Whole grains are a nutritional powerhouse, offering a plethora of health benefits such as improved digestion and reduced risk of chronic diseases. While bread is the go-to option for many, the world of whole grains is vast and versatile.
Oat crusted baked chicken? Barley mushroom risotto topped with parmesan cheese? Rye minestrone soup? Hopefully I can broaden your horizons and help you think differently about whole grains and the nutrients they can add to your diet which goes WAY beyond the all-purpose flour you grew up using.
Here’s a fun list meant to inspire you to enjoy whole grains in 101 different ways, each with its own description and tips for preparation.
- Oatmeal pancakes: A blend of whole oats and whole-wheat flour makes these pancakes both delicious and nutritious. Add blueberries for extra antioxidants
- Quinoa hot cereal: Cook quinoa in almond milk and top with fresh fruit for a protein-packed start to your day
- Barley smoothie: Blend cooked barley with your favorite fruits and a splash of yogurt for a fiber-rich smoothie
- Millet muffins: Use millet flour as a gluten-free alternative. Add nuts for crunch and texture
- Brown rice pudding: Cook brown rice in coconut milk and sweeten with a touch of honey. Cinnamon and raisins make great additions
- Oat smoothie bowl: Blend oats with your favorite smoothie ingredients to create a thick smoothie bowl. Top with granola, sliced fruits, and shredded coconut
- Oat and yogurt parfait: Layer oats, Greek yogurt, and a mixture of berries or chopped fruits
- Buckwheat pancakes: Make fluffy pancakes using buckwheat flour as a base. Serve with fresh fruit and a dollop of yogurt or nut butter
- Einkorn banana bread: Pair with protein-packed eggs for a naturally sweet addition to your breakfast
- Brown rice breakfast bowl: My husband grew up with rice as part of his family’s breakfast rotation. Take leftover cooked and cooled brown rice, Greek yogurt, mixed berries, chopped nuts, and drizzle honey for a different take on yogurt and granola
- Popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain and a great low-calorie snack
- Whole grain crackers: Look for crackers with whole grains as the first ingredient. Pair with hummus, nut butter, or cheese
- Rice cakes: Opt for brown rice cakes and top with avocado slices and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for healthy fats
- Oat bars: Make your own bars with whole oats, dried fruits, and nuts. Use honey or maple syrup as a natural sweetener
- Wheat berry salad: Toss cooked wheat berries with diced vegetables and a light vinaigrette. Chill before serving
- Trail mix: Create a trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for a satisfying and energy-boosting snack
- Homemade muesli: Mix whole grain rolled oats with chopped nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Enjoy it with yogurt or milk
- Whole grain toast: Top whole grain toast with avocado, peanut butter, almond butter, or a slice of lean turkey for a balanced and tasty snack
- Energy bites: Create energy bites by mixing whole grain oats with nut butter, honey, and add-ins like chocolate chips, dried fruits, or chia seeds
- Whole grain mini pizzas: Use whole grain pita bread or whole wheat tortillas as a base for mini pizzas. Top with tomato sauce, turkey pepperoni, veggies, and a sprinkle of cheese
Lunch & Dinner
- Brown rice sushi: Substitute white rice with brown rice for a fiber-rich twist. Pair with lean proteins like grilled chicken
- Quinoa salad: Mix cooked quinoa with diced veggies and a protein source like grilled chicken and chickpeas. A lemon-tahini dressing adds zest
- Barley risotto: Use barley instead of Arborio rice for a nutty, fiber-rich risotto. Mushroom and spinach make great additions
- Spelt pasta: Spelt is an ancient grain with a nutty flavor. Use it as a whole-grain alternative in your favorite pasta dishes
- Millet stir-fry: Millet is a versatile grain that can replace rice in stir-fries. Add plenty of colorful veggies and pair it with grilled meat for a balanced meal
- Oat crusted chicken or fish: Use oats to create a crispy coating for baked chicken or fish. Dip the protein in egg or buttermilk, then coat with seasoned oats before baking
- Quinoa and black bean burrito bowl: Layer cooked Quinoa with black beans, sautéed fajita meat and veggies (onions/sweet peppers), salsa, sliced avocado, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Stir-fried Brown rice: Create a quick and flavorful stir-fry by sautéing cooked brown rice with an assortment of vegetables, lean protein, and your choice of stir-fry sauce
- Mexican rice with Amaranth: Combine brown rice with nutritional powerhouse Amaranth for a great side dish to any Mexican food meal
- Barley and beef stir-fry: Sauté thin slices of beef with colorful bell peppers, onions, and broccoli. Add cooked Barley and a savory stir-fry sauce
Soups & Stews
- Quinoa soup: Add cooked quinoa to vegetable or chicken soup for extra protein and texture. It cooks quickly, so add it toward the end.
