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Substitutes for Rice – What can I use instead?

Substitutes for Rice – What can I use instead?

Rice is one of the inexpensive crop staples that is consumed worldwide. This is cooked by boiling or steaming, and it doubles its size as it absorbs water during the cooking process.

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Consuming rice is filling and is one of the best mid-tasting or neutral-tasting side dishes that serves as a blank canvas for sweet, flavorful, and savory dishes. It can be stir-fried with vegetables, used as a base for your favorite casserole dish, and even used in the creamy pudding.

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The downside about rice, especially white rice, is that people may not find it appropriate for their dietary needs. This is commonly the case for individuals who aim to eat fewer foods that are high in carbohydrates and calories. That’s why they would opt for lighter or “healthier” options. I’m not saying rice is unhealthy. Let’s agree that anything eaten in excess will indeed have inevitable health consequences. You know what I mean, right?

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Knowing that white rice is the grain that most people traditionally keep on-hand for mealtime, it is also good to be aware that are there are plenty of rice alternatives out there. Whether you are trying to control your white rice intake for health reasons, or you ran out of it, or you can’t find any at the grocery store, here are the best rice substitutes for your to consider.

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Though each rice substitute varies in flavor and texture, they can actually be cooked and used interchangeably to apply a 1:1 substitute. Here are your options if you choose to use other products that can equally match rice.

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1. Brown rice

Brown rice would be your easiest swap among the list for white rice substitutes. People would go for brown rice instead of white rice since it is a healthier option. Brown rice is referred to as unpolished rice, wherein it was processed to remove the outer layer of the rice grain called the husk. That will only leave the germ, bran, and endosperm. These parts hold most of the rice grains nutrients, such as protein and vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, calcium, and iron. Yes, brown rice is nutritious, but it has a shorter shelf life compared to the milled or polished ones – aka your white rice.

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Cooking brown rice applies the same to how you cook white rice. However, boiling brown rice will take longer, about 40 minutes, to cook brown rice. Unlike white rice, it will only take about 20 minutes.

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Aside from brown rice, you can try other rice varieties such as black rice, wild rice, red rice, or more!

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2. Quinoa

Quinoa, one of the world’s gluten-free superfoods, possesses a grain-like taste and texture, but it is actually a seed. This is a pseudo-grain where you can get good amounts of carbohydrates, fatty acids, and a complete pack of essential amino acids or high biological value (HBV) protein. Quinoa is a complete protein the same as what you can get from meat. Yes, this is the best protein option for vegans/vegetarians! Then, go for quinoa as a rice substitute,

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To cook quinoa, you will need a 1:2 ratio for dried quinoa to water. Bring these to a boil. After it reaches a boiling point, reduce the heat to simmer, then cover it again. Allow it to simmer until all the water is absorbed by your quinoa. Remove your pot of quinoa from the heat and let your cooked quinoa rest for 5 minutes before fluffing it with a fork.

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3. Cauliflower

If you are looking for a low-carb vegetable to substitute rice, cauliflower is for you! As part of the Brassica oleracea species, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable wherein its white edible fleshy head or curd is the only part that is eaten. Try roasting some cauliflower floret or make riced cauliflower!

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The cauliflower’s curd or florets are the best part of this vegetable. It tastes mild and crunchy, and it can be cooked in different ways. You can have it steamed, roasted, grilled, sauteed, baked, and even cook it like rice or add it in soups.

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To cook riced cauliflower, just chop the cauliflower curd into florets. Chop them into finer pieces using a food processor. Prepare a saucepan with heated cooking oil. Cook your finely chopped cauliflower over medium heat until it becomes slightly brown and soft.

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If you don’t have the time to cook riced cauliflower, you can always purchase a pre-made or frozen riced cauliflower in the grocery store. You can find them in the freezer or frozen vegetable section.

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4.Barley

People enjoy the chewy texture of cooked barley. And, it is also used in making whiskey and beers! Barley is a versatile grain that is believed to have already existed since the Stone Age. These fiber-rich grains are actually larger than quinoa, and it is commonly used in baking bread. Well, it does not end there, though. You can even use barley for dishes like stews and soups. Make sure to get the hulled ones when you are planning to buy them. This will make it easier for you to cook it.

