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Cooking Whole Grains

General guidelines for cooking popular whole grains
1 cup of dry grain
Cook time*
Amount cooked
Brown rice  2½ cups  45 minutes  (varies by variety)
3–4 cups 
Bulgur  2 cups  10–12 minutes  3 cups 
Couscous, whole wheat  2 cups  10 minutes
(heat off) 
3 cups 
Oats, steel cut  4 cups  20–40 minutes  4 cups 
Pasta, whole wheat  6 cups  8–12 minutes
(varies by variety) 
Quinoa  2 cups  12–15 minutes  3+ cups 
Wild rice  3 cups  45–55 minutes  3½ cups 

*Cook time may vary.

Basic whole grain cooking techniques

Boil and simmer method

Cook most whole grains the same way you cook rice. Put the dry grain in a pan with water or broth, bring to a boil, and then simmer covered until the liquid is absorbed.

Pasta method

Pasta is usually cooked in a large amount of boiling water, boiled until tender, and then excess liquid is drained off. Some whole grains (including brown rice, farro, and wheat berries) can also be cooked in this way.


Soaking: Let grains soak before cooking to help reduce cooking time.

Pre-Cooking: Prepare whole grains in advance to help make meal preparation simple.

Batch Cooking: Cook whole grains in big batches and keep them in your fridge for 3–4 days to reheat or use in cold salads. You can also put them in your freezer for use at a later date.

Quick Cooking: Buy quick cooking grains such as bulgur, quinoa, and whole wheat couscous as they make a great addition to any meal and are perfect for busy nights or last minute meal prep.

For steel cut oats, try this Med Way Life Hack.

  • Put 4 cups water and 1 cup oats in a saucepan, bring to a boil.
  • Take the pot off the heat, cover, put directly in the fridge, and leave overnight.
  • In the morning, the steel cut oats will be ready for breakfast. Just reheat and serve.


Sticky bottoms: If whole grains stick to the bottom of the pan, turn off the heat, add a small amount of liquid, cover, and let it sit for a few minutes. The grain will loosen, making serving and clean up easier.

Time varies: Grains can vary in cooking time depending on the age and type of the grain and the pan. When you decide they’re tender and tasty, they’re done. If “time is up,” and the grain is not as tender as you like, simply add more liquid and continue cooking. Or, if the grain seems ready to eat before the liquid is all absorbed, simply drain the excess.