What is Buckwheat? Buckwheat defined.

Is it Wheat? Is it a Grain? Is it Gluten-Free? Is ok for a raw food diet?

Buckwheat Groats
Raw Food Buckwheat Groats, Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free. Sergey Chushkin / Getty Images

Buckwheat, which is commonly found in raw food diet recipes, has a slightly deceptive name that can easily cause confusion. Buckwheat is not wheat, nor is it related to wheat. Like many of the other so-called "whole grains," buckwheat is not technically a grain nor a cereal. 

So where does it come from? Buckwheat is derived from the seeds of a flowering plant. Several other foods typically thought of as whole grains, including quinoa, are actually seeds and not grains as well.

 

Is Buckwheat Gluten-Free?

Because buckwheat is actually the seed of the plant and not a grain or a wheat at all, yes, buckwheat is gluten-free. 

Cooking with Buckwheat

The triangular seeds, known as buckwheat groats, are frequently made into flour for use in noodles, crepes, and many gluten-free products on the market these days. For those practicing a raw food diet, raw buckwheat groats can be found in many recipes for things like granola, cookies, cakes, crackers, and other bread-like products. Buckwheat is a good binding agent and, when soaked, becomes very gelatinous. Soaking, rinsing, and re-drying the groats produces a crunchy buckwheat crispy that is nice as well.

Buckwheat is also the primary ingredient in Japanese soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour and are gluten-free.

How to Cook Buckwheat

Give your buckwheat a quick rinse, then cook in a 1:2 ratio to water. That means, if you're cooking one cup of buckwheat, you'll need two cups of water.

Bring the water to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer, and allow your buckwheat to cook for 30 minutes. 

Raw Buckwheat and Kasha

Toasted buckwheat is used to make traditional dishes in several different cultures. Generally, toasted buckwheat is referred to as kasha. If you are looking for raw buckwheat groats, you'll want to avoid kasha.

You can always tell by the color and the aroma. Kasha is a much darker reddish-brown color and has a strong nutty, toasted scent to it. Raw buckwheat groats are light brown or green and don't have much of an aroma at all.

Nutritional Benefits of Buckwheat

Interestingly, buckwheat is currently being studied for its nutritional benefits. It is used to relieve some of the symptoms of Type II diabetes as well as high blood pressure. Buckwheat contains rutin, known to strengthen capillary walls.

Buckwheat is a great source of fiber, as well as other necessary nutrients, including manganese and copper.