This month’s whole grain is one with many names. Buckwheat can be called buckwheat groats, buckwheat grits, kasha, or simply buckwheat. The uncrushed grains are shaped like tiny pyramids. It is popular in Eastern European cuisines, where it is crushed and cooked into side dishes or breakfast cereal. In France, where it is often used in crepes or pancakes, it is called sarrasin. Despite the name, buckwheat is not technically a “wheat” or cereal crop; rather, it is related to rhubarb. This means buckwheat is gluten-free.
When it comes to buying buckwheat, the different names and appearances give you clues about the amount of processing it has undergone.
- Unhulled buckwheat groats are dark brown, almost black in color and are used for sprouting instead of cooking because they still have their inedible outer coating.
- Raw buckwheat groats (also called “whole white buckwheat groats”) have had their outer coating removed and then been crushed into smaller pieces. These are pale off-white, sometimes with a pinkish or greenish tinge, and are slightly bitter. It is best to toast these in a pan for a few minutes to remove the bitterness before cooking. You can buy pre-toasted buckwheat groats, which are called kasha.
- Kasha is the Russian name for toasted buckwheat groats. Pre-toasted groats are brownish and when cooked will have a nutty, slightly sweet taste.
- Buckwheat grits or cream of buckwheat. Buckwheat groats that are ground down to fine little bits are called buckwheat grits. They cook very quickly into a porridge-like consistency and are more suited for breakfast cereal.
- Buckwheat flour. Groats that are ground down to a flour can be used in baking as well as incorporated into noodles such as the buckwheat soba noodles popular in Japanese cuisine. Because buckwheat flour can have a gritty texture and contains no gluten, it is usually mixed with other types of flour in baking.
How to Cook Buckwheat
To use buckwheat in your meals, choose either the raw groats or kasha. Kasha will take slightly less time to cook because it has been toasted.
Starting Amount: 1/2 cup raw
Pre-Soaking Requirement: No
Pre-Rinsing Requirement: No
Cooking Liquid: 1 cup water
Cooking Time: Place in a pot with water, bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer undisturbed with cover on until tender. Kasha will take 15 to 20 minutes (it took us 18 minutes), while the raw groats will take slightly longer (20 to 30 minutes).
Resulting Yield: 1 1/3 cups cooked
Nutritional Information (1/2 cup cooked buckwheat):
- Calories: 77 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 16.8 g
- Protein: 2.8 g
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Fiber: 2.3 g
- Glycemic Index (GI): Low
How to Add More Buckwheat to Your Diet
- Add cooked buckwheat to salads, soups, stews or chili. Try this Lentil and Buckwheat Salad
- Switch to hot cooked buckwheat for breakfast instead of oatmeal
- Add buckwheat flour to muffins, pancakes, or pizza dough