Sick of Popcorn? Try These Popping Grains

I am fanatical about popcorn. What’s not to love? Toss some organic kernels on the stove in a glorious gob of coconut oil and, within seconds, you have a magical, crunchy snack. But, corn isn’t the only grain you can pop. There are other super-healthy grains that can help you satiate your weekly popcorn quota. Oh, you don’t have one of those? I guess it’s just me, then… even so! Try diversifying your next movie night snack bowl with these four gluten-free grains.

1024px-Popcorn_and_pop_sorghumPopcorn (left) vs popped sorghum (right) |  Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


This ancient grain just got way more exciting. This drought-resistant crop is both gluten-free and resembles corn more closely than any other grain in the way that it reacts to heat. It pops to create soft, white puffs that are very similar to popcorn, although significantly smaller. Pop whole sorghum in the same manner as popcorn, on the stovetop with a small amount of oil (although you can also pop them dry). The pops may be tiny, but they are mighty tasty. If you’re looking for a popcorn alternative, this is a great option.


Popped amaranth |  Image credit: John Lambert Pearson via Flickr


These tiny grains pop quickly. Okay, maybe ‘pop’ isn’t the right word. They don’t have quite the same anatomy as corn kernels, which has a tough exterior that allows pressure to build in the soft, starchy interior when heated. But, these grains do puff, making for an airy yet delightfully crunchy snack. Unfortunately, their diminutive size makes them tricky to eat by the handful. Never fear! You can make a tasty snack mix by tossing them with nut butter, shredded coconut, a touch of honey, and whatever other wacky ingredients you want to toss in! Roll them into balls and think of it as a healthy version of Puppy Chow. This high protein treat is the perfect companion for your next Netflix night.


Raw quinoa |  Image credit: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner via Flickr


While quinoa makes a popping sound when you puff it, it doesn’t change much in appearance. However, texturally, quinoa becomes more airy when puffed. It also tastes slightly nuttier. We already know that quinoa is a complete protein, high in fiber and an all-around-super-grain. But, eating the same food over and over again can get a little monotonous—no matter how delicious. If you’re getting a little bored with your same old quinoa dishes, definitely give it a puff. Take pre-rinsed quinoa, toss it in a lidded pan along with some coconut oil and shake over medium-high heat until the grains have audibly popped. Season creatively—with salt, paprika and chili powder—and serve with a spoon and bowl as a satiating snack.


Puffed millet |  Image credit: Helen Genevere via Flickr


Once associated primarily with birdseed, millet is a versatile, neutrally-flavored grain that is undervalued. Puffed millet, for instance, makes a great breakfast cereal. Puffing lends millet a lovely toasted flavor. Make it in the same way as stovetop popcorn, making sure to shake the pan so the grains don’t burn. The puffing millet will sound more like a soft crackling. This can be done without oil, and the grains puff rather quickly. Enjoy this neutral grain with a little milk or on its own, since it is a complete protein.

Puffed grains are great for replacing popcorn as a movie snack, but why not take it a step further? You could try making your own puffed grain granola bars, homemade cereals that rival Rice Krispies, or even a unique and interesting side dish to accompany your Brussels sprouts. Get creative!

Popping or puffing your grains adds more texture and makes healthy eating a little more exciting. Have you ever tried popping grains at home? Share your favorite recipe ideas below!


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W. C
W. C10 months ago

Thank you.

William C
William C1 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Voula Hatz
Voula Hatz2 years ago


federico bortoletto
federico b2 years ago


Tanya W.
Tanya W2 years ago

Not a fan of popcorn, doubt the other grains would be able to entice me. Good for those who do like popcorn though - more choice!

Tanya W.
Tanya W2 years ago

Thank you