Guide to Grains

Grains have become hugely popular lately not only because they are super nutritious, but because they are super delicious, too. They’re not difficult to cook — if you can cook rice, you can cook grains — but they can be unpredictable, with cooking times that can vary widely. The timing can depend on age, which is why it’s so smart to buy grains in bulk — the high turnover in our bins means the grains are generally fresher.

Basic Grain Instructions


Grains stored in airtight containers away from light, heat and moisture should keep a few months. The oils in some whole grains may turn rancid over time, so be sure to smell before using. If they smell musty or off, they may be past their prime.

Rinsing and soaking

Rinse grains thoroughly under cold running water until the water runs clear. Soaking is optional, but it is recommended for hard grains like spelt and wheat berries — they will cook up quicker and maintain the integrity.


Bring water (and salt, if using) to a boil, add grains and return to a boil. Stir, reduce heat so the water just simmers, cover the pot tightly, and simmer. Resist the urge to lift the cover — releasing steam will slow the cooking process.


Check grains for doneness by biting into one. Most whole grains are slightly chewy when cooked.


When grains are done cooking, remove from the heat and fluff them with a fork or chopstick. Cover again and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Great Ways with Grains

  • As a pilaf tossed with sautéed vegetables and plenty of fresh herbs

  • In place of rice or noodles in soup

  • Cooked with dried fruit and topped with milk or yogurt for breakfast

  • Tossed with chopped veggies and a vibrant vinaigrette for a cool salad

  • As a base for curries and stir-fries

  • As a hearty stuffing for vegetables and roasts

Grains: Cooking Tips and Serving Suggestions



Grain to Liquid

Basic Cooking Method


Becomes sticky when cooked. Mix with corn, scallions and cooked pinto beans for a South-of-the-Border side dish.

1 cup to 3 cups

Simmer 25-30 minutes. Do not salt until thoroughly cooked.

Barley (brown)

Lightly milled to retain all of the germ and at least 2/3 of the bran for a tender, slightly chewy texture and a mild flavor. Use in grain salads, soups, stews and chilis. Try barley as a stuffing for peppers, tomatoes or poultry.

1 cup to 3-1/2 cups

Simmer 60 minutes.


Bulgur is cracked wheat that has been partially cooked. Most often used to make tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad featuring parsley, mint, garlic and lemon.

1 cup to 2-1/2 cups

Simmer 20 minutes, fluff, let sit covered for 10 minutes. Or pour boiling water over bulgur, cover and let sit for 1 hour.


Made from coarsely ground, precooked semolina, couscous is technically a pasta but is typically used like a grain. It cooks up in minutes, making it a lifesaver for weeknight cooking. Delicious tossed with fresh herbs, lemon and toasted pine nuts.

1 cup to 1-1/2 cups

Place couscous in a bowl. Pour in lightly salted boiling water, cover and let sit until water is absorbed and couscous is tender, 5-10 minutes. Fluff.

Couscous (whole wheat)

Whole wheat couscous retains the chewy bran layer of the semolina, which adds a nutty flavor and makes it slightly more nutritious. Delicious tossed with basil, garlic and Parmesan.

1 cup to 1-1/2 cups

Place couscous in a bowl. Pour in lightly salted boiling water, cover and let sit until water is absorbed and couscous is tender, 5-10 minutes. Fluff.

Cracked Wheat

Wheat berries cracked into small pieces. Use in casseroles, salad or as a stuffing.

1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer 30 minutes; let stand covered 5 minutes.


Ground yellow corn that cooks to a pudding-like consistency similar to polenta. The coarser the grind, the longer the cooking time.

1 cup to 4 cups

Bring water to a boil (salt optional). Reduce heat slightly and slowly whisk in grits. Cook covered 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

KAMUT® khorasan wheat

An ancient Egyptian wheat cultivated since 4000 BC has a rich, buttery flavor and a chewy texture.

1 cup to 3 cups

Soak overnight in cold water. Drain. Simmer 45-60 minutes.


Kasha is whole-roasted buckwheat groats. Because buckwheat is not part of the wheat family, it can be eaten by many on a wheat-free diet. Cook with noodles, use as a stuffing for cabbage, or use in casseroles.

1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer 20 minutes.


A mild, very digestible grain, often used by people on wheat-free diets. Use interchangeably with quinoa or rice.

1 cup to 2-1/2 cups

Simmer 25-35 minutes, remove from heat, fluff and let sit uncovered for 20 minutes.

Oat Groats

Rich and hearty, a great alternative to oatmeal. Also used in savory dishes like pilaf or stuffing.

1 cup to 3 cups

Start in cold water and then simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Oats (steel-cut)

Chewier than rolled oats, steel-cut oats are groats cut into smaller pieces. A perfect hot cereal for coolweather breakfasts.

1 cup to 4 cups

Start in cold water and then simmer for 30 minutes.

Oats (rolled)

Often called old-fashioned oats, rolled oats are groats that have been steamed, rolled and cut into flakes. Great as cereal or added raw to cookies, muffins, pancakes and granola.

1 cup to 2 cups

Start in cold water and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.


Pronounced KEEN-wah, this ancient grain is packed with nutrition and has a light, nutty flavor that works well in soups, salads and pilafs.

1 cup to 2 cups

Rinse well before cooking. Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Rye Berries

Nutty rye berries have a terrific chewy texture that works well in a pilaf with brown rice, onion, parsley and caraway seeds, or add cooked berries to baked goods for heartiness.

1 cup to 4 cups Soak overnight.

Simmer 1 hour.

Rye Flakes

Rye berries that are steamed and rolled. Great mixed with rolled oats for a warming winter cereal. A hearty addition to breads and muffins.

1 cup to 3 cups

Simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Seven-Grain Cereal

Includes organic wheat, oats, barley, soybeans, buckwheat, wheat bran, corn and millet.

1 cup to 2-1/2 cups

Bring water to a boil, add salt (optional), slowly add cereal, stirring constantly. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

Spelt Berries

A mild, very digestible grain. Use interchangeably with quinoa or rice.

1 cup to 4 cups

Soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain. Add water, bring to a boil and simmer 50-60 minutes.


A rich source of calcium and iron, and it's gluten-free. Makes a great morning cereal with a creamy-crunchy texture and a light molasses flavor.

1 cup to 3 cups

Lightly toast grains for a richer flavor. Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Textured Soy-Protein Concentrate

Not exactly a grain, this product is made from soy flour and is a wonderfully high-protein alternative to ground meat. Use it in stews, chilis, casseroles and pasta sauces.

7/8 cup to 1 cup

To soften, pour boiling water over granules. Stir, cover and soak 5 minutes.add to recipe and simmer another 15-20 minutes, or follow recipe instructions.

Wheat Berries

Chewy texture, high in protein; great as a stuffing or added to a green salad. Wheat berries labeled soft, cook more quickly.

1 cup to 4 cups

Soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain. Add water, bring to a boil and simmer 50-60 minutes.

Wheat Flakes

Steamed and rolled from wheat berries; quick cooking. Usually combined with other cereal grains. Add to hot cereals, granolas and to casserole toppings for extra fiber and nutrients. Best kept refrigerated.

1 cup to 3 cups

Simmer 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes

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