Gluten Free Grains

So far, we talked about my sister’s story, we went over some basic tips, went shopping and at this point, likely you’re at home- wondering what to do with all of these new grains. Talk about intimidating.

Never fear, many of the new grains you’ve picked up are simple to prepare with a little bit of guidance. That’s where I come in! In today’s post I’ll go over some of my favorite types of gluten free grains, how to prepare them and suggestions on what to use them in. Chances are, you’ll be surprised at how easy making gluten-free meals at home is.

Some tips:

1. All of the grains that follow can be made in one of my very favorite (cheap!) kitchen appliances: the rice cooker. Just throw the grains in, top with suggested ratio of water and press “on”… your cooker will tell you when you have a perfectly prepared pot of gluten-free grains.

2. Soaking grains increases digestibility. I soak all of my grains (and beans), as long as I remember, before cooking to help digestion and quicken cooking time.

3. All grains should be stored in an air-tight container to maintain freshness.

Now onto the grains. First up, my favorite grain of all time…

Quinoa

Benefits of quinoa:

High protein content. many believe it to be one of the few sources of complete plant-based protein.
Quick cooking. after boiling, quinoa takes around 15 minutes to cook.
Versatile. it comes in red and white varieties, both being a fairly neutral, fluffy grain with a slightly nutty taste.

How to cook it:

Rinse desired amount quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Using a 1:2 ratio of grains to water, place grains and water in a medium saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed and the small curlicue “tails” begin to show. Generally 1 cup of dry quinoa serves 4-5 .

How to use it:

My favorite ways to use quinoa are as a side to pretty much any meal, mixed with some beans for a quick grain salad, or transformed into quinoa tabbouleh.

Millet

Benefits of millet:

Millet has to be my latest favorite grain. It cooks into a soft, creamy texture that is neutral and useful in a variety of preparations.
High in magnesium and niacin (B3), both very heart-protective
A whole grain, so like rice and buckwheat, high in B-vitamins, fiber and plant-based protein.
Fairly quick cooking, a little longer than quinoa but half the time rice takes; about 25 minutes.

How to cook it:

Just like other grains, rinse well under running water. Pick through to remove any dirt or dark pieces. Place in a medium saucepan, cover with water in a 1:2.5 ratio (1 cup of millet to 2.5 cups liquid). Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered until soft- about 25 minutes. Can be roasted before cooking to create a “nuttier” taste.

How to use it:

It’s super creamy texture tastes amazing mashed into a “potato” like consistency, it’s great as a base for stir-fries, as a casserole topping or as a delicious side.

Rice

Benefits of rice:

Rice is the old standby. I prefer short grain brown rice, but there are so many varieties out there… long grain, short grain, sticky rice, sushi rice, jasmine rice, arborio basmati rice… all in white and brown variety, some even in black and wild varieties (though wild rice is technically a grass, it is also gluten-free.)
Dirt cheap. Really. One bag of organic rice is $4-6, and it contains at least 12 servings. Yeah, it’s that cheap.
High in fiber. Around 3-4 grams in a one cup serving. That is the whole grain brown-or-black variety of course, but you were already eating that kind, right?
High in B-vitamins and minerals such as selenium and manganese.

How to cook it:

Rinse under running water until water runs clear. Place in a medium saucepan or rice cover, cover with water (to a 1:2 ratio , just like quinoa, and a 1:2.5 ratio for less-sticky rice), bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 40-60 minutes, depending on type of rice (white rice typically cooks quicker, but dont let that be a reason to use it!)

Can be reheated on the stove with a little extra water the next day!

How to use it:

How can’t you use rice? “Fry” it up for a quick weeknight dinner, throw in some sausage, shrimp, tomato sauce and a bunch of spices and call it a jambalaya, stir it into a risotto, make it into pudding, stuff it in nori with some veggies and avocado for vegan rolls, re-heat it with some cinnamon and nut milk for a grain-tastic breakfast, serve it alone as a side, eat it with a sprinkle of seeds and some steamed rice for a quick, nutrient filled meal- the possibilities are endless.

Buckwheat

Benefits of Buckwheat:

Chewier, more firm texture makes it an ideal grain that will hold up in many recipes.
Like rice and millet, high in fiber and b-vitamins.
High in flavonoids, making it great for the cardiovascular system.
Has been linked to blood-sugar control.

How to cook it:

Rinse under running water and pick through. Place in a medium saucepan with water in a 1:2 ratio. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cook covered for 30 minutes or until soft.

How to use it:

Despite it’s confusing name, buckwheat is in fact gluten-free. It can be sold roasted (sometime called “kasha”) or unroasted. I find buckwheat to have a slightly bitter taste, so I tend to like it ground into a flour (great in baked goods!) or cooked into other dishes- a soup or a casserole, for instance, or my favorite veggie-ful veggie burgers by my friend Meghan.

Oats

Benefits of Oats:

Comes in a variety of types for different uses: rolled oats, steel-cut oats, whole oat groats and even oat bran.
High in fiber
Have been linked to lowering cholesterol and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.
Contain beta-glucans, increasing the immune response.

How to cook it:

Depending on the type of oats, oats may have to be cooked on the stovepot, or can sometimes be microwaved (though I don’t recommend it as a regular cooking method). Prepare as package indicates. They can even be eaten “raw”- groats can be soaked and dehydrated or rolled oats can be soaked overnight for “overnight oatmeal”.

How to use it:

Do I really have to tell you? We all know how delicious a big creamy bowl of oats is in the morning. Or many make them savory for lunch, or even into a granola for a mid-afternoon snack. And we can’t forget cookies! I don’t have any suggestions thus far as to oats for dinner options, but feel free to make yourself a bowl of oatmeal if you’re feeling lazy, I can’t say I’ve never done this! Just remember to buy the gluten-free variety, to avoid contamination.

This is not an all-inclusive list! There are plenty of other gluten-free grains (teff, amaranth ) and options (sweet potatoes/potatoes, corn). In addition, there are plenty of gluten-free whole food flours (coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour…) on the market that you can use in all sorts of different recipes, I highly encourage experimentation!