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101+ Creative ways to enjoy whole grains beyond bread

Move past the idea that grains are just used for bread! From sauces and dips to quick and easy party foods, grains can be used in so many different ways.

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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.

Breakfast ideas

  1. Oatmeal pancakes: A blend of whole oats and whole-wheat flour makes these pancakes both delicious and nutritious. Add blueberries for extra antioxidants
  2. Quinoa hot cereal: Cook quinoa in almond milk and top with fresh fruit for a protein-packed start to your day
  3. Barley smoothie: Blend cooked barley with your favorite fruits and a splash of yogurt for a fiber-rich smoothie
  4. Millet muffins: Use millet flour as a gluten-free alternative. Add nuts for crunch and texture
  5. Brown rice pudding: Cook brown rice in coconut milk and sweeten with a touch of honey. Cinnamon and raisins make great additions
  6. Oat smoothie bowl: Blend oats with your favorite smoothie ingredients to create a thick smoothie bowl. Top with granola, sliced fruits, and shredded coconut
  7. Oat and yogurt parfait: Layer oats, Greek yogurt, and a mixture of berries or chopped fruits
  8. Buckwheat pancakes: Make fluffy pancakes using buckwheat flour as a base. Serve with fresh fruit and a dollop of yogurt or nut butter
  9. Einkorn banana bread: Pair with protein-packed eggs for a naturally sweet addition to your breakfast
  10. 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


  1. Popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain and a great low-calorie snack
  2. Whole grain crackers: Look for crackers with whole grains as the first ingredient. Pair with hummus, nut butter, or cheese
  3. Rice cakes: Opt for brown rice cakes and top with avocado slices and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for healthy fats
  4. Oat bars: Make your own bars with whole oats, dried fruits, and nuts. Use honey or maple syrup as a natural sweetener
  5. Wheat berry salad: Toss cooked wheat berries with diced vegetables and a light vinaigrette. Chill before serving
  6. Trail mix: Create a trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for a satisfying and energy-boosting snack
  7. Homemade muesli: Mix whole grain rolled oats with chopped nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Enjoy it with yogurt or milk
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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

  1. Brown rice sushi: Substitute white rice with brown rice for a fiber-rich twist. Pair with lean proteins like grilled chicken
  2. Quinoa salad: Mix cooked quinoa with diced veggies and a protein source like grilled chicken and chickpeas. A lemon-tahini dressing adds zest
  3. Barley risotto: Use barley instead of Arborio rice for a nutty, fiber-rich risotto. Mushroom and spinach make great additions
  4. Spelt pasta: Spelt is an ancient grain with a nutty flavor. Use it as a whole-grain alternative in your favorite pasta dishes
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. Mexican rice with Amaranth: Combine brown rice with nutritional powerhouse Amaranth for a great side dish to any Mexican food meal
  10. 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

  1. Quinoa soup: Add cooked quinoa to vegetable or chicken soup for extra protein and texture. It cooks quickly, so add it toward the end.
  2. Barley minestrone: Incorporate barley into this Italian classic for a hearty, filling meal. Perfect for cold weather.
  3. 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.
  4. Spelt chowder: Spelt adds a chewy, nutty element to creamy chowders. It pairs well with both vegetable and seafood options.
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Buckwheat and cabbage soup: Buckwheat adds a unique flavor to this cabbage-based soup. Consider using kasha (roasted buckwheat) for a deeper taste


  1. Oatmeal cookies: Use whole grain oats and consider adding flaxseeds for a healthier cookie that still satisfies your sweet tooth.
  2. Rice pudding: Opt for brown rice and sweeten with natural sweeteners like honey or agave nectar. Add a dash of cinnamon for flavor.
  3. Barley cake: A unique twist on the classic cake, barley flour offers a nutty flavor and a moist texture.
  4. Quinoa chocolate bars: Mix cooked quinoa with melted dark chocolate and let it set. The quinoa adds a fun crunch to the chocolate.
  5. Cornmeal cookies: Use whole-grain cornmeal for a Southern treat with a whole grain twist. Add some lemon zest for extra flavor.


  1. Barley tea: A refreshing and nutty beverage, barley tea is popular in Korea. Serve it chilled in the summer
  2. Rice milk: Make your own using brown rice for a dairy-free milk alternative. Add a touch of vanilla for flavor
  3. Oat smoothie: Blend oats with fruits and yogurt for a quick and nutritious breakfast or snack
  4. Spelt coffee: Brew spelt grains for a unique coffee alternative. It offers a mild, nutty flavor
  5. Corn silk tea: Made from the silk of corn husks, this tea is often used for its potential health benefits, including as a diuretic

International Cuisine

  1. Buckwheat soba: These Japanese noodles are gluten-free and pair well with a soy-based dipping sauce
  2. Quinoa tabbouleh: A Middle Eastern salad that traditionally uses bulgur. Quinoa offers a protein-packed alternative
  3. Corn tortillas: Essential for Mexican cuisine, opt for tortillas made from whole-grain cornmeal
  4. Rice noodles: Common in Thai and Vietnamese dishes, look for brown rice versions for a healthier option
  5. Bulgur kofta: Turkish meatballs often use bulgur as a binding agent, adding both flavor and fiber
  6. Teff injera: This Ethiopian sourdough flatbread is naturally gluten-free and rich in iron
  7. Freekeh pilaf: A Middle Eastern dish featuring smoked green wheat. It’s rich in protein and fiber
  8. Kamut pasta: Kamut is an ancient grain that offers a rich, nutty flavor. It contains more protein than traditional wheat
  9. Spelt pretzels: A German classic, spelt offers a nutty flavor and can be easier to digest than modern wheat
  10. Rye dumplings: Perfect for stews and soups, rye adds a hearty element and pairs well with robust flavors like beef or mushroom


