Avoiding Wheat



By Cat, Sept 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also (other site): Wheat Free.org (12) for great description of various wheat free and gluten-free flours.

If you are interested in avoiding wheat, try a wheat-free flour from Luci Lock (see Wheat Free Baking Tips on Mercola’s site (1)). Or try ancient members of the wheat family which have less (or different) gluten, or one of the gluten-free options.

See also: Gluten Avoidance: Myth or Reality, which is my notes/comments on an article in the New York Times: The Myth of Big, Bad Gluten, b (10)

The following grains and pseudo-grains are discussed in this article (in alphabetical order):

Amaranth, Barley; Buckwheat/Kasha; Bulgur; Corn; Farro; Freekeh; Kamut ®/Khorasan; MilletOat; Quinoa; Rice; Rye; Spelt; Teff; and Wheat.

Wheat and Wheat Substitutes

Some of these are true grains; some are seeds used like grain. Note that most of these grains/seeds are available from Bob’s Red Mill. An alternate source is provided if Bob’s Red Mill does not offer the specific ‘grain.’


Technically not a grain, but rather the seed of a vegetable similar to spinach and chard.  But some varieties are grown and used as grains. Veggie varieties are shorter than the grain varieties.See also: History & use of amaranth (2), and Growing amaranth as a grain (3):


A true grass and grain, barley is ancient, and grows well in colder climates like Scotland. For more, see Barley: A Low-Gluten & Nourishing but Forgotten Grain in the American Diet and  Other True Grains (about) for more.


This pseudao-grain is a popular wheat substitute, and is often called kasha, but technically, kasha is buckwheat boiled in water or milk, It is most commonly used for porridge but has other delicious uses.

See Buckwheat & Kasha (About) for much more.


Bulgur is made from wheat or ancient varieties of wheat. Commercial bulgur is made by roasting the grain, but a more healthful version is made by sprouting the grain.

See Bulgur and Bulgur Flour (About) for lots more.

Corn (Maize)

Corn is a true grass and grain. While it does not have the same gluten as wheat and its close relatives, it does have its own type of gluten. Corn gluten is an organic pre-emergent weed control application for lawns.

The simplest, most fuss-free way to remove stubborn silks from freshly shucked corn is by gently brushing corn with a clean terry cloth kitchen towel (4).


Farro is not a specific grain, but rather a group of grains that are ancient varieties of wheat still in use today: einkorn (small-grain), emmer (medium-grain),  and spelt (large-grain). However, just to make matters confusing, each of these grains may be called ‘farro,’ which makes it hard to know which one is meant:

  1. Einkorn is commonly used in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, but has spread south near the Dead Sea, and north through Caucasus to the Balkans and Central Europe. (7) It may well be a good wheat substitute for those with coeliac: “in contrast with more modern forms of wheat, evidence suggests the gliadin protein of einkorn may not be as toxic to sufferers of coeliac disease.” (7, quoting an article in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology)
  2. Emmer is most commonly used in Italy (7), but Bob’s Red Mill (11), indicates “farro is the traditional grain of Italy.”
  3. Spelt, which is more commonly used in Germany and Switzerland, may also mistakenly be called “farro.” To further confuse things, emmer and spelt are often mistaken for each other.
  4. All three varieties are used in France where the term ‘spelt’ is used like ‘farro’ for the three types of wheat (small einkorn, medium emmer, and large spelt), greatly increasing the confusion.

It is generally accepted there are three sizes of ‘farro’: farro piccolo (small-grain), farro medio (medium-grain), and farro grande (large-grain), which are einkorn, emmer, and spelt, respectively. Bob’s Red Mill’s Farro product is smaller than spelt, and is likely really Emmer. Note that modern varieties of wheat were most likely derived from Einkorn.

Farro is not the same as farina (although farina may be made from farro). Farina is a cereal food made from cereal grains, usually semolina (7).


Bob’s Red Mill has introduced American to this interesting product popular in the Middle East and North Africa. Like bulgur, it is a roasted wheat, but unlike bulgur, the wheat is not fully ripe. Instead, its grains are still yellow and the seeds are soft. After harvesting, “it is then piled and sun-dried. The piles are then carefully set on fire so only the straw and chaff burn and not the seeds. The now roasted wheat undergoes further threshing and sun-drying to make the flavor, texture, and color uniform. This threshing or rubbing process of the grains gives this food its name, farīk or “rubbed”. The seeds are then cracked into smaller pieces so they look like a green bulgur.” (7)

Kamut ® or Khorasan (Triticum turanicum)

Another true grass/grain, Kamut is an ancient variety of wheat that was ‘rediscovered” and patented by a Montana company. The terms of the patent require that it always be grown Organically. See also Other True Grains (about).

Montana Flour and Grains (5), in Fort Benton, MT is a source of Kamut berries, should you wish to grind your own flour. See also The Fresh Loaf (6) for more on bulk sources of Kamut.


