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Popped Whole Grains

(recipe, Jackie Varriano)

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The big difference between corn and other poppable grains is size. Amaranth, quinoa, and millet grains are much, much smaller than popcorn kernels, and their size doesn’t change much even after popping. Sorghum is a little different, but it's still a very quiet experience compared to popping corn.


  1. ¼ cup small whole dried grains: sorghum, millet, amaranth, or quinoa


  1. Set a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. To ensure that the grains pop at an even rate, and to prevent burning, pop only a tablespoon of grains at a time. Gently shake the pan back and forth on the burner, listening carefully for the relatively soft sound of the little grains popping. When the grains have popped open, remove them to a cookie sheet to cool.
  3. Repeat until you have used up the full quarter-cup of grains. (A quarter-cup of small grains will yield about one cup popped.) Store in a dry, sealed container, then use as a garnish over savory or sweet dishes.


If your grains don't pop, they may not be fresh enough. (Yes, they are dried grains, but they still need to have enough moisture inside to allow steam pressure to build up inside the kernels, thus producing the little explosion that pops the grain.) Try to buy your dried whole grains from a store with a well-used bulk section, so that the grains are fresh.