Is buckwheat gluten free? Has this question crossed your mind as well? Read on to find out more about this ancient pseudo cereal and learn how to cook it in under 15 minutes.
Until as recently as couple of years ago, buckwheat, for me, was just another ingredient in the world of cooking. I had read and heard people say how good it is for health, but did not care to find out much about it as I was (and still am) a die hard fan of rice and wheat and simply did not feel the need to explore further.
About last year, it became clear to me (by maintaining a detailed food diary) that I am sensitive to gluten. I was in denial of it for some months and continued, quite stubbornly, to ignore the bloating and brain fog. I just could not imagine giving up wheat! The very thought of never being able to eat a piece of toast or roti (flatbread) made me so sad (yeah, I was that dramatic!).
My gluten intolerance was being equally stubborn and became more assertive - in addition to the brain fog and bloating, I now was getting frequent headaches and loose stools (which had never happened to me before!). It was time to take it seriously and think with an open mind.
When I did that - took my gluten sensitivity/intolerance seriously and thought with an open mind - the wonderful world of gluten free grains and cereals opened up for me! Millets, quinoa, amaranth, oats, corn, rice (my favorite!) and buckwheat.
So my first question to family, friends and well wishers who suggested buckwheat as one of the alternatives to wheat was: what is buckwheat? if not another type of wheat?! It has, after all, the word "wheat" embedded it in for goodness sake!
I could not have been more wrong!
As counter intuitive as it may sound, buckwheat is anything but wheat!
In fact, it is not even a grain, neither is it a seed! (unbelievable, right?!)
Buckwheat groats (the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant), at the first look, remind me of steel cut oats, only slightly bigger. Upon reading up a bit more, I learnt that the uniquely triangle-shaped groats are called buckwheat because of their resemblance to the larger beech tree seeds and also because of the fact that since ancient times, buckwheat has been used as a wheat substitute.
Buckwheat is related to leafy vegetables like rhubarb and sorrel (what!!). It is naturally gluten free and is not even a grain! This pseudo cereal is safe for people on a gluten free diet and perfect for those who want to follow a grain free lifestyle.
Buckwheat - the global superstar!
For centuries (evidence has been found to almost 5000 years back) buckwheat has been cultivated as a crop in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, China and India.
China: Considered a superfood, buckwheat is a staple in Chinese cuisine and consumed in the form of noodles or as porridge.
Japan: If you have been in the realm of gluten free, grain free food, it is highly unlikely that you have not heard of the famed soba noodles of Japan. These noodles are made from buckwheat flour and used in various hot and cold dishes.
India: Buckwheat flour has been part of the Indian cuisine for centuries and is mainly consumed during fasting. The general rule of fasting is that grains (wheat, rice and millets) are not be on the menu. This is when grain free flours such as kuttu (buckwheat in Hindi), rajgira (amaranth), singhara (water chestnut) and sabudana (tapioca pearls) replace grains in dishes such as cheela (pancakes), roti (flatbread) and puri (deep fried flatbread). I love having these gluten free naan on days when I want a gluten and grain free meal.
Europe: From the Himalayan regions buckwheat travelled west all the way to Europe. While Eastern Europeans enjoys kasha (buckwheat groats) in porridge, stews, pilafs and blinis, the French make crepes and galettes.
Buckwheat, the main ingredient of many traditional dishes across Asia and Europe, is truly a global superstar!
When buying buckwheat noodles, pasta or pancake mix, do bear in mind that many of them have wheat flour mixed in them to some measure. Look specifically for the gluten free label. Cooking with pure buckwheat flour can be quite tricky and so when having a buckwheat based dish in a restaurant or at a friends place, make sure to check that there is no wheat flour mixed in it.
This earthy flavored pseudo cereal packs a lot of punch with its every (no) grain! A rich source of protein, dietary fiber and iron, buckwheat is a terrific energy source!
Just to put this in perspective: One serving of cooked whole grain buckwheat has, approximately, 110 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. Not only is buckwheat a good source of protein, it is a complete protein i.e. it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids. (Whoa!)
Research shows that buckwheat is more satiating than grains and it has pre biotics which aid in digestive health.
How to cook buckwheat?
When you look at buckwheat groats, you might think that they will take a long time to cook (that is what I though too!)
Surprisingly, buckwheat cooks fast! 10 - 12 minutes is all it takes to cook the groats. Yes, really! That is how easy it is to cook!
Here is how I cook buckwheat (also see the video below)
Check recipe card for quantities.
- Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a rice pot/ saucepan on medium high heat.
2. When the water comes to rolling boil, add ½ cup of buckwheat groats.
I use pre cleaned groats and therefore add them to the water without washing. If your groats are not pre cleaned, rinse and drain them first.
3. Cook on medium high heat for 10 - 12 minutes, stirring once or twice.
You will know that the buckwheat is cooked when the grain looks "opaque" and it is beginning to split at the ends. When you pick one grain with your fingers (be careful when doing this as it will be hot), it will crush easily between your fingers.
4. At 10 - 12 minutes, the groats will be cooked soft and still have a crunch to them (al dente). If you want them softer and mushier, cook them for 2-3 minutes more.
5. Drain all the water away. The buckwheat groats are ready for you to serve. (see serving suggestions below)
Whether you use it in your dishes as groats or flour, there is no doubt that buckwheat is a versatile ingredient.
These grain free meals have been hugely appreciated on my Instagram page. If you make these, use the hashtag #grainfreemonday and share on Insta. I will be so happy to see your creations!
- Buckwheat groats in tomato stew, walnuts, mung beans curry and pan fried curried paneer.
- String beans stir fry, paneer bhurji (scrambled paneer), cranberry flavored lentils and cooked buckwheat groats.
- Pan fried paneer with stir fried greens, groats and mung lentils
- Buckwheat groats served with spiced lentils, grilled eggplant curry and sautéed cabbage
Frequently Asked Questions
Although it has the word "wheat" in it, buckwheat is naturally gluten free and therefore safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Buckwheat is not even a grain, it is, like quinoa, a pseudo cereal.
Yes! Buckwheat is not related to wheat and naturally gluten free. It is therefore safe for people with wheat allergy.
I hope that I have answered your question is buckwheat gluten free to your satisfaction. If you have enjoyed reading this and found it useful, please take a moment to leave a comment and /or a rating below. This will make me super happy and motivate me to create more good content for you! xx Padma
Cooking buckwheat groats
- 1 rice pot
- 1 ladle
- 1 sieve
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup buckwheat groats (100 grams, approximately)
- Add the water to the rice pot and bring it to a rolling boil on medium high heat.4 cups water
- When the water is boiling, add the buckwheat groats. Let it cook for 10 - 12 minutes, stirring once or twice.½ cup buckwheat groats
- At 10 - 12 minutes, the groats will be cooked soft and still have a crunch to them (al dente). If you want them softer and mushier, cook them for 2-3 minutes more.
- Sieve all the water away.
- The buckwheat groats are ready for you to serve. see serving suggestions above