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3 Great Substitutes For Brown Rice

Every now and then I get a little burned out on eating rice with various recipes. That’s in spite of the fact that I eat several different types of brown rice, from basmati to sticky to long-grain and short-grain. I wondered what other grains I could substitute for rice in some of my recipes, so I did a little research. I found one substitute that I cook regularly, but also some great alternatives I hadn’t even considered.

Read the following list for three great tasting and healthy substitutes for brown rice:


Quinoa is the first alternative. Authority Nutrition explains that quinoa isn’t actually a grain—it’s a seed. You prepare just as you do rice, bringing it to a boil, and then simmering until it absorbs enough water to achieve the desired texture. From a nutritional standpoint, quinoa is high in protein, with a one cup serving (cooked) containing 8 grams of protein. A similar size serving of brown rice has only 5 grams of protein. Quinoa also has 5 grams of fiber, compared to 4 grams in brown rice. I’m not trying to steer you away from brown rice, but it’s nice to know that when you substitute quinoa for rice, you’re still getting as good or better nutritional value.

An interesting fact from Authority Nutrition: NASA scientists think quinoa might be a good crop to grow in outer space because of its high nutritional content and the fact that it’s easy to grow.


Farro is a grain also known as Emmer Wheat. It is not gluten free. But if gluten is not a problem, farro tops quinoa on the protein front. A Popsugar post that compares quinoa to farro shows that a one quarter cup of dry quinoa has 6 grams of protein, while farro has 7 grams. It’s not a huge difference, but if you want more protein, it’s a step up from quinoa. Interestingly, Farro has about twice as much calcium as quinoa. If you have a recipe that would be overpowered by the slightly nutty flavor of quinoa, farro might be a good choice—it tends to have a similar texture and taste of brown rice.


Barley provides a great alternative to brown rice, with far more protein and fiber; however, the amount of each depends on if you’re eating pearled versus hulled barley. According to The Delicious Truth, pearled barley is a more processed version of the grain, with the outer husk and bran removed. Hulled barley simply has the outer, inedible husk removed. The nutritiondata site shows that a one cup serving of hulled barley has 23 grams of protein and 32 grams of fiber. That’s some high nutritional content! The pearled variety loses a ton of nutrition, with just 4 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. That’s about the same as rice. Like farro, though, barley is not a gluten-free.

If you haven’t tried cooking with any of these rice substitutes, I have a great quinoa-based recipe that will wow you. Try my recipe for Sun-dried Tomato with Quinoa and Almonds salad—it’s light, but satisfying. By the way, you don’t always have to use a grain (or seed, in the case of quinoa). Many people crumble up, or “rice” cauliflower and use that as a substitute. If you want to use riced cauliflower as a substitute, try my Cauliflower Fried Rice with Mixed Vegetables and Eggs recipe.

What are your favorite rice substitutes? Do you have others besides the ones I’ve mentioned? I’d love to learn more about your favorites and how you use them in your kitchen!

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