5 Whole Grains that Make Breakfast More Interesting than Oatmeal

Food Lists Breakfast

In the cold of winter, to get our day started, most of us crave something warm that will stick with us. What do you think of when you hear the words “hearty winter breakfast”? I am going to guess oatmeal. But oats aren’t the only wintry breakfast item out there. You can use plenty of other grains to make warm cereal.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against oatmeal—especially not with a dollop of peanut butter in it—but it has become the standard hot cereal of choice, which means that a whole lot of other grains get left in the dust. It’s time to give those forgotten grains the love that they deserve. Instead of reaching for that bag of oats, try out one of these grains instead. You’ll get out of your oatmeal rut and maybe discover a new favorite breakfast in the process.

All of these grains have different cooking ratios and times, but in general, if you want a fluffier texture, use less water, stir less and potentially let the pot sit once you have removed it from the stove so the grains can soak up more water. In the mood for something a little creamier and more porridge-like? In general, that means cooking the grains in more liquid and doing more stirring.

1. Millet

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Grain to liquid ratio: 1 part grain to 2 to 3 parts liquid
Cooking time: Approximately 20 minutes

No, we’re not talking about bird seed, we’re talking about a super-healthy grain that happens to also be gluten-free. You can cook it in coconut milk for a more exotic-tasting porridge, or go classic with regular milk. Top it off with seeds, or what about some roasted apples Pro tip: want a nuttier, more toasted flavor? Place the millet in your saucepan without water, and warm up on the stove. Do this until the millet has a toasted aroma, being careful to stir every so often so as not to burn the grains. Then add your water and cook.

2. Buckwheat

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Grain to liquid ratio: 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid
Cooking time: Approximately 15 to 20 minutes

You may also have heard buckwheat referred to as kasha, which are buckwheat groats that have been roasted, resulting in a nutty, earthy flavor. Just like oatmeal, buckwheat pairs well with dried fruit and cinnamon. Or you can make an overnight porridge with coconut milk. If you don’t want to eat the roasted version, you can also buy straight buckwheat groats and make a raw buckwheat porridge, which is made by letting the buckwheat soak in liquid first.

3. Farro

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Flickr/Meal Makeover Moms

Grain to liquid ratio: 1 part grain to 3 parts liquid
Cooking time: Approximately 45 minutes

An Italian grain, farro looks, and tastes, a bit like brown rice. The only drawback for morning meals made with farro is the cooking time, so don’t use this grain if you’re in a rush; or just have some pre-cooked farro on hand. With coconut and apple juice you can make a sweet breakfast risotto, or give an apple farro breakfast bowl with hazelnuts a try. And why restrict your morning meals to just sweet breakfasts? A savory bowl of farro, turmeric, scallions, chickpeas and avocado will definitely get your day off to a great start. (Note that farro resembles the grain spelt in appearance, but don’t use them interchangeably; spelt takes longer to cook, and its grains never really get tender.)

4. Quinoa

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Grain to liquid ratio: 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid
Cooking time: Approximately 15 minutes

You thought quinoa only paired well with kale as a trendy salad, didn’t you? Think again. You can easily cook quinoa into a warm cereal, giving you a nuttier-tasting morning porridge. Try it with pumpkin, cardamom or even toasted almonds and coconuts. Actually, all of those in the same bowl sounds pretty good. Or what about a savory porridge with an egg on top

5. Polenta

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Flickr/Vegan Feast Catering

Grain to liquid ratio: 1 part grain to 4 parts liquid
Cooking time: Approximately 30 to 40 minutes, but this depends on the coarseness of the polenta

Polenta is actually the name of a dish, not the ingredient, but it has come to be used for both. Hailing from Italy, polenta is made from coarsely ground cornmeal and cooked into a mush. Heidi Swanson has a great basic breakfast polenta recipe that you can add whatever you want to. Polenta also works particularly well for savory breakfasts. For a unique twist try a batch of these breakfast polenta squares, a great recipe to make ahead of time so you can keep them in the refrigerator and heat up as needed.

Anna Brones is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break and runs Foodie Underground, a site about real food for real people. Wherever she is in the world, she can often be found riding a bicycle in search of excellent coffee.

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