12 Gluten-free grains, pseudo-grains, and their subtypes (plus recipes)

gluten-free grains and pseudo-grains

For many of us, a gluten-free diet is just a fad diet, but it is a lot more than that

There are many people out there with a gluten allergy. Also, 1% of the world population is suffering from celiac disease – a chronic condition in which even a small gluten crumb can damage your intestinal lining.

Now the question is, what options you have if you’re on a gluten-free diet. While it may be challenging to opt for a 100% gluten-free diet, there are many options out there that are purely gluten-free.

There is a wide range of gluten-free grains that you can use in different recipes to create and consume a meal of your dream.

So, if you’re planning to switch to a gluten-free diet or you’re already on it, then this post will serve as your daily meal planning guide.

Popular Gluten-Free Grains

Millet

gluten-free grains and pseudograins

Using millet as part of your regular diet isn’t a new concept. Millet is a popular gluten-free grain that has been traditionally grown and consumed in the Indian subcontinent for the past 5000 years. It’s rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

Millet is not only gluten-free and healthy, but it also has a unique nutty flavor, which can elevate the taste profile of any recipe.

Characteristics

  • Supports healthy and regular digestion
  • Promotes healthy gut flora and prevents indigestion and diarrhea
  • Millet is rich in catechins which boost liver and kidney functions
  • Millet contains antioxidants which protect the body against free radical damage

Varieties and Uses

  • Foxtail millet: Foxtail millet is rich in dietary fiber and healthy micros (vitamins and minerals). Also, this millet variety is low in fat. This grain can be cooked with rice or consumed as porridge at breakfast
  • Finger millet (ragi): Ragi is an excellent substitute for wheat and rice. Loaded with proteins and amino acids, finger millet is excellent for brain and cognitive function
  • Pearl millet (Bajra): Pearl millet is the most widely grown type of millet. It is mainly grown in India and Africa. While this grain is mostly used as fodder, it is a powerhouse of proteins, vitamins B and A, Zinc, Calcium, and carbohydrates.
  • Barnyard millet: Barnyard millet is low in carbohydrates and rich in B-vitamins. This grain is excellent for those who want to lose weight.
  • Kodo millet: Kodo millet is another popular gluten-free grain widely grown in India, the Philippines, Thailand, and West Africa. This grain is also an excellent substitute for wheat and rice.

Rich in proteins, fiber, and minerals, this grain provides balanced nutrition. Kodo millet helps hydrate your colon and controls blood sugar and cholesterol. Also, it is used to reduce body weight and is a great option for those following a gluten-free diet.

  • Little millet: Little millet is rich in antioxidants, fiber, and proteins. It prevents an abnormal spike in the sugar level. This grain is gluten-free, ideal for weight loss, and can be used to create a wide variety of delicious treats.
  • Proso millet: Proso millet is another gluten-free grain that comes with multiple health benefits. This grain is not only rich in dietary fibers, polyphenols, and vitamins, but many people also use it to prepare amazing gluten-free recipes, including cookies, bread, and curries.

Rice

gluten-free rice

Rice is a staple grain widely consumed by millions of people worldwide. There are many rice varieties available to choose from, but the most popular among them is milled white rice.

Rice is such a versatile gluten-free grain that you can use to prepare hundreds of sweet and savory recipes. Making rice is, however, a little tricky. Cooking and soaking times differ for each variety, and obviously, you have to practice a bit to master the art of cooking a perfect rice recipe.

Characteristics

Rice is fat-free. Yes, you read that right. There is almost no fat in rice unless you cook it in an oil or butter.

Also, it is a rich source of vitamins, proteins, minerals, and carbs. Rice can be amazingly beneficial if consumed in balanced quantities. It supports colon health, lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and is safe for gluten-intolerants.

Unfortunately, all these properties are almost entirely lost with refinement.

