Hearty grains are versatile addition to your cooking, if you haven’t added them into your rotation already. With nutty flavors, chewy textures, fiber and protein, they can make an excellent base for grain bowls and salads, as well as more varied dishes.

Below, you’ll find five of our favorite hearty grains — farro, freekeh, barley, quinoa and bulgur wheat — and our favorite ways to feature them, a few of which may be a delightful surprise. Remember, you can always search for whichever grain you favor in our Recipe Finder, for even more ideas and inspiration.

Farro

Curried Cauliflower and Farro Bake, pictured above. Whole farro requires a (refrigerated) soak, but pearled and semi-pearled farro are ready to cook as the bran has been removed or mostly removed, respectively. Farro makes up the hearty backbone of this cheesy, one-pan bake.


Freekeh

Grain Salad With Carrot, Herbs and Sesame Seeds. Freekeh is young, green wheat that gets roasted to pull flavors forward, then rubbed to remove the husk. You’ll find either “cracked” — in which the grains are broken and will cook faster — and whole. You’ll find it adds a grounding earthiness against carrot, fresh herbs and sesame seeds in this salad.


Barley

Barley Risotto With Asparagus, Cider and Goat Cheese. Hulled barley, which has the tough covering removed but not the bran layer underneath, is a lot like freekeh or farro in that it’ll cook up into separate grains. Pearl barley, which has that bran layer removed, cooks faster and will release starch into your cooking liquid, which can help make dishes thick and creamy, like in this barley risotto.


Quinoa

Lemon Quinoa Cake. Quinoa’s tiny round grains cook up quickly into fluffy piles with a little sweet note. Though most quinoa now comes pre-rinsed, which removes saponins that can make quinoa taste slightly bitter, you can give it an extra rinse to ensure it turns out tasty. Quinoa’s versatility extends beyond appearing as a side dish. Many who think they don’t like quinoa probably don’t know you can turn it into a cake. This gluten-free, bright, citrusy cake has a beautiful texture and keeps nicely. Below, I’ve linked savory recipes starring quinoa, as well as a method of crisping it up to incorporate it into a snack bar, so we can all get over the misconception that it is bland.


Bulgur

Bulgur Pilaf With Spring Peas. Bulgur wheat comes in varying grinds, from fine to coarse. Finely ground bulgur looks a lot like couscous and cooks up in the same way: by soaking in boiling water. Coarser iterations need to be boiled and simmered like rice, and the coarser the grind, the chewier the texture. Its earthiness balances this salad of sweet, fresh peas, butter and bright mint.

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