Gluten-Free Whole Grains + How to Prepare Them

Often when going gluten-free, gluten-free whole grains are forgotten or feared. From fearmongering surrounding their safety to people unsure of which grains have gluten or not, nutritious gluten-free whole grains are often neglected.

In this post we will be talking about what whole grains actually are, why they’re important, and how to prepare them.

This post was written by Jan Wasmuth and revised by Tayler Silfverduk, RDN.

Table of Contents

What is a Whole Grain? Graphic - Tayler Silfverduk

What is a Whole Grain?

A whole grain contains 3 parts: the endosperm, bran, and germ. Whole grains differ from refined grains as refined grains only consist of the endosperm.

Whole grains typically have a brown color as opposed to a refined white color. However, you can’t just rely on the color of a grain to determine if it is a whole grain. Ingredients such as molasses can mimic the color of a whole grain.

Furthermore, the ingredients list can help you identify whole grains. Just because a product said it is made with stoneground grain or is multigrain doesn’t mean it is a whole grain product.

When looking to buy gluten-free whole grain foods, look specifically for the word “whole” or “whole grain,” such as stoneground whole grain.

Alternatively, look for specific gluten-free whole grains in the ingredients list. Like oats and brown rice.

You can also look for a Whole Grain Stamp on gluten-free products. It is provided by the Whole Grains Council and guarantees that the product contains whole grains.

If looking to increase your whole grain intake when cooking, look to substitute whole grains for the refined versions. For example, if you wanted to make my Rice Porridge whole grain, you could substitute brown rice for the white rice. Granted, this kind of substitution can change cooking times, so be aware.

Why are Whole Grains Important?

Gluten-free whole grains are important on a gluten-free diet because of all the health benefits they offer.

One of the well-known benefits of whole grains is fiber. Which is great as it’s important to get enough fiber on a gluten-free diet.

Fiber helps you feel full and satisfied after your meal. It also helps your blood sugar remain stable.

Fiber also supports a healthy digestive system. It nurtures the good bacteria (probiotics) in your gut, which enables your body to absorb nutrients better and enhances your immune system.

Fiber also helps bulk your stool, which decreases the risk of celiac disease constipation and diarrhea.

Fiber also supports healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Lastly, whole grains have lots of nutrients vital for celiac health. They contain essential minerals, such as iron (which reduces the risk of anemia with celiac), calcium and magnesium (to support bone health with celiac), selenium (to fight oxidation), and zinc (for immune function).

Whole grains contain lots of B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, folate, and riboflavin. These are important factors in metabolism function.

Gluten Contain Whole Grains - Tayler Silfverduk, Celiac Dietitian

What’s a Gluten-Free Diet?

For someone with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is the only treatment.

Gluten is a protein found in many grains, including barley, wheat, and rye. However, it’s not as simple as avoiding these grains because there are many ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains.

For example, malt is typically derived from barley, so malt flavoring, malt vinegar, etc. are not appropriate for a gluten-free diet. Furthermore, forms of wheat go by many names, such as spelt, durum, semolina, and graham flours.

Additionally, gluten-free does not always mean celiac-safe. Celiac-safety also requires that there is not cross-contact of gluten-free food with gluten-filled food.

Therefore, a gluten-free diet must be carefully implemented to ensure that gluten is not present, even in small amounts, for someone with celiac to stay safe.

A gluten-free diet can include fruits and vegetables, proteins (including eggs, meats, and poultry), dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds, fats, and gluten-free grains.

Which Whole Grains Have Gluten?

While the general population will benefit from any whole grains, those with celiac must eat only gluten-free whole grains. Gluten-containing grains would damage the villi in the small intestine, causing damage, malabsorption, and inflammation.

Therefore, it’s important to know what whole grains have gluten, below is a list of whole grains that have gluten:

  • Whole wheat
  • Wheatberries
  • Durum
  • Emmer
  • Spelt
  • Semolina
  • Farro
  • Farina
  • Graham
  • Triticale
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Sometimes oats (learn more about the celiac safety of oats here)

Which Whole Grains are Gluten-Free?

Gluten-free whole grains include brown, black, and wild rice. They also include quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, popcorn, millet, gluten-free oats, sorghum, and teff. All of these whole grains are celiac-safe and provide all the wonderful benefits of whole grains.

When reading food labels you’ll want to see if these whole grains are present. And sometimes, just because one of these grains is present, that doesn’t mean it’s whole. So there’s a lot to consider.

