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Whole grains A-Z glossary

New to whole grains or just need inspiration on what to try next? Our glossary is a concise one-stop shop for whole grains and pseudo-grains (non-grains that act like one!).

If you need a high-level view, check out our quick whole grain comparison chart which includes common substitutions.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Did you know that amaranth, often revered as a super grain, is not actually a grain?

Amaranth has earned a well-deserved reputation as a food source that is both powerful and versatile. Whether your goal is to enhance your protein intake, incorporate essential minerals into your diet, or savor the distinct flavors and textures it offers, exploring amaranth is definitely worth your while. This incredibly adaptable and nutritious ingredient can bring numerous benefits the food you make.

Taste: In terms of taste, Amaranth offers a strong flavor that can be described as earthy, vegetal, or malt-like. It also has a distinct grassy aroma.

Amaranth has a nutty, strong herbal taste that can be overwhelming for some

Nutrition: Even though Amaranth is not grain, it shares many similarities with grains and boasts remarkable nutritional value. The seeds of amaranth are rich in protein and beneficial fats, making them an excellent source of calcium, iron, and other essential minerals. What sets amaranth apart is its high lysine content, an amino acid that many grains lack.

This lysine enhances the availability of proteins in amaranth, making them easier for our bodies to absorb and utilize.

Baking and cooking: Amaranth flour can be strategically used in recipes that call for ingredients with bold flavors such as chili peppers, dark chocolate, strong coffee, molasses, richly colored sugars, and aromatic spices. However, baking with amaranth flour requires some attention to its unique characteristics. It may slightly increase baking time and result in a darker finished product. Nevertheless, when added raw to baked goods it adds a delightful crunchiness.
On the stovetop, amaranth seeds can be popped like popcorn in a hot and dry pan for a fun and nutritious snack.

When boiled into a porridge-like consistency, amaranth becomes wonderfully sticky and comforting.

Milling: Due to their small size gradually introduce amaranth seeds into your grain mill while it is running to ensure proper grinding without any bypassing seeds.

After milling the seeds into flour, sift the flour to remove any whole seeds that may have slipped through.



Traditionally, Barley has been a staple in the production of beer and whiskey, and it has also made its mark in bread making.

This grain was once a key ingredient in European bread recipes. You’ll see Barley as “hulled” (where the outer hull has been eliminated), “hull-less” (referring to the type that naturally lacks an outer hull), or “pearled” (which involves the removal of both the hull and a significant portion of the nutritious bran).

Taste: Barley brings a creamy, rich, and nutty profile to foods, complemented by an intricate, malty sweetness that has a hint of tartness. But it harmonizes well with a wide variety of both sweet and savory components.

Nutrition: Barley holds the award for having the lowest glycemic index among all whole grains (not counting pearled barley), which suggests it might supply the most sustained energy. Barley is also notably rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants that combat aging.

Cooking and baking: Barley lends a softening quality to baked items, making it a useful addition to recipes where you’d prefer a softer outcome. Its flavor is sufficiently mild to go unnoticed if used as a substitute for some wheat in a recipe.

Milling: Barley can be easily processed in a grain mill or blender, similar to regular wheat. Alternatively, you can flatten barley into cereal flakes using a roller mill.


The multi-faceted buckwheat, often considered a grain, is in fact a seed.  The triangular buckwheat groats are frequently toasted and marketed as kasha, or alternately, they’re toasted, cracked, and sold as buckwheat grits.

Taste: Buckwheat presents a potent flavor that could be characterized as earthy, savory, or brimming with umami. 

Nutrition: It boasts significant quantities of healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins and is even known to aid in maintaining stable blood pressure.

Flavor: Buckwheat tends to polarize people, with most either fervently loving it or strongly disliking it. You can team buckwheat with other bold flavors, or counterbalance it with powerful sweetening agents.

Cooking and baking: Its distinct flavor truly shines when it’s freshly milled. Be cautious not to overcook it into a mushy porridge as it tends to become sticky. A slow fermentation process helps to temper the intensity of buckwheat’s flavor in breads.

Because buckwheat flour retains moisture, it’s a great addition to cookie and biscuits, but because it has no gluten, it doesn’t work as well in baked breads. BUT when making bread, swap out 25% of your wheat flour and you’ll add flavor, tenderness, and moisture.

Milling at home: Whole Buckwheat (with the black hull still on) cannot be milled by a traditional home mill as it requires steel grinder.

