Nutrition Articles

Easy Ways to Cook Whole Grains

Over 20 Ways to Enjoy Whole Grain Goodness

Can you boil water? Then you can make whole grains a part of your diet. Whole grains are delicious and nutritious, supplying vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. And there are many varieties to choose from besides the all-too-common wheat, oats and rice. No matter which you choose, from amaranth to quinoa, this article will show you how to select, store and prepare whole grains as a healthy part of your meals.

Cooking Basics
Whole grains are simple to prepare on the stove—just cook them the as you would rice or pasta—or in a countertop steamer, which is even easier. Once they’re cooked, whole grains will keep well and can be refrigerated or frozen. So cook as much as you can at one time.

For the most flavor, you can cook grains in bouillon or another flavored liquid (such as vegetable broth or chicken stock) to enhance taste. Don’t be afraid to use these flavor enhancers for a variety of purposes. Both vegetable- and chicken-flavored broths and bouillons will produce mildly flavored grains that can still be used for hot cereals, main dishes, salads or desserts. Here are some of the most common ways to prepare whole grains:
  • On the stovetop: Any whole grain can be cooked in a pot just as you would cook rice but this method will take longer and will use more liquid than some other methods. If you’re cooking your grains this way, use a medium-size pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring six cups of bouillon or broth to a boil in the pot, stir in 2.5 cups of grains (1 pound) and return to boiling. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until the grains are tender and most of the water is absorbed, about 45-60 minutes. Keep in mind that cooking times will vary for different types of grains.
  • In an electric steamer: This inexpensive countertop unit is the easiest, most convenient way to cook all types of whole grains. Your steamer will come with a detailed instruction booklet and will include many recipes for preparing vegetables and seafood as well. Simply follow the instructions for the different types of grains, using the measurements and cooking times shown in the chart.
  • In a pressure cooker: Pressure cookers also work well for whole grains. Adjust the cooking times as you would for any other food—whole grains typically take about half the regular time.
  • In a rice cooker: A rice cooker may be used to cook many whole grains—not just white rice. These cookers use a sensor to determine when the liquid has been absorbed by the grains. But you will need to experiment a few times before you find the ideal amount of liquid to use to cook grains other than white rice.
  • With the Crockpot: Put grains and liquid in the Crockpot and cook for 6-8 hours.
  • In the microwave: A plastic rice steamer designed for microwave use can be used to prepare whole grains, but you will need to follow the steamer’s instructions carefully. You will need to change the power setting and stir the grains in the middle of the cooking process. Continued ›
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • Living in Hawaii, I grew up eating medium grain white rice with EVERYTHING! I am comfortable with brown rice, now, but I have started using quinoa in its place some of the time. Curry stew, regular stew, and chili are dishes that I love a lot of rice with, and by substituting a cup of cooked quinoa for a cup of brown rice saves me about 50 calories, but gives me the grain texture I grew up with. - 3/20/2015 11:33:21 AM
  • As I type I have millet cooking in a slow cooker. I'm planning to try it as a breakfast cereal all week. I got the idea from a slow-cooker cookbook! I like millet as a main course grain (to replace rice or put in soup), so millet as breakfast will be a new experience. - 1/12/2014 6:40:13 PM
  • I use couscous also. I put barley in a lot os soups and use oatmeal in meatloaf. - 2/6/2013 10:28:26 AM
  • Unfortunately, there are now concerns about arsenic levels in food, especially rice products. This alert if from an article in Consumer Reports magazine: November 2012. "Arsenic in your food. Our findings show a real need for federal standards for this toxin".
    You can find the article online at: http://www.consum
    In short, eat less rice products and/or soak rice and discard water before preparing. But I recommend the article! - 1/4/2013 10:44:09 AM
  • I grind my own wheat for bread, pancakes and whatever else. It is great. I can also make "wheat meat". I have only tried one time, not sure my family will eat it yet, but with beef prices rising, it will be an option for us. I love that I can make my own cream of wheat. Thanks. -Ma - 12/27/2012 1:04:44 PM
  • Thank you for printing this article again for us new sparkers! The information was very valuable to me. - 9/24/2012 10:03:11 AM
    I appreciate the tips, but be aware that spelt is a type of wheat and does contain gluten so people that have celiac disease or an actual allergy to wheat should not consume it as it could be extremely dangerous.

    (For all the people who just claim they have a wheat allergy without actually being diagnosed with one or having any actual documented symptoms, they'll be just fine...) - 5/25/2012 4:39:16 PM
  • Technicality, yes, but... "quinoa (technically it's a seed)" - umm... ANY of these grains, if they haven't been cooked or ground or crushed... if you put them in dirt and add an appropriate amount of water, what do you get? Guess what... they are ALL seeds, lol. - 4/24/2012 9:38:24 AM
    Great article and I saved this one, too! I recommend checking out this website:


    She has some excellent recipes for overnight oats. Yum! - 4/1/2011 12:33:57 PM
    Great article - so helpful. - 4/1/2011 7:59:25 AM
  • Wow, what an awesome resource. I definitely saved this one. I need to go back and read it and experiment!! I know another Sparker made a blog recently about making her own Spark Notebook/Scrapboo
    k. If I was, I'd definitely be including this article.

    Jocelyn - 12/27/2010 2:10:58 PM
  • I don't cook bulgur - I soak it overnight in the fridge, drain off any remaining water and pop i the microwave for a fast, hot breakfast. The trick is using plenty of water so that it is tender in the morning. Very good. - 11/11/2010 1:09:16 PM
  • My kamut cooks in about an hour with the rest of the barley, oats, spelt, etc. I usually let the pot sit and cool after cooking to absorb the last of the water. I LOVE those big kamut grains and how they kind of pop between your teeth when you bite them. - 6/19/2010 5:35:50 PM
  • You still did not say how long to cook kamut. I had to cook mine two hours on the stove.
    It was like big brown rice and was very good. The grains are big. - 6/19/2010 2:01:15 PM
  • That's interesting. I used to cook type of grains called " Freekeh", I don't know what does it mean in English. It is very tasty , can be found whole grain or even ground to make a soup from it and like what you mentioned adding some flavors does really make a difference. This is how I cook the Freekeh grains with chicken:
    - in a Saucepan Golden the chicken pieces with little bit of olive oil, season with salt and black pepper only then leave aside.
    - add a chopped onion into the same oil and keep to tender on low heat with lid on for about 5 minutes.
    - Add 250g of Freekeh grains and keep stirring every 2 minutes for 10 minutes untill you hear a sound like rattle shaker, add black pepper and half tsp of Cinnamon stir then leave aside.
    - Return the chicken and the Freekeh into the saucepan add the chicken broth to cover the freekeh 3 cm over it.
    - on high heat bring it to boil then reduce to the minimum and leave to cook for 50 minutes.
    It is very tasty, healthy and not fatty at all and the best to skin the chicken and remove any fat seen. As any grain you have to count the calories. Enjoy..
    - 6/19/2010 3:44:02 AM

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