With the rising consciousness of eating foods for specific health benefits, ancient grains are becoming popular and trendy.  As a source of fiber and other nutrients, they can be used in place of rice or pasta, or as the base of salads and grain bowls.  Infusing them with flavour during or after the cooking process is a great way to ensure a flavourful result. Check out the ideas below highlighting these versatile grains.

Barley and Farro

This ancient grain lends a nutty taste and satisfying chew and is a hearty substitution for rice.

Recipe ideas:

  • Piri-piri grilled prawns with citrus barley and charred leek pilaf
  • Creamy barley carbonara with fresh peas and shiitake bacon
  • Parmesan and chili farro arancni with grilled winter greens and crispy garlic
  • Farro succotash with spring vegetables, chorizo and romesco sauce
  • Barley mushroom risotto with poached egg, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds (see the full recipe)
  • African grain salad with Israeli couscous, barley and flat leaf parsley combined with harissa and topped with diced roasted eggplant, tomato and purple cauliflower
    (see the full recipe)


Most commonly used in bird seed, this grain is not just for the birds. It’s gluten free and has a light nutty flavour that goes well in many dishes.

You can bring millet to your menu in the super popular bowl format with this Middle Eastern Chickpea and Swiss Chard Bowl. It’s a protein-packed bowl of chickpeas and millet with colorful Swiss chard, roasted Delicata squash, orange segments, pomegranate seeds and pistachio, tossed in Hellmann’s Lemon Za’atar Dressing. Get the full recipe here.

Sorghum, Amaranth, Teff, Freekeh, and Quinoa

These grains are gluten free and can be a great alternative for those avoiding gluten.

Sorghum is commonly popped like popcorn and can be used as a uniquely textured garnish for grain bowls, salads, or pan seared fish dishes.

Amaranth never completely loses its crunch like other grains. While the inside will soften when cooked, the outside retains its crunchiness. It kind of pops when you bite it. This sensation brings an interesting texture to salads and soups.

Teff is about the size of a poppy seed and is a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. Its tiny size makes it an ideal base for polenta, hot breakfast cereal, and pilaf.


Freekeh is a traditional grain of the Middle East and Northeastern Africa. Also known as “Green Wheat,” it’s made from roasted young wheat, and is is high in protein and fiber, and low in available carbohydrates (making it low on the glycemic index). Freekeh’s flavor is nutty and chewy, and it takes about 20 minutes to cook. Try it in this BBQ pulled pork bowl with hominy, smoky peach kimchi slaw and cornbread croutons.

Quinoa has been growing in popularity over the years, and most guests are very comfortable with it. Its versatility and mild flavor make it a great base for other flavors and proteins. See 10+ delicious recipes with quinoa.