How to Cook and Freeze Whole Grains

How to cook and freeze whole grains including a handy whole grain cooking chart.

How to Cook Whole GrainsGetty's Grain Cooking Guide

Also Read: Everything You Need to Know About Whole Grains, How to Cook Wheatberries, Why Whole Wheat Does NOT Mean Whole Grain

Here’s a whole grain cooking chart for ease of reference. It’s the kind of thing you might want to print and tape to the inside of your cupboard or favorite recipe book. It gives a good overview of cooking the most common whole grains. Just remember, grains are organic and vary in thickness, humidity and so forth, so your batch of whole grains may take a little more or less cooking time to be as tender as you prefer.

For the most part, whole grains are cooked the same way you would cook rice – rinse, cover grain with liquid in a pot, bring to boil, lower temp and simmer for specified time until grains are tender and liquid has been absorbed.  That’s the general process, but there are some differences depending on how large the whole grain is.

Cooking Large Whole Grains

Large grains with thick hulls like wheat, rye, wild rice and even brown rice do not absorb water as easily as white rice or the medium sized grains. Don’t be surprised if you have to drain off some of the water at the end of the cooking time. For these grains, judge the tenderness of the kernels rather than the amount of water left in the pot. wheat berries

Cooking Small Whole Grains

Small grains like amaranth, teff and rolled oats thicken and become gelatinous in the cooking process. This makes them fantastic options for porridge or polenta. You can change the consistency by adding more or less liquid – more liquid will reduce the thickness of the final product.

teff cooked and raw

For a printable version click on Getty’s Grain Cooking Guide PDF.

How to Freeze Whole Grains

freezing brown rice
Frozen brown rice holds its shape, texture and flavour much better than white rice. I do not recommend freezing white rice.

Except for the wee little grains like millet, amaranth and teff, you can freeze whole grains. It’s super easy and super smart.

There’s no denying that some whole grains like wheat, barley, brown rice, wild rice may take longer to cook than it takes to make the rest of the meal. But that’s no excuse for choosing refined grains instead. The solution is easy, make a double batch and freeze the extras to have quick and easy whole grains available at a moment’s notice.  Even quick cooking grains like quinoa can be cooked and frozen.

freezing quinoa

I’ve been freezing brown rice for years and have never had any issues with texture or flavor. My latest experiments with buckwheat, wheatberries, quinoa and barley also showed me that there’s no noticeable difference in taste, texture or appearance when using frozen cooked grains.

To freeze, cool the cooked grain completely and totally. Yes, it really needs to be totally cold so trapped heat doesn’t condense and form ice crystals. Once cooled, fill a freezer container or a freezer bag. I like freezer bags because I can freeze them flat so they don’t take up much room in my freezer and they thaw quickly. And, if I just need a little bit of cooked grain for a soup – I can easily break off a piece.

Notice the straw in the wheatberry photo. If I think I’ll be keeping something in the freezer for a long time, I use a straw to suck out as much air as possible from the bag. Removing air will help prevent freezer burn and improve storage time.freezing wheat berries

To thaw, I place the bag on a plate in the fridge overnight, or I open the bag and thaw on the defrost setting of the microwave. Another method for thawing is to place grains in a sieve and run cold water over them and let them drain.

More Info on Whole Grains

Want to know more about whole grains?

  1. Read Everything You Need to Know About Whole Grains. You’ll learn what whole grains are, why they’re beneficial, how to incorporate more whole grains into your diet, what is considered a serving of whole grains, why instant oats are considered whole grain and whole wheat flour isn’t, and so on.
  2. Book a Workshop to learn about, taste and create recipes using whole grains and seeds. I’ve done hands-on, interactive whole grains workshops in private kitchens, community kitchens and board rooms. Each one has been a great learning experience with tasty good fun. One of the activities is identifying various whole grains – how many of the following can you identify?

whole grains no labels

Whole Grain Recipes & Info

Here’s a list of recipes using whole grains that you’ll find on this site.

How to Cook and Freeze Whole Grains
Everything You Want to Know About Whole Grains
Why Whole Wheat Doesn’t Mean Whole Grain in Canada
Whole Grain Salad with Kale and Butternut Squash
Pomegranate and Whole Grain Salad
Orange and Wheat Salad
Thai Power Bowl with Almond Butter Dressing
Wheatberry and Saskatoon Salad
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Vegetable Quinoa and Red Lentil Soup Mix
Parsley and Barley Salad– Tabbouleh
Beef and Barley Soup
Lime and Corn Quinoa (hot side dish)
Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf
Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash
Southern Beef ‘n Brown Rice
Soup Mix in a Jar
Homemade Granola
Carrot Cake Granola
Grapefruit and Granola Parfait
Homemade Instant Oatmeal
Rhubarb Overnight Oats
Apple Pie Overnight Oats
50/50 Whole Wheat Bread
50/50 Whole Wheat Buns
Nutty Cranberry Oat Muffins
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Coffee Lover’s Energy Bars
Homemade Chocolate Energy Bars

I’d love to hear about your experience with whole grains and which ones you love and use the most. Share your recipes, leave a comment or tag me on your instagram photos #getgettys so I can see and like your creations.

 Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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