- Barley minestrone: Incorporate barley into this Italian classic for a hearty, filling meal. Perfect for cold weather.
- Brown rice congee: This Asian rice porridge becomes fiber-rich when made with brown rice. Serve with pickled vegetables or small amounts of lean meat.
- Spelt chowder: Spelt adds a chewy, nutty element to creamy chowders. It pairs well with both vegetable and seafood options.
- Bulgur lentil soup: A Middle Eastern favorite, this soup combines the protein of lentils with the fiber of bulgur. Spice it up with some cumin and coriander
- Millet soup: Add millet to your favorite soup for an extra boost of texture and nutrients. Millet can help thicken the soup slightly and make it more satisfying
- Mixed grain and sausage soup: Create a hearty soup with a mix of whole grains like barley, quinoa, and wild rice. Add sausage for extra flavor
- Three-bean and amaranth soup: Amaranth is a gluten-free grain that can thicken soups. Use it in a bean-based soup with a variety of beans and vegetables
- Oatmeal and vegetable soup: Use rolled oats to thicken and add texture to a vegetable-based soup. It’s a creative way to enjoy oats beyond breakfast
- Buckwheat and cabbage soup: Buckwheat adds a unique flavor to this cabbage-based soup. Consider using kasha (roasted buckwheat) for a deeper taste
- Oatmeal cookies: Use whole grain oats and consider adding flaxseeds for a healthier cookie that still satisfies your sweet tooth.
- Rice pudding: Opt for brown rice and sweeten with natural sweeteners like honey or agave nectar. Add a dash of cinnamon for flavor.
- Barley cake: A unique twist on the classic cake, barley flour offers a nutty flavor and a moist texture.
- Quinoa chocolate bars: Mix cooked quinoa with melted dark chocolate and let it set. The quinoa adds a fun crunch to the chocolate.
- Cornmeal cookies: Use whole-grain cornmeal for a Southern treat with a whole grain twist. Add some lemon zest for extra flavor.
- Barley tea: A refreshing and nutty beverage, barley tea is popular in Korea. Serve it chilled in the summer
- Rice milk: Make your own using brown rice for a dairy-free milk alternative. Add a touch of vanilla for flavor
- Oat smoothie: Blend oats with fruits and yogurt for a quick and nutritious breakfast or snack
- Spelt coffee: Brew spelt grains for a unique coffee alternative. It offers a mild, nutty flavor
- Corn silk tea: Made from the silk of corn husks, this tea is often used for its potential health benefits, including as a diuretic
- Buckwheat soba: These Japanese noodles are gluten-free and pair well with a soy-based dipping sauce
- Quinoa tabbouleh: A Middle Eastern salad that traditionally uses bulgur. Quinoa offers a protein-packed alternative
- Corn tortillas: Essential for Mexican cuisine, opt for tortillas made from whole-grain cornmeal
- Rice noodles: Common in Thai and Vietnamese dishes, look for brown rice versions for a healthier option
- Bulgur kofta: Turkish meatballs often use bulgur as a binding agent, adding both flavor and fiber
- Teff injera: This Ethiopian sourdough flatbread is naturally gluten-free and rich in iron
- Freekeh pilaf: A Middle Eastern dish featuring smoked green wheat. It’s rich in protein and fiber
- Kamut pasta: Kamut is an ancient grain that offers a rich, nutty flavor. It contains more protein than traditional wheat
- Spelt pretzels: A German classic, spelt offers a nutty flavor and can be easier to digest than modern wheat
- Rye dumplings: Perfect for stews and soups, rye adds a hearty element and pairs well with robust flavors like beef or mushroom
- Farro and beet salad: Farro offers a chewy texture and nutty flavor, pairing well with the sweetness of roasted beets
- Millet and cucumber salad: Millet is a gluten-free grain that adds a fluffy texture to salads. Cucumber offers a refreshing crunch
- Brown rice and avocado salad: A creamy and satisfying dish, perfect for summer picnics. Add some lime juice for extra zing
- Quinoa and black bean salad: A protein-packed and flavorful option. Spice it up with some jalapeños or chili flakes
- Barley and mushroom salad: Earthy mushrooms complement the nutty flavor of barley. A garlic-infused olive oil dressing ties it all together
- Cornmeal fries: A Southern twist on French fries. Use whole-grain cornmeal and consider baking instead of frying
- Oat pilaf: A fluffy and nutty alternative to rice pilaf. Use steel-cut oats for the best texture
- Buckwheat groats: These can be cooked and served as a side dish with a texture similar to rice. They’re also gluten-free
- Sorghum salad: Sorghum is a gluten-free grain that pops like popcorn. Toss it in a salad with herbs and lemon juice