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It actually takes time, honestly. This is not your rice substitute if you are always in a rush. Anyway, to cook barley, prepare a pot of water that is already seasoned with salt. Then bring it to a boil. Add your barley and reduce the heat to a low and steady simmer. Let your barley cook and cover for 55 to 60 minutes. Stir your barley from time to time until it reaches a chewy and tender texture. Drain the excess water and prepare a rimmed baking sheet to let it cool. Once cooled down, transfer your barley to an airtight container. You can keep the cooked barley in the fridge for a few days. Put it in the freezer if you want to keep it for a month at most.

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5. Couscous

The innocent couscous that you once thought was a grain but is actually a type of pasta made from semolina flour that was formed into tiny balls! You are not alone if you feel deceived by these grainy-looking couscous. Couscous is mostly enjoyed in stews or saucy main dishes. It also appears similar to quinoa minus the little curly tail. Cooking couscous is like boiling your favorite spaghetti pasta.

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For every cup of couscous, use 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cup of water. Bring the liquid to a boil under medium heat, then drizzle it with cooking oil, a little butter, and some salt. When it boils, add the couscous. Take the pot of couscous away from the heat source and let it steam for 5 minutes covered. Upon opening your pot, you will notice that the grains appear flat in an even layer. Use a fork to fluff and break the clumps.

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6. Freekeh

Freekeh is one of the ancient grain staples made from roasted young, green grains of durum wheat in North Africa and the Middle East. If you prefer to have a quinoa substitute with a low glycemic index and more fiber than other grains.

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To cook freekeh, you need 2 ½ cups of water for every cup of cracked freekeh grains. Bring the water or liquid to a boil in a saucepan, then add freekeh and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer your freekeh. Cover your saucepan for 20 minutes or until the freekeh softens. After that, turn the heat off and set your saucepan aside. Let it stay covered for 5 minutes before using it.

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7. Broccoli

Broccoli is cousins with cauliflower. They actually belong in the same family. Prepare broccoli the same way as to how you cook riced cauliflower. Yes, you’ll have riced broccoli as another rice alternative for dieters on low-carb or low-calorie diets.

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Prepare riced broccoli by grating or chopping it in a food processor, then cook it over medium heat with a little amount of oil. If you can’t make time to make riced broccoli, you can get them at the grocery stores, particularly in the freezer section.

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8. Pasta

Pasta is a group name for food made from an unleavened dough of wheat flour and water. These ingredients are mixed to create the dough and shaped into different cuts and sizes. Pasta is typically cooked in boiling in water and enjoyed served with a sauce. Like rice, pasta is also dense in carbohydrates. This makes it one of the alternatives for rice.

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If you want pasta with a similar shape, size, and texture to rice, you can try orzo pasta. And if you prefer something that has more protein and fiber, go for whole-wheat orzo.

In cooking orzo pasta, boil it over medium heat until it reaches the desired tenderness. Drain it before serving.

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9. Farro

Farro is an ancient whole-grain wheat product loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This can serve as your rice substitute that is chewy with a much nuttier in flavor. It kind of looks like larger grains of barley. The three types of farro grains are spelt, emmer, and einkorn. Farro can be eaten alone, or it can serve as an ingredient in stews, salads, and soups. You can also mix farro with fruit and cream as if you are having muesli or granola cereal.

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To cook farro, prepare 3 parts of water to one part dried farro (1:3). Then boil the water under slow heat and cook the farro until it’s tender.

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10. Corn grits

Corn grits started with the Native Americans, wherein corn is ground to a coarse meal before it is boiled. Grits can either be white and yellow in variety, depending on the type of corn used. It is rich in carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index. So, this makes a good rice substitute for you! Corn grits also have fiber and antioxidants like carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. If you don’t have time to cook corn grits, you can always purchase ready-to-cook corn grits in bags.

