Whole grains are nutritious, delicious, and totally versatile, as these 11 healthy grain salad recipes attest. They’re great for dinner and the leftovers make a perfect packed lunch for work or school.
We’re glad long-forgotten grains have become popular again—quinoa and farro and freekeh, oh my! Over the past several years, many varieties of whole grains have become more readily available in grocery stores and valued as healthier alternatives to more processed foods. While keto dieters may shun them due to carbs, most whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals, and most are also gluten-free. Paleo eaters put a premium on them, as do many vegans and vegetarians, but they’re good for anyone seeking a hearty alternative to rice and pasta, or just a new make-ahead meal option.
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 leftover-based lunches. Top them with whatever grilled protein you like, or don’t. Add cheese, extra veggies, or whatever you please.
“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, but it’s easy to adapt to whatever other ingredients you have on hand or are in the mood for. Get our Basic Quinoa Salad recipe.
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 Autumn Quinoa Salad 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.
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.
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 that’s borderline fruity. Get our Wild Rice, Pecan, and Cranberry Salad recipe.
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.
Farro has a depth to it that is often associated with heavier fall or winter dishes. But it can be light and summery, too; lemon makes it sunnier, and a squeeze of citrus 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.
Nutty rye berries are the whole grain form of rye; they’re high in dietary fiber, amino acids, and manganese, and delicious when they mingle with sweet carrots and crunchy fried onions in a tangy, herb-packed kefir dressing. Get the Rye Berry Salad recipe.
Pleasantly chewy barley is great simply tossed with a generous amount of pesto; this version is made from winter greens, but a classic basil pesto is just as good. Mix in whatever roasted vegetables or other odds and ends you have to bulk it up and add color. Get the Barley with Winter Greens Pesto recipe.
This one is something of a study in textures: toothsome farro supports a rainbow of crisp-tender roasted veggies, nutty kale-pistachio pesto, and fresh mozzarella cheese, for a lively and wholesome combination. But you can switch up the toppings however you like—add crunchy chopped almonds, toasted pumpkin seeds, creamy avocado, grilled salmon, or a runny poached egg, just for starters. Get the Chino Ranch Farro Bowl recipe.
The lightly smoked aroma of freekeh can be the basis for all sorts of inventive flavor pairings. Here, warm spices like cinnamon, allspice, and Aleppo pepper combine with sweet roasted butternut squash and shallots, plus fresh thyme and pomegranate molasses. You’ll want to eat it all fall—and yes, it’s technically a pilaf, but serve it in a bowl and you can call it a salad. Get the Freekeh Pilaf with Roasted Butternut Squash recipe.
Related Video: The Ultimate Ancient Grain Bowl from Chef Pierre Thiam