Varieties and Uses

  • Basmati rice: Basmati is the most common rice type widely consumed in Middle Eastern countries. Basmati is a long slender-grained rice variety that is popular because of its sweet flavor and lovely aroma.
  • Jasmine rice: Named after the fragrant jasmine flower, jasmine rice is a popular rice variety native to Thailand, which is famous for its long-grain texture and buttery aroma.

This rice variety is a lot fluffier than white rice. Also, it boasts a sticky texture that is adored by the real rice lovers around the world. The secret to cooking it right lies in the right ratio of water to rice. This type of rice goes along perfectly well with red Thai curry or any other gravy or stir-fry.

  • Bomba rice: Bomba rice is a short-grain Spanish rice that needs more water than other traditional varieties to taste wonderful. You can cook this rice variety with clams, shrimps, and just a candid paella.
  • Sushi rice: Japanese sushi rice is another short-grain rice variety that is plump in texture and slightly sweet. As its name implies, this rice variety is ideal for making sushi.
  • Arborio & Carnaroli rice: Arborio is an Italian rice variety that is short and chubby in look. Carnaroli, in particular, is generally used for “risotto” – a famous Italian recipe that requires a long cooking time. Carnaroli rice absorbs large quantities of liquid without breaking up.
  • Wild rice: Wild rice is a seed of an aquatic plant and contains more proteins, minerals, and fiber than other white rice varieties.
  • Venere Nero rice: Also known as Black Venus Rice, Venero Nero is a hybrid grain that has a great texture and a longer cooking time than other rice varieties. You can cook Venere Nero rice with tuna, shrimps, and other seafood varieties for amazing gluten-free recipes. 
  • Red rice: Red rice is an unhulled rice variety that comes with a plethora of health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants and magnesium, both of which are beneficial for bones and brain health.

Corn

gluten-free corn

Corn is rich in folic acid and iron. It’s a versatile gluten-free grain used in a variety of gluten-free flour blends and recipes. Unless you’re allergic to corn, you can use it in your recipes as a flavor enhancer and thickener.

As far as the health benefits of corn are concerned, it is an energy enhancer, preserve healthy skin, and a miracle food for those who are over- or underweight.

Characteristics

Corn is a source of medium-quality protein, fiber, and carbs. Plain corn is naturally gluten-free unless it gets contaminated with gluten during processing.

Corn is used in a range of gluten-free products, including corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, etc. You can use corn to make many gluten-free recipes from scratch or serve it as a side dish with meat, poultry, or seafood.

Varieties and Uses

  • Ambrosia Hybrid: Ambrosia hybrid corn variety is popular for its fresh, delicious flavor that is just perfect for immediate eating or canning. This type is plump and juicy in texture and boasts a sweet and rich flavor. Whether you love your corn on the cob, grilled, or in a salad, this variety is perfect to complement every gluten-free treat.
  • Blue Hopi: Blue Hopi is another popular corn variety that can be eaten as sweet corn (not on cob) and dried to make a fine flour. You can make tortillas and masa out of this amazing corn variety.
  • Golden Bantam: Golden Bantam is a fast-maturing yellow corn variety that is popular for its sweet and tender flavor. This corn variety is ideal for making cream of corn soup and gluten-free bagels.
  • Honey Select Hybrid: Honey Select Hybrid, as its name suggests, is a triple sweet corn variety that is rich in flavor and soft and tender in texture. From corn fritters to corn souffle and casseroles, you can use this corn variety to create wonderfully rich and delicious gluten-free recipes.
  • Jubilee Hybrid: Jubilee Hybrid is a popular sweet corn variety widely used in salads, soups, and chowders. Creamy, sweet, and rich in flavor, this corn type works well in the form of flour in different gluten-free flour blends.
  • Nirvana Hybrid: Nirvana is a bicolor corn variety that is sweet and aromatic. You can use them to make corn curries, corn on the cob, and simply have them on their own with some blue cheese and butter.
  • Peaches and Cream: Peaches and cream is the juiciest and tenderest corn variety ever developed. This variety comes with white and yellow kernels and a sweet, dense flavor. Because of its rich and creamy flavor, this corn type is ideal for making chowder, creamed corn, and casseroles.
  • Picasso Hybrid: Picasso Hybrid is another must-try corn variety featuring the hybrid flavor of traditional and sweet corns. Try making raw corn salad with Picasso Hybrid, and you’re going to love it.
  • Ruby Queen: Red and ravishing, Ruby Queen is an amazing yet not so popular corn variety that boasts bright red color. The kernels are extra tender and sweet. Ruby Queen is used mostly in gluten-free desserts and recipes that require an extra kick of sweetness.
  • Silver Queen Hybrid: Silver Queen Hybrid is a popular white corn variety that is legendary for its juicy kernels and sweet flavor. The best bit is you don’t have to put sugar in the recipes that use Silver Queen Hybrid as the main ingredient.
  • Stowells Evergreen: Dating back to the 1800s, Stowells Evergreen is one of the oldest corn varieties available so far. The kernels are white and are rich and sweet in flavor. It tastes delicious when you eat them on the cob with some butter. Also, you can add them to a variety of gluten-free recipes that demand dense and rich flavor and texture.

