Pancake

How Buckwheat Can Make Its Way Into 9 Popular Foods

May 22, 2017

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.

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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.

Psst: You can treat toasted buckwheat like rice, too! Photo by Mark Weinberg; Graphic, Tim McSweeney

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.

We went full buckwheat with these, and some pistachios because, why not? Don't forget syrup. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Buckwheat Popovers

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.

Buckwheat Cornbread

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.

Buckwheat Muffins

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.

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).

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.

Overnight Groats

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.

Buckwheat Tea

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.

3 Comments

Leigh July 9, 2018
I have to eat gluten free, so I found buckwheat awhile ago while searching for a more budget-friendly, higher protein flour to cut standard gluten free AP flour. Buckwheat is awesome. It has a sticky quality, so easy recipes like pancakes and quick breads don't even need xanthin gum (or gluten). I make a banana bread with half buckwheat, half oat flour, and some honey. Several people have said it's one of the best they've had. Buckwheat crepes, or galettes, are and old recipe and originally required no gluten. They work equally well with sweet or savory fillings. Berries + cinnamon work especially well, but eggs, avocado, and Sriracha are also great.<br /><br />However, I'm not sure that buckwheat has more protein than oats. According to NCCDB, 100g of buckwheat contains 11.7g of protein. 100g of oats contain 13.2g, but 100g of AP flour contains only 10.3g. The big win for buckwheat as far as protein is concerned is that it's a complete protein like quinoa (which contains 14.1g according to NCCBD). With it's strong but pleasant flavor, high phytase content, and much lower price tag buckwheat is the winner for baking, health, and budget. Like in my banana bread, they play very well with oats, so my opinion is don't feel the need to choose one over the other.
 
Emily June 23, 2017
The flour makes a nice flatbread as well!
 
Rprp May 28, 2017
Did you leave out kasha varnishkes on purpose? An amazing dish, great as a side and as a vegetarian main dish, because of the great protein in buckwheat. A traditional eastern European jewish dish: mix 1 cup of buckwheat groats (kasha) with one large egg. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet, add the kasha and cook until all the grains can be separated, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, add 2 cups of flavorful broth, cover and cook over low heat until the liquid is absorbed. In the meantime, cook 8 ounces of bow-tie or shell noodles (or other pasta of your choice...just not long, thin forms). When the kasha is cooked, add the cooked noodles, stir well, and serve. Can be cooked in advance and reheated. Good variation: saute a chopped onion in a little oil in the skillet before you add the kasha. Even better flavor.