(KOOS-koos): Finely cracked wheat granules with a soft buttery flavor. Couscous makes an excellent bed for salad dishes or stews.

A staple of North African cuisine, couscous is granular semolina. Cooked, it may be served with milk as porridge, with a dressing as a salad or sweetened and mixed with fruits for dessert. Packaged precooked couscous is available in Middle Eastern markets and large supermarkets.


Bulgur is granules of crushed wheat with a nutty flavor. Best used in a broth, bean dishes or mixed with rice for an unusual pilaf.

A nutritious staple in the Middle East, bulgur wheat consists of wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and crushed. It is often confused with but is not exactly the same as cracked wheat. Bulgur, also called burghul, has a tender, chewy texture and comes in coarse, medium and fine grinds. It makes an excellent wheat pilaf and is delicious in salads (see tabbouleh), and in meat or vegetable dishes, as with kibbeh.

Buckwheat Groats

Roasted buckwheat groats are also known as kasha. They are not really grains, but resemble grains and have a brown pyramid shape. Best used in broths and stir-fried eggs.


Hulled crushed grain, such as barley, buckwheat or oats. The most widely used are buckwheat groats (also known as kasha, which are usually cooked in a manner similar to rice. Though groats are generally thought to be more coarsely ground than grits, they come in a variety of grinds including coarse, medium and fine. The two names-grits and groats-are often used synonymously. Groats are widely used in cereals, as a side dish with vegetables or as a thickener and enricher for soup.

Buckwheat flour is typically more coarse and more highly colored than wheat flour. Buckwheat middlings, which include the layer immediately below the hull and the germ, provide valuable animal feed stock. In the United States, buckwheat flour is used primarily in pancake mix formulations, blended with wheat, corn, rice, or oat flour.


Grains of barley look like smooth small pearls. Excellent source of soluble fiber and in some studies has been shown to lower cholesterol. Best used in salads or with tuna.

This hardy grain dates back to the Stone Age and has been used throughout the eons in dishes ranging from cereals to breads to soups (such as the famous scotch broth). Hulled (also called whole-grain) barley has only the outer husk removed and is the most nutritious form of the grain. Scotch barley is husked and coarsely ground. Barley grits are hulled barley grains that have been cracked into medium-coarse pieces. Hulled and Scotch barley and barley grits are generally found in natural food stores. Pearl barley has also had the bran removed and has been steamed and polished. It comes in three sizes-coarse, medium and fine-and is good in soups and stews. When combined with water and lemon, pearl barley is used to make barley water, an old-fashioned restorative for invalids.


Amaranth resembles golden poppy seeds. When cooked it has a consistency of a crunchy porridge. Has a corn-like flavor and is best used as a breakfast cereal.

Once considered a simple weed in the United States, this nutritious annual is finally being acknowledged as the nourishing high-protein food it is. Amaranth greens have a delicious, slightly sweet flavor and can be used both in cooking and for salads. The seeds are used as cereal or can be ground into flour for bread. Amaranth seeds and flour can be found in natural food stores, as well as in some Caribbean and Asian markets.


Quinoa (keen-wa) is a mild flavored grain that will substitute for rice. Has a bitter coating and should be rinsed under cold running water several times before cooking. Quinoa is a grain like product, related to Swiss chard and spinach. Quinoa is often referred to as a super grain because of its high levels of iron.

Quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. Quinoa is also higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains, and it provides a rich and balanced source of vital nutrients. Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivory-colored quinoa cooks like rice (taking half the time of regular rice) and expands to four times its original volume.

The flavor of quinoa is delicate, almost bland, and has been compared to that of couscous. Quinoa is lighter than but can be used in any way suitable for rice — as part of a main dish, a side dish, in soups, in salads and even in puddings. It’s available packaged as a grain, ground into flour and in several forms of pasta. Quinoa can be found in natural food stores and some supermarkets.


Millet is a popular grain used for numerous vegetarian dishes or in tomato sauce.

Though America cultivates this cereal grass almost exclusively for fodder and bird seed, millet is a staple for almost 1/3 of the world’s population, particularly in disadvantaged regions of Asia and Africa. There are many varieties of millet, most of which are rich in protein. Millet has a bland flavor that lends itself well as a background to other seasonings. It’s prepared like rice by boiling it in water and is used to make hot cereal and dishes like pilaf. Ground millet is used as a flour to make puddings, breads and cakes. Millet can be found in Asian markets and natural food stores.

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