How To Cook Adlai, Quinoa, And Other Rice Substitutes

You don't need to forego rice! Try these hearty rice alternatives instead.

Are you trying to avoid rice and looking for alternatives? If you are, then you know that you probably become hungry faster and might have less energy. That’s because carbs such as rice are your body’s main source of energy

Of course, there are other sources that your body can use but if you miss eating rice and other food that makes you feel and stay full, there are rice alternatives and substitutes that you can eat instead. Here are some suggestions: 

  • • Adlai 
  • • Quinoa 
  • • Barley 
  • • Cauliflower rice 
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Adlai, also spelled as adlay, is known as Chinese pearl barley or Job’s Tears. It’s a gluten-free grain that grows primarily in Asia including the Philippines. (In fact, we have research centers that have it in Lipa, Batangas and Isabela, Cagayan Valley run by the Bureau of Agricultural Research.) The grain is similar to rice but looks like ivory-colored beads with streaks of black or light brown. It’s a high-fiber and protein-packed grain that actually tastes like white corn. It’s available in major supermarkets near the rice and grain section and even in the international Asian section.


If you have a pack of it, here’s how to cook adlai at home: 

  • 1 Rinse and drain adlai just like rice.
  • 2 Place the grains into a pot using one part adlai and two parts water.
  • 3 Bring to a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until grains are cooked through. 
  • 4 Drain excess water well and serve while hot. 

Remember that the adlai will be slightly chewy in texture with a firm bite that might remind you of pasta that’s been cooked al dente

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Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, but it nonetheless has gained ground as a rice alternative. Quinoa is part of the amaranth family and the seed can be black, red, yellow, or white. That’s why you sometimes see bags of quinoa with mixed color seeds. This makes eating quinoa a delight for your eyes as well as your appetite. 


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The seed is nutty and so small that it’s easy to miss the flavor. However, there is one flavor that you might not miss. If you tried quinoa for the first time and found that it has a bitterness to its taste, you might not have rinsed the grains properly. You should and need to rinse quinoa well and this is important because quinoa actually has a coating that tastes bitter. It’s easy to remove though: simply wash the quinoa grains well in water until the water runs clear. It’s then ready to cook! 

Here’s how to cook quinoa: 

  • 1 Rinse and drain quinoa well.
  • 2 Put quinoa into a small saucepan, using one part quinoa to two parts water. 
  • 3 Place over low heat, and bring to a boil, covered.
  • 4 Lower to a simmer, remove the lid, and continue to cook until all the water has evaporated.
  • 5 Turn off heat, cover with the lid, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • 6 Remove lid and, using a fork, fluff the cooked quinoa. Cover again, and keep warm until ready to serve. 
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Barley is a grain that has been around for thousands of years. It’s one of the earliest cultivated grains for food. It looks a little like adlai but it is more oval or oblong in shape than round. Pearl barley however is more round and looks like a pearl since these are have been more processed than regular barley. This makes it easier to cook.


While it’s not gluten-free, barley is a great source of carbs. Like quinoa, it too has a nutty flavor, so it’s a great ingredient to use as a substitute for rice, especially if you’re a fan of brown rice. The good news about barley is that you don’t need to rinse the grains. It’s ready to cook as is! Here’s how to cook barley

  • 1 Put the barley and water in the saucepan, using one part barley to three parts water. 
  • 2 Bring water to a boil over high heat.
  • 3 Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes pearl barley, 40 to 50 minutes for regular barley. 
  • 4 Uncover and add more water if the pan dries up before the barley is tender to your taste. Fluff when tender and serve while hot.
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Cauliflower Rice 

This is probably the easiest kind of rice substitute to cook. Cauliflower rice rose in popularity a few years ago when keto diets were all the rage. This veggie substitute for rice was a delight because it’s easy to prepare and doesn’t need any special treatment to cook. For those who are okay with the naturally bitter taste of cauliflower, this can even be eaten raw, perfect for those on the raw food diet. 

To make this, you simply need a food processor blender. You can even make this with a knife and chopping board if you’ve got the time and are willing to exert effort into finely chopping the cauliflower. You can do it with a grater, too, if you don’t have either appliance. 

Here’s how to cook it so it’s like rice: 

  • 1 Place rinsed cauliflower rice into a frying pan over medium heat. 
  • 2 Lightly heat until the water steams up and dries the caulirice slightly. Season to taste as desired and serve immediately while still hot. 

If you’re interested in any of these, try it and find out if you’ve found your rice alternative. 


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