Puffed grains are probably something that you have already heard of.
Whether it is in the form of a breakfast cereal, or as one of the steps in a complicated recipe that you’ve been wanting to make.
The fact is, there are many types of puffed grains available from all over the world and they all have different uses.
In this article, we will look at 5 different types of puffed grains, what they are good for, and if they are good for you.
What Are Puffed Grains?
The first question that we need to answer is, what are puffed grains?
Puffed grains are any whole grain that has had a high level of pressure added to it in order to make it puff up and change shape.
The process of puffing grains has been around for centuries and often involves adding pressure, heat, or extrusion.
The most popular type of puffed grain is corn as it makes the popcorn that we all know and love when we sit down to watch a movie.
However, there are many more types of puffed corn than just popcorn.
Puffed rice is one of the most common types of puffed grain, especially in the west.
You are most likely to find puffed rice in the cereal aisle of a grocery store with the other breakfast cereals.
Rice Krispies is one of the most popular breakfast cereals that is sold around the world.
It is also possible to find puffed rice that is designed to be cooked rather than eaten as a breakfast cereal.
You can find this type of puffed rice near the pasta noodles and uncooked rice in a grocery store.
Puffed rice for cooking works really well in a plethora of Asian dishes and is often used to replace regular rice grains to give the dish more volume and a different texture.
Puffed rice cereals, such as Rice Krispies, can also be used in recipes. Puffed rice cereal is a really popular choice for making sweet treats such as Rice Krispie treats.
Another popular puffed grain option is puffed wheat.This is another puffed grain that you are likely to find among popular breakfast cereals in your local grocery store.
Wheat Puffs are a sweet breakfast cereal that often comes frosted or with a honey flavor.
Puffed wheat is often used in the same way as puffed rice cereals.
It is commonly used in the preparation of sweet treats such as puffed wheat squares which are similar to Rice Krispie treats.
It is also possible to use plain puffed wheat to make savory dishes. Puffed wheat can make a great addition to a bean salad.
Puffed millet is most popular in Japan where it is used to make a puffed millet-based sweet like candy. In the USA you are most likely to find puffed millet in a health food store.
It commonly comes in large bags of puffed millet that has had nothing added to it other than the pressure required to make it puff up.
Like the other puffed grains that we have mentioned above, puffed millet is great for making sweet treats that don’t need to be baked.
Treats such as chocolatey millet squares or vegan millet power balls are great options.
Puffed millet is also a popular, healthy option for adding to homemade granola recipes as it provides a delicious crunch and nutrients.
Puffed corn is an interesting one. It is often referred to as popcorn rather than puffed corn and can be used in different ways.
Chances are, you know how to make popcorn and have done so many times throughout your life. If not, you will likely have purchased popcorn at a movie theater or grocery store.
The best thing about popcorn is that there are so many different flavors you can add to it, ranging from sweet to savory.
Puffed corn or maize can also be used in different ways with a little bit more processing. Puffed corn is used to make savory treats such as cheese puffs and other puffed maize snacks.
Although this requires a little more of a process to achieve, it is still puffed corn.
Puffed amaranth is probably one of the least well-known grains on this list. It is most commonly used in Mexico.
Amaranth is a super versatile puffed grain that can be used in the same ways as the grains mentioned above.
There are so many different recipes for this puffed grain that it is a shame it isn’t more readily available all over the US.
You can make the same sweet treats with puffed amaranth as you can with the other puffed grains.
However, if you purchase un-puffed amaranth, it is possible to make an amaranth version of popcorn.
Puffed amaranth can also be used to make a delicious version of tabbouleh and other savory dishes. It makes a really chewy, nutritious snack bar too.
Other Puffed Grains
There are a few other types of puffed grains that are less common and less widely available in the US.
Moong dal is puffed mung beans. Unlike the other puffed grains that we have mentioned, it is not common for moong dal to be used to make sweet treats.
Instead, the puffed mung beans are often cooked and made into savory dishes that can be enjoyed as part of a cheap but healthy meal.
Moong dal is packed full of nutrients and health benefits such as weight loss and the ability to help balance hormones.
This is something that hails from Peru. It is often processed beyond its puffed state to make sweet treats that are often in the shape of different fruits or vegetables.
Mana is made from puffed pasta, corn, or wheat kernels.
Puffing Vs Popping
Above, we talked about puffed rice and popcorn, but what is the difference between puffing and popping?
Both of these terms are often used interchangeably when people are talking about grains that have been puffed or popped to increase their volume.
When talking about these grains with people it is best to go in with the understanding that both terms likely mean the same thing.
However, there is a distinction between the two if you want to get technical.
In order to make popcorn, all you have to do is subject the kernels to a high temperature. This is what makes them pop into the iconic popcorn shape.
When you are puffing rice, on the other hand, you need heat and pressure to make it puff up like a Rice Krispy.
This means that some sort of pressure chamber is required to help the rice actually puff.
This is something that makes making puffed rice at home difficult, although it is possible to make a version of puffed rice, it just won’t be like the store-bought kind.
Are Puffed Grains Good For You?
One of the big questions that get asked when talking about almost any kind of grain is, is it healthy for you?
Some people believe in a hierarchy of grains, much like the hierarchy of needs. At the top of this hierarchy are whole grains such as quinoa or barley.
Just below this sits cut grains such as steel-cut oats. These are considered to be the cream of the crop when it comes to grains that you should include in your diet.
However, at the very bottom of this hierarchy, sits puffed grains such as puffed rice and puffed wheat.
This might seem a little strange considering that not a lot is added to the grains during the puffing process.
However, there are a few issues that make puffed grains less healthy than whole and cut ones.
One of the main issues that make puffed grains sit at the bottom of the grain hierarchy is the high glycemic index that they have.
When you puff a grain, you significantly increase the surface area of the grain. This, in turn, will increase the glycemic index of the grain.
In some tests, people have found that some puffed grains can have a higher absorption rate than refined sugar which makes it a very unhealthy option.
The other main reason why puffed grains are considered to be so unhealthy is that they have a higher calorie density than the whole grain version.
The higher calorie density comes from the fact that puffed grains are a dried food. A higher calorie density is common in most dried foods.
Dried apricots for example are more dense in calories than a fresh apricot. The same goes for dried grains.
This is something that can be reduced by controlling the volume of puffed grains that you consume.
Puffed grains are a fun and interesting way to get more grains into your diet. They can be used to make fun sweet treats or as a breakfast cereal on their own.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy these little grains, just make sure that it is in moderation.