Grandma’s Grain Recipe

A simple, single pot mixed grain recipe inspired by a reader email from a grandmother of four - rice, oats, barley, and millet.

Grandma’s Grain

I rarely cook mixed grains because I feel compelled to cook type each grain in a separate pot - a pot for barley, one for rice, another for millet, etc. No one around here looks forward to doing the resulting dishes. It's bad enough scrubbing one rice pot, let alone a collective. Each grain cooks for a different amount of time, hence the need for all those pots - or that's what I thought. Today's recipe is a simple, single pot approach to mixed grains inspired by the following reader email, a grandmother of four...

Dear Heidi...I have three children and four grandchildren. There is one simple dish my three youngest grandchildren totally expect for me to have around when they come to see me. I have named it "Grandma's Grain" and would like to share it with those who frequent your website. It smells so good when it cooks, and is delicious! My grandchildren would rather have a bowl of this cereal than almost anything else I cook - and they can be very picky. This will stick to your ribs for about 4 or 5 hours, much longer than a bowl of regular cold cereal and milk.

We season it with extra virgin olive oil, season salt, food yeast, hot sauce, or any favorite seasoning. Avocado is a wonderful addition we thoroughly enjoy. It can also be eaten with the traditional milk and sweetener. This can also be used in a casserole the way you would use rice. The best, K.J.B.

The resulting cooked grain blend is textured, peppered with flecks of color, and filling. The millet, which cooks fastest breaks down and lends a creaminess that you wouldn't get otherwise. I can think of a hundred reasons to cook up a pot of this over the weekend and use it as the foundation for many meals - breakfast, lunch, or dinner - throughout the week. In the photo up above I've simply drizzled the grains with a bit of half-and-half, and sprinkled with a bit of raw sugar and toasted walnuts. For lunch I might go for a scoop with a poached egg and a little side salad. Or I could use it as the backbone of a "fried-rice" type dish with tofu. Or a baked version of arancini in place of day-old risotto. Or, or, or...

Also, before I sign off I want to apologize for not being very responsive in the comments the past week or so. I just got back from an inspiring trip to Chile and Argentina, which means I've been plane and hotel hopping for the past ten days. I'm looking forward to sharing some stories, recipes, and photos in the coming weeks...And thanks to everyone who emailed me suggestions :)...

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Grandma's Grain Recipe

If you can't find one of the ingredients, don't be discouraged. Simply substitute more of whatever you do have - more rice, millet, etc. I made a few minor tweaks to K.J.'s recipe, mainly a bit of salt during the cooking process, along with a few little word adjustments for clarity.

1 cup long grain brown rice (I use Lundberg's)
1 cup millet
3 handfuls of whole barley
3 handfuls of whole oats (groats)
1 handful of red rice, wild rice, or a mixture of wild type rices
2 teaspoons salt

Mix all grains together, rinse, drain, and put in a large thick-bottomed pot. Stir in the salt. Cover with water up to your knuckle - about two inches above the grains. Bring to a boil, then turn down flame as low as it will go. Cook uncovered (simmering) until all water is gone, about thirty-five minutes. If you overshot the amount of water you added and your grains cook before the water absorbs entirely, strain off the extra water.

This makes a big pot of mixed grains. Plenty for a family of four to use over the course of a week.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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The knuckle questions remind me of my Grandma's instruction for how hot the water should be to proof yeast. "Run the faucet until you can only keep your finger in it while you count to two, but count to three when you're my age (80)."


Yup, yet another lurker is impelled to leave the shadows by this fabulous recipe. Absolutely can't wait for Saturday breakfast...


I don't doubt that this recipe works, but doesn't it break every rule in the book? I thought adding salt to uncooked grains, putting the grains in cold water, and cooking them uncovered were no-no's. I have to add my agreement that, without a specified pot size (or knuckle number) the amount of water is wholly arbitrary, especially with inexact amounts of variously sized grains. This said, I'm intrigued that it works.


This reminds me of the breakfast porridge we make in my house almost every day. We use a slightly different mix of grains -- equal portions on millet, quinoa, rye, barley, wheat berries, and brown rice. After rinsing the grains (1/4 c. per person) we add water in a 5:1 ratio with the grains (more or less to taste), with a drizzle of sesame oil, a little salt and about a tablespoon of honey, molasses or brown sugar. We let it cook overnight on low in the crock pot, and the porridge is ready when we get up in the morning! We usually top it with yogurt, applesauce, walnuts and a drizzle of honey.