Buckwheat groats, which are tan/greenish in appearance, have the black hull removed. They can be sprouted, toasted, and ground into flour using a standard home mill.

Bulgur wheat

Family: wheat

Bulgur wheat is Durum wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and cracked into small pieces.

Nutrition: Bulgur wheat is low in fat and high in minerals like manganese, magnesium and iron. It’s a good source of fiber.

Flavor: Bulgur can enhance dishes without overpowering other ingredients. To break out its flavor even more and unlock its aromatic potential, consider toasting the bulgur before incorporating it into your dishes.

It has a nutty or earthy taste.

Cooking and baking: Bulgur wheat has its own unique baking qualities. Because its pre-cooked, it cooks quickly and absorbs flavors exceptionally well. It is a versatile ingredient that can be used as a nutritious substitute for rice or couscous in many dishes.

There are four different grades of bulgur based on the grinding process: fine, medium, coarse, and very coarse. Each grade has a distinct texture and can be used in various recipes. Fine bulgur is commonly found in tabbouleh or as a healthy thickener for soups and sauces, while the medium to very coarse varieties are perfect for pilafs or adding a robust element to salads.

Milling: Bulgur wheat is already processed and not typically milled at home if you plan on trying your hand at home milling. However, if you’re interested in creating cracked wheat, you can purchase whole wheat berries and process them in a grain mill or blender set to a coarse setting. Just remember that until it’s parboiled and dried, it won’t be true Bulgur wheat.



Corn can be somewhat complex, as it’s used in so many different ways.

Cornmeal is derived from the whole kernels of dried grain corn or popcorn and comes in a variety of textures, from fine corn flour to coarse polenta. Corn can also be treated with lye to produce hominy. When hominy is finely ground, it’s referred to as masa harina or masa flour, when medium-coarse to coarsely ground, it’s known as grits, and if it’s just lightly crushed or cracked, it’s labeled samp.

Taste: The primary appeal in core is its sweet undertone, which can be tasted raw or when its ground into cornmeal.

Corn is neutral enough in flavor that it can be made into a sweet bread, added to a savory or spicy dish, or enjoyed raw with just salt.

Nutrition: Nutritionally, corn is considered a starchy vegetable and is processed by your body as a carbohydrate. It contains many B vitamins, as well as essential minerals, including zinc, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. 

Cooking and baking: With any variety of ground corn, always bear in mind the level of coarseness required by your recipe. 

Milling: You haven’t had cornbread until you’ve had it made with fresh-milled cornmeal, the cream of the crop in homemade grain products. Heirloom corns, like Delaware Indian Puhwem, are extra flavorful and worth tracking down.

When milling, use your grain mill or blender’s finest setting for corn flour and adjust to medium or coarse for cornmeal and polenta.


Durum wheat

Family: wheat

Durum wheat is best known as being used for pasta-making. But in recent years, it has also found its way into bread and baked goods.

It is also known as “semolina,” which is a coarsely ground product derived from Durum wheat.

Taste: The flavor profile of Durum wheat is rich and hearty with a subtle sweetness.

When transformed into semolina, it exhibits a distinct earthy and nutty taste.

Nutrition: Durum wheat serves as a significant source of dietary fiber and protein. Additionally, it boasts several essential vitamins and minerals such as B-vitamins, iron, and magnesium.

Cooking and baking: Thanks to its high protein and gluten content, Durum wheat is great for making pasta and various Mediterranean breads. Its firm texture ensures the shape of pasta isn’t lost during the cooking process.

Milling: Whole Durum wheat kernels can be milled at home to make whole grain Durum flour or semolina.



Family: Covered wheat

Known as the oldest variety of wheat, Einkorn is much-loved for its nutritional benefits, delicate flavor, and ability to be tolerated by people who may not tolerate modern wheat well. It has experienced a resurgence as people seek out ancient grains.

Taste: Einkorn possesses a subtly sweet and nutty flavor, with a touch of earthiness. I would say it also has slight hint of caramel.

Nutrition: Einkorn is a rich source of protein, fiber, and a variety of essential nutrients, including B-vitamins, iron, and zinc. 

Cooking and baking: Because of its lower gluten content, Einkorn doesn’t behave quite the same as typical wheat in baking; however, it can lend a beautiful golden color and delightful flavor to breads, cakes, and cookies.

It’s a very “wet” grain and will feel sticky when baking with it. Recipes will need the amount of liquid adjusted to work well with Einkorn. It also doesn’t rise as much as traditional wheat.

