COOKING WITH GRAINS AND FLOURS | Conscious Cooking

Grains and flours are part of almost everyone’s diet. While most Americans do not consume whole grains at all, but highly processed products made from refined grains and flours; some people will only eat grains that are gluten-free, and others won’t eat grains at all.

If you keep grains and flours in your diet, try to get whole grains and flours as often as possible, since they are a good source of fiber, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Refined grains and flours are highly processed and devoid of nutrients. They are rapidly digested in the body, causing spikes in the blood sugar, leading us to gain weight and fatigue, as well as promoting inflammation in the body and leading to many other different types of diseases. 

When I’m talking about whole grains, I’m talking about eating the whole grain; the one that you normally cook in water and see it whole on your plate. Now, if you want to buy a product made from grains and flours at the grocery store, such as pasta or bread, read the ingredient list and look for 100% whole grains, and avoid what’s white.

COOKING WITH GRAINS

Cooking grains is pretty easy and most of them are prepared the same way. You normally rinse the grains first, to remove any impurities or debris, you put them in a pot, cover with water, bring water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until the water is absorbed. You can always use broth or stock if desired, but it may change the final color of the grain. Grains that take longer to cook can also be soaked first to reduce cooking time but it’s not necessary.

Grains cooking chart

Whole grains Water /cup Cooking time (approx.) Gluten? Is it a grain?
Amaranth 2 ½ cups 20-25 min. No No, it’s a seed
Barley (hulled) 3 cups 1 hr. 30 Yes Yes
Barley (pearled) 3 cups 45-60 min. Yes Yes
Brown rice 2 cups 40-60 min. No Yes
Buckwheat/Kasha 2 cups 15-30 min. No No, it’s a seed
Cornmeal/Polenta 4 cups 20 min. No Yes
Kamut 3 cups 1 hr. Yes Yes
Millet 2 ½ cups 25-30 min. No Yes
Oat (rolled) 2 cups 10-15 min. Some are GF Yes
Oat (steel cut) 3 cups 20-40 min. Some are GF Yes
Quinoa 2 cups 15-20 min. No No, it’s a seed
Rice, basmati 2 ¼ cups 35-40 min. No Yes
Rice, short/long grain 2 ¼ cups 45-60 min. No Yes
Rye 3-4 cups 60 min. Yes Yes
Spelt 3 cups 1 hr. 30 Yes Yes
Teff 3 cups 20 min. No Yes
Wheat, berries 3 cups 1 hr. 30-2 hrs. Yes Yes
Wheat, bulgur 2 cups 15-20 min. Yes Yes
Wheat, couscous 1 cup 5-10 min. Yes Yes
Wheat, cracked 2 cups 20-25 min. Yes Yes
Wild rice 3 cups 1 hr. No No, it’s a seed

*To learn more about gluten-free grains, click here.

COOKING WITH FLOURS

Flours are pulverized grain made from whole or refined grains. It’s best to get unrefined and whole flour, as it’s much more nutritious and better digested. For those on a grain-free diet, almond and coconut flour can be used.

Let’s briefly look at some of the flours, binders, and thickeners on the market:

All-purpose flour: One of the most popular wheat-based flour. It’s a white flour that has a blend of hard and soft wheat. You can find it bleached (avoid) or unbleached. Choose unbleached as it has not been treated with chlorine or peroxide. Most recipes use all-purpose flour. Choose organic, unbleached flour.

Whole wheat flour: It’s a flour that contain all the nutrients found in wheat. It’s higher in nutrients and fiber than white flour. It does contain gluten. It has a stronger flavor but can be mixed with another flour.

Barley flour: It’s a flour made from barley, which contain gluten, but it’s much lower in gluten than wheat. It goes well in baking and acts well as a thickener in soups and sauces.

Spelt flour: It’s a flour popular in healthy baked goods. It has gluten but it’s much more nutritious than wheat flour. It’s also normally better digested.

Rye flour: It’s another flour that contains gluten but it has far less gluten than wheat flour and is also better digested. It’s normally used to make breads.

All-purpose gluten-free flour: It’s a mix of different gluten-free flours that is used to make pretty much anything. It’s the most common one in gluten-free baking.

Almond flour: It’s a gluten-free and grain-free flour that is absolutely delicious but it’s expensive. You can grind your own blanched almonds in a coffee grinder or in a high-speed blender to make your own.  Almond flour is very nutritious, low in carbohydrates and tastes great in recipes.

Amaranth flour: It’s a gluten-free flour with a nutty flavor that is high in protein and fiber.

Brown rice flour: It’s a gluten-free flour that has a nutty taste. Choose the brown over the white since it’s more nutritious. Rice flour is normally well appreciated and very popular in gluten-free baking.

Buckwheat flour: It’s a gluten-free flour that is delicious in baking. It has a rich and earthy flavor and can be mixed with another flour to balance the flavor.

Chickpea flour: Chickpea and other bean flours add extra proteins and fibers to your cooking. They have a strong flavor but can be balanced with other flours.

Coconut flour: It’s a gluten and grain-free flour. It has a sweet and rich taste, and is delicious in baked goods. It’s a good source of fiber and it’s low in carbohydrates.

Corn flour: It’s a gluten-free flour made from the whole kernel and is used in some recipes but can also be used as a thickener or as a binder. Corn flour can be found yellow or white. Cornstarch is not the same.

Millet flour: It’s a gluten-free flour that gives a good texture to baked goods but is strong in flavor. It’s best mixed with something else.

Potato flour: It’s a gluten-free flour made from cooked potatoes. It goes well with rice flour. Potato flour is different than potato starch.

Quinoa flour: It’s a gluten-free flour that is complete in protein. It has a light and pleasant taste but can be easily balanced with another one for those who don’t like its taste.

Sorghum flour: It’s a gluten-free flour that has a sweet taste. It’s highly nutritious and goes well with other flours.

Soy flour: It’s a flour made from soy. It has a strong taste and should be mixed with other flours. I don’t recommend soy flour as we consume too much soy and it’s a common allergen.

Tapioca flour: It’s a gluten-free starchy flour that can be mixed with other flours. It’s very versatile. Tapioca flour is the same as tapioca starch.

Arrowroot starch: It comes from the arrowroot plant. It’s used as a thickener.

Baking powder: It’s used to help to raise baked goods. It’s made with aluminum sulfate, which can create allergic reactions in some people. Most of them contain gluten but you can find gluten-free baking powder.

Baking soda: Baking soda is used to help baked good rise and make them tender. Baking soda starts reacting as soon as it’s mixing with an acidic ingredient so it’s best to cook right after using it.

Cornstarch: It’s a starch that is used as a thickener and as a binder. If you don’t eat corn, tapioca or potato starch can be used as a replacement. Look for organic and GMO-free brands.

Guar Gum: It acts as a thickener and as a binder in recipes. It’s gluten free.

Potato starch: It’s a good gluten-free thickener. It’s only the starch, not the potato. There is no nutritional value.

Xanthum Gum: It’s a thickener and binder but it may cause digestive problems in some people. Xanthum gum is derived from corn so replace with guar gum if you avoid corn.