Absolutely lovely recipe and photo, as always, but do I see walnuts in the picture? As a former editor of recipes (yep, for a newspaper food section), I would request that you please, please, please include all garnishes as ingredients, for the sake of my shopping list!! HS: Hi Barb, you can add whatever you like to the basic grain recipe - I mention up above that I drizzled this serving with a bit of of half-and-half, and sprinkled with a bit of raw sugar and toasted walnuts. There are a few other suggestions in the main body of the post as well... "For lunch I might go for a scoop with a poached egg and a little side salad. Or I could use it as the backbone of a "fried-rice" type dish with tofu. Or a baked version of arancini in place of day-old risotto." Sorry for any confusion - you can really use the base grains 100 different ways.


In the UK 'whole barley' is called 'pot barley'. You can get it in healthfood shops. Supermarkets seem to sell pearl barley only.

Talya B

I love this recipe. The best part is that it is written just like a gramma recipe - "handfuls" and "water to your knuckle". These gramma precise recipes are the best. It reminds me of writing down my gramma's recipes - no cups, no tablespoons...just splashes or a lot or a little! :)


Now THESE are whole grains. That's what I'm talking about, the real deal. Thanks, Grandma!

Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good?

I couldn't wait to try this as I've been itching to use more of the grains I have on hand. Rather than oats and barley, I used quinoa and teff (to boost protein). I'm fresh from reading a book on food/health and that author suggested soaking all grains for an hour and while cooking, adding a thumb sized piece of the sea vegetable, Kombu (remove like a bay leaf - acts to increase minerals of grains and legumes). I obediently soaked, but was so excited about the dish, promptly forgot the Kombu. The pot is still hot on the stove - it smells great and looks lush.... Yum - can hardly wait for lunch. Thanks Heidi.... love the site. I'm relatively new to cooking and have enjoyed making many of the recipes you post. Maureen


Kate, Pearl barley is unfortunately not whole barley. Pearled barley has had the hull removed and then the bran removed. Hulled barley isn't edible to my knowledge; dehulled barley still has the bran. Heidi, I made your peanut butter cookies last night and they were perfect! Such a nice treat. This looks like it might be a homemade substitute to my Kashi 7 grain pilaf.


I am also wondering what "up to the knuckle" means. There are three knuckles on a finger - which one? I can't wait to make this! It sounds especially appealing as we head into fall - I'm envisioning it with all sorts of roasted squash and root veggies.... HS: Middle knuckle on your pointer finger.


It's hard to think of eating grains in the hottest of the summer days, but this looks both complex and light -- and, as you point out, easy! As the nights start to cool off I may just have to give this a try. Looking forward to Chilean recipes and photos! Chile is one of my favorite wine-producing and pottery-making countries -- excited to see what you saw there.

Becky and the Beanstock

About how much is a handful? I always have a hard time with units like that... sorry!

Liz C

I know what I will be having for breakfast for the next week! Sounds wonderful. Thanks so much, Rosemary

Content in a Cottage

I've been looking for ways to use my bags of millet and red rice. This looks great!


When you say ' whole barley' is that like pearl barley? HS: It isn't the same - whole barley is more intact and less processed than pearl barley which has had some of the nutritious bran milled off (for faster cooking).

Kate Giles

This looks lovely. Can you get easy-cook wheat where you live? If so, I should think that would make a delicious addition to the pot, also quinoa.... Millet is high GI, so I've been avoiding it, but cooked with a mixture of low GI grains like this, it wouldn't be. This definitely goes on my "to try" list, as do your Choco Coco Clusters from the other day!

Mrs Redboots

Heidi, I adore your blog-photography and recipes alike. I'm about to buy a better German-English Dictionary just to be able to look up all the ingredients - foodie words are not part of my regular workday English ;-) and I couldn't tell apart the different types of grains even in German if it wasn't for your inspiring recipes. Greetings from Graz, Austria!


mmm... Looks like a hearty harvest breakfast. Just the kinda thing to top with applesauce and yogurt. My toddler might have fun eating some of this and using the rest of his share for hair product. He can't seem to get enough rice or oatmeal. I'm sure the whole family will enjoy it! Thanks Heidi and Grandma K.J.B.!


Mmm... I'll have to try this with a variety of different grains. I'm sort of trying to avoid gluten so I'll see what I can come up with. Thankfully they now make oats that don't come into contact with gluten.

Uncle Hannah

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