Sorghum

Originated from Africa, sorghum is the fifth largest grain crop that is used to make gluten-free cereals, flatbread, and cakes all around the world. This one offers high antioxidants levels and an eccentric mix of phytochemicals that are known to control cholesterol and diabetes.

Apart from that, sorghum is also rich in proteins, fiber, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, and Vitamin B5. Sorghum flour is believed to be a lot better than rice flour as they contain more dietary fibers.

It must be eaten in its whole grain form for maximum benefits. Frequently, it is mixed with different other flours to prepare a wholesome multi-grain baking or specialized bread flour. Sorghum is used in a variety of gluten-free recipes, including salads, pilafs, curries, bread, and biscuits.

Oats

gluten-free oats

Oats are rich in dietary fiber and have cholesterol-lowering qualities thanks to its high content in soluble fiber, particularly beta-glucan, that help reduce blood cholesterol levels. They serve the purpose of gluten-free healthy food for many people around the world. However, oats tend to get contaminated with gluten from other grains during producing and processing. Therefore, gluten intolerant people should buy certified gluten-free oats.

Characteristics

Oats are considered healthy because of their nutritional value. They contain antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Varieties and Uses

  • Bannister oats: Bannister oats are commonly used oats because of their high yield.
  • Bimbil oats: These oats are whole oat groats, and it takes longer to cook them.
  • Coolabah oats: These oats feature long grains and high husk percentage.
  • Durack oats: Durack is a moderately tall oat variety with excellent grain quality. This oat variety is great to go with fresh fruit, gluten-free granola bars, and just a hearty bowl of overnight oats
  • Eurabbie oats: It is known as the semi-dwarf, late-maturing oat species that produce high yield grain.  
  • Kowari oats: Kowari is a promising oat variety that has been produced with increased levels of B-Glucan. This grain is widely used in cereals, gluten-free rolled oat cookies, etc.
  • Mannus oats: These dual-purpose oats have significant grain recovery after grazing as they result in superior feed grains.
  • Saia oats: These oats feature long black seeded grazing oat with a fine stem. It grows in sandy and free-draining soils.
  • Taipan oats: Ideal for grazing, exceptionally quick, and early growth with erected stems. 
  • Yallara oats: Yallara is a domestic hay oat that produces medium-tall premium milling quality grain.

Popular Gluten-free Pseudo-Grains

Pseudo-grains come from broadleaf plants that are used to produce flour, even though they are not real cereals. This is the reason why they are known as pseudo-grains, and they are gluten-free.  Some of the most common pseudo-grains are listed below:

Amaranth

gluten-free amaranth

Amaranth is the broad genus consisting of more than 60 species. Interestingly, spinach and sugar beets are also part of this family.

