You’ve probably heard of buckwheat pancakes, and you may have even heard of buckwheat noodles, but did you know that you can use buckwheat to whip up delicious salads and sides? Did you also know that, despite its name, buckwheat is gluten-free?
Buckwheat appears to be a grain, but it actually comes from the seed of an herb that’s related to rhubarb. Native to Manchuria and Siberia, it is known for being a tenacious plant – able to survive in extreme climate conditions and rocky soils. Once harvested, the outer shell is removed to reveal the inner kernel. The kernel is then split into smaller pieces, which can be sold raw or roasted.
From a nutritional perspective, buckwheat is a good source of fiber and protein as well as antioxidants, B-vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. It is also touted as being one of the richest sources of the bioflavonoid rutin, which has strong antioxidant properties.
Look for buckwheat in the bulk bins of healthy grocery stores, including Whole Foods. (It’s sold in bulk bins, and also sold under the name Eden Organics.) Once you’re home, you can cook up big batch of buckwheat in 20 minutes and mix it into different salad recipes throughout your week. (Note, ½ cup uncooked buckwheat yields 1 cup of cooked buckwheat.)
Basic Buckwheat Recipe
- Bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
- Place 1 cup of groats into a sieve and wash in cold water.
- Carefully add washed and drained buckwheat to the boiling water. Bring it back to the boil.
- As soon as it reaches boiling point, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for approximately 20 minutes (or until all the water is absorbed).
Note, to maintain a fluffy/light texture I recommend immediately ‘fluffing’ it onto a separate plate and allow to cool if using it for salads.
Buckwheat Tabbouleh Salad
Typically tabbouleh salads are made with bulgur wheat, but buckwheat or quinoa make equally tasty substitutions. They also have more protein and fiber and are gluten-free. This is the type of recipe you can have fun with – I like to add whatever other vegetables I have in the fridge – maybe some chopped cucumber or zucchini.
1 cup of cooked buckwheat (cooked according to directions above)
¾ cup of packed parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup of packed mint, finely chopped
½ cup of scallions, thinly sliced on a diagional (include white and green parts)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice from 1 lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
- Cook your buckwheat.
- Chop the vegetables and herbs.
- Mix buckwheat with the salad ingredients.
- Prepare the dressing by whisking olive oil into the lemon juice, adding more salt, lemon juice or oil if necessary.
- Stir dressing into buckwheat salad ingredients and let rest for approximately 1 hour before serving to allow for the flavors to meld.
Buckwheat and Pomegranate Salad
(adapted from Y. Ottolenghi’s Barley and Pomegranate Salad as featured in his cookbook Plenty)
1/2 cup cooked buckwheat
Seeds from 1 medium pomegranate
2-3 medium celery stalks, diced small
½-1 (depending on taste) small garlic clove, crushed
1 ½ tablespoons of packed parsley, finely chopped
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
- Place the pre-cooked buckwheat into a large mixing bowl.
- Slice a pomegranate in half and place each half into a bowl of water. Let it soak for a few minutes, then, keeping the pomegranate in the water, remove the seeds. This will cut down on the mess in your kitchen.
- Add the pomegranate seeds to the buckwheat.
- Then chop the celery, garlic and parsley and mix them into the ingredients in the bowl.
- Make the dressing: Mix the olive oil, sherry vinegar, and ground all spice together (adding salt and pepper to taste).
- Mix the dressing into the salad ingredients and adjust any of the seasoning to your taste.