One simple way to know is to look at the ingredients and see if a whole grain is listed and then check the fiber content to see if it reflects the use of whole grains.

Gluten-Free Whole Grains + How to Prepare Them​ - Tayler Silfverduk, Celiac Dietitian

Gluten-Free Recipes With Whole Grains

Now that we know what whole grains are, the importance of gluten-free whole grains with celiac, and how to identify them, let’s talk about how to prepare them!

Gluten-free whole grains are often different from the typical grains we cooked with before going gluten-free. Because of this, it can feel overwhelming to try to include them into your gluten-free diet. The key here is to slowly try different gluten-free grains and preparation methods until you find the ones you enjoy.

Below are different gluten-free whole grains and recipe ideas to get you started!

Gluten-Free Oat Recipes

Oats are a great source of whole grain in the USA. However, oats are celiac-safe only if certified gluten-free or purity protocol. Oats come in a variety of forms, from instant oats that cook quickly and make a great breakfast to rolled oats and oat flour that can be good for baking. One particular benefit of oats is that they are a source of beta-glucans, which promote a healthy immune system. Research has proven that consuming oats raises the amount of healthy biodiversity in the gut microbiome.

Below are some recipes you can make with gluten-free whole grain oats:

  • Birthday Cake Batter Overnight Oats – This overnight oat recipe is a fun and easy twist on breakfast. Not to mention it’s full of gluten-free whole grains!
  • Energy Balls – Use gluten-free oats for the gluten-free flour of choice in this recipe for a quick and easy snack. Don’t let this nutrient-dense energy bite fool you, it’s just as delicious as it is nutritious.
  • Simple Gluten-Free Granola – Did you know you can make your own granola at home? This simple gluten-free granola features gluten-free whole grain oats to help you add whole grains to your parfaits, smoothie bowls, and beyond.

Whole Grain Rice Recipes

Brown rice is a gluten-free whole grain that is packed with magnesium, which is vital for bone health. When preparing brown rice, be sure to rinse the rice before cooking it. This will help your finished product be fluffy rice because it removes extra starch that would cause the rice to become gummy as it cooks

Another gluten-free whole grain is black rice, which is the type of rice that is highest in protein. Black rice is great with Chinese cuisine, as it has historically been a highly regarded grain in China due to the ways it benefits health. 

Wild rice is gluten-free, as well. It also has a lot of magnesium, vitamin B6 and some iron. 

Here are some recipes you can make with whole grain rice:

  • Mexican Brown Rice Bake – This is a great alternative to tacos for some variety on Taco Tuesday! The bake offers whole grain brown rice but also is loaded with protein from refried beans and cheese. It’s very customizable so everyone at your table can enjoy it! For example, you could top it with sour cream, or have it with a side of chips and salsa.
  • Vegetable Stir-Fry with Forbidden Rice – This recipe is a texture explosion in your mouth that will please your taste buds. The texture of the rice, the crunch of the water chestnuts, and the tenderness of the cabbage combine with a delicious gluten-free soy sauce and cashews. Plus, cashews offer a fat source to help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the stir-fry.
  • Shrimp and Wild Rice Skillet – Yet another rice recipe packed with protein, whole grain, and flavor! Wild rice goes great with seafood of all kinds!
Gluten-Free Whole Grain Amaranth Recipes - Tayler Silfverduk, Celiac Dietitian

Amaranth Gluten-Free Recipes

Just one serving of this amazing whole grain offers more than the daily needed amount of Manganese. Manganese is important for normal brain function. It may not be a well-known grain, but it deserves more recognition.

Here are just a few of the amazing recipes you can make with amaranth:

  • Herb and Garlic Amaranth Crackers – you’ve probably made soup from scratch, so why not craft some homemade crackers to go with it? Crackers are sometimes considered to not have many nutritional benefits. However, unlike many crackers you may purchase at the store, these crackers are filled with whole grains.
  • Easy Amaranth Pancakes – Pancakes are a beloved breakfast food. Don’t count them out of your recipe box for increased fiber and nutrients… using amaranth in the recipe boosts the nutritional benefits of your pancakes since they’ll be packed with whole grains!
  • Amaranth Spice Cookies – these cookies are a unique twist because they ctually have a spice kick! They also are different from your typical soft-baked cookie and instead offer crispiness that makes them great to snack on.