Amaranth has gained popularity as a healthy food recently, but it has been a dietary staple for many years. The Aztecs initially used it and it is still commonly cultivated in Mexico. It is a staple crop for hill tribes in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, and China. It is rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants and known as a gluten-free grain. Amaranth is also a source of manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron, and a good source of zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, and folate.

The leaves, shoots, and even stems are consumed as a potherb in gravies, soups, and stews. Since amaranth is used like cereal grains, it is also known as a pseudocereal. You can coarsely grind amaranth to make s nutritious breakfast porridge or fine ground it to use in flour form.

Quinoa

gluten-free quinoa

Quinoa is a widely used high protein seed that has become very popular worldwide. It is often consumed by people who are trying to lose weight (despite its high-calorie content) and as a source of high-quality protein by vegan and vegetarian.

Characteristics

This gluten-free seed is rich in protein but also contains iron, magnesium, fiber, vitamin B, E, manganese, various antioxidants, and all nine essential amino acids, among others. Its low glycemic index is good news for those who need to control their blood sugar levels.

Varieties and Uses

  • White quinoa: It is the most common type of quinoa that is widely available in stores. It has a super light and fluffy texture, and it is easy to cook.
  • Red quinoa: The red quinoa is just like the white quinoa, but because of its color, it goes well with salads and vegetables. Some experts say that red quinoa holds its shape better when cooked.
  • Black quinoa: Slightly sweeter than the other varieties of quinoa, black quinoa strikes its shiny black color when cooked.
  • Tri-color quinoa: The last variety of quinoa is tri-color quinoa in which white, red, and black quinoa grains are mixed to have a better crunch taste.

Buckwheat

gluten-free grains and pseudograins

Buckwheat is considered a superfood because it is highly nutritious and richer in antioxidants compared to traditional grains like wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Some people confuse it with wheat, but it is not related to wheat at all despite the name. It is mostly cultivated in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan, and China. It is known to control blood sugar.

It is used to prepare buckwheat tea or processed into groats, flour, and noodles. In some countries, like Italy, buckwheat pasta also exists. However, people with celiac disease or who are allergic to gluten should be careful when buying processed buckwheat products (especially noodles and pasta) because they are often combined with other flours that could contain gluten (e.g., wheat flour). Buckwheat groats are used similarly to rice, and they are the main ingredient in many traditional European and Asian dishes.

Buckwheat is mainly composed of carbohydrates. It also contains some fiber and resistant starch, which are useful for gut health. Also, buckwheat offers small amounts of high-quality protein. It contains several minerals in higher quantities compared to other pseudocereals and cereals. It is high in manganese, copper, and magnesium, although it contains small amounts of most vitamins.

Kaniwa

gluten-free kaniwa

Kaniwa and quinoa originated from the same place in South America; hence they resemble their characteristics as well. Kaniwa is edible seeds from a flowering plant Goosefoot. The appearance of kaniwa seed seems smaller and in brownish-red color in comparison with quinoa. The taste, however, is a little bit crunchy.

Chia Seeds

gluten-free chia seeds

Chia seeds are edible seeds from a flowering plant called Salvia Hispanica. Chia means ‘strength’, which is quite relevant considering the benefits you get by using them in your food.

Taste Profile, Uses, and Nutritional Information

Chia seeds are a powerhouse of rich amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, calcium, antioxidants, and carbohydrates.

These seeds come with a mild nutty flavor and are harvested when the seed pods have swelled. Unlike flaxseeds that must be ground, you can use chia seeds raw or whole.

Because of its rich and nutty taste profile, these seeds are widely used in gluten-free delicacies, including bread, flatbread flour mixes, puddings, smoothies, and nut butter. Chia seeds can also be used in baking, as a thickener, and an egg substitute (chia egg).

Varieties

There are two main types of chia seeds – black and white. The black variety contains more anthocyanin. However, both white and black verities boast more or less the same nutritional value.

Teff

Teff seeds are grown on a teff plant that originated from Ethiopia. The edible seeds are crushed into sweet and nutty flour that pairs well with chocolate, fruit, and nuts while making cakes, cookies, and other baked items.  

