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Are you already bananas for buckwheat—or just getting to know this nutritional powerhouse that also manages to taste good? Either way, you can get more buckwheat into your life by starting with breakfast. You don’t need brand new recipes either—just a little coaching to “buck up” (“buckwheat up"?) the most important meal of the day. After all, gluten- and grain-free buckwheat (the seed of a plant, not a wheat) has more protein, fiber, potassium, and B vitamins than an equal weight of oats or whole wheat flour, and tastes great in cookies and cakes.
Whole Buckwheat kernels are shaped like tiny plump pyramids; you can buy them raw, toasted, coarsely ground, or finely milled into flour. All forms come in large-ish packages and many can be found in bulk at natural food stores, but you'll be surprised how many regular supermarkets carry them; call them in advance to ask if you don't want to take a chance. Here's what to look for:
Raw Buckwheat Groats: Kernels are a mix of pale tan, ivory, and greenish in color. The flavor is mild and slightly grassy, with a hint of green tea.
Toasted Buckwheat Groats (also known as kasha): Kernels are brown; flavor is pleasantly earthy, toasted, and nutty, with a hint of rose.
Buckwheat Flour (finely milled toasted buckwheat groats): The flour is a slate-y, lavender brown with darker flecks. It should taste more like toasted groats than regular.
You can also find buckwheat cereal (coarsely milled raw groats) at markets, but it's not as versatile as the other forms. Nevertheless, if you buy and cook it, its creamy, slightly gelatinous texture makes for a nice porridge.
NOTE: Buckwheat flour that is mixed or blended too much can turn batters thick and gelatinous, and produce baked goods with heavy, dense, or cement-like textures. Don't let overmixing ruin buckwheat for you!
Pancakes, Waffles, and Crêpes
Use your favorite recipe for any of these dishes or try this one, pictured below. Buckwheat also works (fantastically) in my favorite ricotta and cottage cheese pancakes. You can start gently by replacing half of the all-purpose flour with an equal amount of buckwheat flour—but if you like buckwheat as much as I do, feel free to replace all of the flour in your recipe with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat flour weighs about the same per cup as all-purpose flour, so you can swap flours by weight or volume. If a recipe calls for mixing in the food processor, don’t add the buckwheat flour until all of the other ingredients are processed and smooth. Once you add, stir or pulse in the buckwheat flour very briefly, until just incorporated.
- 2 1/2 cups flour (Editor's note: in testing, we used 300 grams unbleached all-purpose flour)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 2 cups buttermilk (for extra, extra fluffy pancakes, seek out thick, whole milk buttermilk)
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Canola or unrefined peanut oil for frying
Replace 25% of the all-purpose flour in your usual recipe with buckwheat flour. If you make the batter in a blender, blend as briefly as possible, just enough to make a smooth batter.
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
Start with any basic recipe for cornbread. If it’s Southern-style (made with corn meal only), replace 40% of the cornmeal with buckwheat flour. If it’s Northern-style (a combination of cornmeal and all-purpose flour), replace about 30% of the cornmeal with buckwheat flour. Mix and bake as directed.
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups soy milk
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground white or yellow cornmeal, or corn flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons organic sugar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
Start by swapping 20%-25% of the flour called for in your muffin recipe with buckwheat flour. If the recipe requires thorough beating rather than just stirring, add the buckwheat flour at the very end and beat it in very briefly, or just stir it in until just incorporated. If you get good results but wish for more buckwheat flavor, replace a little bit more of the flour with buckwheat flour next time.
For the muffins:
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons lemon powder (optional; you can add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest in its place, if you'd like)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, wild or conventional
For the streusel:
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
Cooked Buckwheat Cereal or Porridge
Cook whole raw or toasted groats like rice: simmer 1 part raw or toasted groats covered in 2 parts water, until “grains” are tender (10-15 minutes), uncover, and then drain or cook off any excess water. Or, buy a package of buckwheat hot cereal (which is coarsely milled buckwheat groats) and cook according to the instructions on the package. Whole groats will cook up tender but slightly chewy and remain separate. If the groats were toasted (my favorite), the individual groats will be firmer and more separate, with a delightful nutty flavor; untoasted groats will be slightly gooier, and have a grassier flavor. Buckwheat cereal will cook up creamy and slightly sticky but with some texture—a bit like oatmeal made from rolled oats.
You can serve cooked buckwheat or buckwheat cereal with any kind of milk (almond milk is lovely)—or not. You can sweeten it with a drizzle of maple syrup (totally yummy) or honey or a sprinkling of brown sugar or add chopped dates, or dried cherries, raisins or dried fig pieces. Top with chopped walnuts or toasted pecans or hazelnuts, dried unsweetened coconut, or sliced bananas— go crazy and top it all with Double Toasted Crunchy Buckwheat Topping (keep reading).
- 2 cups raw buckwheat groats, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon ground flax meal
- Pinch sea salt
- 1/3 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
Savory Buckwheat Breakfast (or Lunch or Dinner)
Cook toasted whole groats like rice, as described under porridge above. Stir in sautéed onions and mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with fried or poached egg, sausages or bacon.
Substitute raw or toasted groats for the rolled oats in your overnight oats. If you need inspiration for stir-ins, check out the some of the flavor affinities for buckwheat.
Double Toasted Crunchy Buckwheat Topping
Buy toasted whole groats (kasha) and toast them again in a dry skillet, stirring constantly over medium heat until they are a shade darker than they started and starting to burst. Let cool and store in a jar. Use like toasted nuts: top cold or hot cereal, add to granola, sprinkle on salads, or add to cookie dough.
- 1/2 head red cabbage
- 1 medium beet (yellow or candy-striped is nice)
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided
- 1 tablespoon shio kombu or salted kombu, optional
- 1 teaspoon teaspoon dried hijiki seaweed
- 1 teaspoon ume vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sweet white miso paste
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon shiro shoyu or light soy sauce
- 8 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
- 1/2 cup kasha
- 2 tablespoons aonori seaweed, green seaweed, or finely shredded nori
- 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
If you like herbal tea, this one’s for you. Buckwheat tea is available in fancy teashops—but open the package and you will find it is nothing more than toasted buckwheat groats, exactly like those you can buy from the bulk bins in a good supermarket or natural foods store! Pour 6-8 ounces of boiling water over a tablespoon of toasted buckwheat groats (!) steep 5 minutes, strain, and enjoy. Yes Ma, that’s kasha in your teacup!
For more recipes using buckwheat, including breakfast-worthy Buckwheat Sour Cream Soufflés, see my book, Flavor Flours.