Have you ever wondered about the difference between buckwheat and bulgur? These two grains may seem similar, but they're as distinct as apples and oranges! Buckwheat and bulgur bring unique flavors and uses to the table. Let's dive into their traits, from where they come from to how they're used. We’ll also explore the nutritional advantages each grain has. It's time to unravel the mystery behind these grains and discover what sets them apart!
Before we get into their differences, here’s a quick recap on each grain.
Buckwheat is a “pseudocereal” meaning it behaves like a grain in recipes, but is actually a seed. This ancient grain/seed is believed to have originally been cultivated in Southeast Asia around 6000 years ago but is now grown and consumed all over the world. It's usually found in salads but can also be eaten as a cereal grain for breakfast.
Buckwheat is consumed in two different ways, either in its whole kernel form, known as buckwheat groats, or ground up into buckwheat flour.
Buckwheat’s claim to fame is that it is gluten-free, making it a great option for people eating a gluten-free diet.
Bulgur is a member of the wheat family. It comes from whole wheat grains that have been partially boiled, dried, and cracked into pieces. It has been consumed for thousands of years as a staple food of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Most often it is used in salads as a grain base, similar to the way rice might be used. But it can also be used as a breakfast cereal by cooking it similar to oatmeal. Occasionally it is added to baked goods.
Uncooked bulgur and buckwheat grains are similar in size. Buckwheat seeds come in a distinct heart shape, while bulgur are ununiform pieces.
Bulgur is a golden yellow while buckwheat is a warm brown color.
When cooked, both grains expand and burst open a bit. They stay their original color.
Buckwheat becomes more mushy than bulgur does.
Buckwheat has a stronger flavor than bulgur. Both have a mild grain flavor, but buckwheat is a bit more sour and bitter. Bulgur has such a subtle flavor that if you mix it with other ingredients, you won't even notice it is there.
Buckwheat is also more mushy than bulgur. Bulgur grains are light and fluffy, while buckwheat is more of a pasty texture.
Buckwheat and bulgur are very similar naturally speaking and offer great health benefits. In addition to being a good source of protein, they both have a good amount of dietary fiber, which is great for your digestive health and weight loss.
Both ingredients also contain essential amino acids and a decent amount of vitamin B. The B vitamins play crucial roles in several bodily functions, like aiding in metabolism and skin health, brain and immune functions, and the formation of DNA.
They both similarly contain other essential vitamins, like vitamin E and vitamin D. They are also a good source of magnesium.
Check out the nutrition label for each:
As you can see, buckwheat has a little bit more calories than bulgur does. The difference in their fat count, potassium, and calcium amounts is negligible.
Buckwheat has just a bit more fiber and protein per serving, but again, not enough to claim that one of these ingredients is healthier than the other.
Both buckwheat and bulgur have relatively low glycemic index (GI) scores compared to many other grains or foods.
Buckwheat typically has a lower GI compared to bulgur, which is better for regulating your blood sugar levels. The GI of buckwheat ranges between 45 to 55, while bulgur's GI falls around 48. These scores may vary slightly based on the specific type or preparation of each grain.
A main difference between bulgar and buckwheat is that bulgar contains gluten and buckwheat does not. This means that buckwheat is the better choice for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
⏲️ Cook Time
Buckwheat and Bulgur can both be cooked on the stove, in the Instant Pot, and in a rice cooker. They have pretty similar cooking times.
Here are links to cooking methods you could use to make bulgur, and how long they typically take:
Here are links to cooking methods you could use to make buckwheat, and how long they typically take:
Since both grains have a relatively quick cooking time, neither needs to be soaked before cooking.
So far buckwheat and bulgur have been similar, but that changes when it comes to cost. Buckwheat is significantly more expensive than bulgur.
In December 2023 in WA State, at my local grocery store, I could purchase Buckwheat for $2.78 per pound and bulgur for $1.38 per pound. That is a difference of $1.40 per pound!
Those are the prices I would pay if I got the ingredients from the bulk bins at my grocery store. If I purchased them online, one lb of buckwheat is $9.49 on Amazon, and a 1.5lb bag of bulgar goes for $7.94 on Amazon.
That’s why I love shopping in the bulk bins! It saves you a ton of money. I hope you have access to them where you live.
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As mentioned before, buckwheat is extremely versatile. It can be used in breakfast foods, grain salads, soups, or as a flour in baked goods. Buckwheat flour is most often used to make Soba Noodles, a traditional type of Japanese noodle. Here are some of my favorite recipes from around the internet:
Bulgur is usually used in salads, side dishes, and grain bowls. It is occasionally used in soups and can also be eaten as a hot breakfast cereal. Here are some of my favorite recipes from around the web:
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You can substitute these two ingredients for the other! Buckwheat is an excellent substitute for bulgur if you want a gluten-free option. Both grains also make a good substitute for similar types of grains, like wheat berries, farro, pearl barley, and brown rice.
Here are some things to keep in mind when substituting:
Texture: Bulgur is firmer and chewier than buckwheat, which is softer when cooked. Make sure you are ok with the texture difference in the recipe.
Flavor: Buckwheat has a stronger flavor than bulgur, so be prepared for that.
Cooking method: Both grains absorb liquid differently, so you may need to adapt the amount of liquid used.
Buckwheat has about 20 more calories per serving than bulgur.
No, bulgur is a member of the wheat family and buckwheat is actually a seed.
If you'd like to read further about either of these healthy whole grains you can check out:
“What is Buckwheat? A Full Guide to this Healthy Grain"
I hope this guide was helpful to you. Do you have any more questions I can answer?
Let me know in the comments and tell me which grain you prefer! My personal preference is bulgur. I love to substitute it for white rice!