Gluten-Free Grains

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Published February, 2021

The gluten-free diet requires total avoidance of the grains wheat, barley, rye and all varieties and hybrids of these grains, such as spelt. However, there are many wonderful gluten-free grains* to enjoy.

Once the sacred food of the Aztecs, amaranth is high in protein, calcium, iron, and fiber. Toasting this tiny grain before cooking brings out its nutty flavor.

Makes a delicious, creamy hot breakfast cereal. Serve with fruit of choice on top and/or a touch of maple syrup.

Rice comes in many varieties: short grain, long grain, jasmine and basmati to name a few. Long grain rice tends to be fluffier while short grain rice is stickier. Rice also comes in various colors: black, purple, brown, and red. These colorful un-refined rices contribute more nutritional benefits than does refined white rice and have subtly unique flavors and textures too. Wild rice is another different and delicious option.

Versatile rice leftovers can go in many directions. Add to salads or sautéed vegetables; make rice pancakes or rice pudding; season and use as filling for baked green peppers or winter squash.

Despite the name, buckwheat is a gluten-free member of the rhubarb family. Roasted buckwheat is called kasha. Buckwheat is high in B Vitamins, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc.

Buckwheat has an earthy, nutty, slightly bitter taste. Experiment with using the cooked grain (buckwheat “groats”, or “kasha” which is the toasted version) as you would rice. Buckwheat flour makes delicious crepes and pancakes.

Cornmeal, Polenta, Grits, Hominy
Polenta is cooked yellow cornmeal that can either be served as a creamy smooth side dish, or left to set and served in wedges. Grits are a cornmeal made from white corn, and commonly (but not always) have had the germ and bran of the kernel removed. Hominy is a form of whole grain corn that has been processed to give it an almost bean-like or meaty texture. Corn is a rich source of complex carbohydrates and B vitamins.

Use cooked, cooled, firmed-up polenta in place of lasagna noodles.

Millet is a tasty and versatile nutrient-dense grain that is worth getting familiar with, even though you may know it best as an ingredient in birdseed. Millet is high in B vitamins, phosphorous, magnesium, and higher in protein than corn and rice.

Cooked millet makes an appealing side dish with a fluffy texture and mild flavor.

In addition to classic oat flakes, oats come in “steel cut” form too (also known as Irish oats). These have a very different and delicious chewier texture and nuttier flavor. Both varieties can be used in sweet as well as savory dishes, and are a good source of protein and fiber.

Make your own muesli by mixing oat flakes with your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Muesli traditionally uses raw oats, but you may also like toasting your oats first. Muesli options: add milk the night before or right before eating for different textures. Have it hot or cold.

Technically a grass, quinoa is related to spinach. Quinoa is native to South America and comes in several color varieties. Quinoa is high in protein, fiber, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, copper and zinc.

Quinoa can be used much like rice. Always rinse quinoa before cooking to remove the “saponins”, a natural bitter coating.

Unlike other grains, sorghum contains high amounts of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant also found in blueberries. This grain is also a good source of fiber, B Vitamins, iron, and potassium.

Sorghum has an appealing chewy texture and nutty flavor. Works well as a substitute for couscous.

A tiny grain with a sweet flavor. Teff is high in protein, calcium, iron, copper and zinc. Teff is traditionally used as flour but can also be cooked whole and used as a side dish.

Teff’s tiny size means it cooks up like a porridge and makes a nice hot cereal option.


* Although commonly known as “grains”, botanically speaking some of these foods (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat) are technically “pseudocereals.” They have come to be known as grains because they are used similarly, and their nutrition profiles are generally similar.

**The safest oat products are those that have been certified gluten-free. While products labeled gluten-free should comply with the FDA definition of containing no more than 20 ppm of gluten, this is not third-party verified. GFCO’s standard for gluten-free is 10 ppm of gluten or less.


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This article has been assessed and approved by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

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