Healthy Swap-Outs, One Grain at a Time

This Recipe SWAT Team takes on healthy grains, with simple and delicious swap-outs
Harissa soup
Will Budiaman

Harissa soup

The mention of healthy grains to most people is often met with a reaction of "ugh" — and, to some extent, for good reason. There are too many times that delicious and nutritious whole grains are cooked incorrectly and are left unseasoned, only to end up tasting bland and gummy. But, this is simply a mistake of improper preparation and has nothing to do with the loveliness of the grain being used.

The benefit of using these "healthy" grains is that they haven’t been stripped of their nutrients, so that instead of people referring to pastas as "empty calories," they actually can be a source of fiber, nutrients, and vitamins. Make some simple swaps in the next pasta, salad, or tabouleh recipe at home and the meal will be more nutritious with that change alone.

These healthy grains aren’t just limited to whole-wheat pastas or breads; there are so many alternatives available today. Take for instance spelt pasta, used in this delicious penne alla vodka recipe. Or barley, which can be used in stews and soups — just take note that hulled (or whole-grain) barley is the most nutritious form of the grain; others, like pearl or scotch barley, have the nutritious outer husk removed. Bulgur, the grain popular in the Middle East, can be used in pilafs, salads, or even in risottos like the one below. Farro, pronounced like my last name ("Far-O"), is an ancient grain that has become popular over the past few years; it can be found as is or used in pastas like the simple one below.

So, instead of judging the grains before you buy them, try to get creative and sample some of the recipes below. Let us know what you think!


Spelt Penne alla Vodka

Even if you're like me and can barely suppress an eye roll at the mention of words like "healthy grains," I guarantee...

— Maryse Chevriere





Spinach and Ricotta Farro Pasta Salad

I can't lie, when I set out to make this recipe, I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing or how it would turn out... 

— Yasmin Fahr





Bulgur Risotto with Swiss Chard

Cooking grains risotto-style may seem fairly unhealthy because the texture is so creamy and luxurious... 

— Molly Aronica





Healthy Homemade Hamburger Helper

I am not ashamed to say that as a child, I loved Hamburger Helper...

— Nicole Campoy-Leffler





Farro with Broccoli Rabe Pesto 

Coming from a Barese family, eating broccoli rabe is non negotiable, it's a staple...

— Francesca Borgnone





Spicy Tomato Soup with Harissa and Farro

Harissa is a spicy Tunisian chile paste often used in North African cooking... 

— Will Budiaman