What is an Ancient Grain?


Walking through your grocery store you may have noticed alternatives to the usual rice and barley selection. Going against the grain has become more common whether it’s to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle, or just wanting a more healthful option. The interesting thing about these “ancient grains” or sometimes called “pseudo-grains,” is they aren’t actually grains at all! They are seeds, and grasses that can be prepared in a similar fashion to rice or couscous. Quinoa, buckwheat, and millet are some common varieties you may have seen around, and maybe you passed them by thinking they sounded way too exotic for the everyday cook. Buckwheat sounds like an oxymoron, but despite its name, it’s wheat-free and safe for Celiacs!

Quinoa (keen-wah) comes from South America and is considered a complete protein. With a mellow, nutty flavor, it’s simple to prepare by simmering it like rice with a 2:1 ratio in either water or broth. Quinoa tends to take on whatever flavor is added and is easily made into a breakfast porridge with the addition of milk and cinnamon or a hearty tabbouleh salad.

Millet can be cooked in the same way for a delicious breakfast cereal, or in place of rice. High in magnesium, and protein, this versatile “seed” has a texture like that of fluffy couscous, and can also be ground into a flour for a gluten-free baking alternative.

Buckwheat is my personal favorite for making Sunday pancakes, or processing soaked buckwheat groats with almond milk, and honey for a creamy cereal. It’s actually related to rhubarb and is high in protein, magnesium, and fiber. Try simmering it like you would rice, and add veggies for a delicious warm salad!

Don’t fear the pseudo-grain! Try swapping out your usual rice or pasta for one of these options to enjoy a healthful twist on your favorite recipes.

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