The latest entry into my stack of question reads like this: “I just saw your Instagram picture about a breakfast bowl with Kamut, Greek yogurt, and blackberries. You hashtagged ancient grains. What in the world are ancient grains?”
Hey, thank you for asking and for the following me over on Instagram!
Ancient grains are the name given to “grains” that are called ancient since they’ve been around for really long time – some even theorize that they were around during the time of King Tut! I put the word “grains” in quotes since some of the foods that we know as grains (like quinoa and amaranth) are actually better known as “pseudograins” – they’re technically seeds...not grains. It’s one of those: ‘is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?’ kind of things.
Check out these six ancient grains, try them out on your own, and let me know what you think by commenting on this post or by tweeting me @ToriHolthaus!
“Kamut” is what we call a trademarked variety of khorasan wheat that has certain attributes like organic certification. When cooked, it appears golden yellow and is slightly larger in size than a grain of wheat. It’s chewy and has a mild, nutty, and slightly buttery taste. It’s a great source of minerals like magnesium, selenium, zinc, and iron.
Amaranth is a small, tiny seed (it’s not technically a grain!) whose texture, when cooked, is porridge-like and whose taste is both nutty and earthy. Amaranth is naturally gluten-free, so it is popular among those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Enjoy it cooked and topped with one tablespoon of almond butter, one tablespoon of hemp hearts, or 10-12 pecans for a warm breakfast.
Teff’s very small grains come in several colors – red, brown, and ivory – and when cooked, resemble the consistency of porridge or homemade chia pudding. A half-cup of cooked spinach has 62 mg of calcium (that’s a little more than 59 mg of calcium found in two cups of raw spinach). Want to make it on your own? Top a half cup of cooked teff with one-tablespoon of unsweetened coconut shreds and one tablespoon of pecans for a sweet and nutty morning breakfast bowl.
Spelt is a grain that looks similar to what a pomegranate seed would look like if it were brown! Spelt is high in fiber (just one half cup boasts nearly 4 grams) and is a good source of iron and manganese. Like other grains, spelt can be found in both the whole and refined form so be sure to look for the words “whole spelt” on the ingredients list to make sure you’re getting the whole (real) deal.
This hearty, chewy grain features a sweet (yet slightly bitter) flavor. Sorghum can be made into a healthy whole grain snack by popping it like popcorn. Place ¼ c. sorghum in a small paper bag, folded closed. Place in the microwave (folded side down) and heat for 2-3 minutes on high.
The triticale grain is a hybrid of wheat and rye, so if you want to picture the flavor think of something that is more flavorful than wheat but not as deep and sour as rye. Per fourth cup (uncooked), you get 7 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. A win-win for feeling fuller, longer.
These grains can be found in the natural/organic section of your local supermarket or in the bulk bins at your nearest health foods store. Many of these grains take around one hour to cook (except for amaranth and teff, which take approximately 20 minutes), so prep them at the beginning of the week and store them in your refrigerator for easy additions to salads, in pilafs, or as a quick breakfast when you top them with a fourth cup of Greek yogurt and a tablespoon of hemp seeds.
Share your story! Have you tried any of these ancient grains? What are your favorite ways to use them?
Comment below or tweet me @ToriHolthaus!