Can’t hack brown rice? Try these grains instead!

January 23, 2019 6:16 am Published by Leave your thoughts

OK, so you know – or at least, you strongly feel – that you should be eating brown rice. It’s some kind of magic food, you suspect, full of all the vitamins and minerals so far discovered, packed with protein, fibre and the fashionable, correct kind of carbohydrates. Every time you have a bout of hypochondria and carry out a late-night google search for a diet to prevent scabies/dandruff/leprosy, there it is, up there in the list of Foods To Eat. Brown rice: it’s a miracle food.

Just can't hack brown rice? What are you going to eat instead?

But you just don’t like it. And yes, you have tried. You find it takes too long to cook and it fills your kitchen with steam. You don’t like the texture when it’s done. You don’t even really like the taste. And it makes you, ahem, a little windy.

What to do? Well, naturally, we’d prefer that you did eat brown rice, because everything in that first paragraph is pretty much true. It is a miracle food – rich in protein, fibre, calcium, thiamine, potassium, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, natural oils and antioxidants. It releases its energy slowly into the bloodstream, preventing blood sugar surges and keeping you fuller for longer. It features in all those late-night google searches for a very good reason. If you’re having real difficulty getting along with it, we’d plead with you to give our organic basmati brown rice a go, as a last-ditch attempt to get on board. This is the easiest brown rice to start with, producing firm, but not rigid grains, with a pleasantly nutty taste.

But hey, we’re not going to bang on about it for ever. If you truly hate brown rice, but want to reap all its benefits, then you need some pointers in some other directions.

Go half and half

Hear us out. You love rice and you find it a very versatile ingredient and can’t imagine your home-made curry without it, but eating it makes you feel guilty because you know that white rice is BAD? Simple. Make your white rice as usual, but add a little spoonful of brown rice to the pan. It won’t be as soft as the white rice when you’re done, but will bring a pleasing, slightly crunchy texture to the rice. Your guilt will immediately dissipate and your rice will be much better for you.

(You might suspect, of course, that this is a way to persuade you into brown rice by the back door – perhaps by suggesting that you steadily increase the quantity of brown rice in the mix over time – but why would we do that?)

Go quinoa

If there’s one thing Naturally Good Food loves almost as much as brown rice, it’s quinoa. It’s another miracle food: high in fibre and also a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, whilst packing a punch with its calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium. Like rice, it’s gluten-free (if that bothers you). It cooks much, much faster than brown rice – the pearl variety will be done in 15 minutes. It has a great crunch to it and makes a wonderful base for curries and the like.


We stock three different colours of quinoa at Naturally Good Food: pearl (essentially white), red and black. Our blog: Red, black and white quinoa – what’s the difference? explains how they differ from one another, concluding, in effect, that they don’t, really. If you can’t be bothered to read that and want to hedge your bets, then simply opt for the tricolour packs of quinoa instead and get all three colours.

If you haven’t cooked quinoa before, don’t just bung it in a pan of boiling water and then whine that you don’t like that either. You need to follow a few very simple tips to achieve perfect quinoa. You’ll find them in this blog here.

Go couscous

We’ve got lots of different types of couscous, including giant couscous (fregola). But as you’re looking for a particularly healthy alternative, we’re only going to let you see the wholemeal varieties today (at a push, the spelt version too). Made from whole wheat, these cook just like the white versions (that is, extremely quickly) and frankly, I defy you to notice the difference once you’ve covered them in sauce.

Go barley

Barley makes a really interesting alternative to rice; as a native crop of this country, it’s arguably a grain we should be eating a lot more of. We sell whole grain barley, pearl and pot barley at Naturally Good Food – they’re all suitable for use in stews, bakes, puddings and as a side dish (just like rice). Pearl barley cooks the fastest, followed by pot and then whole grain. It would probably feel a bit odd to eat chicken tikka masala accompanied by barley – but a hearty stew spooned out on top of barley is a real winner.

Go freekeh

For its name alone, this grain deserves to be more widely known. It’s cracked green (unripened) wheat that’s been roasted and then crushed into small pieces. It’s not at all freaky – it cooks in around 25 minutes and has a wonderfully nutty, slightly smoky taste. Full of protein and fibre and packed with various minerals, people are using it in cereals, porridge, as a side dish or as a base to all manner of meals.

Go bulgur wheat

The older and slightly better-known cousin of freekeh is bulgur wheat – also cracked wheat, but made from mature kernels. These kernels are dried and parboiled and therefore cook more quickly than freekeh. Just like freekeh though, you end up with a nutty and pleasantly chewy grain, that works really well cold in salads and hot with stews. We’ve got coarse and medium-cut bulgur wheat at Naturally Good Food.

Go off-piste

So far, we’ve found you grains that you’ve probably heard of and possibly used before. If you’re interested in exploring options a little further out of your comfort zone, we’ve also got amaranth, buckwheat and millet: three gluten-free grains that are popularly used in porridges, cereals and stews. We’ve also got rye grain, spelt grain, teff grain and wheat grain, which are particularly wholesome, hearty alternatives to your standard rice. And have you thought about using polenta too, as a substitute for rice in certain recipes?

Go easy

The selection of alternative grains can be a little bewildering – and you do have to bear in mind that they take different amounts of time to cook. If you’re wanting to branch out from your usual grain, but need to make things easy on yourself, then you can’t do better than Clearspring’s range of Quick Cook grains. These are packets of mixed grains (for instance, this one contains barley, rice, wheat, kamut and oats), which have been brought to the point of preparation where they can be cooked as one mass, very quickly. They’re the ideal solution for those busy evenings when you have a lot of googling to do.

Go wild

If you don’t like brown rice, is there any chance you might prefer wild rice? Wild rice isn’t technically a rice – it’s a grass – and it cooks differently and tastes different to rice, having particularly long grains. It’s entertaining to eat, being black and spiky, and looks good on the plate. It has a strong earthy flavour, so combines well with ingredients such as chicken, duck or mushrooms.

Go other rice

Working our way steadily through the colour spectrum, we’ve also got red rice. This comes from the Camargue region of southern France and is short-grained and fairly sticky when cooked. It’s got a high anthocyanin content and is packed with proteins, antioxidants and iron. We like it in a risotto….

You might even go one step further and give black rice a whirl! With an astonishingly high anthocyanin content, black rice is rich in nutrients, containing 18 amino acids, lots of vitamins and fibre, iron, zinc and copper. It’s chewy, like brown rice, but you may well find that it suits you better. When cooked, it turns an appealingly purple colour.

Oh go on then….Go white rice

If you really aren’t going to budge from white rice, then make sure you’re buying the very best there is. Our organic white basmati rice is wonderfully fragrant and has a beautiful texture and taste. We also sell organic white pudding, arborio, jasmine and sushi rice. There are times when you need the smoothness and ease of white rice – and for those times, Naturally Good Food is here for you.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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