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How to Cook Whole Grains

In the Winter 2010 issue of Edible Portland, we included a visual glossary of whole grains. Check it out here. We encourage you to cook up a pot for yourself and fall in love with the toothsome nutty pleasures of whole grains.


Lucky you if you have a pressure cooker. For the rest of us, a medium-size pot with a tight-fitting lid should do the trick.

First, rinse whole grains thoroughly under running water.

Next, fill your pot with salted water (see water-to-grain ratios in the chart below) or broth (for a richer flavor) and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in grains, and return to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer without stirring until the grains are tender (see cooking times in the chart below). Let grains cool with the lid ajar 15 to 30 minutes, then pour off any liquid that remains.


-If you’re having trouble with your water boiling over, or with stucked or burned grains, try adding a little bit of fat or oil to the water when you stir in the grains.

-Save time, and energy, by cooking a large batch all at once. Most cooked grains keep well in the fridge (or freezer).

-Purchase locally grown whole grains in the bulk section and from Bob’s Red Mill and Bluebird Grain Farms.

Grain Cooking Chart:

Care of PCC

grain grain to liquid preparation characteristics
Cooking times and liquid are approximate. Length of time stored since harvest can cause fluctuations in the time needed to cook a grain. Always check for doneness 5 minutes before the shortest specified cooking time, and be prepared to cook it longer than the longest specified time.
Amaranth 1 : 2 1/2 Simmer 25-30 minutes Sticky and sweet. Try mixing with corn, beans and green onions.
Barley, hulled 1 : 4 Pre-soak 6-8 hours, simmer 90-120 minutes High fiber, with only the outer shell removed. Good in cold salads, soups and stew.
Barley, pearled 1 : 3 Simmer 1-1 1/2 hours. If pre-soaked, cook 15 minutes. Bran is scrubbed off. Less chewy and cooks faster than hulled barley.
Buckwheat groats/kasha, raw or roasted 1 : 2 Simmer 10 minutes, covered. Let stand 5 minutes. Not wheat, but a fruit seed with no kasha, raw or roasted gluten. Mix with a beaten egg in a skillet, simmer with chicken broth, onions and mushrooms.
Bulgur 1 : 1 1/2 Pour boiling water over and soak 30-40 minutes, no cooking needed. Whole wheat. Blend with garlic, mint, parsley, tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice for tabouli. Serve hot for dinner.
Flakes: barley, kamut, rye or spelt 1 : 3 Add to boiling water, simmer 30 minutes. Combine with other grains for porridge or stir uncooked into muffin batters.
Kamut, whole Pre-soaked 1 : 3

Unsoaked 1 : 4 or 5

Pre-soaked, simmer 30-45 minutes. Unsoaked, simmer 75-90 minutes. Buttery, chewy. Many people with wheat sensitivities have no problem
Millet 1 : 2 1/4 Simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. Nutty, easily digestible, wheat-free. Good under vegetables or stews. For porridge, cook in milk.
Oat groats 1 : 3 Simmer 50-60 minutes Heartier and more rustic than oatmeal.
Polenta/yellow corn grits 1 : 4 1/2 Whisk into boiling liquid, stir constantly 5-10 minutes. Cover and let stand. Partly refined. Excellent with braised greens, roasted veggies, eggplant, tomatoes and cheese.
Quinoa, white or red 1 : 2 Rinse well, cover and simmer 10-15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Fluff and serve. High in protein, light texture. Combines nicely with other cooked grains. Gluten-free.
Rice 1 : 2 Add to boiling water. Simmer covered 30 to 50 minutes. Fluff with fork. See our rice brochure for information on varieties and choosing the right rice for a recipe.
Rye, whole 1 : 4 Unsoaked, cooks in 90 minutes. Pre-soaked, 50 to 60 minutes. Chewy. Good mixed with rice or other grains. Try with onions and caraway seeds. High in protein.
Spelt, whole 1 : 2 1/2 Soak overnight, simmer 50-60 minutes. More protein than wheat and well tolerated by many with wheat sensitivities. Combine with millet or barley for creative salads.
Teff 1 : 3 1/2 Simmer 15-20 minutes, covered. Makes a creamy, sticky porridge with a natural hint of molasses. Gluten-free, high in iron.
Wheat berries, whole 1 : 3 Soak overnight, simmer 50-60 minutes. Full-flavored, sturdy side dish.
Wild rice 1 : 3 45-70 minutes Not a true rice, but the seed of a marshy grass. Low fat, high fiber and protein, gluten-free.


Inspired to try some of these amazing whole grains yourself? Here are some great recipes from Edible Portland and beyond:

Farro with Sausage and Apples at Bluebird Grain Farms
Bob’s Oregon Orchard Oat Brulee on Edible Portland Online
Buckwheat Pesto at Bob’s Red Mill
Rye Berry and Cannellini Bean Salad at Bob’s Red Mill

Culinate also offers a wonderful glossary of whole grains here.

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