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March 20, 2016

by Alyssa

6 Staple Whole Grains That Should Be in Your Pantry

You might think that after running a blog all about quinoa for nearly 5 years and churning out 3+ quinoa recipes a week, my pantry would be stocked with pretty much one thing: quinoa. And while yes, I feel like I have quinoa coming out my ears, over the years I've come to appreciate the variety and nutrition that other grains can add to your diet.

6 Staple Whole Grains that Should Be In Your Pantry...all high protein, high fiber and naturally gluten-free!

Why are whole grains important?

There has been extensive research done about the benefits of adding whole grains to your diet and it's without a doubt one of the best things you can do for your health. Whole grains are high in dietary fiber, are packed with vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, vitamin E, iron and magnesium. You'll also find that many whole grains have antioxidants, much as you would find in fruits and vegetables.

I'm sure you've heard me talk about how quinoa is a complex carbohydrate before, but the same is true for most whole grains. This means that when we eat whole grains – like the staples we'll be talking about today – they digest more slowly in the body which not only helps stabilize blood sugar but also keeps us fuller for longer and provides more sustained energy.

And finally (although the list of benefits goes on and on), many whole grains are great sources of easily digestible, plant-based protein. What's really incredible is when you compare people who eat whole grains vs. people who don't. The risk of developing chronic illnesses for people who have added whole grains into their diet is dramatically lower – we're talking sometimes upwards of 40%! I'm not a doctor or anything, but that's pretty incredible!

Whole grains for every day

Part of my health journey over the last few years has been really focused on cleaning up (and cleaning out) my pantry, then making sure it stays as clean as possible. The pantry is often where overly processed foods hide – things crackers, chips, cookies, and cereals – so my goal is to make sure that my pantry only contains whole foods. Because I know that if I have those snacks and sweets in there, I'll eat them, no matter how good I think my willpower may be.

It started with nuts and seeds, then moved to pasta and now it's my grains. It used to just be four types of quinoa, but now I've expanded my horizon and started including a bunch of other whole grains and you know what? I love it. Not only does the variety keep my meals more exciting, but I've realized that my body needs to be fueled by more than just one grain. While I do love quinoa and it will probably always be numero uno in my heart, here are the 6 staple whole grains I think every panty should have.


QUINOA: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Of course, quinoa is at the top of my list, but for good reason too. One serving of quinoa (which is about 1 cup of cooked quinoa) has 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of dietary fiber and tons of essential minerals like magnesium, manganese, zinc, and copper. Quinoa comes in four different varieties, so feel free to shake things up based on how you're feeling. My favorite varieties are white and tri-color! The other amazing thing about quinoa is how versatile it is – you can make it for breakfast, turn it into nutritious snacks, serve it for lunch/dinner or even make a decadent sweet treat. The possibilities are truly endless!

QUINOA: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Recipes that use quinoa:


STEEL CUT OATS: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Second on my list are steel-cut oats, which are a basically like coarse oatmeal. To make steel-cut oats, they take the whole oat groats and then chop them into two or three pieces. I've always been a fan of oats, but in the last year or so, these have become my favorite. I find that they make the creamiest porridge ever and I feel like the course texture makes them a bit more filling. Nutritionally speaking, steel-cut oats are fabulous – one serving has 6 grams of protein and 8 grams of dietary fiber. For those of us with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, Bob's Red Mill makes certified gluten-free steel-cut oats which is amazing!

STEEL CUT OATS: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Recipes that use steel cut oats:


SORGHUM: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

So this is a fairly new-to-me grain, but I've had a lot of fun experimenting with it. I'm more familiar with using sorghum as flour, but you can use it like you would quinoa in lots of recipes. Sorghum is naturally gluten-free and one serving contains 5 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. The texture of sorghum is a bit fluffier than quinoa, but it's a wonderful addition to grain salads and bowls or used in breakfast porridge. I've heard that you can also pop sorghum (kind of like popcorn) although I have yet to give it a try.

SORGHUM: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Recipes that use sorghum:


MILLET: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

This is one of my favorite alternatives to quinoa because they are so similar in size and texture. Millet doesn't cook quite as quickly as quinoa, but it has a much softer and mellower taste. For those who find quinoa to be bitter or grassy tasting, millet might be a great option for you. Millet is also naturally gluten-free and a superstar when it comes to nutrition – one serving has 7 grams of protein and a whopping 9 grams of fiber. And just like many of these other grains, millet can be used in a variety of ways – from breakfast porridges to savory salads. You can also purchase puffed millet which is delicious added to granola and even energy balls.

MILLET: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Recipes that use millet:


WILD RICE: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

I just posted my first wild rice salad a few weeks ago and in that post I talked about my discovery of wild rice. I absolutely love it. It's has a slightly nutty flavor and the texture is wonderfully chewy and crunchy at the same time. Usually wild rice takes forever to cook, but I like the one from Bob's Red Mill because it's a quick-cooking variety and only takes 30 – 40 minutes to make. Nutritionally speaking, wild rice is slightly lower in terms of protein and fiber – one serving as 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber – but it's still a lovely addition to your pantry. I really enjoy adding it to salads along with a higher protein grain like quinoa or sorghum.

