until browned (about 5 minutes).
  2. Bring 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil, add slowly add the buckwheat. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes.

Quinoa [keen-wah or kee-noh-uh]

QuinoaThis special grain is related to amaranth and is grown and cultivated in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. It is HIGH in nutrients! It contains all essential amino acids, and is very easy to digest. It is very high in magnesium which helps with relaxing blood vessels for those suffering from migraines and a decrease risk in hypertension. It’s a great source of manganese, iron, copper, phosphorous, vitamin B2 and it is has the HIGHEST amount of protein than any other grain. It is a COMPLETE protein, which is very unusual in the plant kingdom.

How to use in cooking: Rinse it well to remove their natural coating which can be somewhat bitter if not removed. You can do this by placing the grain in a fine-meshed strainer, running cold water over it and using your fingers to rub the seeds. Do not soak the seeds. Use it with vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts, garlic, tomatoes, roasted pepper chilis, and spinach. It cooks in about 20 minutes.

How to cook quinoa:

  1. Measure out 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups liquid, such as broth or water.
  2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the rinsed quinoa. Cook, stirring for about 1 minute or until the water evaporates.
  3. Stir in the liquid and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring to a rolling boil. Turn heat down to the lowest setting, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork and serve.

Millet [mil-it]


Millet is primarily cultivated in the East and in Southern Europe but originated in Africa. And, yes, it is used as bird seed, which is where it is mostly used in the U.S. Millet is high in iron, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and vitamin E, providing 30% of your daily value nutrients for a one-cup serving.

How to use in cooking: purchase the “hulled” seed and use it as an alternative to rice. Serve it as a side dish or as a breakfast cereal sweetened with milk and sugar. It makes a nice dish with stir fries and meat dishes or with herbs commonly used to flavor rice. You can also grind millet into flour and use it with all-purpose or whole wheat flours in bread and muffin recipes.

How to cook millet:

  1. To enhance millet’s flavor, toast millet in a dry skillet over medium heat and stir frequently until golden brown (about 5 mins). 
  2. Bring millet and 2 1/2 cups of water or broth to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Gently fluff with a fork.

Spelt [spelt]


Spelt berries is primarily grown in Southern Europe and Western Asia. It is related to wheat but because of its low gluten content, many people with wheat sensitivities or allergies are able to tolerate it. Like buckwheat, it is loaded with minerals and proteins. It’s high in manganese, niacin, thiamine, copper, and vitamin B2. It is great for digestive disorders. It is the ONLY grain that contains mucopolysaccharides which stimulates the immune system.

How to use in cooking: Spelt is used as an alternative to oats and barley in pastas, cereals and baked goods. It was one of the first grains to be used for bread.

How to cook spelt:

  1. In a large saucepan, add 3 cups water or broth to 1 cup spelt and a pinch of salt. On medium-high heat bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer until grain is tender. Approximately 50-60 minutes.
  2. Pre-soaking method: Rinse spelt under water. Place in a bowl covered in water. Soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain after soaking.
  3. Add spelt to a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until brown.
  4. Add 3 parts water or broth to 1 part spelt and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until grain is tender. Approximately 30-40 minutes.

I hope this kitchen tip series was informative and useful. Until next Tuesday…be kind to yourself.

About Jen

Jen is owner, author, and creative mind behind Bakerette. Jen eats a vegan diet and recently converted Bakerette to a plant-based website that offers a smattering of healthful recipes! Jen is author of the cookbook Festive Feasts: Meals and Memories from Halloween to Christmas, which can be purchased online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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