In light of recent arsenic scares, the Consumers Union recommends no more than 1/4 cup rice (dry) two times per week for adults, and 1.25 times per week for children. (This recommendation applies both to brown rice and white rice.) Do you rely on rice as a dietary staple? If so, this is the perfect time to branch out and try other grains. Out of all of the grains available, I find that farro, barley, and quinoa are the most “rice-like” and work best as rice substitutes.
Farro: Farro is an ancient strain of wheat (meaning it’s not gluten-free, for any allergy folks out there) and the grains are a tad larger than rice. Farro has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice, but turned up a few notches. Because of this unique flavor, farro works well as a stand alone side (fish served on a bed of farro, chicken with a side of farro, etc). Also, farro’s texture lends itself well to grain salads. It stays chewy when served cold, unlike rice, which becomes dry and stale. At the grocery store, look for whole farro (rather than pearled farro) to be sure you’re getting a whole grain.
Barley: Barley (wheat free, but not gluten free) is a bit smaller than rice. It has a neutral flavor, so it works great in mixed dishes (such as stir frys). It is also great in soup (think beef with barley!) and works well with beans. Like rice, it is best served warm. Look for whole barley or hulled barley at the grocery store. While pearled barley is more nutrient dense than a fully refined grain, it is not technically a whole grain because part of the bran has been removed.
Quinoa: Quinoa is like the chambray shirt of ancient grains… it goes with everything! Even though quinoa is actually not very “rice-like” compared to farro and barley, this tiny, gluten free pseudograin can be substituted for rice in many recipes. Warm or cold, sweet or savory, quinoa can be whatever you want it be!
When experimenting with a new ingredient, it is often helpful to start with a recipe. Below are some recipe ideas to get you started:
- Warm Barley Cereal with Dried Cherries
- Barley Risotto
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Barley
- Vegetable Beef and Barley Soup
- Farro with Peaches, Mint, and Feta
- Roasted Vegetable and Farro Salad with Pomegranates
- Farro, Apple, and Pecan Salad
- Quinoa Porridge with Blueberries and Pecans
- Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pepitas
- Quinoa Sushi
- Moroccan Steamed Salmon with Quinoa and Carrots
What is your favorite grain to substitute for rice?