Milling: Einkorn berries can be ground at home using a grain mill. The resulting flour, although slightly coarser than store-bought versions, is wonderfully fragrant and flavorful.

Emmer (Farro)

Note that “Farro” is a generic term that sometimes refers to Einkorn, Spelt, or Emmer. When I talk about Farro, I refer to the more common meaning of Emmer.

Emmer is a type of ancient wheat that has been a staple grain in Mediterranean cuisines for centuries. 

Taste: Emmer, a type of farro, is chewier and sweeter than wheat so it’s a favorite of bakers. 

Nutrition: As a whole grain, Emmer is highly nutritious. It is rich in dietary fiber, which supports healthy digestion and helps maintain satiety. Emmer is also a valuable source of protein, essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc, and vitamins like B-complex and vitamin E.

Cooking and baking: Emmer can be cooked similarly to other grains like Rice or Barley. Cooked Emmer can be used in various dishes, including hearty salads, nourishing soups, and flavorful pilafs. Its chewy texture adds a delicious change to modern-day recipes.

Milling at home: Emmer can be milled at home to create Emmer flour but it’s important to note that Emmer has a somewhat coarse texture, even when finely ground.

Emmer flour can be used in baking bread, muffins, and other baked goods.



Freekah, also spelled “Freekeh” or “Farik,” is a highly nutritious ancient grain that has been a staple in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines for centuries. Freekah is made from green Durum Wheat that is harvested while still young and then roasted or smoked to preserve its natural goodness.

This unique process gives Freekah a distinct smoky flavor.

Taste: Freekah’s smoky flavor sets it apart from other grains.

Nutrition: Freekah provides fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is a rich source of calcium, iron, potassium, and B-vitamins.

Cooking and baking: Freekah can be used in various savory dishes, including pilafs, salads, stews, and stuffings. It absorbs other flavors well, making it an excellent choice for recipes where you want to add smokiness.

The grain’s chewy texture adds a pleasant bite to the dishes as it won’t get soggy or lose its shape.

Milling at home: Unlike some other grains, Freekah is not typically ground into flour at home. 



Family: Covered wheat

Also known as Khorasan wheat, Kamut is an ancient grain known for its large golden kernels and superior nutritional value.

Taste: Kamut has a distinctive, rich, and nutty flavor often described as buttery or similar to that of a hint of honey.

Nutrition: Kamut offers a high protein content and is packed with nutrients like dietary fiber, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. It also boasts a healthy dose of antioxidants.

Cooking and baking: Kamut’s high protein and gluten content makes it a good choice for baking. It can yield bread with a satisfyingly chewy texture and slightly sweet flavor. In whole form, cooked Kamut berries make a nutritious and hearty addition to salads and grain bowls.

Milling: If you prefer home milling, Kamut berries can be ground using a grain mill to create whole-grain Kamut flour. The unique flavor and nutritional benefits of Kamut can be an excellent addition to your home-baked goods.



Millet is a group of gluten-free small-seeded grasses that have been cultivated as a cereal crop for thousands of years. There are several types of millet, with the most common ones being pearl millet, finger millet, proso millet, and foxtail millet.

Millet is an incredibly versatile grain! It can be enjoyed as a whole grain, similar to rice or quinoa, providing a fluffy and slightly nutty texture, or used used in baking, particularly in gluten-free recipes.

Taste: Though the flavor depends on the variety, Millet typically has a mild, nutty, and corn-like flavor.

Nutrition: Millet is packed with essential nutrients. It is notably rich in thiamin (vitamin B1), which plays a crucial role in energy metabolism and nerve function. Additionally, millet provides dietary fiber and iron, both essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system and supporting red blood cell production.

Baking: Millet works best in combination with other flours when you’re making muffins and quick breads like flatbreads or leavened bread recipes.

You can cook millet seeds very soft if they haven’t been toasted yet. If they are toasted in a hot pan first, you can retain a nice crunch and bring out a deeper flavor.

Millet can also add a coarse texture, much like cornmeal, to baked goods.

When substituting for wheat, use 75% millet and 25% tapioca flour.

Milling: You can use a grain mill or grain blender. You can also grind small batches in a coffee grinder, but you’ll want to sift any whole seeds out of the flour before using it.



Family: Covered wheat

Oats are so much more than a breakfast cereal bought in a pouch and ready in minutes. They have been cultivated for thousands of years and come in various forms, including whole oats, oat groats, rolled oats, steel-cut oats, and oat flour, each offering distinct textures and flavors.

