Great Gluten-Free Grains: Bring on the Buckwheat
Buckwheat is a healthy, nutty, and versatile grain that is high in fiber, a great source of minerals (especially iron), and loaded with B vitamins. It's perfect for those on a gluten-free diet or looking to add more protein and whole grains to their meals. Buckwheat is most often used as flour, groats, and noodles. Here's how to use this flavorful grain.
Though the name may make you think otherwise, buckwheat is not wheat, but is actually a protein-rich seed from a plant similar to rhubarb. After the seed is ground, it becomes a silky flour with a purple-gray color. It can be a little tricky to work with on its own, so is often mixed with other whole-grain flours and ingredients to make baked goods. When used in smaller amounts, or in combination with other flours, it makes baked goods moist and tender. If you're avoiding gluten, mix it with your favorite gluten-free flour blend or brown rice flour. If you're not worried about gluten, try substituting half the all-purpose flour with buckwheat for a rich, nutty flavor.
Try this recipe: Best Buckwheat Pancakes
Traditionally used to make crepes, it works well in many other types of breakfast treats, like Tasty Buckwheat Pancakes and Gluten-Free Waffles. But, it's also great for baking and can be used in breads, like Gluten-Free Beer Bread and cookies, such as Buckwheat Lavender Biscotti.
More: Get tips for baking with gluten-free flour.
The unground form of the seed is a hearty and healthy substitution for oatmeal to make breakfast porridge. It's also great in cold grain salads, hot grain casseroles, and as a nutritious rice substitution. The groats are thick, chewy, and don't turn to mush like other cooked cereals and grains.
These hulled groats have not been toasted, and are a pale green color with a mild nutty flavor. Try them in cold salads, like Lentils and Buckwheat Salad To Go (Gluten-Free), a tasty meal packed with protein from both buckwheat and lentils that's perfect for picnics or an on-the-go lunch.
These groats have been roasted, giving them a reddish color and a more distinct flavor, almost like an earthy, hoppy beer. Kasha has been a popular grain in Russia for centuries, especially in dishes like Kasha Varnishkas (kasha and bowtie pasta), but is equally delicious mixed into other well-known dishes from around the globe. Instead of using bulgur wheat, try using buckwheat in Toasted Buckwheat Tabbouleh for a protein-rich and gluten-free dish.
Known as soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles are a popular ingredient in many lunch and dinner recipes. These noodles tend to be thin, compared to the thicker udon noodles. Though they can be made entirely from buckwheat, they are often a combination of wheat flours. Making soba noodles from buckwheat is an art of its own, so better to leave it to the masters and purchase already prepared noodles at your grocery store. If you're looking for a quick and easy lunch or dinner, grab some buckwheat noodles and make Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Sesame.
Tips for Cooking and Storing Buckwheat
- To maximize the natural nutty flavor, dry-toast the groats in a pan before cooking. Add groats to a dry pan over medium heat, and stir frequently until toasted and browned, about 5 minutes.
- Soak the groats in cold water overnight to soften them and shorten the cooking time. Make sure you rinse and drain them well before cooking.
- Groats can be boiled, steamed, or simmered, depending on your recipe and desired end result.
- Store buckwheat in a cool, dry place for a short amount of time, in the refrigerator for three months, or in the freezer for six months.
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