Guide to Grains Part 2: Life Beyond Quinoa

Now that you’ve tried quinoa, amaranth, barley and millet, I know you’re just dying to find out what other grains are out there, right? Well, good news – there’s lots to choose from! Here are two more of my favourites:


Bulgur for Weight Loss

Perhaps bulgur is not the most exciting, sexy grain in the world (is there such thing as a sexy grain?) but one you should get to know better. You likely haven’t heard of bulgur outside of tabbouleh, but it’s a Middle-Eastern staple that deserves wider accolades in my opinion. It is basically kernels of wheat that have been steamed, dried and crushed. Because it’s pre-cooked in this way, it is super quick to prepare.

Bulgur is known as a great diet food because it is not calorically dense; in fact, a cup of bulgur has almost half the calories of a cup of quinoa (keep in mind that it has smaller amounts of nutrients, though it still has an impressive array.) It’ s a fibre powerhouse and low in fat as well, so it keeps you full for less calories. What’s not to love?



I use bulgur as a side dish similar to quinoa, in a cold salad, or as a stuffing for tomatoes or peppers. You can also use it as a filler in meatballs or burgers, as Chef Michael Smith does in this recipe.

Where to find it:

At the bulk store or the health food store.

Prep tips:

This grain is easy to cook because it has already been steamed.  Mix a half cup of bulgur with one cup of liquid and simmer for 15 minutes. Let stand for another ten minutes and then fluff with a fork. It triples in volume, so you can freeze some for later. Be careful of adding too much liquid as it will become mushy; this is why I often avoid using it in soups (use barley instead.)


Get Your Freekeh on

My brother in law turned me onto this grain originating from the Eastern Medditeranean, which is (disappointingly) pronounced freek-a. Freekeh is made from young wheat that is still green and has a higher proportion of proteins, minerals and vitamins than mature wheat. It’s high in fibre and low in carbs.

This green wheat is roasted and smoked, which gives it this delicious intensely smoky taste that’s surprising (it tastes like you cooked it on the barbeque.) It’s firm in a way that’s similar to brown rice or barley. Because it’s partially cooked, Freekeh is also a cinch to prepare.


Because of this unique smoky flavour, I like to keep it fairly simple – often I’ll just have it with poached eggs as above, or perhaps I’ll cook it in some chicken broth and mix in some sautéed mushrooms.

Where to find it:

This one is tricky to find because it is still relatively new to North America; your best bet is a Middle Eastern grocery store, but call ahead to check if they carry it.

Prep tips:

It’s pretty easy; bring one cup Freekeh and 2.5 cups liquid to a boil and then simmer, covered for 20-30 minutes (for whole) or 10-15 minutes (for cracked.) 


Ready to give these a whirl? Great! Here’s some ideas to get you started at my Pinterest grain recipe board.


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