There are many different types of grains. The friendliest and most accessible of grains are Oats. It’s a good staple for any diet. Here’s what you should know about oatmeal before you make your next bowl of porridge.


The Skinny on Oatmeal

Not all oatmeal is the same. Two main things to consider when buying oatmeal is that even though oats are inherently gluten-free, they can be contaminated during processing. Most oats are processed in a facility that also deal with wheat, barley and rye. To avoid this either buy whole oat groats and grind your own oats, to avoid processing all together, or be sure to buy oats that come with the label “Certified Gluten Free.”

Another label to look for when buying oats is “USDA Certified Organic.” Unlike some fruits or vegetables that have a shell or peel to fend off pesticides, oat groats soak up pesticides, meaning if they are not grown organic, they will still have pesticide residue in them by the time they hit your bowl or mouth. For this reason, oats are one of those foods that you should keep on your “must be organic” list of purchases.


The difference between Oats:

All oats start as oat groats or the whole grain. If you have time on your hands, you can buy whole oat groats and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder. Otherwise, how the groat is processed determines the difference between quick oats, old-fashioned oats and steel-cut oats, and how long they each take to cook. Here’s the difference between these three types of oats:

How to cook:  1/2 cup oats to 1 cup of liquid. In a saucepan on medium-high heat, bring liquid to a boil. Stir in oats and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to simmer, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add any flavorings while cooking, such as cinnamon or vanilla. Remove oats from heat, cover and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes.

What they are: The groats are the most processed of the three types. Their benefit, they cook faster than old-fashioned oats or steel-cut oats. They are pre-cooked, fried and then rolled. This process makes them thinner than old-fashioned oats. In fact, they almost seem a bit crumbly and they don’t retain their shape when cooked. They are a bit mushier in oatmeal and they offer less texture to baked goods than old-fashioned oats. But in a time crunch, they come in handy.


Old-fashioned Oats or Rolled Oats

How-to-cook: 1 cup rolled oats to 2 cups of water or milk. In a saucepan bring water or milk to a boil. Stir in oats and reduce to a simmer. Stir frequently. Cook oats for approximately 5 minutes, until oats soften and liquid thickens. Cook until desired texture is achieved. Add a pinch of salt. Add any flavorings while cooking, such as cinnamon or vanilla. If liquid is absorbed before oats are tender, simply add more liquid.

What they are: The groats of old-fashioned oats are steamed and then sent through a rolling machine where they are flattened to produce thick oatmeal flakes. These oats cook faster than steel-cut oats and absorb more liquid. They also hold their shape well during the cooking process to offer more texture in the dishes they are used in. Old-fashioned oats are a good choice for cookies, bars and baked goods as well as breakfast oatmeal.


Steel-cut Oats

How to cook: 1 cup steel oats to 3 cups of water or milk. In a saucepan on medium heat, bring liquid to a boil. Stir in oats. Reduce to a simmer and cook until soft and liquid thickens. Add a pinch of salt. Stir frequently. Cook for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Cook until oats are tender. Add any flavorings while cooking, such as cinnamon or vanilla. If liquid is absorbed before oats are tender, simply add more liquid.

What they are:

Unlike quick oats or old-fashioned oats, steel-cut oats are not rolled, but instead they are cut into several pieces, making them look more like bulgur or rice. Steel-cut oats take longer to cook than the other types of oats. Although there are subtle differences between steel-cut oats and the other oats, the main difference is that steel-cut oats have a lower glycemic index, meaning your blood sugar will spike less after a bowl of steel-cut oats than say quick oats or old-fashioned oats.



Recipe: Homemade Old-Fashioned Oatmeal


2 cups water (or milk)

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1/4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds

1/4 cup walnuts or pecans

1 tablespoon maple syrup, honey or brown sugar

Frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries) melted


In a saucepan, combine water and raisins and bring to a boil. Cooking the raisins in water sweetens the water while also making the raisins more juicy and plump. Stir in oatmeal, cinnamon and vanilla and pinch of salt. Reduce heat and cook for approximately 5 to 8 minutes, until oatmeal softens and liquid thickens. Serve in bowls, top with seeds and nuts for extra crunch. For extra sweetness, stir in maple syrup, honey or brown sugar to the entire dish, or drizzle over each bowl as desired. Alternatively, drizzle melted frozen fruit over oatmeal. Add a spoonful of yogurt to make it an even heartier dish to keep you satiated through the morning.


More oatmeal please:

Blueberry pie overnight oats from thekitchn.com


How to make creamy steelcut oatmeal from thekitchn.com


Maple and brown sugar oatmeal with sweet potato by foodiecrush.com




Gluten-free Ancient Grains—Beyond Oats

If you want to branch out from your daily oats, try focusing on other “gluten-free” grain options, which include Amaranth, Buckwheat, Chia, Kaniwa, Millet as well as Sorghum and Teff. These are all gluten-free “ancient grains,” meaning, they have remained relatively unscathed by time and modern methods. Yet, these “ancient grains” so to speak are actually a mix of grains and pseudo-grains or seeds. For instance, chia is considered an “ancient grain” but it is actually a seed. All of these “ancient grains” function much the same way that grains do and can be used in cereals, cooked or turned into flour. They also contain similar nutrient content to grains.


