Your Comprehensive (Almost) Gluten-Free Guide to Alt Grains

Whether you’re averse to gluten or just an alt-wheat apologist, there are lots of grains and pseudo-cereals to whet your wheat-free appetite. All of the grains and seeds below are naturally gluten-free, save for spelt, which has trace amounts of gluten (it’s a distant descendant of the wheat family).

Alternative Grains


Known to some as “dinkel wheat,” spelt is a distant relative of the wheat family. Its grains are encased in a tough outer husk that must be removed before milling it into flour. In fact, spelt’s resurgence is largely due to the development of special de-hulling machines. Chewy and slightly sweet, spelt is quick and easy to cook. Turn it into risotto or add it to your favorite salad or curry.


Naturally gluten free with a sweet flavor, millet is a small, round grain. It’s actually thought to be one of the first grains cultivated by man, and it’s stood the test of time thanks to its resilience in hot, drought-prone areas. These days it’s usually sold in its hulled form, but cracked millet can be used to make traditional couscous. 


Buckwheat’s name may nod to “wheat,” but it’s actually a fruit seed and not a grain. It can be milled into flour to make pancakes or pasta (it’s actually the primary ingredient in Japanese soba noodles!), or roasted and eaten as kasha. 


Amaranth comes from a leafy green vegetable known as pig weed. It’s a member of the Chenopodiaceae plant family, making it a relative of beets, Swiss chard, spinach, and the more ubiquitous pseudo-cereal, quinoa. Its small, finely textured seeds can be either boiled, toasted, or ground into flour. It’s also a great way to thicken sauces and soups! 


Pronounced kan-yee-wah, kaniwa is not to be confused with quinoa (though they both hail from South America). This ancient seed is smaller and crunchier than quinoa, and just a bit sweeter. It can be milled into flour, mixed into a pilaf, or eaten for breakfast (because, porridge).


If you’ve ever cooked with Plated, you probably know this option the best. Touted as an “ancient grain,” quinoa is actually not a grain at all—it’s a seed. This protein-packed pseudo-cereal has a subtle nutty flavor, making it a rich substitute for rice, breadcrumbs, and the like.

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