The Unexpected Liquid You Should Cook Your Grains In

Quinoa, rice, and other nutritious grains aren't hard to cook, and they always aim to please. We all have our go-to recipes and techniques for cooking them, too. Some ways are better than others, being either more efficient or more full of flavor. Some include a stove; others need a rice cooker. Some people use water, while others use broth. Cooking grains can get repetitive, but do not fret! We've found a new and inventive way to add an extra burst of flavor when it comes to getting that side dish of grains ready for dinner. 

Whether the grain sitting in your cabinet is quinoa, jasmine rice, or farro, the side of the container usually recommends something similar, one cup of grains with around two cups of either water or broth (depending on the grain type).

Water or broth: the standard go-to ingredients for any type of grain recipe. Let it cook in the liquid and then add your other ingredients after it's soaked up all the liquid. But one TikToker is changing the grain game with one technique she uses to create a little extra flavor in all of her grain and bean dishes.

Cook your grains in tea

TikTok user and cooking expert @sophia_roe shared her secret for keeping her grains full of flavor: tea. It all started when she posted an aesthetically-pleasing TikTok of herself creating a dessert risotto with mango and pineapple. A viewer asked what she added to the rice because it was darker than water, and it certainly wasn't broth because it was a sweet recipe. She responded to the comment with a video talking about how she uses tea to cook her grains. "One of the easiest ways to add flavor to your grains or your beans, instead of using stock or water; use tea. Whatever tea you want. For instance, cooking jasmine rice in ginger tea, delicious," she explained.

According to Sophia, using tea provides extra flavor to your grains that you wouldn't get from water or broth. Adding ginger tea, green tea, or even black tea to cook your grains will create a little burst of flavor that is usually missing from grains. "It's really important to consider how you can add flavor to every single step of the cooking process. Using tea as a liquid base for grains or beans is a great way to make a basic staple SUPER FLAVORFUL," she added. But just how does one accomplish this?

How to cook grains with tea

Adding tea to grains is backed up by one Redditor, who answered someone asking if using tea to cook rice would help liven up an otherwise bland side. They recommended using steeped tea in the rice instead of loose leaf tea. They claim that if you were to add the loose tea leaves into the pot, it may leave your grains tasting bitter like tea that has steeped for too long. "It would probably be sensible to brew it first, remove the teabag, and then add this tea to the rice cooker," they explained.

They also recommend adding other ingredients besides tea into the rice cooker or pot while the grains are cooking. Other ingredients can include cinnamon, ginger, or "a bruised lemongrass stalk." Sometimes, the things you never thought to add to rice result in the best, bursting-with-flavor version of the dish. Adding and creating flavor at every step of the process will create a better outcome for your final product: the most flavorful rice you've ever had. Plus, this practice can be used for sweet or savory rice, so there's no excuse not to try it.

Other liquids to cook grains in

So now that we are grain experts — this title includes understanding that we've been pronouncing quinoa wrong this entire time — and know how to create more powerful flavors in all kinds of grain dishes, we were naturally wondering what else we could cook different grains in. After all, it's no longer just water or broth. We are onto bigger and better liquids. Some different liquids include vegetable juice, fruit juice, or even coconut milk. One Redditor even tried cooking rice in orange juice "in order to be the bed for a chicken breast," saying that "it's d**n tasty."

Just be sure you are matching up liquids to grain recipes, similar to what Sophia did with her dessert risotto on TikTok. Also, be sure to mix the liquid with some water if it's overwhelmingly salty or sweet. It will help you better control that flavor we are trying to create (via The Kitchn).

So, go out and cook some farro or couscous full of flavor, and remember, depending on the grain, it always starts with one cup of grains with around two cups of liquid. Then, let your creative juices start flowing.