What are ancient grains?

What are ancient grains?

  • 15 October 2020
Ancient grains have become very popular, and this food trend will only continue to rise. Pasta made from ancient grains like spelt are popping up for sale everywhere, and ancient grain flours like buckwheat have become popular in baking recipes. But what even is an ancient grain? Here’s our guide to what they are, their benefits and what o cook with them.

What are ancient grains?


Ancient grains are plants that have been cultivated in the same way for centuries. The most widely-eaten grains worldwide - namely wheat, maize and rice, look very different now to how they originally did because of selective breeding and sometimes genetic modification. Ancient grains on the other hand are believed to have undergone very little change in thousands of years as a result of human manipulation and selective breeding. This means they are genetically very similar to the grains our ancestors would have eaten hundreds of years ago.

Although most ancient grains, like spelt and barley, are grains, some, such as quinoa, are actually pseudo-cereals. Pseudocereals are actually seeds, not cereals, that are used and consumed in the same way as grains.

Ancient grains have gained in popularity recently and they are sold widely in health shops, supermarkets and many restuarant menu items are made with ancient grains. Many people believe that ancient grains are healthier than other grains because they tend to be less processed and they are seen as more “natural.” Like all whole grains, most ancient grains are good sources of fibre, B-vitamins, and minerals such as zinc. Some, like quinoa and teff, are good sources of protein. Many ancient grains are naturally gluten-free and therefore suitable for those following a gluten-free diet.


Types of ancient grains


There are so many types of ancient grains and new products made from ancient grains to try. Some of the most popular include:

  • Spelt

  • Millet

  • Barley

  • Teff

  • Bulgur wheat

  • Sorghum

  • Quinoa

  • Buckwheat


Ancient grain recipes


Ancient grains can be used in recipes that traditionally use wheat or rice. Like other whole grains, they can be used in salads, stir fries or ground into flours to be used for making pasta, baking biscuits, breads, pancakes or just about anything else.

We often use ancient grains such as barley, millet, and quinoa in our dinner recipes. Here are a few of our favourites you can try at home.



Beets and Hummus - Roast beetroot & red onion with wholesome barley, topped with hummus, rocket & toasted almonds

Creamy Poached Basa and Caramelized Quinoa - Coconut milk and ginger poached basa serve on fluffy quinoa with roasted capsicums, courgettes, cherry tomatoes, and herbs.

Aged Beef with Pea and Greens Millet - Aged sirloin steak with chimichurri herb sauce, luscious millet and tenderstem greens.

Gado Gado Bowl - Green beans, bell pepper, bean sprouts, carrots and red cabbage on a bed of quinoa topped with spice peanut sauce, fresh coriander and lime.

Chilli Lemon Pork, Feta and Root Veg Salad - a delicately fragrant beetroot, carrot, and parsnip zingy, zesty springtime salad with fennel and lemon basted pork neck skewers, and bulgar wheat.