Quinoa: Gluten-Free Recipes

Quinoa is a super whole grain choice! Interesting facts about quinoa include that it contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein AND a whole grain! It also contains phytic acid, which helps the absorption and use of the minerals it contains (zinc, iron, potassium, and magnesium).

Below are some recipes you can use quinoa to make:

  • Gluten-Free Quinoa Muffins – these muffins are great for breakfast on the go, just pop it in the microwave! And who’s complaining about getting in some whole grains and fruit first thing in the morning?!
  • Toasted Quinoa Peanut Butter Scotcharoos – Quinoa gives these bars great crispiness that pairs well with smooth peanut butter. This is a great way to get some whole grain benefits while enjoying a yummy treat!
  • Quinoa Salmon Burger – these easy homemade salmon burgers have a great texture due to the quinoa. These burgers are packed with protein from the salmon and quinoa. They also have omega-3 fatty acids from the salmon, which are essential fatty acids and great for your body!
10 Buckwheat Flour Recipes - Tayler Silfverduk DTR - gluten-free recipes, gluten-free flour, buckwheat flour, buckwheat, gluten-free buckwheat recipes, how to use buckwheat flour, how to bake with buckwheat flour, celiac safe flour, celiac safe cooking, celiac safe recipes

Buckwheat Gluten-Free Recipes

Buckwheat is yet another gluten-free whole grain option. Interestingly, it’s considered a whole grain but actually is a seed.

Like quinoa, it is unique because it is a plant source of protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids. By eating buckwheat, you are getting protein and whole grains at the same time! When planning to use buckwheat, keep in mind that it doesn’t stay fresh long, so use it soon after purchasing or freeze it.

Here are some ideas for putting buckwheat on your menu:

  • Apple Buckwheat Muffins – These are a delicious treat on your breakfast menu! Packed with whole grains from the amaranth and warm and tasty, these muffins are perfect for a cool morning.
  • Gluten-Free Buckwheat Coffee Cake – Easy to make and full of flavor, this nutrient packed coffee cake is a must-try! Trust me!
  • Naan Bread – Raise the nutritional benefits of your naan bread by using buckwheat to make the dough. This naan bread pairs nicely with Indiana dishes, such as curries.

For more recipes to make with buckwheat, check out my blog post on 10 Buckwheat Flour Recipes.

Gluten-Free Recipes with Corn

There are two types of whole grains when it comes to corn. These two categories are popcorn and cornflour.

The only reason that popcorn can pop is that it is a whole grain. To pop, the grain has to contain the bran, endosperm, and germ because you need the outer layer of the popcorn kernel to create a popping reaction in response to heat. If that outer layer was not there, the popcorn wouldn’t pop at all.

Corn flour on the other hand, is flour created from corn kernels that have been dried. Because the whole kernel is dried while still intact (the bran, the endosperm, and the germ), cornflour is a whole grain.

It is similar in texture to whole wheat flour, which makes it a great alternative for those with celiac. Corn flour is also beneficial for your digestion The insoluble fibers in cornflour undergo fermentation by bacteria in the gut, which helps promote the wellbeing of the good bacteria microbiome.

Here are some recipes that include popcorn and corn flour:

  • Everything Bagel Popcorn – “Everything bagel” is all the rage right now, from actual bagels to the seasoning that can be put on anything and everything these days. So you’re bound to enjoy everything bagel popcorn while getting all the benefits of whole grains in this fun snack.
  • Easy Corn Flour Bread – this is like bread and cornbread at the same time! You could serve this with chili soup, or make a sloppy joe sandwich with thin slices of it for a twist on “chili and cornbread.”
  • Corn Flour Crepes – these crepes are an awesome gluten-free whole grain twist on typical crepes. Fill them with fresh fruit and cream cheese or peanut butter and banana, or drizzle pure maple syrup and powdered sugar on top for a delicious, whole-grain breakfast.
Gluten-Free Whole Grain Millet Recipes - Tayler Silfverduk, Celiac Dietitian

Gluten-Free Millet Recipes

Millet is a nourishing gluten-free whole grain. It contains beta-carotene, which has a couple of functions in the body. It is a precursor for Vitamin A synthesis. It also is a strong antioxidant to fight oxidation and inflammation in the body.

