What to do with those buckwheat groats from Next Step Produce
by Kara Elder
April 21, 2020
Let's talk about buckwheat. Part of the Polygonaceae family, buckwheat is a plant related to rhubarb and leafy green sorrel. Buckwheat is neither a grass nor a grain — meaning it's gluten-free — but its triangle-shaped seeds (or groats, as they are called once they're hulled), are consumed in a similar way. Buckwheat is also high in protein! Cooked buckwheat groats are right at home in porridge, grain bowls, or salads, and flour made from the groats is excellent in pancakes, brownies, muffins, and breads. (Look for buckwheat flour from Next Step Produce soon!)
The most beautiful thing about buckwheat, says Heinz Thomet of Next Step, is the blooms the plant creates: buckwheat is a massive pollinator, attracting so many bees at once that you can sit in a chair next to a blooming buckwheat field, listen to the bees hum, and smell the nectar in the air.
What I appreciate most about buckwheat is its versatility. Raw buckwheat groats have a hint of nuttiness to them, which pairs well with basically any ingredient you throw its way. If you roast the dry buckwheat groats, though, you'll intensify those nutty notes and bring out buckwheat's truly unique flavor.
Buckwheat groats are used a lot in Russian cooking, so that's what influenced many of these flavor pairings. If you happen to have some good vodka at hand, know that an ice cold shot would also go quite well with any of these dishes. Bonus points if your vodka is infused with horseradish. :)
To cook raw buckwheat groats, follow the package directions: Cover buckwheat with water, pour off any debris that rises to the top, swirl to rinse, then drain. Bring water to a boil in a lidded pot (use a ratio of 1 part buckwheat to 1 1/2 parts water). Once it boils, add the buckwheat, cover your pot, and simmer over low heat without stirring for 20 minutes. (It took me about 25 minutes. My stove is tricksy.)
You can also make a creamy sweet or savory porridge from raw buckwheat groats!
Amy Chaplin has a lovely method for doing so in her Whole Food Cooking Every Day, which I've tweaked here. It makes about 4 cups; since buckwheat is pretty filling, this can translate to 4 generous servings or 8 modest servings, depending on what you top it with.
- Soak 1 cup raw buckwheat groats in 2 cups water overnight (or for about 8 hours).
- Drain the buckwheat and rinse well (until it's no longer slimy).
- Pour into a medium pot and use the back of a spoon to smash up the groats, which should very easily crush and break apart. You can also do this with your fingers, which is more fun. (Or you pulse a few times in a blender with 4 cups of water, but honestly, why dirty a blender???)
- Add 4 cups water and a hefty pinch of salt to the crushed buckwheat and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking frequently.
- Cover and reduce heat to low, then simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking, until the groats are soft and the porridge is creamy.
- Leftover porridge keeps for up to 5 days in the fridge. You can reheat with a little extra liquid if you'd like to loosen it back to its original texture, but know that the cocoa version in particular (see below) makes an insanely delicious chilled pudding-type situation, no reheating necessary.
~Make it sweet~
- Add some ground cinnamon, cardamom, and/or ginger to the water!
- Top with sliced pears, apples, or bananas (or fresh berries! strawberries are coming soon!). A drizzle of maple syrup, honey, or a few spoonfuls of jam would be nice, too.
- Top with toasted nuts, seeds, or coconut flakes.
- Add a few tablespoons cocoa powder to the liquid (pairs well with cinnamon and vanilla, plus jammy fruits and toasted nuts).
- Add ground cardamom to the liquid, then top with a drizzle of tahini, sliced dates and bananas, and a scatter of sesame seeds.
- Stir in any milk or nut butter of your choosing for extra creaminess.
- Cook your buckwheat porridge in broth! Add any spices you'd like. Stir in some miso or vinegar at the end for an extra boost.
- Top with kimchi or kraut!
- Top with leftover roasted/braised/steamed vegetables or mushrooms!
- Top with a fried or poached egg.
- Crumble on some nori!
- Herbs brighten everything: parsley, green garlic, you name it, it'd be good.
- A grating of cheese would not be out of order.
To roast raw buckwheat groats: Spread 1 cup of raw groats on a rimmed baking sheet, then bake in a 300-degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until browned. Shake the pan occasionally (especially toward the end) to brown evenly.
Cook your roasted buckwheat groats!
Or don't: Roasted buckwheat makes for a nice crunchy, nutty snack all by itself. Toss a handful on salads or add to granola for extra crunch and flavor.
But if you're going to cook them for grain bowls, salads, pilafs, or to fry up later, I like this oven method from Darra Goldstein's Beyond The North Wind. It results in groats that are perfectly cooked, fluffy, and tender, as opposed to cooking in a pot on the stove, which does work but is more likely to result in mushy buckwheat.
Oven-steamed roasted buckwheat groats:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a covered 1- to 1 1/2-quart baking dish. (If your dish doesn't have a cover, you can use foil.)
- Toast 1 cup of roasted buckwheat groats in a large frying pan set over medium-high heat, until the groats turn a darker shade of brown (about 5 minutes).
- Pour the toasted groats into your baking dish. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, then pour over 2 cups of just-boiled water. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter.
- Cover (with a lid or with foil, tightly) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven; the water should be absorbed and the buckwheat should be fluffy!
More ways to use your buckwheat!
- Buckwheat and mushrooms were practically made for each other: roasted, sautéed, pickled, or reconstituted-from-dried mushrooms would all be good.
- Got leftover cooked buckwheat groats (either raw or roasted) and some leftover rice? Fry them together!!! You'll have fried rice with a boost of nutty. This is also good without rice. Also good with kimchi. :)
- A lovely salad: cider masala beets + soft/crumbly cheese + roasted (uncooked) buckwheat groats. It's got salt, fat, acid, heat, and crunch.
- Mix cooked groats with chopped kale, dried fruit, and chopped kraut. Serve as a side or top with an egg!
- Stir a few scoopfuls of leftover cooked groats into your next batch of bread or pancakes.