Savory Whole-Grain Nuggets

Savory Whole-Grain Nuggets
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Savory whole-grain nuggets
It looks like a classic Italian dish, but it has a twist.

Or perhaps we should title this, “How we used some leftover brown rice?” While both titles are accurate, the latter really reflects how this came about. On most Sundays, we cook up a batch of (normally dried) beans and a cup of rice for a simple lunch, which so happens to be one of our favorite meals, and we often have enough left over for another lunch later in the week. This past week, we used canned beans — we were out of dried beans — so we had leftover rice, but no leftover beans. Savory Whole-Grain Nuggets to the rescue.

Sure, though some people might refer to these as meatballs, we tell it like it is: these are grain nuggets all the way. And, while we searched the Internet for recipes and ideas, nothing really stood out, so we simply made up these in the Scratchin’ It Test Kitchen. After all, why have a dedicated test kitchen if you don’t test something?

So, what do you use these nuggets for? We used them in a tomato sauce over pasta, but they’d also work as a filling for sandwiches, or you could use them as kofta in Indian dishes. Or have them on toothpicks with barbecue sauce, or sweet and sour sauce, for dipping. Pretty much anywhere you might like to have a nugget with a slightly chewy texture.

Savory Whole-Grain Nuggets

Yield: about 30 nuggets

Savory Whole-Grain Nuggets


  • 2-4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 4-5 shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1 Tbs dried basil
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

Abbreviated Instructions

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and fry until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix together, rice, onions and garlic, shiitakes, oregano, basil, about a teaspoon of kosher salt, and black pepper to taste.

Add oats and eggs and stir to combine. Add bread crumbs until mixture has a thick consistency and can be formed into a nugget.

Place skillet back over medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons oil. Using your hands, form nuggets, set them in the skillet, and fry until browned on the bottom. Carefully turn the nuggets until browned on all sides.

Ingredient discussion:

Since we were having these with tomato sauce and pasta, we used basil and oregano for our spices, but, if we were making a curry dish, we’d have used turmeric, curry powder, and ginger, to match the flavor to the sauce. And, after having these, we’re thinking that, the next time we have leftover rice, we’ll use sage, thyme, rosemary, and other spices, and shape them differently for breakfast patties. We really like the fact that these nuggets have so many possibilities.

The shiitakes are there to add a nice savory umami flavor. Without them, you might not be making Savory Whole-Grain Nuggets.

Procedure in detail:

frying onions
If you want to use these with Indian or Asian food, consider adding chopped ginger to the onions.

Fry onions and garlic. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. You might as well choose a large skillet because we’ll be frying nuggets in it later. Once hot, add the onions and stir. We like to start our seasoning at this time by sprinkling a bit of salt and pepper on top. Continue frying until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so, long enough so you can smell the garlic cooking, but not so long that it browns. Remove from heat.

mixing whole-grain nuggets
The shiitakes (on the right) add a whole bunch of glutamates or umami flavor, making these nice and savory-tasting.

Mix rice. In a large bowl, mix together rice, onion mixture, shiitakes, about a teaspoon of salt, oregano, basil, and black pepper to taste. Mix pretty thoroughly so you can make sure there are no salt bombs waiting for people to bite into. Don’t worry about breaking the rice, either. If some gets broken, it’ll be fine.

adding oats and eggs
In addition to the brown rice, the oats add even more whole grains to these nuggets.

Add oats and eggs. Add the oats and eggs and stir in completely. Just for the record, we didn’t really measure the oats, we just grabbed a handful and tossed them in. It was close to a cup, though. Keep mixing until the eggs are no longer visible. At this stage, the mixture will likely be too moist to form into nuggets easily, so….

adding bread crumbs
If you use bread crumbs made from whole wheat bread, that’s adding more whole grains.
shaping a nugget
When the mixture is right you’ll be able to make nuggets easily.

Add bread crumbs. Add about 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and stir in. Scoop up a bit and try to form a nugget. If it’s too moist, add more bread crumbs. If it’s too dry, a touch of water will help. Continue adjusting until you can easily form nuggets about an inch in diameter.

frying savory whole-grain nuggets
Simply fry, without moving, until the bottom is browned, allowing the eggs to set up and preventing the nuggets from breaking apart.

Fry nuggets. Heat about 3 tablespoons of oil in the skillet over medium heat (no need to clean after cooking the onions and garlic). When hot, start forming nuggets and placing them in the skillet. Let them brown on one side without moving them, about 3-5 minutes, then carefully turn them. Continue turning and browning until they’re browned on all sides. If needed, add a bit more oil while frying.

We liked the way these turned out. Nice and savory, they smelled delicious while cooking, and tasted great in a tomato sauce. Plus, they held together well and didn’t break apart, so we had nice chunks of nuggets with our sauce and pasta. We can hardly wait to try making small breakfast patties, so much so that we might make up extra brown rice this coming Sunday. Five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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