Not all grains or pseudo-grains are gluten-free. Here are some gluten-free options worth consideration to add to your next meal:

Pseudograins: Seeds that act like grains

These pseudograins are typically high in protein, minerals and fiber.


How to cook:  1/2 cup water to 1 1/2 cups water, yiels approximately 1 cup Amaranth. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer, cover and cook approximately 15 minutes.

 What it is: Amaranth is a seed commonly used in breakfast cereals, muesli, baked goods, breads and dinner sauces, such as mole sauce. It has a naturally sweet flavor. It can be used in flour form, flakes and puffs or cooked in seed form. It is rich in calcium and minerals amongst other nutrients.


Recipe: Protein power lentils and amaranth patties by gourmandelle.com

Protein Power Lentils and Amaranth Patties



How to cook:  1/2 cup buckwheat to 1 cup water yields approximately 1 cup Buckwheat. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer, cover and cook approximately 15 minutes.

What it is: Buckwheat can be in seed or groat form, puffs, flour or roasted groats. The groats are great for salads. Buckwheat is common in breakfast cereals, breads, baked goods and stir-fries. Because buckwheat groats don’t have to be cooked they are commonly used as part of a raw food diet. You can soak them overnight and eat them like oatmeal, but without having to cook them. Buckwheat is a complete protein.

Recipe: Buckwheat chocolate chip cookies by cookingalamel.com





How to cook: Chia doesn’t really cook so much as it turns into a gel. Think chia pudding. 2 Tablespoons of chia to 1/2 cup of water yields approximately 1/2 cup of chia gel. Let sit in refrigerator for approximately 2 hours or overnight. For general use of chia seeds no baking or cooking is required.

What it is: Chia gel can be used as a butter or oil replacement for up to one-third of the butter or oil required in a recipe. Or add chia seeds to flavored liquid or berry juice for fun flavors to mix with yogurt and oatmeal. Chia seeds do very well on their own in smoothies, on salads, or in pretty much any recipe. High in nutrient content, chia seeds are particularly high in omega-3 essential fatty acid content.

Recipe: Chia & raspberry breakfast by greenkitchenstories.com

Chia & Raspberry Breakfast




How to cook: 1/2 cup Kaniwa to 1 cup of water yields approximately 1 cup Kaniwa. Unlike quinoa, there is no need to rinse before cooking. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook approximately 10 minutes.

What it is: A smaller version of quinoa it’s available as a whole seed or flour and often found in blends of grains. It has a mild taste and crunchy texture. It’s higher in protein than quinoa. Mix it with other grains, stir into breakfast cereals or porridge, add to salads, breads, or dinner dishes.

Recipe: Kaniwa and coconut Pancakes by greenkitchenstories.com




How to cook:  1/2 cup Millet to 1 cup water yields approximately 1 cup of Millet. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer, cover and cook approximately 15 minutes.

What it is: Mild in flavor, Millet comes as whole seeds, puffs, flour and flakes. Yummy in cereals, or baked into breakfast dishes such as Kugel or pancakes. it can also be used in puddings and stews. It can be sprouted and is rich in B complex vitamins as well as other vitamins and minerals. It scores very low on the glycemic index. 

Recipe: Dried fig, millet and flaxseed granola by gringalicious.com




How to cook: 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups liquid yields approximately 3 cups of cooked quinoa. Rinse dry quinoa in a strainer under water before cooking to remove saponin, which can give quinoa a bitter taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for approximately 12 minutes.

What it is: Quinoa is available as whole seed, flake, flour, and puffs. It has reached it’s superfood status for its protein, amino-acid and mineral content. It can be used in pretty much everything from cereals and salads, to dinner dishes and baked goods—even baby food.

Recipe: Mexican quinoa stuffed peppers from thegardengrazer.com




 These traditional grains are also gluten-free:



How to cook: 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 1 1/3 cups water yields approximately 1 cup sorghum. Combine water and sorghum, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

What it is: Sorghum is available as a whole grain or flour. It has a mild, nutty flavor. Sorghum flour is commonly used in baked goods, particularly doughs and breads and breakfast dishes such as pancakes and waffles. Similar to millet, it can be cooked like oatmeal, or as a dinner side dish. It is useful as a thickening agent in stews and gravies. It has an overall high nutrient profile.

Recipe: Tuscan kale, sorghum and cannellini bean stew by feastingathome.com




How to cook:  1/2 cup of Teff to 1 1/2 cups water yields approximately 1 cup of Teff. Bring water and Teff to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse. More liquid makes a creamier texture, less liquid has a crunchier result.

What it is: Commonly used in breakfast cereals, pancakes and breads, Teff flour is often mixed into flour blends. Teff has a strong flavor. It’s different shades have been compared to hazelnut and molasses. It can be used in side dishes or blends, just be aware of how its particular flavor will affect the overall flavor of any dish. Teff is a complete protein and is rich in vitamins and minerals.

Recipe: Candied pecan sweet potato teff muffins (gluten free and dairy free) by supernummy.com