Buckwheat, often referred to as an ancient grain, is actually not a grain nor is it a wheat product. Buckwheat is a non-grass plant that is used like a cereal or grain and is considered a “pseudocereal.” Technically, it is a gluten free seed. Quinoa, amaranth and chia seeds are also considered “pseudocereals.”
Buckwheat groats are simply the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant that are used for cooking. Buckwheat can be used in place of other carbs such as rice, potatoes, or pasta. The groats have a nutty, earthy, and robust flavor and pair well with dried fruit, dark spices, nuts, and earth vegetables. Buckwheat groats have a stronger flavor than other popular grains like wheat and rice, but have a similar texture and consistency. Buckwheat is a staple in Russia and other Eastern European countries as well as Asia. The groats may be found in the grain aisle at the grocery store. Roasted buckwheat groats, known as kasha, may also be found in the kosher section.
Buckwheat has an impressive nutritional profile and is considered a functional food, providing health benefits beyond just basic nutrition. Buckwheat contains phytochemicals which have antioxidant effects and may reduce inflammation. It is a good source of insoluble fiber and resistant starch, providing a good option for people with blood sugar and GI issues. A ¼ cup of uncooked buckwheat groats doubles in volume when cooked in water and provides 160 calories, 1 g fat, 6 grams of high-quality protein and 33 grams of carbohydrate along with 2 grams of fiber. It is sodium and cholesterol free. Buckwheat also provides key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and calcium.
Preparing buckwheat groats is easy as following the directions on the package. To cook buckwheat groats, add one cup of dried grain with 2 cups of liquid. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Allowing your buckwheat to rest before serving yields the best texture and bite. Some recipes suggest toasting the groats prior to cooking which brings out a roasted flavor. One of the most common problems people have when cooking buckwheat groats is that the end product can turn out mushy, which means it’s been overcooked. To avoid overcooking, taste test your grouts while cooking. With practice, you will find the sweet spot where the buckwheat is tender enough to eat, but not mushy. Store dried buckwheat groats as you would any grain, in an airtight container protected from light, heat, and moisture.
Buckwheat groats can be used in almost any dish, from savory to sweet. They work well in casseroles and porridge style recipes. As a rule of thumb, buckwheat can be prepared like any other wheat grain using the same cooking methods. Looking for some inspiration? Try this delicious Moroccan Buckwheat Salad. It will truly become a favorite.
MOROCCAN BUCKWHEAT SALAD
- 2 cups buckwheat
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 oz fresh spinach, chopped
- 6 oz cooked chickpeas
- 6 pitted dates, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 oz fresh cilantro, chopped
- pepper flakes, optional
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- 3 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp salt – optional
- Cook buckwheat according to package instructions and let it cool completely*.
- In a large mixing bowl add the salad ingredients together with the buckwheat and set aside.
- In a glass jar mix the dressing ingredients and pour over the veggies. Combine and serve immediately.
*Cooking Tip: Check your buckwheat for doneness after 8 minutes of cooking.
Nutrition Information: 8 Servings/1 cup each: 410 cals/16 g fat/2.5 g sat fat/0 mg chol/190 mg NA/ 62 mg CHO/11 g fiber/16 g sugar/10 g protein.
Values listed represent a nutritional analysis. There are natural variations that occur in all recipes; these figures may not be exact and are provided for informational purposes only.