Taste: A mild and slightly nutty flavor that pairs well with various ingredients. Their taste provides a neutral canvas for both sweet and savory dishes, making them a popular choice in a wide range of recipes.

Nutrition: Oats are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with dietary fiber, protein, and essential minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium. Rich in antioxidants and beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber.

Cooking and baking: Can be cooked on the stovetop with water or milk to create oatmeal. They are also used in baking to make cookies, granola bars, muffins, and bread and oat flour is becoming more and more popular as a gluten-free flour.

Rolled oats and steel-cut oats are common choices for oatmeal, with rolled oats providing a softer texture and steel-cut oats offering a chewier consistency.

Milling at home: Oat flour is commonly used in gluten-free baking and can be made by grinding oats in a food processor, blender, or mill.



Quinoa is a nutritious and versatile ancient pseudo-grain that has gained widespread popularity in recent years due to its health benefits and flexibility. Native to the Andean region of South America, its been cultivated for thousands of years by indigenous people groups.

Taste: Has a mild, nutty flavor with a slight crunch. Can be used in both savory and sweet recipes, making it a favorite ingredient in salads, bowls, soups, and even desserts.

Nutrition: Prized for its impressive nutritional profile. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, making it an excellent plant-based protein source for vegetarians and vegans. Also rich in dietary fiber, vitamins like B-complex and E, minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, and antioxidants.

Cooking and baking: Easy to cook and can be prepared similarly to rice. Can be used as a base for a variety of dishes, including grain bowls, salads, and pilafs, providing a satisfying and nutritious component to meals.

Milling at home: Unlike some other grains, quinoa is not typically milled at home. It is usually cooked whole, preserving its unique texture and taste. 


Red wheat

Family: wheat

Red Wheat, also known as hard red wheat, is a variety of wheat that is widely cultivated for its excellent baking properties and nutritional benefits. It is one of the major types of wheat grown globally and is favored for its versatility in baking and cooking.

Taste: Has a rich, nutty flavor that sets it apart from other wheat varieties. Its taste contributes to the hearty and wholesome character of bread, making it a popular choice for baking.

Nutrition: A good source of dietary fiber, protein, and essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. It also contains vitamins B-complex and E. As a whole grain, red wheat retains the bran and germ, making it more nutritious compared to refined grains.

Cooking and baking: Commonly used in baking, especially in bread-making. It is the primary ingredient in whole wheat bread and other whole grain baked goods. 

Milling at home: Can be milled at home to produce fresh whole wheat flour. Grinding red wheat berries in a grain mill yields a coarse and nutritious flour that can be used in various baking recipes.


Rice, a humble yet versatile grain, has traditionally been the dietary backbone for more than half of the world’s population. (Who doesn’t love rice?!) 

You can find rice classified mainly by its size—long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain, with each category offering its unique texture and culinary purpose. There are also special varieties to explore, such as aromatic Basmati, fragrant Jasmine, or creamy Arborio.

Taste: The flavor profile can change significantly depending on the type; aromatic rices like Jasmine and Basmati carry a floral fragrance and deliver a lighter texture, while short-grain types like Arborio present a creamier consistency with a mild palate.

Nutrition: A source of quick energy due to its high carbohydrate content. It also supplies essential vitamins and minerals, and depending on the variety, can contribute dietary fiber, particularly in the case of brown rice where the bran layer is intact.

Cooking and baking: The type of rice you select can significantly impact your dish. Long-grain rice tends to hold its shape better and is less sticky, which is ideal for applications requiring a separate, fluffy texture. In contrast, medium and short-grain rice varieties offer a softer, stickier texture when cooked, perfect for creamier dishes like risotto or rice pudding.

Milling: While not as common, rice can indeed be milled at home into flour, using a high-powered blender or grain mill.

Homemade rice flour can be used in various gluten-free baking recipes and to thicken sauces. Some sourdough bakers use it to coat their bread before scoring and baking it.


Rye, a grain with a rich history, is a staple in Northern and Eastern European bread-making. It comes in various forms, from light to dark, with pumpernickel being a standout whole-grain variety.

Nutrition: Nutritionally, rye is a powerhouse, packed with antioxidants, fiber, iron, and beneficial minerals. Its ability to absorb water gives rye bread a longer shelf life and helps keep you full.

Flavor: Has a unique flavor profile, boasting a robust, sweet taste with hints of grassiness and fruitiness. It’s important to note that rye is distinct from caraway seed or sourdough flavors, although they are often combined.

