Cooking with whole grains cheat sheet

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What foods are rich in nutrients, phytonutrients, antioxidants, have a lower glycemic index, and may help protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity? Whole grains!

Whole grains include the whole kernel of the grain – be it wheat, rye, barley, rice, quinoa, rye and so on. Having trouble imagining this? Visualize a popcorn kernel which is a whole grain kernel of corn.

Each whole grain has 3 parts:

  • The bran which is the fiber-rich outer layer that supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
  • The germ which is the core of the seed where growth occurs; it is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
  • The endosperm which is the interior layer that holds carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.

Image courtesy of Whole Grains Council

Whole grains can be further refined by having their bran and germ stripped, leaving only the endosperm. Think white flour. The refining process thus removes some key nutrition from the grain and is less desirable than the whole grain.

Whole grains are simple, minimally processed, and deserve a place on your plate.

If you are looking to include more whole grains in your diet, but feel uncertain around how to actually prepare whole grains, I have put together a Cooking with Whole Grains Cheat Sheet.

This cheat sheet outlines how much water to add to cook 1 cup of the whole grain, the approximate cooking time and the approximate yield after cooking, as well as whether the whole grain in question is gluten-free or not.


Cooking with Whole Grains Cheat Sheet

To cook 1 cup of this grainAdd this much water or brothApproximate cooking time Approximate yield after cooking 1 cup rawGluten-free?
Amaranth2 c20-25 minutes3.5 cupsYes
Barley, hulled3 c45-60 minutes3.5 cupsNo
Buckwheat2 c20 minutes4 cupsYes
Cornmeal (polenta)4 c25-30 minutes2.5 cupsYes
Couscous (whole wheat)2 cups10 min (heat off)3 cupsNo
Millet, hulled2.5 cups25-35 minutes4 cupsYes
Quinoa2 cups12-15 minutes3+ cupsYes
Rice, brown2.5 cups25-45 minutes (varies by kind)3-4 cupsYes
Rye berries4 cupsSoak overnight, cook 45-60 minutes3 cupsNo
Sorghum also called milo4 cups25-40 minutes3 cupsYes
Wild rice3 cups45-55 minutes3.5 cupsYes
Wheat includes the following varieties
Bulgur2 cups10-12 minutes3 cupsNo
Farro3.5-4 cupsMay or may not need soaking overnight; 15-25 minutes3-4 cupsNo
Spelt berries4 cupsSoak overnight, then cook 45-60 minutes3 cupsNp
Wheat berries4 cupsSoak overnight, then cook 60+ minutes3 cupsNo


You can prepare a big batch of whole grains and freeze into smaller portions for later use. You can add whole grains to soups, salads, stews, beverages and soups, casseroles, pilafs.


Whole grain recipe inspiration:

If you are looking for recipe inspiration, check out these recipes using whole grains:

Blueberry soba noodle salad 

Buddha Bowl 

Blueberry breakfast rice bowl 

Oatmeal cookie dough power ball bites

For more whole grain recipes, have a look at the recipe collection from the Whole Grains Council.


Happy whole grain cooking!

Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Food, Nutrition & Culinary Coach, Registered Nutritionist and Calgary Dietitian, Calgary, AB.

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