What Are Buckwheat Groats and How Do I Use Them?
When it comes to shopping the bulk aisle, there are some bins filled with grains that are likely within the average person’s comfort zone (quinoa, oats, etc.), and then there are other bins filled with unidentifiable, unpronounceable, this-name-is-not-ringing-a-single-bell grains. Buckwheat groats, for most, probably fall into the latter classification of bin. I’m here to encourage you that this grain is not scary or daunting by any means (even though “groat” may be one of the most unappetizing, off putting words that I’ve heard in a while). There are plenty of simple, easy ways to put these little pellets to good use, and it’s time you stopped avoiding eye contact with them in the bulk bin section.
First of all, let’s go over what these actually are. If “buckwheat” sounds oddly familiar to you, you’re probably thinking of the flour, which is used in soba noodles and is also commonly utilized in crepes and gluten-free baking. Buckwheat flour is the ground up seed hulls of the buckwheat plant. In contrast, groats are the hearty hulled seed of the buckwheat plant. However, don’t let its name fool you—buckwheat actually isn’t related to wheat at all (I know, everything is a lie). In fact, it’s the fruit of a leafy plant, and it possesses a lot of similar characteristics to common cereal grains. Buckwheat is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and plant protein, and has even been proven to lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Are you convinced that you need these little morsels of good health in your diet? You should be.
When it comes to cooking with groats, there are two natural directions to take them. The first is cooking the grain like you would oats. We’re talking a 2:1 liquid to grain ratio, and either simmering them until all of the liquid is absorbed or draining them when your groats have reached your preferred level of doneness. The longer they cook and the more liquid they absorb, the softer they’ll be. Water works just fine, but you can also use broth or milk, depending on what you’re making. You can add your favorite mix-ins and eat it like a bowl of porridge (sweet or savory), or you can stir your buckwheat groats into salads (don’t let them get too soft for this application) or soups for a hearty, fibrous kick. In this clever recipe for Umami Broth with Buckwheat and Vegetables, the groats are added to a flavor-packed, simmering broth for an easy, one-pot soup.
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If cooking them like a grain isn’t your thing, buckwheat groats also make for a wholesome, crunchy topper. Simply toast them like you would your favorite nut (in a skillet over medium heat, on a baking sheet in the oven, or in the toaster oven) and wait until they darken in color and become irresistibly fragrant. From here, you can sprinkle these on top of salads, soups, hot cereals, and pasta for a nutty, seedy burst of flavor and an added crunch. They also make for a great mix-in to your next batch of homemade granola. You can even toss them (uncooked) into ground meat or black beans next time you’re making homemade burgers or meatloaf to add an unexpected burst of wholesome fiber. See? Taking off the blinders in the bulk aisle can be fun and rewarding—you just need to take that leap of faith and tell your trusted quinoa that you’re off to new and exciting things.