Teff has some nutritional properties that are uncommon in several other grains, including wholegrain cereals. Teff is nothing new, but it was relatively unknown in developing countries until a few years ago. However, it has now received a lot of attention because it’s a gluten-free alternative to grains, and people have noticed that it also has many health properties.

A peculiarity of teff is that it is a source of vitamin C, although this is lost when baking it. Besides protein, it is also a source of fiber, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B6.

Tapioca

gluten-free grains and pseudograins

Although not formally a “pseudo-grain”, tapioca is extracted from the cassava root and it is widely used as thickening agent in gluten-free recipes. Although it is popular in many countries and considered a staple in gluten-free food, it has zero nutritional value.

Tapioca has a mild neutral flavor and is the main ingredient in gluten-free ice cream. Apart from that, it can also be used in puddings, teas, and several other types of sweet and savory recipes.

You can either purchase tapioca starch in flakes form or a flour. Tapioca pearls are generally white or off-white, and it can be died to any color of your choice.

Gluten-Free Recipe Section Using Gluten-Free Grains

gluten-free recipes

The biggest mistake we make while making gluten-free recipes is to use lots of starchy flours. But if you’re on a gluten-free diet, you have to ensure you use a balanced nutritious diet having the right proportion of proteins, carbs, vitamins, and minerals.

The recipes you’re going to see in this section aren’t only gluten-free, but they’re also healthy and full of nutrition. Also, they’re delicious and easy to make. Are you excited? Let’s get started.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Waffles with Fresh Fruits

Ingredients

Almond milk – 1 cup

Vegan butter – 1/3 cup (melted)

Vanilla or almond extract – 1tsp

Apple cider vinegar – 1tsp

Salt – a pinch

Baking powder – 1tsp

Sugar – 11/2tbsp

Honey – 2tbsp

Ingredients (for gluten-free waffle mix)

Brown rice flour – ¾ cups

Gluten-free rolled oats – ½ cup

Tapioca flour – 1/3 cup

Flaxseed meal – 3/4tbsp

Potato starch – ½ cup

Instructions

Combine almond milk and vinegar in a bowl. Keep it aside for 10 minutes. Add butter, vanilla/almond extract, and honey. Whisk and set aside.

Take another bowl and mix all the dry ingredients. Add wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix well until everything is combined. Let this mixture sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your waffle maker according to your needs.

Generously coat your iron with butter and pour 1/3 cup of batter. Serve immediately with your favorite fruits (I’d prefer my waffles with raspberries, kiwis, and some sliced mangoes). 

Whole Grain Gluten-Free Artisan Bread

Ingredients for Gluten-Free Bread Mix Flour

Brown rice flour – 1 cup

Sorghum flour – 1 cup

Gluten-free oat flour – 1 cup

Quinoa flour – ½ cup

Other Ingredients

Dry active yeast – 21/2tsp

Honey – 2tbsp

Apple cider vinegar – 1tbsp

Extra-virgin olive oil – 2tbsp

Chia seed (powdered) – 1/3 cup

Warm water – 21/2 cups

Instructions

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F).

Take a bowl of a stand mixer and mix all dry ingredients.

Take a separate bowl and combine water, yeast, and apple cider vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Add in the extra-virgin olive oil and powdered chia seeds. Combine well to form a lump-free mixture.

Combine wet mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed until a ball-shaped dough is formed.

Shift mixture into an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Leave for 60 minutes or until the dough doubles in size. Knead the mixture well after an hour and shift into a bread pan. Let it rest for another 45 minutes, covered with a lid.

Bake your bread in a preheated oven for 70 minutes.

