Long forgotten grains are suddenly everywhere and it’s cause for celebration and exploration. Quinoa and farro and freekeh, oh my! But what exactly does one do with them? No matter how you try to spin it, a pile of plain, boiled whole grains isn’t exactly much to get excited over.
Whether you plan on serving them as a side with dinner or making them the basis for a whole meal, a grain salad full of herbs, vegetables, and more is a splendid way to inject each kernel with flavor. Better yet, grain salads can generally be made ahead of time and will even carry you through a week of leftovers lunches. So don’t be intimidated next time you see a sack of wheat berries or kamut while shopping. With these recipes at the ready, they’ll be your new go-to staples.
1. Basic Quinoa Salad
“Basic” may sound like an insult, but we mean it with love and care. With a short and simple ingredient list, this recipe transforms quinoa into something exciting without going too over the top. Get our Basic Quinoa Salad recipe.
2. Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables and Ginger-Scallion Dressing
Packed full of root vegetables and seasoned with ginger, sherry vinegar, and soy, this quinoa salad is a fine example of vegan cooking at its most satisfying. Get our Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables and Ginger-Scallion Dressing recipe.
Tabbouleh gets its signature rugged texture from bulgur, a form of cracked wheat. Packed full of parsley, mint, and other springy add ins, it’s a breath of fresh green on the plate. Get our Tabbouleh recipe.
4. Wild Rice and Edamame Salad
This recipe may look to Japanese ingredients like edamame, sesame, and rice vinegar for flair, but it also has the sort of mild-mannered versatility that makes it a fitting addition to any barbecue, potluck, or picnic. Get our Wild Rice and Edamame Salad recipe.
5. Wild Rice, Pecan, and Cranberry Salad
Don’t let this salad’s many shades of brown fool you—it also has bright pops of flavor hiding in its midst. Cranberries, orange zest, and a glug of pomegranate molasses turn it into something on that’s borderline fruity. Get our Wild Rice, Pecan, and Cranberry Salad recipe.
6. Wheat Berry Salad with Harissa and Pistachios
Wheat berries have a pleasant nuttiness to them that is echoed further through the addition of pistachios in this salad. Tossed in a yogurt and harissa dressing, it also manages to fit in a hint of creaminess and spice. Get our Wheat Berry Salad with Harissa and Pistachios recipe.
7. Seared Scallops with Lemony Farro and Arugula Salad
A squeeze of lemon makes almost any seafood dish better. This recipe takes that idea one step further: the lemon dressed farro adds a lightly tart touch to each bite, making for a brilliant supporting player to scallops. Get our Seared Scallops with Lemony Farro and Arugula Salad recipe.
8. Roasted Zucchini and Eggplant Farro Salad
Farro has depth to it that is often associated with heavier fall or winter dishes. But it can be light and summery, too. This recipe takes advantage of zesty seasonings and warm weather produce. Get the recipe here.
9. California Barley Bowl Recipe
This one is something of a study in textures: chewy barley sits next to crunchy almonds, leafy arugula, and tender avocado, for a lively and wholesome combination. Get the recipe here.
10. Kamut Salad with Carrots and Pomegranate
With pomegranate, honey, and golden raisins, this recipe starts to veer into dessert territory. Earthy kamut help pulls it back toward dinner time, while cinnamon helps add emphasis to both the sweet and the savory. Get the recipe here.
11. Freekeh Salad with Zucchini, Green Olives and Walnuts
The lightly smoked aroma of freekeh can be the basis for all sorts of inventive flavor pairings. This one does just that in leaps and bounds, setting it up against forceful players like green olive, zucchini, parmesan, and more. Get the recipe here.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.