  1. Farro and beet salad: Farro offers a chewy texture and nutty flavor, pairing well with the sweetness of roasted beets
  2. Millet and cucumber salad: Millet is a gluten-free grain that adds a fluffy texture to salads. Cucumber offers a refreshing crunch
  3. Brown rice and avocado salad: A creamy and satisfying dish, perfect for summer picnics. Add some lime juice for extra zing
  4. Quinoa and black bean salad: A protein-packed and flavorful option. Spice it up with some jalapeños or chili flakes
  5. Barley and mushroom salad: Earthy mushrooms complement the nutty flavor of barley. A garlic-infused olive oil dressing ties it all together

Side Dishes

  1. Cornmeal fries: A Southern twist on French fries. Use whole-grain cornmeal and consider baking instead of frying
  2. Oat pilaf: A fluffy and nutty alternative to rice pilaf. Use steel-cut oats for the best texture
  3. Buckwheat groats: These can be cooked and served as a side dish with a texture similar to rice. They’re also gluten-free
  4. Sorghum salad: Sorghum is a gluten-free grain that pops like popcorn. Toss it in a salad with herbs and lemon juice
  5. Rye berry pilaf: A hearty and chewy side dish, rye berries offer a unique twist on traditional pilaf recipes


  1. Spelt scones: Perfect for afternoon tea, spelt flour offers a nutty flavor and is often easier to digest than modern wheat
  2. Barley biscuits: Serve these with gravy or jam. Barley flour offers a sweet, nutty flavor
  3. Oatmeal brownies: A healthier take on a classic dessert. Use whole oats and consider adding walnuts for extra crunch
  4. Cornbread: Opt for whole-grain cornmeal for a fiber-rich version of this Southern classic
  5. Quinoa muffins: These muffins are protein-packed and make for a great on-the-go breakfast or snack

Wraps and Rolls

  1. Whole grain spring rolls: Use whole-grain brown rice paper and fill with fresh veggies and lean protein like shrimp or tofu
  2. Quinoa wraps: Use large lettuce leaves to wrap cooked quinoa, veggies, and a protein of your choice for a low-carb option
  3. Spelt whole grain tortillas: Homemade tortillas using spelt flour offer a nutty flavor and pair well with any type of filling
  4. Buckwheat pancake rolls: These can be filled with either sweet or savory fillings, making them versatile for any meal
  5. 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

  1. Brown rice flour roux: Use this whole-grain flour as a thickening agent for sauces and gravies
  2. Oat milk bechamel: A classic sauce made dairy-free by using homemade oat milk
  3. Quinoa pesto: Blend cooked quinoa with basil, garlic, and pine nuts for a protein-packed pesto
  4. Cornmeal salsa: Add some whole-grain cornmeal to thicken your salsa, giving it a unique texture
  5. Barley hummus: Cooked barley can be blended into traditional hummus for added fiber and a unique texture

Party Foods

  1. Whole grain nachos: Use whole-grain tortilla chips and top with lean proteins and plenty of veggies.
  2. Millet patties: These can be served as sliders or on their own. They’re a great vegetarian option when you’re hosting a gathering
  3. Spelt pizza bites: Mini pizzas using spelt flour for the crust. Top with your favorite veggies and a sprinkle of cheese
  4. Rye chip mix: A crunchy mix of rye chips, pretzels, and whole-grain cereals makes for a great party snack
  5. 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

  1. Instant oatmeal: Make your own instant oatmeal packets using whole oats and your favorite dried fruits and nuts.
  2. 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
  3. Couscous salad: Couscous cooks in just five minutes. Toss it with diced veggies and a simple vinaigrette for a quick meal
  4. Quick Bulgur stir fry: Bulgur cooks quickly and can be used in stir-fries. It pairs well with a variety of vegetables
  5. Farro and veggie skillet: This one-pan meal is both quick and nutritious. Farro offers a nutty flavor and chewy texture

For Kids

  1. Oatmeal fingers: These are easy for little hands to hold and can be sweetened with mashed banana instead of sugar
  2. Mini cornmeal pancakes: A fun breakfast option. Use cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes
  3. Rice krispie treats: Use brown rice cereal and natural peanut butter for a healthier take on this classic treat
  4. Quinoa nuggets: A protein-packed alternative to traditional chicken nuggets. They’re also gluten-free
  5. Barley mac and cheese: Use barley as a nutritious substitute for macaroni in this kid-friendly classic

Gourmet Ideas

  1. Spelt gnocchi: This luxurious Italian dish gets a whole-grain upgrade with spelt flour, offering a nutty flavor.
  2. Buckwheat blinis: These small pancakes are often served with caviar or smoked salmon for a gourmet appetizer.
  3. Farro Risotto with truffle oil: Elevate your risotto with farro and a drizzle of truffle oil for a gourmet meal.
  4. Quinoa-stuffed squash blossoms: A seasonal delicacy, these are often deep-fried but can be baked for a healthier option.
  5. Barley and lobster salad: A sophisticated and luxurious dish that pairs the nutty flavor of barley with the sweetness of lobster.

Bonus Idea

  1. 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.