Try a New Whole Grain

Wheat, rice, oats, and corn, are common foods Canadians have eaten for generations. They’re nutritious, especially if you choose the whole grain versions. Think about adding variety to your menus by using some of the many other types of whole grains available.

Grain Description How to prepare or use:


Amaranth is new to many Canadians but is enjoyed daily in other parts of the world. Like quinoa, amaranth is a good source of protein, carbohydrate and fibre. Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, or you can use amaranth flour to add a new flavour to muffins or quick breads. Cook 1 cup (250 mL) of amaranth with 2½ cups (625 mL) of liquid for 20 minutes to yield about 2½ cups (625 mL). It should be served right away as it becomes very thick after sitting for a while. Tomatoes and chilies are great seasonings for amaranth.


Barley is usually thought of in beer making, but it’s a delicious grain with a chewy texture. About 4 million tonnes of barley are grown in Alberta each year. It’s a rich source of beta-glucan, a soluble fibre which helps to prevent heart disease.

Barley contains gluten, so people with celiac disease are asked to avoid it.

It’s available as hulled, hull-less, pot, and pearled. Hulled and hull-less barley are whole grains. Pot and pearled barley are not whole grains because at least some outer bran has been removed. Pot barley has more of the bran layer left than pearled barley. Quick cooking whole grain barley is available in grocery stores. Barley flour (look for whole grain barley flour) and barley grits (also known as barley couscous) are also available.

As a breakfast food, barley can be sweetened with cinnamon and applesauce. As a side dish, it’s delicious cooked in chicken broth with onions and mushrooms.

Try these delicious barley recipes:

To cook hulled or hull-less barley, use 1 cup (250 mL) of barley to 3 cups (750 mL) of liquid, cooking for 45–60 minutes.

For pot or pearl barley, use 1 cup (250 mL) with 3 cups (750 mL) water, cooking for 40 minutes.

Brown rice

brown rice

Brown rice, a nutritious alternative to white rice or pasta, is a good source of fibre. It has a nut-like flavour and a chewy texture, and you can cook it and put portions in the freezer for later use.

Try this delicious brown rice soup:

Use 2½ cups (625 mL) of liquid for every 1 cup (250 mL) of rice. Liquid can be water or low sodium stock, depending on the desired taste and will yield about 3 cups (750 mL) of cooked rice. Cook for 40–45 minutes.


Buckwheat is not actually a grain but it is used much like a whole grain. It’s gluten-free and is higher in protein and fibre than many whole grains. It typically comes in the form of buckwheat groats (or Kasha) or buckwheat flour. Buckwheat pancakes or blinis are made using the flour To make a kasha, the eastern European dish, buckwheat is toasted in a dry skillet and for every 1 cup (250 mL) used, 2½ cups (625 mL) of liquid are added and simmered for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. The traditional way of cooking coats the grains in egg before adding the liquid, but either way will work.


Millet looks just like mustard seeds both in size and colour. To bring out millet’s full flavour it is toasted in a dry pan before adding the liquid. It can be eaten as a breakfast cereal like oatmeal or, with the addition of savoury spices, can be substituted for other grains.

Teff is a variety of millet that is much smaller and darker in colour and is best known as the main ingredient for injera, an Ethiopian flatbread.

To prepare, use 1 cup (250 mL) of millet or teff and add 2½ cups (625 mL) of liquid and simmer for 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork to separate the grains.


Oats are a commonly-eaten grain in North America, and are grown in Alberta. Since there is a natural preservative in oats, refining oats has not been necessary to extend the shelf life. So, when we eat oats in any form we are eating a whole grain product. Oats come in several forms, including steel cut oats which make a chewy breakfast cereal, rolled oats, which have been steamed and are softer, and oat flour which can be used in combination with other flours.

Try these oat recipes:

The volume of liquid and time required to cook oats depends on which form of oats you use. One cup (250 mL) of rolled oats requires 2 cups (500 mL) of liquid and 10 minutes to cook. Rolled oats can also be cooked in a microwave. Steel cut oats require 3 cups (750 mL) of water or milk to 1 cup (250 mL) oats cooked over low heat for 30 minutes.
Quinoa (keen-wah)


Quinoa, a versatile South American grain product, is rich in protein, carbohydrate, iron, and fibre. This alternative to rice, pasta, or couscous is prepared like rice. It has a fluffy texture and nutty flavour. Quinoa is typically made as a savoury side dish which cooks quickly. Use 1 cup (250 mL) of dry quinoa to 2 cups (500 mL) of liquid and cook for 15 minutes. It can also be made as a sweet breakfast cereal by adding cinnamon, spices, chopped fruit and milk.


Rye is grown in Alberta, and is best known as the feedstock for rye whiskey. Rye bread tends to be much heavier and darker than wheat flour-based breads. Rye flour is usually mixed with wheat flour in making rye bread because rye flour contains less gluten than wheat flour, so bread made only from rye is very heavy and dense.

In addition to being available as flour, rye can also be found as rye flakes.Rye flakes can be cooked into a hot cereal similar to oatmeal. Rye berries can be used as a whole grain savoury dish.

Use 1 cup (250 mL) of rye berries with 2½ (625 mL) cups of liquid and cook for an hour until soft.


Sorghum is a North African gluten-free grain which is yellow in colour and looks like a bigger version of millet.

It grows well in arid areas of the world with limited water supply because it is drought tolerant.

Sorghum flour is used to make unleavened bread called bhakri, as well as a liquor called maotai which is like a gluten-free beer. Sorghum stalks make a sweet syrup. Sorghum is grown in small amounts in Alberta, but is commonly available in Africa and Asia as sorghum grain or sorghum flour.


Substitute sorghum flour for some of the wheat flour in recipes.


Spelt, an ancient grain related to wheat, is high in fibre and has a nuttier, slightly sweeter flavour than wheat. Small amounts are grown as a specialty crop in Alberta. Use spelt to replace some of the wheat flour in muffins or quick breads, or look for this grain on the ingredients list of whole grain pasta and cereal. Use spelt to replace some of the wheat flour in muffins or quick breads.


Wheat, the major cereal crop in Alberta, is the most common grain used in North America, comes in many forms. The most basic form is wheat berries, which are the whole kernels. Other forms include bulgur, which is steamed hulled wheat berries that have been dried and cracked; emmer, spelt or faro, ancient forms of wheat; kamut, which is related to durum wheat; and triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye. Wheat is not gluten-free and must be avoided by people with celiac disease.

Try these recipes using whole wheat flour:

Wheat berries take nearly an hour to cook over simmering heat, but pre-soaking them can reduce cooking time slightly. Use 1 cup (250 mL) wheat berries to 2½ cups (625 mL) water.
Wild rice

wild rice

Wild rice is the seed of an aquatic grass but it is used like a grain. Wild rice was harvested by the Indigenous peoples of North America. It’s grown as a specialty crop in Alberta. It is gluten-free and is typically fermented a bit to extend its shelf life.

Wild rice should be rinsed and drained before cooking. The amount of liquid required to cook depends on the size of the grains, the longer ones requiring more water than the shorter ones.

One cup (250 mL) of wild rice requires anywhere from 2–3 cups (500–750 mL) of liquid and a cooking time of 45–65 minutes.

Wild rice, because of its high price, is often mixed with other rice for a more interesting blend of textures and flavours. Try mixing wild and brown rice together.

For more recipes using whole grains see: Inspiring Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating in the Community