Not sure about Buckwheat? Here’s all you need to know about what it is, why it’s so good for you and how to cook it perfectly… every time!
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What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat (and its toasted sister ‘Kasha’) have become increasingly popular in recent years. With good reason. For beyond the ‘health diet’ image, buckwheat is a truly amazing ‘grain’, which should be given the recognition it deserves.
Except it isn’t a ‘grain’. Buckwheat is in fact, the seed (also known as a pseudo cereal) from the family of ‘Fagopyrum’ plants (knotweed), which are related to rhubarb and sorrel. And despite the name, buckwheat has no connection with wheat either. Which means it’s entirely GLUTEN FREE… So, it’s perfect for a Coeliac diet
Even better… It’s easy to find in most good supermarkets, usually in the aisle with the rice and other grains.
In addition to Buckwheat groats (the hulled seeds which are eaten in a similar way to rice), buckwheat is also used (in pure form) to make everything from soba noodles and pasta to flour. Indeed, Buckwheat Flour is a versatile ingredient in the gluten free flour larder, not least because its high protein content offers great structure as well as nutrition. At gluten free Alchemist, it has been used in a whole variety of bakes… From a versatile all-purpose rice-free flour blend and Wholemeal Bread, to pancakes, pastry and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
Why Buckwheat is so amazing
So, what makes Buckwheat so amazing and why should we be eating it?
Buckwheat (and Kasha) Nutrition
Buckwheat has the reputation of a ‘superfood’. It’s a great source of protein and fibre, while also being extremely low in fat. Although it contains about 27% carbohydrate, its sugar content is negligible. And that means that it is also a low GI (glycaemic index), slow-release energy… A good option for people with Type 2 Diabetes.
Buckwheat is relatively low in calories too. According to BBC Good Food, a single portion of cooked Buckwheat (about 84g) contains just 122 calories. Not bad considering its capacity to sate.
It is also massively rich in magnesium (important for everything from bone and mental health through to energy levels and stable blood pressure) and Vitamins B, zinc, iron, copper and manganese.
Naturally ‘free from’ gluten and other major allergens
Although there is a small minority of people who are unable to tolerate buckwheat, it otherwise remains entirely ‘free from’ (barring usual cross-contamination checks). That, coupled with its nutritional profile, make it a wonderful addition to many otherwise nutritionally limiting diets.
- Gluten Free ✔️ – Perfect for those with Coeliac Disease (Celiac) or intolerant/allergic to gluten.
- Dairy Free ✔️
- Egg Free ✔️
- Vegan ✔️ – A good source of plant-based essential proteins.
- Soy Free ✔️
- Nut Free ✔️
- Sesame Free ✔️
- Sulphites and other key allergens ✔️
Because Buckwheat can be eaten as ‘groats’ and flakes or made into flour to create pasta, noodles and a whole variety of bakes, it is an incredibly versatile ingredient. But its versatility doesn’t stop there. Despite being a minor crop, Buckwheat is also a plant that is relatively unfussy to grow. And with the ever-increasing world population, this may be something to commend it.
Happy in infertile and poorly-drained soil, it also grows quickly and has the ability to smother weeds and attract pollinating insects.
What does buckwheat taste like?
Buckwheat naturally has quite a strong, nutty flavour and for some people has bitter overtones. I have found this to be more of an issue when used as an individual flour than when eating the groats. Actually, I really like it and the more I eat it, the better it gets.
As a Coeliac family, Buckwheat has become a regular addition to our diet, offering a healthy and helpful alternative to rice and a good sub for cous cous and other gluten-containing carbs. The trick to enjoyment however is probably in how you cook it. Over-cooked, it will turn to an unpleasant mush. So… Read on to ensure your Buckwheat is cooked to perfection…
How to Cook Buckwheat groats– tips to getting it perfect every time
Perfectly cooked Buckwheat should be ‘al dente’… Soft enough to eat but still hold its firmness with a chewy bite that offers an enjoyable texture as well as flavour. But is there a secret to cooking correctly?
I’ve scoured the internet in an effort to ensure my Buckwheat is failsafe. And believe me… there are more methods out there for cooking than I care to count. Many of them lack consistency and leave too much to chance on how much liquid the groats will absorb. So, I spent time (a lot of time) playing… Working on ratios as well as cooking times in an attempt to get the bowl I wanted… every time. What I discovered is that how it’s cooked REALLY matters. Here are my tips and FAQs…
Should I rinse the Buckwheat?
Search the web and you will find that the wisdom on washing buckwheat varies from rinsing before cooking… to after cooking… to not at all. Some recipes even suggest pre-soaking for lengthy periods.
Having tried each and every method, I have come down on the side of pre-rinsing under the tap for the following reasons:
- It removes any residual dust and nasty particles (including gluten cross-contamination from processing) that may otherwise adulterate the cooked Buckwheat.
- Avoids the need to drain and/or rinse after the cooking has finished. (It is way easier to rinse while raw)…
- …Which also means getting the liquid content exactly right.
- Softens the seeds slightly (but not too much), ensuring a more enjoyable texture.
