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Quick and Easy Whole Grain Recipes

One of the biggest sources of confusion people have about making whole grain recipes is that often they aren't quite sure what a whole grain is. Essentially, it's the grain before the germ, bran, and endosperm are separated from it, which is usually done to turn grains into flours for cereals, breads, pastries, and other processed foods.

The modern human diet consists of mostly wheat flour that has been broken down into parts, processed, and stripped of all its nutrients. In the 1950s, people just started to love convenience food and white flours are often much easier to work with than whole grains. This is not what our ancestors ate, and we're not really biologically made to process bleached and enriched flours. Instead we should be eating foods in as whole a form as possible. 

Some of the most popular whole grains include wheat, oat, quinoa, rye, brown rice, and spelt. Once you're more familiar with whole grains, you can delve into the less known ones like barley, farro, millet, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, and others. 

Many people get hung up on how to cook something they've never tried before, but we're really lucky nowadays to have the internet to help guide us through confusion, so do experiment! I also put together an ebook to help explain how to cook beans and whole grains. 

I also have a whole page dedicated to explaining the most common whole grains that you might like.

Tropical Quinoa Stir Fry

whole grain recipes

One of the most common meals in our house is one where I combine one whole grain, one bean, and an assortment of vegetables, top everything with a sauce and serve. I also learned that I can cook whole grains in 100% fruit juices instead of water to give it a little something extra, and a something extra that's just as easy for me as the original. You can truly add any vegetables you have on hand, so don't be dismayed if you want to make this but are missing one ingredient. Leave it out and it will taste just as good!


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup pineapple juice (or just one more cup water)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1-2 Tbsp. tamari or Bragg's Liquid Aminos


Bring the water and pineapple juice to a boil, and then add in the quinoa. Stir the quinoa and allow the water to quickly return to a boil before turning the heat to low and covering. Allow the quinoa to cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat. 

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, toast the raw cashews just until they begin to smell nutty and are slightly golden brown and remove them to a plate to wait for later.

Heat the olive oil and red pepper flakes in the pan and cook the onions until they are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 more minute. Add the pineapple, carrots, liquid aminos and cook until they are softened, about 5 minutes. 

At the very end, add the frozen peas and cashews and taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper. 

Spinach and Artichoke Barley

You can make this spinach artichoke base and add just about any whole grains you like to turn it into a full, balanced dinner. I love it with barley, farro, or fun swirly brown rice pasta. Rather than indulging in a rich spinach and artichoke dip style pasta, this takes advantage of creamy white beans.

Choose hulled over pearled barley because it's the whole grain form. Though pearled barley still is nutritious, the exterior husk and bran are removed, so it's not as complete. It does take a little longer to cook than the pearled form, but it's worth it.


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup hulled barley
  • 15 oz. can of great Northern beans (or white cannellini)
  • 15 oz. can of artichoke hearts in water (or fresh artichoke hearts), chopped
  • 8 oz. frozen, defrosted or fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil and then add in the barley. Return the barley to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cook until the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. The barley will be chewy but not entirely soft.

Mash the white beans in a large bowl until most of the beans are smashed. Stir in the artichokes, spinach, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and taste to see if it needs a touch more salt or pepper.

Add you cooked barley and stir, and your whole grain recipe for Spinach and Artichoke Barley is complete and ready to serve!

Serves 4.

Amaranth Polenta

One of the first times I was working with amaranth, I realized it cooks up with the same texture as corn polenta, and I was inspired. Amaranth definitely has a different flavor than corn, but it's packed with so many nutrients and is less adulterated than corn can be. I love the Mediterranean additions of sun-dried tomatoes and basil, but you could play around with a variety of flavors in this super simple whole grain recipe.

Plus, most importantly, it's delicious!


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup amaranth
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or more, for flavor)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup nondairy milk (depending on the texture you want)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes


Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add in the amaranth. Stir and let the water return to a boil and then turn down the heat to low. Allow the amaranth to cook until all the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. It should take about 15 minutes.

Once the water is absorbed and the amaranth is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well. Depending on how creamy you want your polenta, you can add either more or less of the milk. 

It's an incredibly easy recipe, isn't it?

Serves 4.

Bulgur Wheat Tabbouli

The flavors in the Middle Eastern dish tabbouli remind me of summertime: lemon, parsley, mint, and tomatoes. How I love tomatoes in July! This dish is easy to learn, and I have actually found that even if I am missing one of its ingredients, I can still make something like it and it's a delicious dish.

Bulgur is a type of wheat, so it's very familiar for people who are transitioning over from something like couscous. This one is adapted from Food for Life, which has tons of whole grain recipes, by Dr. Neal Barnard.


  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped mint leaves
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


Put the bulgur in a large mixing bowl and pour the hot water over the top of the bulgur. Cover and let it stand for 30 minutes, until it has absorbed the water and is tender.

Drain any extra water and add the rest of the ingredients. You can add more or anything if it seems to need it. It's your dish!

This whole grain recipe does taste best chilled for 2-3 hours, and seems to be better the next day as well. But, if you are hungry and ready to eat, it will still taste good immediately.

Serves 4. 

Asian Peanut Sauce With Buckwheat Soba

This vegan whole grain recipe is best when you use buckwheat, which is actually not a relative of wheat but a form of grass. I have adapted this one from several of my favorite cookbooks and it's incredible how easy it is to replicate a good peanut sauce.


  • 12 ounces buckwheat soba noodles or whole wheat pasta
  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup tamari (soy sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Asian chili garlic paste (optional)
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. raw sugar
  • 1/4 red pepper flakes if not adding chili paste

optional vegetables to add in:

  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 2 cups cored napa cabbage
  • 1/2 small red pepper, julienned


Cook the noodles according to directions. When they are done, drain and rinse them, then toss with the sesame oil to break up chunks.

In a small sauce pan over low heat, add the peanut butter, tamari, vinegar, chili paste, garlic, and water, whisking to make a thick sauce. Add water if it becomes too thick.

Add the vegetables to the sauce and then remove from heat and add noodles.

Serves 4.

Whole Grain Garlic Bread

Chefs on the Food Network do this all the time, so you might have already picked up on the tip. If not, this is the easiest way to make a tasty garlic bread. Make this a whole grain recipe by looking for those breads with the first ingredient as "whole."


Bread, any type or amount you want
Clove of garlic


Toast the bread until desired crispiness.

Immediately after you take the bread out of the toaster, rub it all around the top of the bread.

Voile! Garlic Bread!

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