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Nutritious Barley Gluten-Free Substitutes

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

Some people tolerate gluten poorly, and unfortunately, most grains we consume contain gluten — including barley.

However, there are plenty of nutritious grains that are naturally gluten-free, and in this article, we’ll look at six of the best — Millet, Amaranth, Sorghum, Teff, Buckwheat, and Quinoa.

Barley Gluten-Free
Barley Gluten-Free

6 Gluten-Free Substitutes for Barley Grain


  1. Millet
  2. Amaranth
  3. Sorghum
  4. Teff
  5. Buckwheat
  6. Quinoa

Millet is a cereal grain harvested from small-seeded grasses. It’s a quick-growing, drought-resistant grain that thrives in tropical semi-arid regions. It’s a common food in parts of Asia and Africa, such as India, China, Mali, Niger, and Russia.

This grain is packed with manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc source. It’s also rich in B vitamins like niacin, thiamine, B6, and folate.

Millet is an affordable grain compared to other cereal grains. 

It cooks in about 20 minutes, so it’s a handy staple in the kitchen. Millet pairs nicely with both savory and sweet meals thanks to its pleasant, somewhat sweet flavor. The wholemeal flour is frequently used to produce Indian flatbread, roti, and other pastries and polenta.



Amaranth is a gluten-free pseudocereal grain. It was a common staple food for the Aztecs and was often cooked during religious festivals and rituals.

This grain has coils of white germ, a porridge-like consistency, and a somewhat crunchy feel.

One cup of cooked amaranth contains an average of 40g of starch, making it one of the starchiest grains. With 9 g of protein, amaranth is the second most protein-packed grain among the gluten-free varieties.

It contains a lot of calcium, and it’s also an excellent source of copper, selenium, manganese, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. It’s also a rich source of folate and B6.

You can cook amaranth and eat it plain, make porridge, or add it to soups and beef stews. Ground amaranth flour can be used to make pastries, pancakes, or roux-based sauces.



Sorghum is the fifth most important grain worldwide thanks to its many uses: It’s a food crop for people, and it’s also used to feed livestock.

Sorghum is a common food source that is farmed in parts of Africa, particularly in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. It’s also frequently grown in areas with subtropical and tropical temperatures, including some regions of India and China, since it can adapt to a broad range of environmental circumstances. It’s a traditional grain, often used to make flatbread, cereal, and drinks.

Sorghum is the largest gluten-free grain; it resembles buckwheat grains in size. It’s nutritious, as it contains healthy amounts of magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus, vitamins B6, and niacin.

It’s perfect for salads, pilaf, and fried rice due to its chewy, rough texture and nutty-sweet flavor. It may also be cooked like popcorn and used as a substitute for flour when ground.



Teff is a small cereal grain that originates from the Horn of Africa. It’s a hardy crop that can endure both wet and drought-prone settings.

Teff seeds are reddish brown in hue. Due to their small size, comparable to a poppy seed, they cook pretty quickly.

Teff has a lot of protein and is an excellent source of vitamins B6, niacin, thiamin, and folate. It’s also rich in minerals like phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, and manganese.

Like amaranth, teff is renowned for having a high calcium content; one cup of cooked teff has around 12% of the recommended daily intake.

Teff produces a hearty breakfast cereal that resembles porridge. It has a mild nutty taste.

Additionally, it can be used to thicken soups and stews, including tomato soup. It’s used to produce injera, a well-known type of fermented sourdough flatbread from Ethiopia. Teff is also added to vegetarian burger patties to up their protein content.



Buckwheat is a gluten-free grain and pseudo-cereal type related to rhubarb.

It only used to grow in Southeast Asia, especially in western Yunnan, China, close to the Tibetan Plateau.

Later, it was brought to Eastern Europe, where it became a staple that was used as the basis for many regional dishes — for instance, “kasha” or cooked, toasted buckwheat.

It’s rich in fiber, niacin, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorus.

After cooking, the triangular-shaped seeds have a soft feel to them and a sweet and nutty flavor.

Buckwheat flour is a common ingredient in soba noodles and pancake dough. Both pizza crust and dry granola are often made with raw buckwheat.



Quinoa is a non-grass plant seed from the same plant family as amaranth. It’s native to the Andes area of South America and was considered the mother of all grains by the Incan civilization.

Uncooked quinoa seeds are flat and spherical; when fully cooked, they split open to create small, tender grains with a white, coiled germ that falls off.

Quinoa is a protein-rich grain high in phosphorus, copper, manganese, magnesium, and iron. Additionally, it has a lot of B vitamins, including B6, folate, riboflavin, and thiamine.

Quinoa tastes incredibly rich and buttery, like pasta, but it also has a somewhat bitter flavor. Like rice, it can be served as a side dish with chicken marsala, tempeh, tofu, or chicken tortilla soup. You can also add it to many other dishes, such as sushi or sautéed mushrooms. Cooked quinoa is a wonderful complement to salads.

Nutritional Value of Barley Gluten-Free Substitutes

1 cup (cooked)CaloriesProteinCarbohydrateFiberFat
Millet207; 10%6.1g; 12%41.2g; 14%2.3g; 9%1.7g; 3%
Amaranth251; 13%9g; 18%46g; 15%5.2g; 21%3.9g; 6%
Sorghum219; 11%6.6g; 13%46g; 15%5g; 20%2.2g; 3%
Teff255; 13%9.8g; 19%50g; 16%7.1g, 28%1.6g; 2%
Buckwheat155; 8%5.7g; 11%33.4g; 11%4.5g; 18%1g; 1%
Quinoa222; 11%8.1g; 16%39.4g; 13%5.2g; 21%3.6g; 5%


Nowadays, grains like millet, amaranth, sorghum, teff, buckwheat, and quinoa are a popular replacement for time-honored classics like barley.

These grains have been grown since the beginning of agriculture. They’re rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

They are great choices to keep on hand in the pantry whenever grains are on the menu, especially if you are gluten intolerant.

You can use these gluten-free barley substitutes to make pastries or to complement salads, stews, soups, meat, and veggies.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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