WILD RICE: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Recipes that use wild rice:


BUCKWHEAT: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Finally, our sixth staple whole grain to add to your pantry is buckwheat. Unlike the name, buckwheat doesn't contain any wheat whatsoever. It's naturally gluten-free, wholesome and so delicious. One serving of buckwheat has 6 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber, and just like quinoa, buckwheat is actually the seeds of buckwheat plants, not grains like most of us think. Buckwheat is traditionally found in Eastern European cuisines but is now a common breakfast food here. The flavor of buckwheat is very mild, but it when you can toast the groats to intensify the nutty qualities.

BUCKWHEAT: one of the six staple whole grains you should have you in your pantry!

Recipes that use buckwheat:


Now it's your turn…

Open up your pantry and count how many whole grains are inside. What do you see? Come back here and let us know which ones you keep stocked and which from this list you're excited to try.

When you go to purchase whole grains, I recommend that you either check out the bulk aisle of your natural food store OR visit Bob's Red Mill and check out their amazing assortment of whole grains. You'll be shocked how many there are to choose from!

xo Alyssa

Want to learn more about why whole grains are so important to Bob's? Watch this video!

This post was sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill in celebration of National Nutrition Month. Bob’s is my favorite source of healthy, nutritious ingredients! Stay tuned all month long as we share simple and delicious recipes using the amazing products from Bob’s. Thank you for supporting the companies I believe in! xo


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About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

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  1. Hi! I have never had a problem eating quinoa until just recently. =( Shortly after I eat it my stomach feels really strange. It is like I have cramps and I feel light headed, too.. Do you have any idea what might be causing this? I have never been allergic to any foods. Thank you so much! =)

    • Do you rinse your quinoa before you cook it? I’ve heard that reaction before and sometimes it’s because it hasn’t been rinsed of the outer layer (called saponins) which can cause stomach irritations. If you do rinse it already, you could also try soaking it for at least 24 hours prior to cooking; that would make it much easier to digest. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Freekeh is my new fave… And kinoa – the super quinoa – smaller grains than quinoa and I believe higher in protein.

    • I know! I haven’t done much with amaranth, but have heard wonderful things about it. I’ll definitely give it a try 🙂

  3. Some food taxonomy, if it’s helpful:

    Technically, buckwheat and quinoa are seeds (they are pseudo-cereals and not considered “grains” by definition). Chia is also in this category. 🙂 That’s part of what makes them so healthy! Wild rice, believe it or not, isn’t actually a rice. It’s a grass, just like sorghum and millet. Sorghum, millet, and oat are considered “cereal grains”, though oat is not a grass. Wild rice is also considered a grain. Confusing, eh?

    • I know, isn’t that crazy!? I didn’t want to get into the nitty gritting in this post since most of us just consider them grains, but thank you for sharing in case everyone else is interested 🙂 xo

  4. I’m always thrilled to find another whole grain fancier, and you’ve included some excellent information here, Alyssa. I’m happy to share and pass it along to my followers on various social networks, including Twitter and my YayYay’s Kitchen Facebook page. Thank you!

  5. I absolutely LOVE eating and always keep some stocked in my pantry. Thank you so much for including my recipe to your round-up!

  6. Thank you i have been wanting to try these grains and haven’t yet but i will soon, nice to know i can pop sorghum i just found out i am unable to eat corn pop corn use to be my snack, i have missed it knowing i can try another grain makes me HAPPY!

  7. Sorghum and millet are the only ones I haven’t tried, so I’ll have to get my hands on some! Buckwheat flour makes the FLUFFIEST pancakes. And of course, quinoa and oats have a special place in my grain-loving heart. <3

    • LOVE buckwheat flour..although admittedly I don’t use it as often as I would like. Definitely gotta make some buckwheat pancakes soon – so yuM!

  8. I grew up in Ukraine eating buckwheat and millet. We used all these grains to make porridge and cereal for breakfast. Cook them and mix with cold milk and sweetener. So good. Thank you for featuring my recipe, Alyssa. I can’t imagine healthy diet without grains.

    • Sounds lovely! I haven’t done much combining of grains in a porridge, but recently saw a creamy steel cut oat + red quinoa mixture that looked and sounded amazing 🙂

  9. Hi,
    I always keep brown rice, steel cut oats (I’ve used Trader Joe’s quick cook steel cut oats, which turn out good, and cook in 6 minutes). I even have some millet, which I bought to cook for a friend and didn’t use all of it – can’t wait to make that millet salad! And I’ve got 3 colors of quinoa, and some black rice, and barley. Thanks for all the great recipes. I eat savory oats all the time, and I am totally pumped to try that savory oats, kale and mushroom recipe! Thanks!

    • Yay! Sounds like your pantry is stocked FULL of whole grain goodness 🙂 I’ve gotta give savory oats a try; I’ve honestly never even thought of it!


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