This tiny true grain is common in arid and semi-arid parts of the world. According to Wikipedia (7), millet is not a taxonomic category of grain, but rather a functional or agronomic group of small-seed grains with differing taxonomies. The most common varieties are:

  • Pearl millet (pennisetum glaucum)
  • Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
  • Proso or white millet (Panicum miliaceum)
  • Finger millet (Eleusine coracana)

In addition, certain other small grains can be called millet, but they are more often called by their own names:

  • Teff (see below)
  • Sorghum

Millets do not contain gluten, and thus make a good substitute for those with gluten problems. However, they do not make a good yeast-risen bread because of the absence of gluten; for yeast-risen breads, millet flour should be mixed with gluten flour.

Porridge is one common use of millet, traditionally in Russia and China. They can also be used similar to couscous in middle-eastern cuisine.


Another ancient true grass/grain, but unadulterated oat does not contain gluten. Processing facilities often cross-contaminate oat with gluten from wheat or other gluten-grains, but it is still possible to find 100% gluten-free cultivars of oat.

However, oat does contain a different lectin, called avenin, a cousin of gluten. Some gluten-intolerant people can tolerate avenin, and some people who have no problem with gluten may have problems with avenin.

See also Other True Grains (about).


This popular gluten-free seed in the same family as amaranth, and can be used as a grain. It is an excellent source of protein. See Quinoa (About) for more.


Rice is a true grass/grain, originally from Africa by readily adopted by the oriental peoples of east Asia. It does not contain gluten. See also:


Another ancient true grass/grain, is much lower in gluten than wheat. See also Other True Grains (about).

Spelt (Triticum spelta)

This is another ancient true grass/grain in the wheat family. See also Other True Grains (about) and Spelt vs Wheat in Baked Goods & Pasta for lots more. Spelt resembles soft wheat and is excellent substitute in quick breads, cakes, cookies, and pie crusts. It can also be used on yeast-risen breads, but its gluten works up more quickly, for a shorter rise time, and it tends not to rise as much as wheat. The following is from Food Allergy.org (8):

“The gluten in spelt behaves differently than the gluten in wheat in cooking, [because spelt gluten is soluble in water whereas wheat gluten is not. Furthermore, in yeast-bread making], the individual gluten molecules join up more readily to form long chains and sheets that trap the gas produced by yeast. This means that it is possible to over-knead spelt bread.

It is possible that the greater solubility of spelt protein makes it easier to digest than wheat. Undoubtedly, most people have had much less prior exposure to spelt than to wheat resulting in less opportunity to become allergic to spelt.”


This is an older true grass/grain from Ethiopia, with an excellent nutritional profile, including all 8 of the essential amino acids. While teff does contain gluten, it doesn’t have the problematic gliaden (part of wheat gluten complex), and so is tolerated by Celiacs and others who cannot tolerate gluten. It is not good for use on its own in baked products, but can be mixed with other flours for this use. See What’s Cooking America on Teff Flour (9) for more.

Wheat (Triticum durum, Triticum aestivum and others)

A true grass/grain, believed to be a descendent of the ancient grain Emmer. Modern wheat varieties all contain gluten (and gliaden), and also WGA (Wheat Germ Agglutinin). Those with gluten sensitivity should avoid wheat.

There are two common forms of modern wheat: Soft (such as whole wheat pastry flour) and Hard (durum flour). Soft wheat has much less gluten than hard, but it still contains WGA.

For lots more, see Wheat (about), which discusses: White, Whole Wheat, Bread, Pastry and Cake Flours; Semolina & Cream-of-Wheat.


  1. Mercola’s Wheat Free Baking Tips (blogs.mercola.com/sites/vitalvotes/archive/2007/05/25/Wheat-Free-Baking-Tips.aspx)
  2. history & use of amaranth: eattheweeds.com/www.EatTheWeeds.Com/EatTheWeeds.com/Entries/2016/10/10_Amaranth:_As_Seen_On_YOU_TUBE.html
  3. growing amaranth as a grain: extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC3458.html
  4. Better Homes and Gardens, June, 2009 on corn silk
  5. Montana Flour & Grains; montanaflour.com
  6. The Fresh Loaf on Kamut sources: thefreshloaf.com/node/9487/kamut-berriesany-bulk-source-available
  7. Wikipedia on Millet (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millet); on Wheat (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat); on einkorn (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einkorn_wheat); on farro (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farro); on Farina (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farina_(food); of freekeh (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freekeh)
  8. food-allergy.org/spelt.html
  9. whatscookingamerica.net/CharlotteBradley/Teff-Flour.htm 
  10. NY TimesThe Myth of Big, Bad Gluten, b nytimes.com/2015/07/05/opinion/sunday/the-myth-of-big-bad-gluten.html?
  11. Bob’s Red Mill, Farro product: (link removed at their request)
  12. Wheat Free.org on wheat-free flour (wheat-free.org/wheat-free-flour.html)

Other sites to check out:

About Cat

See my 'About' page
This entry was posted in Grain, Pseudo-grain and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.