- Rye berry pilaf: A hearty and chewy side dish, rye berries offer a unique twist on traditional pilaf recipes
- Spelt scones: Perfect for afternoon tea, spelt flour offers a nutty flavor and is often easier to digest than modern wheat
- Barley biscuits: Serve these with gravy or jam. Barley flour offers a sweet, nutty flavor
- Oatmeal brownies: A healthier take on a classic dessert. Use whole oats and consider adding walnuts for extra crunch
- Cornbread: Opt for whole-grain cornmeal for a fiber-rich version of this Southern classic
- Quinoa muffins: These muffins are protein-packed and make for a great on-the-go breakfast or snack
Wraps and Rolls
- Whole grain spring rolls: Use whole-grain brown rice paper and fill with fresh veggies and lean protein like shrimp or tofu
- Quinoa wraps: Use large lettuce leaves to wrap cooked quinoa, veggies, and a protein of your choice for a low-carb option
- Spelt whole grain tortillas: Homemade tortillas using spelt flour offer a nutty flavor and pair well with any type of filling
- Buckwheat pancake rolls: These can be filled with either sweet or savory fillings, making them versatile for any meal
- Barley lettuce wraps: Use cooked barley as a filling for lettuce wraps. Add some grilled chicken and a drizzle of tahini for extra flavor
Sauces and Dips
- Brown rice flour roux: Use this whole-grain flour as a thickening agent for sauces and gravies
- Oat milk bechamel: A classic sauce made dairy-free by using homemade oat milk
- Quinoa pesto: Blend cooked quinoa with basil, garlic, and pine nuts for a protein-packed pesto
- Cornmeal salsa: Add some whole-grain cornmeal to thicken your salsa, giving it a unique texture
- Barley hummus: Cooked barley can be blended into traditional hummus for added fiber and a unique texture
- Whole grain nachos: Use whole-grain tortilla chips and top with lean proteins and plenty of veggies.
- Millet patties: These can be served as sliders or on their own. They’re a great vegetarian option when you’re hosting a gathering
- Spelt pizza bites: Mini pizzas using spelt flour for the crust. Top with your favorite veggies and a sprinkle of cheese
- Rye chip mix: A crunchy mix of rye chips, pretzels, and whole-grain cereals makes for a great party snack
- Quinoa stuffed peppers: A crowd-pleaser that’s also gluten-free. Fill bell peppers with a mixture of cooked quinoa, black beans, and spices
Quick and Easy
- Instant oatmeal: Make your own instant oatmeal packets using whole oats and your favorite dried fruits and nuts.
- Microwave brown rice: Pre-cooked brown rice can be a quick and convenient side dish. Just make in bulk, freeze, and it’s ready to be used
- Couscous salad: Couscous cooks in just five minutes. Toss it with diced veggies and a simple vinaigrette for a quick meal
- Quick Bulgur stir fry: Bulgur cooks quickly and can be used in stir-fries. It pairs well with a variety of vegetables
- Farro and veggie skillet: This one-pan meal is both quick and nutritious. Farro offers a nutty flavor and chewy texture
- Oatmeal fingers: These are easy for little hands to hold and can be sweetened with mashed banana instead of sugar
- Mini cornmeal pancakes: A fun breakfast option. Use cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes
- Rice krispie treats: Use brown rice cereal and natural peanut butter for a healthier take on this classic treat
- Quinoa nuggets: A protein-packed alternative to traditional chicken nuggets. They’re also gluten-free
- Barley mac and cheese: Use barley as a nutritious substitute for macaroni in this kid-friendly classic
- Spelt gnocchi: This luxurious Italian dish gets a whole-grain upgrade with spelt flour, offering a nutty flavor.
- Buckwheat blinis: These small pancakes are often served with caviar or smoked salmon for a gourmet appetizer.
- Farro Risotto with truffle oil: Elevate your risotto with farro and a drizzle of truffle oil for a gourmet meal.
- Quinoa-stuffed squash blossoms: A seasonal delicacy, these are often deep-fried but can be baked for a healthier option.
- Barley and lobster salad: A sophisticated and luxurious dish that pairs the nutty flavor of barley with the sweetness of lobster.
- Whole grain tasting platter: Create a platter featuring a variety of cooked whole grains, dips, and accompaniments. It’s a fun and educational way to introduce friends and family to the world of whole grains.
From breakfast to gourmet dinners, and everything in between, whole grains offer a versatile and delicious way to enrich your diet.
The next time you reach for that loaf of bread, consider one of these 101 creative alternatives.