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In cooking corn grits, add the grits to a pot of salted water or liquid broth and bring it to a boil. After that, reduce the heat and let it cook slowly for 5 minutes. Stir it from time to time as well. Doing this will create a porridge-like consistency. You may also add vegetables, seasonings, and spices to make it tastier.

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11. Sweet potatoes/regular potatoes

Besides being an excellent substitute for potatoes, sweet potatoes can also stand as rice or sweet carb alternative. With sweet potatoes, it can help quell your cravings for sweets. This versatile crop is naturally, well, sweet (that’s why they are called sweet potatoes in the first place), and it has a touch of creaminess when cooked. With sweet potatoes, you can get an abundant source of fiber and complex carbohydrates that can help stabilize your blood sugar.

Cooked sweet potatoes, just like how you cook a regular potato. Boiling is the typical way to cook it. But, you can opt to bake or steam them in the oven. If you like potato fries, you should try sweet potato fries too! If you

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If there are no sweet potatoes, regular potatoes will always work as a rice substitute as well.

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12. Amaranth

Amaranth is the Aztecs’ ancient staple food. These are gluten-free tiny grains that are also called Rajgira. Like quinoa, it is packed with protein and high amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, and iron. Amaranth is enjoyed as a hot cereal or polenta. Or, you can even pop it like popcorn and use it for your homemade granola or baked goods to improve the texture.

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To cook amaranth, for every cup of amaranth grain, you need to use 2 1/2 – 3 cups of liquid and then bring it to a pot. After that, reduce the heat, let it simmer, and cover for 20 minutes or until the grains grow fluffy.

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To make porridge using amaranth grains, you will have to increase the amount of water for you to achieve a porridge-like consistency and cook it for a longer time.

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To make popped amaranth, preheat a skillet over high heat and add a few tablespoons of cooking oil. Add the amaranth seeds and stir it continuously using a wooden spoon as they pop. You have to quickly remove the skillet off the fire once most of the grains have already popped. Transfer the popped amaranth and go make another batch. Popped amaranth on its own, or you can serve it with milk and fruit for a simple and healthy breakfast.

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13. Adlai

You probably just heard of this now. Little that you know that this gluten-free heirloom grain, Adlai, or “job’s tears,” can give you 3 times more calories than regular white rice. What a load of energy! Aside from that, this powerhouse grain is also packed with protein, dietary fiber, phosphorus, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine.

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As for its taste, Adlai is akin to an al-dente noodle or risotto with a nice, firm, chewy bite. Hence, its neutral taste makes it a great pair with savory entrees, and it can be used as a good base for salads, flavored rice, and pasta dishes.

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To cook Adlai, just apply the same way as you would cook rice. You will only need a 1:2 ratio for Adlai to water. Let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until it is cooked. You may increase the water if you want your Adlai grains to have a softer texture.

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14. Bulgur wheat

You can use bulgur wheat as a whole-wheat substitute for rice. It appears similar to couscous, but they are actually smaller pieces of cracked whole-wheat grains. Bulgur wheat is usually used in a Mediterranean salad dish called tabbouleh. For dieters, bulgur wheat is an excellent alternative for rice since its caloric value is lower than rice.

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In cooking bulgur wheat, you will need one part of bulgur wheat to two parts of water (1:2). You will have to bring the water to a boil before adding your bulgur wheat. Reduce the heat to medium to allow the bulgur wheat to cook properly until it is tender. Drain the excess water and fluff it with a fork.

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15. Chickpea Rice

Chickpea rice is fairly new to the world of cooking as a plant-based protein source. If you have ever tasted hummus, you will surely know that chickpeas are the main ingredient. It shares a similar texture to orzo pasta; only it has a more neutral taste.

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Take away

Many rice alternatives can help you meet your personal preferences. For a gluten-free option, choose quinoa, corn grits, sweet potatoes, potatoes, amaranth, and Adlai.

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If you choose vegetables instead of grains as your rice alternative, go for cauliflower, broccoli, or chickpeas.

For your whole-grain options, you can have bulgur, farro, freekeh, and barley.



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