Millet is a great gluten-free whole grain to use in recipes, such as these:

  • Millet and Greens Salad: This plant-based salad boasts the benefits of whole-grain millet and lots of nutrition from the greens and dried cherries and is packed with flavor! To make it a meal, pair it with a grilled chicken breast and fresh fruit, or add some chickpeas and corn. This would also be a great side dish to bring to a picnic get-together.
  • Lamb Chorba – this recipe is perfect for a chilly night when you’re craving a hot stew and want to get some whole grains in at your meal. The various spices add a flare to this soup.
  • Creamy Millet Porridge with Roasted Strawberries – switch up your morning oatmeal routine by trying hot cereal made with another gluten-free whole grain. Even the strawberries are served baked, so it’s a whole new experience.

Gluten-Free Recipes with Teff

Teff is a gluten-free whole grain that contains lysine. Lysine is an essential amino acid that is not typically found in grains. Lysine is another immunity supporter and helps the body absorb calcium, too.

Teff should be rinsed before it is cooked to help achieve the desired cooked result. Below are some recipes that call for teff:

  • Teff Ethiopian-Style Stew – Get in touch with your adventurous culinary side and try this delicious stew. It has a special spice blend that gives it a sweet and spicy flavor. This is the perfect stew for dinner on a snowy night or a quick lunch with the leftovers.
  • Whole Grain Teff Blondies – Everyone loves brownies, and blondies are a fun twist on the classic fudgy treat! Make it whole grain and reap the health benefits by using teff in the recipe! Chase it down with a glass of cold milk.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies – yet another classic dessert turned whole grain through the inclusion of teff! You can treat yourself to a delicious chocolate chip cookie, served up with a side of healthy digestion and nutrients!

Gluten-Free Recipes With Sorghum

Sorghum is fiber-rich gluten-free whole grain. If you consume just 1 serving of sorghum, you’re already halfway to the recommended daily intake of fiber! It can be cooked with water on a stovetop, in a slow cooker, in a pressure cooker, or incorporated into a recipe. 

Here are some recipes that you can make with sorghum:

  • Vegan Pie Crust with Sorghum – this pie crust can be made with whole-grain sorghum to reap whole grain health benefits while enjoying dessert! You could make a variety of gluten-free pie fillings for this crust, from pumpkin pie to chocolate cream pie to blueberry pie!
  • Vegan Greek Pizza – it’s pizza night, Greek night, and whole grains all in one! Try this delicious variety of pizza for something different this Friday night.
  • Coffee Cake with Pears – fruit adds even more antioxidants and fiber on top of whole-grain sorghum in this treat! Coffee cake is the perfect dish to serve for brunch along with scrambled eggs and fresh fruit or plate it up with a glass of milk for a snack.

Gluten-Free Whole Grain Cereals to Buy:

Cereal is a versatile, delicious, well-loved food. It can be a great source of the benefits of whole-grain if you choose certain cereals. Look at the ingredient label to determine if the cereal is whole grain. Then, enjoy your cereal with milk for breakfast or a snack, or enjoy it dry in a snack mix with nuts and M&M’s. The uses for whole-grain cereal (and the benefits!) are endless!

Here are a few great choices when it comes to gluten-free whole-grain cereals:

  • Barbara’s Bakery Puffins 
  • Van’s Gluten-Free Cinnamon Crunch, Blissfully Berry, Cocoa Sensation, and Honey Crunch
  • Annie’s Organic Cinnabunnies
  • Nature’s Path Envirokidz Peanut Butter Panda Puffs
  • Arrowhead Mills Organic Maple Buckwheat Flakes
  • Barbara’s Bakery Brown Rice Crisps 
  • Erin Baker’s Homestyle Granola (all varieties)
  • Kashi Simply Maize Cereal
  • Corn Chex and Rice Chex
  • Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Granola (all varieties)

Where to Buy Gluten-Free Whole Grains

A lot of these gluten-free whole grains are fairly difficult to find in your general grocery stores. My tips for sourcing them? Check out your local big lots or other discounts stores. Mine have a big Bobs Red Mill display with a lot the gluten-free grains present.

You can also buy a lot these gluten-free whole grains on Amazon. I’ll share some affiliate links below if you’re interested!

Gluten-Free Whole Grains are Important…

Gluten-free whole grains are important because they offer fiber and nutrients that are beneficial for your health.

These benefits include digestive health and protection against inflammation. Because of these benefits, whole grains are especially important for those with celiac. Gluten-free refined grains may not be enriched with fiber and nutrients like gluten-containing refined products are.

Therefore, those following a gluten-free diet should prioritize finding enjoyable ways to eat whole grains. There are many types of gluten-free whole grains that can be used in recipes to make delicious food that nourishes your body and pleases your taste buds!

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

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