How much liquid should I use to Cook Buckwheat?
As with rinsing, different recipes suggest different cooking processes. Some cook in lots of liquid for a period of time and then drain afterwards. While others suggest using a ratio of liquid to groats which varies considerably. Some recipes suggest a long cook and others (like this one) give a more finite instruction based on the time taken for the groats to absorb the liquid.
I have gone down the route of a ratio of liquid to groats (much as you would cook either rice or quinoa). But having persevered with the frequently advised 1:2 ratio for some time (realising that it always ended up as mush), I worked on getting the proportions right… Eventually settling on a happy ratio of 1 groats to 1½ liquid by volume. So, for every 1 cup of groats, I cook with 1½ cups of liquid. I have also provided weights in the recipe below too.
This means that (because it has already been rinsed before cooking), once the Buckwheat has absorbed all the liquid, it should be ready to eat straight from the pan. No need to drain!
|1 US Cup (180g)||1½ US Cups (330g)|
|½ US Cup (90g)||¾ US Cup (165g)|
** Note – The ratios given are for non-toasted buckwheat. Kasha (the toasted groats) may cook with a little less liquid.
Adding extra flavour (or not)
Because the Buckwheat is completely cooked without the need to rinse or drain, this method also offers the opportunity to add additional flavour to the pan, which will then be absorbed or coat the cooked groats. Throw in some bouillon (my favourite) or a little alternative stock, some herbs or even spices. All of these will enrich and offset any ‘bitterness’ for those who are more taste-sensitive.
Alternatively, just add a little salt, butter or leave entirely plain. OR go sweet ‘porridge’-style – and cook in milk with spices before adding fruit.
Leave the lid on
Once the pan is on the hob, bring to a boil with a tight-fitting lid on. Then (apart from a quick check to see that the liquid is boiling), leave the lid ON and turn down the heat to a low simmer. Resist any urge to take the lid off until very near the end of cooking. The Buckwheat needs to absorb the liquid.
Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes before turning OFF the heat and then leave to stand for a further 4 to 5 minutes (lid on) to allow absorption of any remaining liquid.
The stages of cooking Buckwheat…
How to Eat Buckwheat Groats
Cooked Buckwheat can be eaten in much the same way as rice, quinoa or amaranth. It is perfect as an alternative to rice with Chilli Con Carne, Sag Paneer, or other curries (have you tried our Vegan Keema Matar or Chicken Peanut Curry?). But is equally delicious cold in Buddha Bowls and salads. I’m even coveting it as an alternative for lentil stuffing in stuffed courgettes or roasted aubergine. It would also (I think) be delicious mixed into warmed Vegetable Soup for extra texture or served as stuffing in Stuffed Peppers.
How long does cooked Buckwheat keep and how should I store it?
Once cooked, Buckwheat can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container or covered in clingfilm. That makes it perfect for cooking up in larger batches so it’s there for nutritious and filling lunch-time salads and bowls.
Alternatively, the cooked groats can also be frozen. Simply pop in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Or freeze in portions if eating for one.
Ready to cook up some Buckwheat?
So… If you haven’t tried Buckwheat groats before, why not give them a go? Hopefully you’ll enjoy them and they will give you an alternative to make meals a little more varied and interesting. Let me know if you found the post and the tips and tricks helpful, by leaving a comment or rating the recipe.
And for lots more gluten free inspiration, head over to our Gluten Free Recipe Index… Sit down… relax and plan what’s next in your kitchen.
How to Cook Buckwheat Groats Perfectly
- kitchen scales or measuring cups
- medium saucepan with lid
- 180 g un-toasted Buckwheat groats = 1 US Cup (or 90g = ½ US Cup)
- 330 g water = 1½ US Cups (or 165g = ¾ US Cup) See NOTES
- 1 tsp bouillon/stock powder/ herbs/spices or large pinch salt optional (or ½ tsp for 90g/½ Cup portion)
- Measure/weigh the dry buckwheat groats and transfer to a sieve.
- Rinse the buckwheat in the sieve thoroughly under running cold water.
- Tip the washed buckwheat into a medium saucepan and (if using) add any bouillon/stock/herbs/spices/salt to the pan.
- Carefully measure/weigh the water into the pan. Stir.
- Place over a medium heat and bring to a boil with the lid on the pan.
- As soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat right down to a very light simmer. Leave the lid on the pan. (NOTE: If stock has been added (and if needed) give a quick stir and then quickly place the lid back on the pan).
- Leave to simmer untouched with the lid firmly on for about 8 or 9 minutes before checking progress. The buckwheat will normally take about 10 minutes to cook.
- When checked – if there is still a significant amount of liquid in the pan, replace the lid and simmer for a further minute or so, to allow the buckwheat to absorb it.
- The buckwheat is done when the liquid is just absorbed.
- Turn the heat off, but leave the lid on and let the pan stand for a further 4 to 5 minutes to allow the buckwheat to absorb any remaining liquid.
- 'Fluff' the cooked buckwheat with a fork before serving.
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