Don’t know the difference between farro and freekeh? Don’t panic: Our guide has you covered.

By Real Simple Editors and Christopher Morocco
March 10, 2021
Advertisement
Types of grains - guide to common types of grains with chart and pictures
Credit: Getty Images

We all know grains make up one of the primary food groups—food pyramid, anyone?—but it's less well-known that different types of grains offer different health benefits, flavors, and textures. There are certainly plenty of healthy grains out there with many nutritional benefits, but knowing many types of grains—even if they're not all the healthiest—can help you add variety to your go-to dishes.

Beyond your standard, beyond-popular types of grains—think wheat, white rice, and cornmeal—there are dozens of other grains that serve as great bases for meats, vegetables, sauces, and more. (Some of these grains even offer protein, and some are gluten-free.) Whole grains are great—especially in a whole grain bread—but many grains can be enjoyed whole, cracked, or ground.

If you're ready to expand your grain knowledge, check out our guide to buying, cooking, and using different (but still common) types of grains. Our handy chart, below, showcases 11 common types of grains, and you can read on for more info (and bigger pictures) of all these grains. Who knows—you might just find a new-to-you grain that changes your dinner menu rotation for good.

Different types of grains - types of grains chart with whole grains and benefits
Credit: graphic by onethread design, photos by Emily Kinni

11 common types of grains

Related Items

Types of grains - Amaranth (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

1 Amaranth

Amaranth is made up of tiny brown seeds, nutritionally similar to a grain. Amaranth is gluten-free.

Taste: mild and nutty

Health benefits: protein

Cooking time/method: Bring 1 cup amaranth and 2 cups water to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender and water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Eat with: Amaranth is great when combined with other grains—add a few tablespoons to a pot of oatmeal for a protein-packed boost to your favorite morning dish.

Types of grains - Barley (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

2 Barley

Barley consists of light golden, compact grains. Look for whole or hulled barley—pearled is not whole grain. A high-fiber food, barley helps lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, and aid regularity.

Taste: mild, chewy, and dense

Health benefits: fiber

Cooking time/method: Boil in a large pot of salted water (similar to pasta) until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain.

Eat with: Use barley instead of rice in a paella for a grain with a little extra fiber.

Types of grains - Bulgur (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

3 Bulgur

Bulgur is boiled, dried, and cracked wheat. It is a good source of potassium, B vitamins, iron, and calcium; it also has the same amount of protein as brown rice but less fat and more fiber.

Taste: earthy and nutty

Health benefits: protein and fiber

Cooking time/method: Simmer 2 parts water to 1 part coarse or medium bulgur until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. For fine bulgur, use the same ratio but pour boiling water over the grain, cover, and let stand until absorbed.

Eat with: Try bulgur with braised meats, or mix it into an herb-packed salad, such as tabbouleh.

Types of grains - Farro (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

4 Farro

Also known as emmer wheat, farro is an heirloom wheat variety most frequently imported from Italy and sold pearled (which cooks quickly) rather than hulled (whole). For the most health benefits, look for whole farro. Rich in fiber, protein, and vitamins A, B, C, and E, farro is low in gluten and easily digested.

Taste: nutty, earthy, and chewy

Health benefits: protein and fiber

Cooking time/method: Boil in a large pot of salted water until tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Drain.

Eat with: Top farro with a poached egg and wilted greens for an easy dinner.

Types of grains - Freekeh (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

5 Freekeh

Freekeh is a dried and roasted green wheat, typically sold as whole freekeh or cracked freekeh.

Taste: Faintly smoky and chewy

Health benefits: protein and fiber

Cooking time/method: Bring 1 cup freekeh and 2 1/2 cups water to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender and water is absorbed (15 to 20 minutes for cracked freekeh or about 40 minutes for whole freekeh).

Eat with: Use freekeh in tabbouleh, or add it to a stuffing for roasts.

Types of grains - Kamut (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

6 Kamut

Kamut is a variety of large heirloom wheat.

Taste: firm and nutty

Health benefits: protein, fiber, and minerals

Cooking time/method: Boil in a large pot of salted water until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain.

Eat with: Simmer kamut in a rich stew, where it will hold its shape.

Types of grains - rolled oats (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

7 Oats

Oats are small grains that can be rolled into flakes or steel-cut into pieces. Oats can be gluten-free—check the packaging to confirm if it is gluten-free before consuming.

Taste: mild, subtly sweet, and filling

Health benefits: fiber

Cooking time/method: Bring 1 cup rolled oats and 2 cups water (or 4 cups water if using steel-cut oats) to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (5 to 15 minutes for rolled oats or 30 to 45 minutes for steel-cut oats).

Eat with: Top cooked oats with seasonal fruit, or add rolled oats to baked goods.

Types of grains - Quinoa (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

8 Quinoa

Quinoa are small, round seeds that come in red, white, or black varieties. Quinoa is gluten-free. Although it cooks like a grain, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an herbaceous plant. Quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It’s also a good source of magnesium, which protects against osteoporosis.

Taste: grassy and nutty

Health benefits: protein and fiber

Cooking time/method: Boil in a large pot of salted water until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain, return to pot, and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff before serving.

Eat with: Cook quinoa in equal proportions with rolled oats for a protein-filled breakfast porridge, or add cooked quinoa to muffins and cakes for extra protein and texture.

Types of grains - brown rice (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

9 Rice

Whole grain rice can be brown, red, or black. Rice is gluten-free.

Taste: nuttier than white rice

Health benefits: easy digestibility and fiber

Cooking time/method: Bring 1 cup rice and 2 cups water to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, 45 to 60 minutes (depending on the type). Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.

Eat with: Serve rice with a stir-fry or roasted meats and vegetables.

Types of grains - Spelt (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

10 Spelt

Spelt consists of large, dark brown grains. Look for whole spelt for complete nutritional benefits.

Taste: chewy and nutty

Health benefits: protein and fiber

Cooking time/method: Simmer like pasta until tender, 50 to 75 minutes. Drain.

Eat with: Toss spelt into salads or add it to veggie burgers.

Types of grains - Wild rice (picture)
Credit: Getty Images

11 Wild rice

Wild rice is really the long, black seeds of a grass related to rice. Wild rice is gluten-free.

Taste: firm, nutty, and earthy

Health benefits: protein and fiber

Cooking time/method: Simmer like pasta until tender, 50 to 75 minutes. Drain.

Eat with: Blend wild rice with other rices or roasted vegetables for a layered side dish.