Alternative Grains: Millet and Quinoa Recipes

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Curried Quinoa Salad
Curried Quinoa Salad

In a world where rice and wheat reign supreme, sometimes you want something more. Maybe you have a food allergy, maybe you have special health needs that your regular diet just isn't meeting, or maybe you just wanting more exciting than the status quo. Regardless of your reasons for upgrading your grain options, you've got an entire rainbow of whole grains to choose from besides rice and wheat.

Take, for example, the humble millet. Often thought of as only bird seed, millet is actually very much edible by humans. Mentioned in the Bible, people have been eating millet for many thousands of years in countries such as China, India, and Africa. What's so great about millet? Well, first of all, it's not acid-forming and is known for being easy to digest, so those who deal with any number of digestive ailments can usually enjoy millet without aggravating their GI. Taste-wise, Millet is mildly sweet with a nutty flavor and contains many beneficial nutrients, such as protein, fiber, B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and more.

Another alternative grain you might consider is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah). Another old-world grain, quinoa has also been cultivated for thousands of years in South America. The Inca revered quinoa as a very important part of their culture, and used it to make breads, cereals, and other dishes. Not technically a grain, quinoa is actually a grass seed, much like buckwheat.

Quinoa has a nutty, hearty flavor that makes it ideal for both savory dishes and sweet breakfast recipes. It is high in protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B, and vitamin E. The protein in quinoa a "complete protein" due to the presence of all eight essential amino acids, something that's not often seen in cereals or grains. Note: Before being eaten, quinoa grains must be rinsed to remove its bitter coating, called saponin. When rinsing quinoa, be sure to keep the water flowing until there are so soap-like suds when you agitate the seeds with your hands. Once the water runs clear, the saponin is gone.


Where can you buy millet and quinoa? You'll be happy to hear that both grains are readily available at health food stores, and if you like, you can even buy them online. While you can buy boxed millet and quinoa, you'll usually find them cheaper by shopping in the bulk section of your local natural foods store.

You can buy millet and quinoa in several different forms, as well:

To get you started, here are a few recipes for these awesome grains. Once you give them a try, they might just become your new favorite carb!

Nutty Millet Porridge

Serves 2


1 cup raw millet
5 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 teaspoons butter
6 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup fresh blueberries or dried cranberries

1. Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add millet, stirring grains until they become fragrant. Add water and salt, and bring to a boil.

2. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until millet if soft like oatmeal. Add butter and honey, stirring well. Serve hot, topped with fruit.

Curried Quinoa Salad

Serves 6 as a side or 4 for lunch

1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups uncooked quinoa
4 cups water
2 mangoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 fresh serrano chile, seeded and minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews or peanuts, chopped

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, lime juice, curry powder, ginger, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking until fully combined.

2. Rinse quinoa in a bowl for 5 minutes, using fingers to agitate grains and the water runs through it. Agitating while rinsing will help remove the bitter saponin.

3. In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil with a few pinches of salt. Add quinoa to boiling water and cook for 15 minutes, until grains are almost completely cooked through but still just a little crunchy. Strain and rinse with cold water. Let sit to drain for 15 minutes.

4. Mix quinoa with curried yogurt and stir well. Stir in mango, bell pepper, Serrano chili, mint, and nuts. Serve at room temperature.

If you like these grain recipes, check out these other healthy, protein-rich posts: