"Have you ever eaten a wheat berry?" My guess is that if I asked you this question, you'd probably answer "no." However, it should actually be, "YES! I eat them everyday!" Ok, that may be a hyperbole, but if you've eaten anything with flour in it, you've eaten wheat berries.
What is a Wheat Berry?
Wheat Berries are short hard kernels that are ground up to make wheat flour. Instead of being ground up, you can just eat the wheat berry itself. I'm assuming that you don't know/care about the anatomy of a wheat plant, so I'm not going to use terms like "endosperm" in this post. However, just know that wheat berries include all of the edible parts of the wheat, making it a true whole grain.
You might encounter the following varieties when looking for wheat berries. All the varieties can usually be used interchangeably with one another. Here is what you need to know about each type:
- Hard vs Soft: Hard varieties take longer to cook than soft, but tend to have more protein in them. Hard varieties are always more chewy.
- Red vs White: This refers to the color of kernel. Taste and cook time difference are minimal. Using red wheat berries will make your dish have a darker color.
- Winter vs Spring: This refers to the season that the wheat was grown in. Winter varieties tends to have more protein. Taste differences should be unnoticed by mere mortals.
What are the Health Benefits of Wheat Berries?
Because they are a true whole grain, wheat berries are PACKED with nutrition and very healthy. They are low in calories and fat, but high in fiber, protein and iron. Because of this, they are excellent for weight loss, strengthening bones and regulating blood sugar levels. If you'd like to read more about exactly how wheat berries help with these things, check out "Wheat Berry Nutrition Facts."
One serving of cooked wheat berries is typically ½ cup, and contains 160 calories, 1 gram of fat, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of sugar and 38% of your daily iron.
Wheat berries are not gluten free.
How do I Cook Wheat Berries?
There are many options for cooking wheat berries, but the most important thing to remember is that they take time. They are very hard and it takes them longer than most grains to become soft. Soaking the berries overnight will help them cook faster, but it is not essential. You can also toast wheat berries before cooking them in water. This brings out their flavor and speeds up cooking time.
After soaking or toasting, you can cook wheat berries in a variety of ways:
How do I know when they are done?
It really does come down to personal preference. Most people I know don’t like the texture of really chewy grains. So if you sample your cooked wheat berries and you think they seem a little too tough, cook them a little longer. They will never get as soft as oatmeal or rice, but the longer you cook them the softer they will get.
What do They Taste Like?
Wheat berries have a pretty mild flavor, similar to oatmeal. They easily blend with and take on other flavors. Wheat berries, however, are chewier than other grains you might be use to eating. When I first started eating them, it was the texture that I had to get use to eating not the taste.
If you ever need a substitute for wheat berries, you could use bulgur, barley or farro.
How to Store Wheat Berries?
Uncooked wheat berries should be kept in an airtight storage container, like a tupperware or a mason jar. They can be stored up to 6 months at room temperature, or up to a year if frozen.
Cooked wheat berries should be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Cooked wheat berries can also be easily frozen for up to 6 months. It’s a great idea to make a large batch and freeze portions so you can always have a healthy whole grain ready to go. Make sure your cooked wheat berries are completely cool before transfering to a freezer friendly container. (Making sure they are completely cool will help prevent freezer burn).
Wheat Berry Recipes
There are so many delicious ways to use wheat berries! They make great salads and go perfect in soups. Add them into bread or make a filling breakfast. You can grind up wheat berries to make your own whole wheat flour. Wheat berries can even be sprouted and then used in a variety of ways. Here are some of my favorite wheat berry recipes from around the web.
Well, I hope you've been inspired to try out wheat berries. They really are my favorite whole grain.