These Great-Tasting Pseudocereals are Gluten Free and Good-For-You
High in protein and fiber, but low-glycemic compared to true grains, pseudocereals (a big word that means 'comes from plants that produce fruits and seeds, rather than grasses') are full of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, iron, and calcium, and are easier to digest than grains. They’re also easy to cook and taste great.
Amaranth: High in iron, calcium, and fiber, like gluten-containing grains, amaranth is a member of the same family as beets, swiss chard, and spinach and has been a staple in Aztec and Mayan diets because it’s a complete protein. Amaranth is nutty and has a touch of sweetness, so it’s often ground into a flour or cooked as a breakfast porridge—try cooking amaranth in apple juice for a delicious alternative to your morning oatmeal. Bonus: the leaves of the amaranth plant are equally nutritious and are delicious sautéed. Look for them at the farmers market.
Buckwheat: Though “wheat” is part of its name, buckwheat is completely wheat and gluten-free. A seed related to rhubarb and sorrel, with many of the same health benefits, buckwheat is rich in dietary fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. And check out buckwheat's international reach: in Russia, it’s the flour of choice for making blini, the tiny pancakes served with caviar. And the Japanese use buckwheat to make traditional soba noodles, like the ones in our Kyoto Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad.
Chia: Forget about the popular infomercial “pets” from the ‘80s, chia seeds are actually a power packed plant protein that you should be eating more of. Native to Central America, these tiny seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. They form a gel when soaked in liquid that can be used as a thickener, kind of like flax seeds or even eggs in baking. Try stirring them into almond milk with cinnamon and apples to make an overnight breakfast pudding.
Kaniwa: Don’t confuse this ancient seed with its cousin quinoa. Pronounced kan-ee-wah, this South American seed is sweeter than quinoa and has a crunchy bite to it. Kaniwa is high in calcium, protein, and iron, and can be added to salads, cooked into a breakfast porridge, or milled into flour.
Millet: Despite its small size, millet packs a mighty gluten-free punch. It has stood the test of time as one of the first cultivated crops, surviving droughts and unseasonably hot weather for centuries. It’s full of phosphorous and B vitamins, and is highly alkaline, which means it’s easily digestible. Toast millet to heighten its nutty flavor, then toss it in granola, or try it in our Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers with Chickpeas, Millet, and Pistachios.
Quinoa: One of the most recognizable pseudocereals, quinoa is packed with protein and is often referred to as a “superfood” because it contains all nine amino acids essential for good health. Quinoa makes a great substitute for rice in curries and soups, can be fried into fritters, and it’s a popular choice for bowls like our Quinoa Bowls with Kale, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese Medallions.
Teff: Okay, so technically teff is a grain, but it's gluten-free-ness and nutrient profile made us want to include it in this list. Like millet, teff is one of the oldest crops and is best known for its use as a flour to make injera, the spongy Ethiopian flatbread. This minuscule grain is microscopic compared to a kernel of wheat, and is packed with calcium, fiber, and protein. Teff has a mild, nutty flavor and can be used like oats, so add it to your breakfast porridge, breads, pancakes, and even brownies.