Rice is a staple grain that most of us turn to for rounding out meals, bulking up soups, or stretching expensive ingredients into larger servings. Dishes like stir fries, curries, and burritos rely heavily on rice to add bulk and often texture. But if you’re simply tired of rice, or want to add more whole grains to your diet, then there are several options that are just as easy to cook as rice and offer a variety of textures and options.
Read through our helpful list of quick-cooking whole grains to learn which grains can help you branch out from your dinnertime routine:
Although it’s actually a seed instead of a grain, quinoa is often cooked up like you would any other grain. It’s also great to use in cool salads, warm soups, or as a side all on its own. It has a fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavor. It takes roughly 15 minutes to cook, and you can make it even nuttier by quickly toasting it beforehand.
Delightfully chewy and hearty, barley stands up on its own in stews, pilafs, and casseroles. Pearled barley cooks in about 25 minutes, but it’s not a whole grain since the hull has been removed for quicker cooking. If you’re looking for a whole grain option, instead choose traditional barley, which takes around an hour to cook.
Another in the “seed that eats like a grain” category, millet has the appearance of small yellow beads when dry. With a mildly corn-like taste, it can be cooked in roughly 20 minutes with minimal water for a fluffy result, or with more liquid to create a texture similar to that of polenta.
Despite its confusing name, buckwheat actually has no relation to wheat and is therefore gluten-free. This pseudocereal cooks up in less than 15 minutes and is eaten on its own and is also popular ground into a flour or processed into soba noodles. Buckwheat has a nutty flavor with a hint of bitterness, making it an ideal choice for earthier dishes.
Considered an “ancient grain,” farro’s chewy texture and mild flavor make it an easy swap-in for rice. It’s a type of wheat, so those with gluten sensitivities should steer clear. The pearled farro cooks in roughly 30 minutes, but sacrifices the nutritional benefits of being a whole grain. You can also opt for whole farro, which is cooked in about an hour.
Bulgur, also sometimes called “bulgur wheat,” is made by cracking whole-grain kernels of wheat, which are then parboiled and dried before being packaged. This makes it way easier to cook than whole grain varieties of wheat, meaning you can enjoy a fluffy bowl of this grain in just 15 minutes. It’s most popular use is in tabbouleh, but it can also be prepared in other dishes like soups, grain bowls, and casseroles.
Oats might often be relegated to the breakfast table, but it’s easy to put a savory spin on this whole grain to take the place of rice. By adding super savory ingredients — like Parmesan, miso, or even an over-easy egg on top — the entire flavor profile changes. You can keep it whole grain with steel-cut oats that take roughly 40 minutes to cook, or choose faster varieties like rolled or quick-cooking oats to have dinner on the table in no time.