Grains have emerged as one of the shining-star categories of the plant-forward trend. As a great source of protein as well as flavor, texture, and versatility, grains—especially intact whole grains and ancient grains—provide menu appeal beyond the vegan and vegetarian category, and they resonate with younger diners and foodies alike.
Ancient grains (defined as grains that have not been changed much by selective breeding), are very on-trend right now. In fact, according to Datassential, ancient grains have experienced four-year menu growth rate of 334%. In grain bowls and salads, side dishes and entrée specialties, grains such as amaranth, teff, quinoa, spelt, millet, barley, and many varieties of rice are high in protein while adding variety to flexitarian and semi-vegetarian menu concepts.
Here are some innovative ways to add these valuable plant foods to your menu:
Porridge: Beyond the oatmeal of Goldilocks fame, grain-based porridges have become a thing for hot breakfasts and beyond. Almost any kind of grain can be cooked into a creamy, comforting porridge, to be topped with everything from brown sugar and heavy cream to nuts, seeds, sautéed or raw vegetables, and crumbled cooked bacon. A mix of grains like quinoa and oats or millet and wild rice adds texture and signature distinction.
For more information on grains, see below.
Appetizers and Snacks: Grains may not immediately come to mind for this menu category, but creativity counts.
Side Dishes and Salads: The world is full of traditional grain salads and side dishes that are healthy, delicious, and appealing to customers, including tabbouleh (a Middle Eastern cracked wheat salad), mushroom barley, pilaf, and kasha (toasted buckwheat).
Grain Bowls: The darling of on-trend lunches and fast-casual menu platforms, bowls serve as a natural showcase for grains, many of them in a customizable format. Grain bowls are particularly useful operationally because the individual components can be prepped ahead and assembled or finished to order, reinforcing their fresh appeal.
More Ways to Serve Grains
Content courtesy of Nestle Professional
Source: Datassential SNAP! Food Profile: Ancient Grains (2018)