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

Green and red pepper (chopped) – 1 cup

Red onion (chopped) – ½ cup

Avocado (chopped) – ½ cup

Carrots (chopped) – ½ cup

Pomegranate seeds – ½ cup

Fresh parsley and coriander – ¼ cup each

Salt and pepper – to taste

Extra-virgin olive oil – 1tbsp

Quinoa – 1 cup

Vegetable broth – 1 cup

Water – 1 cup

Ground turmeric – a pinch

Ground cumin and coriander – 1/4tsp each

Salt – to taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Take a bowl, add red and green peppers, add olive oil and some salt, and toss. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, spread peppers, and roast for 20 minutes.

To cook the quinoa, combine water, broth, and all spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt) to a pot and bring to a boil. Add quinoa and let it cook for some time until all liquid is absorbed. Use the fork to fluff the grain.

Take a large bowl and combine quinoa, roasted peppers, avocados, carrots, onion, pomegranate seeds, and fresh parsley and coriander. Serve with a dash of lemon.

Asian-Style Chicken Quinoa pilaf

Ingredients

Extra-virgin olive oil – 2tbsp

Red onion -1 (sliced)

Celery stalk – 1(diced)

Garlic – 2-3 cloves (crushed)

Green chilies – 2-3 (crushed)

Ground cumin -1/2tsp

Ground coriander – 1/2tsp

Ground turmeric -1/4tsp

Boneless chicken (cubed) – 1/2 cup

White rice – 1 cup

Water – 2 cups

Fresh cilantro – ½ cup

Salt- to taste

Quinoa – ½ cup

Vegetable broth – 1 ½ cup (one and a half cup)

Salt – to taste

Instructions

Take a pot, add broth, and give it a boil. Add quinoa and salt and let it cook on medium-high flame until all liquid is absorbed. Use a fork to fluff the grain. Set aside.

In another pan, add extra-virgin olive oil and onions. Fry onions until golden in color. Add ginger, green chilies, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and salt. Add chicken cubes and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is done. Add water and bring to a boil.  Add rice and reduce the liquid. Add cooked quinoa. Combine everything, cover the lid and let it cook on low flame for 10-15 minutes. Serve with Greek yogurt and fresh green salad.

Whole Grain Crust Pizza Strips

Ingredients for Gluten-Free Pizza Flour Mix

Brown rice flour – ½ cup

Tapioca flour – ½ cup

Quinoa flour – ½ cup

Teff flour – 1/3 cup

For Dough

Egg – 1

Instant active yeast – 1tsp

Sugar – 1tsp

Salt – to taste

Dried milk powder – 1tbsp

Extra-virgin olive oil – 1tbsp

Baking powder – 1tsp

2 tbsp warm water

More warm water to make a dough

For Topping

Shredded cooked chicken – 1 cup

A mix of cheddar and mozzarella – 1 cup

Green pepper – 1 (Julian)

Onion – 1 (Julian)

Olives (Black) – As needed

Oregano – 1tsp

Instructions

Mix all gluten-free flours to make a pizza dough flour. Take 1 ½ cup of prepared flour in a bowl. In another bowl, mix sugar and yeast with water and set aside. Add milk powder, olive oil, baking powder, and salt into the flour. Pour in the yeast mixture. Gradually add more warm water to make a sticky dough. Leave it on your counter with a lid on for 3-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll the dough and cut into strips. Add toppings and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Gluten-Free Grilled Corn Salad

Ingredients

Corn – 1 cup

Cherry tomatoes (cubed) – 1/3 cup

Crumbled feta cheese – 1/3 cup

Red onion (finely chopped) – 1/3 cup

Basil (chopped) – 1/3 cup

Lemon juice – 2-3tbsp

Extra virgin olive oil – 2tbsp

Kosher salt – to taste

Ground black pepper – to taste

Instructions

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon is an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. He started his career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden. He has been involved in several EU research projects and has extensively worked and published on the association between diet, longevity and cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, also studying potential interactions between diet and genes. His work about the Mediterranean diet in Sweden has been cited by many newspapers worldwide including the Washington Post and The Telegraph among others. As a speaker, he has been invited by Harvard University and the Italian multi-national food company Barilla.

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About Me

I’m an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. I started MY career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden.

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