This spring, consider replacing rice with a new grain like barley, couscous or quinoa. These grains are full of vitamins and minerals and can fit into a wide range of meal plans. 

There are many different grains that you may see at the grocery store.  Swap out a new grain in a recipe that you make this week!.


Barley has a nutty taste and slightly chewy texture. It contains fiber, a necessary nutrient for digestion. Archaeological evidence suggests that barley was grown in Egypt over 10,000 years ago! Did you know that barley is the fourth most produced grain worldwide after corn, rice and wheat? Worldwide, people agree that barley is a delicious diet staple. There are two varieties to look for in the store:

  • Pearl barley: Pearled barley has had the outer husks and bran layer removed. Even without the bran, most of the fiber remains in the barley. This type cooks in about 30 minutes and is a good option when you are short on time.  Try throwing some in a vegetable soup for a filling and delicious meal.
  • Hulled barley: Hulled barley needs to be soaked before cooking or cooked for a longer period of time. How to cook: Place 1 cup of dry barley grains in a large bowl and add 3 cups of water to soak for a few hours or up to overnight. Then, boil 3 cups of water or low-sodium broth and add the soaked barley without the water. Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low as you would with rice and cook until the liquid is mostly gone and the barley is tender. The pre-soaked grains can take up to an hour to be fully cooked. Add to soups, salads, or eat as a hearty side. 

Couscous is a form of pasta that’s rolled in very tiny pieces. Like rice, couscous is a blank slate that can take on any flavor.  There are 3 types: Moroccan, Israeli, and Lebanese. To prepare, Bring 1 part of water to a boil in a saucepan or pot or simply pour boiling water into a bowl. Stir in 1 part couscous. The couscous will cook in no time!

Quinoa is a flowering plant native to South America known for its edible seeds. It is rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It also happens to be in the same plant family as beets, swiss chard, and spinach! It comes in three different colors: red, black, and white. Apart from the color, all quinoa are very similar and can be used in the same recipes. Red and black quinoa tend to have a stronger flavor, take slighter longer to cook and retain a little more of their crunch than the white quinoa. Good news for our celiac friends! Quinoa is not only considered a complete protein, but it is gluten free too! Cook quinoa the same way you cook rice. This recipe for Southwestern Quinoa is sure to make your mouth water, so give it a try.

In the US, most quinoa is sold pre-rinsed. This is important to note because quinoa naturally has a bitter coating that can cause a belly ache. The package usually will say if it has been pre-rinsed. But if you’re not sure, give it a good rinse before cooking.  

There are many different grains that you may see at the grocery store.  Swap out a new grain in a recipe that you make this week!


funding statement logo

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

This material was funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP in cooperation with Maryland’s Department of Human Services and University of Maryland Extension. University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class.