There always seems to be a grain of the moment. One day quinoa was hardly used outside of South America and the next it was on every menu and in every grocery store across the US. Now that quinoa has introduced America to options beyond just wheat and corn, it’s time to explore what the world of grains has to offer. Choices like teff, millet or kamut are quickly becoming better known in the culinary world. F&W’s guide offers delicious recipes to help you cook with these often overlooked ingredients, plus expert tips to help you avoid common mistakes.

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Ba Bao Fan (Eight-Treasure Rice)

Any variety of dried and candied fruits can decorate this lightly sweet sticky rice dessert, but using a lucky assortment of eight is traditional. The Chinese word for the number eight, ba, sounds similar to fa, which means prosperity and confers fortuitous meaning on the dessert. For her Lunar New Year celebration, Lucky Chow producer Danielle Chang likes to decorate hers with an opulent assortment that includes candied orange peel, goji berries, amarena cherries, kumquats, lemon peel, edible flowers, mandarins, lychees, red dates (jujube), maraschino cherries, gooseberries, kiwi berries, pomegranate, dragon fruit, and sliced figs. Do not substitute sushi or other short-grain rice here; sweet glutinous rice contains a starch that helps the grains stick together without getting mushy.

Kiribath with Lunu Miris (Coconut Rice with Sambal)

Spicy red onion sambal is spooned over diamonds of coconut rice in this Sri Lankan dish, served to commemorate new beginnings. While a mortar and pestle is traditionally used to pound the sambal, it also can be gently pulsed together in a food processor.

Yayla Çorbası (Turkish Yogurt Soup) with Velibah

Although most Turks will opt for a pillowy square of pide bread to accompany this soup of yogurt, barley, and dried mint, buttery-crisp velibah stuffed with feta and potato is a go-to for editor Oset Babür's family, who hail from Ossetia, a state in the South Caucasus.


Khichdi is a fortifying, easily digestible dish made from mung beans, rice, and a wide variety of spices. It is a staple of meals at Thikse Monastery in Ladakh, India, and reflects the Thikse monks’ belief that food should be consumed not only to quell hunger but also to contribute to optimal health. Cortney Burns, who spent time at the monastery learning from the monks, uses a warming spice mixture including fenugreek, turmeric, cumin, and ginger to perfume this soothing, comforting porridge.

Kibbeh Bil Sanieh

Kibbeh Bil Sanieh, also called Pizza Kibbeh for its appearance, is a spiced, bulgur-based vegetarian main course, a decadent dish enjoyed by the monks at Saint Anthony of Qozhaya in Lebanon on special occasions. This version is one of their favorites. It’s one of Ana Sortun’s favorites, too. Sortun, who learned how to make the recipe from the Lebanese monks, offers this advice: “The most important part is to knead the bulgur in the same fashion as though it were meat, until it holds together and becomes creamy—usually a minute, sometimes a bit more. You can use your hands or a KitchenAid with a paddle attachment. If you don’t knead the bulgur enough, it will stay crumbly.”

Island Jollof Rice

When I think of Eric Adjepong’s food, I think of the West African dance called the highlife, full of Afro beats and guitars and brass instruments. The syncopation of the music moves you. Eric and his wife have a catering company in D.C., but most of America knows him from Top Chef. He represents the new African chef who gives a nod to the past, but also to the future. When you eat his food, you can taste that blend and complexity. He brings the African food tradition he grew up with into everything he does, and he does it in the most modern and beautiful way. This rice dish is inspired by Eric and his Ghanaian roots. I eat it and hear the trap beats of “Pour Me Water,” a big Afro beat song. It’s layered and deliciously complicated in your mouth. Jollof rice is such a beloved dish that every West African takes ownership of it. Nigerians and Ghanaians especially squabble on who makes it better and where it was first created. Historians believe it was actually created in Senegal, but that doesn’t stop the competition.

More Grains

Do Yourself a Favor, Make a Pot of Rice Grits

Rice grits, also known as broken rice or middlins, have the same porridge-like smoothness of grits or polenta, but with more heft for sopping up sauces and gravy.

Golden Fried Rice with Asparagus and XO Sauce

Stir-frying rice with egg yolks is a technique that hails from Chinese imperial cuisine, says chef Lucas Sin of Junzi restaurant, and gives the dish a buttery richness and beautiful golden color. A generous amount of onions, garlic, scallions, and fresh ginger builds a foundation of flavor, while a spoonful of spicy seafood-infused XO sauce and plenty of freshly blanched asparagus make this fried rice even more delicious.

Pickled Vegetable Kimbap

To evenly cut the rolls without crushing the kimbap, use a very sharp knife, in a long sawing motion, without pressing straight down on the roll. If your knife sticks to the rice, wet the blade with some of the daikon pickling liquid.