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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Oh, cool! I love how you used a readers recipe, particularly a grandma's, and particularly one that is a big pot of grains! I've never cooked grains together except in a soup, so this gives me more courage. It's also reassuring that her grandkids love it. Being that most kids today live on a diet of gummy worms and bunny shaped cookies, this gives me hope:)


Oh, cool! I love how you used a readers recipe, particularly a grandma's, and particularly one that is a big pot of grains! I've never cooked grains together except in a soup, so this gives me more courage. It's also reassuring that her grandkids love it. Being that most kids today live on a diet of gummy worms and bunny shaped cookies, this gives me hope:)


I once had a recipe that was handed down to me from my great-grandmother that was simmilar to this one. It was lost during a recent move to our new home. My grandmother used to make it for us kids when we were young and she called it "Breakfast Rice". Thanks for shareing this recipe, I am going to make it this weekend!! YUMMMM!!!


This is peculiar, having read the comment from Laura...but I'm an MMA fighter too (seriously!) as well as a weightlifter. I try to eat tons of oatmeal in the morning and hate it, so I can't wait to try this!! An earlier commenter asked, and I'd like to know too, how would you re-heat this throughout the week? I try to do a week's worth of cooking on Sunday so I don't have to worry about it later. Love your blog (and from your videos, I think we're neighbors...) John


Heidi, I am so excited about this recipe. My boyfriend is an MMA fighter who requires a LOT of food and good food at that. I have been obsessing over our nutrition lately (Since I'm doing it for him, I'm going to get in on my nutrition plan, too!) and have been so depressed at the thought of reading all these great recipes you post and no ingredients to make them with. Well, that is over now, I found a teeny tiny family owned grocery store that sells all these grains by the pound... everything you use here! Barley, millet, quinoa, a wall of nothing but tubes filled with these. I was so happy to finally be able to recreate all of these at home! This might sound a bit dramatic, but I have had several health problems, mostly gastrointestinal and pain related, and since I've started eating more along the lines of your food, my health has improved so much. I have something called Chest Wall Syndrome, and even that has improved in the mere month that I have been eating this way. Since I put us on our limited new plan, we both have gotten so much healthier, and my boyfriend has been kicking MMA butt in his training sessions since he started. I cannot imagine how much better we'll both be with this new world of food! I really appreciate your recipes, and check your blog about 5 times a day waiting for another post. THANK YOU THANK YOU!! Laura


That looks both delicious and healthy!


I love mixed grains like this for breakfast, but am unsure of the best method to reheat it a few days later. Should I add a little liquid (water, milk, or broth) and microwave, or in a pan on a burner?


Such a good idea! I love the idea that you can cook up a huge batch to nibble on through the week, sweet and savoury. I've been experimenting with two grain recipes after deciding it was worth the hassle after making a recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook, but it's so much easier if you can cook them all together. Many thanks to you and your lovely reader for sharing!


This looks so yummy and filling. I love grains!


I am surprised that you're cooking this with wild rice for only 35 minutes. Most available wild rice is paddy-grown, which takes longer to cook (45-60 minutes).


This is beautiful.... we love whole grains at our house and this is a gorgeous, wholesome idea. Multo grazie! :)


Thank you again. You've just given me more UnFun Mom ammo! This is very similar to a recipe I have from an old church cookbook. Looking forward to making my kiddies eat it...MUAH AH AH! ;) C.




This looks great- I would like to post a warning about improvising with the grains- do not use buckwheat. It falls apart in a bad way. I tried to cook buckwheat with brown rice once and it did not get creamy like millet, but slimy and grey. I think french lentils would work well with this, though, for the savory version.


could you cook this like steel cut oats - the overnight method?


Hello, first of all: my vegetarian housemate will LOVE this recipe. She'll loveitloveitloveit ;-) AND ... I've figured the covered/uncovered bit out ! It's 'cover with water' and 'simmer uncovered' ! Woohoo ! Heidi, your food, your pictures and your thoughts about food and life make me just happy. I have been admiring your work secretly from far away Singapore for years - and it is about time I tell you ... You're fabulous ! Thank you for your creative mind, your posting-discipline and for loving what you're doing. Deeply inspired Andrea


Looks wonderful! I love mixed grain dishes. For breakfast today we are having a mixed grain hot cereal I ground myself in my home grinder. I find that the different grains add such a variety of texture and flavor. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will be sure to try it. :-)

Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

Madelaine, Hulled barley sure is edible and nutty tasting. Just must cook it for longer, perhaps an hour if I am recalling correctly.


I find the recipe very interesting. I am trying to work on a grain mixture for my son, who has Crohn's disease. Especially interested in quinqua for nutritional value.


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