Our Favorite Recipes Featuring Healthy and Delicious Whole Grains

Photo: John von Pamer

Whether you want to prepare farro, barley, bulgur, brown rice, quinoa, or another whole grain, our recipes prove that this ingredient category is healthy, delicious, and super versatile.

01 of 18
Sharon Radisch

We say it time and again but making healthy meals isn't difficult when you have whole grains like barley, farro, bulgur, wheat berries, and quinoa (which is technically a seed, not a grain) on hand. They are full of vitamins, protein, and fiber, and they are just about as easy to cook as a pot of rice. What's more, they lend themselves nicely to the big-batch, make-ahead style of cooking that's so popular right now.

Cooking with a variety of whole grains will keep kitchen boredom at bay. They add a nutty taste and chewy texture to a variety of different recipes, and we especially like to use them in soups, risotto, and veggie burgers. Another great way to enjoy whole grains regularly? By making grain bowls, like the Quinoa Grain Bowl with Tahini Dressing that you see right here, and grain salads; they're a wonderful way to span the gap from one season to the next, and given their heartiness, they're particularly good during the cold months.

Here, we're highlighting our favorite recipes that star whole grains. Cook a batch of farro or millet on the weekend and use it throughout the week for grain bowls, grain salads, pilafs, and more. Or use the ready-cooked whole grains sold in grocery stores when you're really pressed for time. We used them to make a 15-minute entrée salad with farro, shrimp, and greens, a 30-minute chicken soup with quinoa, and more. Whole grains are also a wonderful addition to soups, whether meaty or vegan, adding flavor and heft. And don't overlook whole grains for the first meal of the day: Oatmeal is not the only stellar way to breakfast—our whole grain breakfast bowls are proof of that!

02 of 18

Warm Farro-and-Winter-Greens Salad

warm farro-and-winter-greens salad
Lennart Weibull

We love farro! It's packed with nutrients and has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, which makes it perfect for risotto-style dishes, soups, stews, and sautés. Our favorite way to enjoy farro is in grain salads like this one. We cheated a little with this recipe and used pre-cooked farro from the grocery store so the dish comes together in 15 minutes. Definitely try it with homemade farro, too.

03 of 18

Beef-and-Mixed-Grain Meatballs

beef-and-mixed-grain meatballs
Lennart Weibull

When you want to prepare a healthier take on a classic beef meatball, this recipe is the one to follow. It uses precooked mixed grains you can pick up at the supermarket; paired with store-bought marinara, this is speedy dinner you enjoy overtop your favorite spaghetti.

04 of 18

Lemony Chicken-Quinoa Soup

lemony chicken-quinoa soup
Lennart Weibull

Yes, we know quinoa is a seed, not a grain, but it often gets lumped with whole grains. Like other grains, it's quick to cook, has lovely fluffy grains, and is wonderfully healthy (it's protein-rich and boasts a slew of nutrients). We love it in this comforting and nourishing chicken soup.

05 of 18

Roasted-Veggie and Brown-Rice Bowls

roasted-veggie and brown-rice bowls
Lennart Weibull

Here's a plant-based meal you'll want to make on the regular. It's anchored by brown rice and roasted sweet potato, eggplant, and broccoli and finished with a quick tahini-lime dressing and pomegranate arils.

06 of 18

Baked Farro Risotto with Golden Vegetables and Goat Cheese

baked farro risotto with golden vegetables and goat cheese
Chris Simpson

Farro, an ancient grain with a rich, nutty flavor, replaces the usual arborio rice in this glorious golden meal. Another difference? This risotto cooks in the oven—no standing stirring at the stove needed!

07 of 18

Greek Quinoa Salad

greek quinoa salad
Bryan Gardner

This cool take on the Greek salad adds quinoa to the usual delicious mix of feta, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, and fresh herbs for a hearty and healthy dish.

08 of 18

Cheesy Stove-Top Barley and Swiss Chard

cheesy stove-top barley and swiss chard served with fresh basil
Nico Schinco

Bulgur is a form of wheat made from cracked, parboiled, and dried wheat berries. Most famously, it's the main ingredient in tabbouleh. Here, it's used for a hearty entrée with shiitake mushrooms and greens.

09 of 18

Roasted Sweet-Potato and Farro Salad

Ryan Liebe

Savory, sweet, and nutty all at once, this is a salad that can be enjoyed warm or chilled—and is both hearty and seasonally suitable to make during the winter.

10 of 18

Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash

Kalyn Sims

This dish is not a pie in the usual pastry sense of the word. Instead, it's a molded quinoa dish with roasted butternut squash that's cooked in a pie plate. We think you'll find that it's as hearty and irresistible in its own way as any dish with one crust or two.

11 of 18

Split-Pea Soup with Spinach and Barley

spinach split-pea soup with barley topped with yogurt
Kate Mathis

Not the usual spilt-pea soup, this version gets a nutritional boost from the addition of barley and baby spinach.

12 of 18

Millet or Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

quinoa or millet breakfast bowl
Chris Simpson

Leftover quinoa or millet is the base for this delicious alt porridge. The cooked grain is heated in milk (or your favorite alt-milk) with maple syrup and cinnamon, then served topped with sliced banana and crunchy cocoa nibs.

13 of 18

Barley Risotto with Swiss Chard, Radishes, and Preserved Lemon


When you gradually add warm broth to barley, it turns tender and creamy—the same texture that arborio rice gives risotto.

14 of 18

Skillet Cod with Bulgur, Zucchini, and Tomatoes

braised cod and bulgur with zucchini and tomatoes
Justin Walker

Wholesome bulgur, mild-tasting cod, and saucy summer vegetables come together in this weeknight dinner that uses just one skillet, making clean-up a breeze, too.

15 of 18

Lemon-Saffron Millet Pilaf

Lemon-Saffron Millet Pilaf
Richard Gerhard Jung

In case you were wondering, millet is the stuff often used in birdseed, but it's too good to leave exclusively to our feathered friends. It's yellow and round and boasts a unique texture when cooked that lands somewhere between fluffy and pleasantly chalky. It makes an excellent pilaf.

16 of 18

Moroccan Barley Salad

Moroccan Barley Salad
Petrina Tinslay

It's not just for soup! Barley also makes a wonderful grain salad, as this make-ahead recipe goes to show. There's plenty of flavor thanks to preserved lemon, oil-cured olives, and cilantro. It's perfect for potlucks (no mayo) or desk lunches.

17 of 18

Roasted Carrots and Red Quinoa

John von Pamer

While we used red quinoa for visual punch in this hearty salad, any kind of quinoa would work just as well. The dish is served while the vegetables are still warm from the oven and the quinoa just cooked, but it can also be made ahead giving the flavors of the miso dressing time to infuse.

18 of 18

Pomegranate-Bulgur Salad

Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Seeds
Johnny Miller

Packed with fresh herbs, this hearty grain salad is a speedy option as bulgur cooks quickly (some say it's better soaked than cooked). Golden raisins bring sweetness and pomegranate arils a touch of jewel-like color and a pop of bright flavor.

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