In terms of taste, light rye is somewhat bland, while medium and dark rye have more flavor. 

Baking: Requires more moisture due to its higher bran and fiber content, so adjust the liquid accordingly. Rye bread can be chewy but tends to taste better the day after baking.

Be cautious with handling rye, as over-kneading can result in a gummy texture. Rye contains quick-acting enzymes that transform starches into sugars, so managing proofing times and using acid (e.g., sourdough culture) can control this enzymatic action.

Milling at home: Grind rye berries just before using the flour as rye flour will go rancid in only 5-6 weeks.



Sorghum is a versatile and drought-resistant cereal grain that has been cultivated for centuries. It is known for its adaptability to various environmental conditions and is grown in different regions worldwide. Sorghum is valued for its numerous uses, including as a staple food, animal feed, and raw material for industrial purposes.

Taste: A mild and slightly sweet taste, making it a flexible ingredient, complementing both sweet and savory dishes.

Nutrition: Gluten-free and rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and essential minerals such as iron, phosphorus, and potassium. Also contains antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and certain vitamins, contributing to its potential health benefits.

Cooking and baking: Can be used in various forms, including whole grain, flour, syrup, and popped sorghum (similar to popcorn). Whole sorghum grains can be cooked similarly to rice or quinoa, providing a chewy texture and a slightly nutty taste.

Sorghum flour has gained in popularity as a gluten-free alternative in cakes, cookies, and other baked goods.

Sorghum syrup, made from the juice extracted from sorghum stalks, is used as a sweetener in cooking and baking.

Milling at home: While sorghum can be milled at home to create sorghum flour, it is more commonly available commercially. 


Family: Covered wheat

Spelt, sometimes referred to as “hulled wheat,” is an ancient grain with a long history of cultivation dating back thousands of years. Believed to be one of the earliest forms of cultivated wheat, Spelt has experienced a resurgence in popularity due to its unique flavor and potential health benefits.

Taste: Unlike modern wheat varieties, it has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.

Nutrition: Rich in dietary fiber, protein, essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, and vitamins like B-complex and E. It is also easier to digest for some individuals compared to modern wheat, as it contains different types of gluten proteins.

Cooking and baking: Whole Spelt grains can be cooked and enjoyed similarly to rice or quinoa.

Spelt flour is used in baking to create bread, muffins, cookies, and other baked goods.

Milling at home: Can be milled at home to create Spelt flour. 



Teff is an ancient grain that has been cultivated in Ethiopia for thousands of years and is a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. It is a tiny grain with a wide range of uses and is gaining popularity in other parts of the world due to its exceptional nutritional benefits and unique taste.

Taste: Mild, slightly nutty flavor with a subtle sweetness complementing both sweet and savory dishes.

Nutrition: Packed with dietary fiber, protein, and essential minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. It is also rich in B-vitamins, especially thiamin and riboflavin. 

Cooking and baking: In Ethiopia, Teff flour is used to make injera, a traditional fermented flatbread that serves as the foundation for many Ethiopian meals. Teff can also be cooked as whole grains, similar to rice or quinoa, or used in baking to create muffins, bread, and other baked goods.

Milling at home: Teff can be easily milled at home.


Cross between wheat and rye

Triticale is a hybrid grain resulting from crossing Wheat (triticum) with Rye (secale). It was first developed in the late 19th century to combine the desirable qualities of both parent grains. 

Taste: As you’d expect, it has characteristics of both Wheat and Rye.

Nutrition: A good source of dietary fiber, protein, essential minerals like iron and magnesium, and vitamins such as B-complex. 

Cooking and baking: Can be used in cooking and baking much like wheat or rye. It is commonly milled into flour, which can be used in breadmaking, muffins, pancakes, and other baked goods. 

Milling at home: Can be milled at home by grinding dried triticale grains in a grain mill. 


White wheat

Family: wheat

White wheat, also known as soft white wheat, is primarily grown in certain regions and is valued for its mild taste and soft texture, making it suitable for various culinary uses.

Taste: A mild and slightly sweet flavor, distinguishing it from the nuttier taste of hard red wheat.

Nutrition: Contains essential nutrients, including dietary fiber, protein, B-vitamins, and minerals like iron and magnesium. Is not as high in protein as hard red wheat.

Cooking and baking: Commonly used in baking, particularly in pastries, cakes, cookies, and other delicate baked goods. Its soft texture and mild taste make it an ideal choice for creating tender and light-textured products.

Milling at home: Can be milled at home to create homemade white wheat flour. 

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