6 Wheat-Free Grain Alternatives You Should Try

Add Variety to Your Diet

Look at any prepackaged wheat-free or gluten-free specialty food, and it's almost a guarantee you'll find rice, corn, or potatoes among the ingredients. These starches are some of the major dietary staples for patients with wheat allergies, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Less common are ancient grains, which can add variety to your diet—and many are nutritional powerhouses. Here's a quick primer on six ancient grains.

1

Amaranth

amarinth

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Found on nearly every continent, the genus Amaranthus contains nearly 70 species of perennial plants, most of which are considered weeds. A close relative of Amaranth is pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus).

Amaranth has an earthy, nutty flavor and is often sold as flour and as a whole grain. It is nutritious because it's high in protein and packed with fiber and other nutrients, making it an especially useful choice for vegetarians with food allergies.

2

Buckwheat

Buckwheat

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

In the U.S., many people consume buckwheat in the form of pancakes or tabbouleh. Buckwheat is actually a relative of rhubarb and a staple of Eastern European cooking because of its versatility.

Contrary to its name, buckwheat is not wheat. This ancient grain has a hearty, nutty flavor that works especially well with wintertime root vegetables and roasted meat dishes.

Whole-grain buckwheat groats are sold either raw or toasted as kasha. Whole-grain buckwheat soba noodles are also available, but read labels carefully, as many soba noodles contain a mixture of buckwheat and wheat.

3

Millet

millet in bowl
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Is millet gluten-free? The answer is, yes.

Millet, particularly pearl millet, has long been a staple food in sub-Saharan Africa. You can use millet flour almost interchangeably with rice flour and it makes a good substitute for couscous in its whole state.

Technically a seed, millet has a mild, somewhat nutty taste, and has the best flavor when toasted in a dry skillet before cooking.

Try ​hot millet breakfast cereal.

4

Quinoa

Quinoa

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Quinoa is touted as a superfood and for good reason. This gluten-free wheat alternative is one of the most protein-rich grains and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Quinoa pasta is increasingly popular; you can also find whole-grain quinoa, quinoa flour, and quinoa pasta.

Rinse whole-grain quinoa several times before you cook it to remove a bitter coating called saponin that can taste unappealing and also irritate digestion.

5

Teff

teff grain on white background
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In Ethiopian cuisine, teff flour is the main ingredient in a traditional, soft, fermented sourdough flatbread called injera. You may be able to find teff seeds and teff flour at health food stores, grocery co-ops, and larger grocery store chains like Whole Foods as well as Amazon and other online retail sites.

Teff is slowly becoming more widely available in the U.S., due in part to more diagnoses of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, as well as the growing demand for healthy ancient grains.

6

Wild Rice

Wild rice

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Wild rice may look similar to rice, but it's actually unrelated since wild rice is a species of grass. And it's a nice burst of flavor and texture compared to standard white or brown rice.

Wild rice takes longer to cook, so you can't use it in place of other types of white or brown rice in recipes without changing the cooking time and amount of liquid.

Wild rice flour, which lends an unusual color and pleasant nuttiness to baked goods, is also on the market.

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Article Sources
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  2. Oldways Whole Grains Council. Amaranth.

  3. Pingali PL. Green revolution: impacts, limits, and the path ahead. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(31):12302-8. doi:10.1073/pnas.0912953109

  4. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Quinoa. 2013.

  5. Oldways Whole Grains Council. Whole Grain Statistics.