Is Buckwheat Gluten-Free?
Somewhat of a misnomer, buckwheat is actually not related to wheat at all. It's not even technically a grain!
[Updated December 29, 2017]
That question—Is buckwheat gluten-free?—is something we hear a lot. The fact is, buckwheat is naturally gluten-free. It can be safely eaten and enjoyed by anyone with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. While the confusion is understandable, Gluten Free & More wants to clear up this question once and for all.
Buckwheat is a seed that is not related to wheat at all. Termed a pseudo-cereal, this ancient food is in the same family as rhubarb and sorrel. Buckwheat is so versatile, you can eat it in various forms for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whole grain buckwheat (called groats) is a tasty alternative to rice, and can also be prepared like a porridge. We’ve even combined it with fruit and nuts to make an awesome gluten-free trail mix.
Buckwheat flour can be used alone or as part of a nutritious gluten-free flour blend. For a tasty breakfast that’s quick and hearty, try our buckwheat banana pancakes by Matthew Kadey, RD. It’s loaded with protein, fiber and nutrients—a terrific way to begin your morning!
According to the Whole Grains Council, buckwheat is a high-quality, protein-rich food, easily meeting all the criteria of a super-food. Buckwheat’s amino acid profile is similar to that of animal protein, making it one of the highest quality sources of protein in the plant world. Rich in iron, vitamin B6 and dietary fiber, a cup of buckwheat supplies 98 percent of the daily requirement for magnesium and delivers a whopping 23 grams of protein.
Please Note: If you have celiac disease, be careful about potential contamination. Look for buckwheat flour that is certified gluten-free. Like with all gluten-free foods that are safe for those with celiac disease, an individual can be sensitive to buckwheat separate from having celiac disease. If you are sensitive to buckwheat or react negatively to eating buckwheat, please discontinue eating and consult your physician.
Buckwheat is not only good for you - it’s good for the environment. According to Mother Earth News, it’s easy to grow and harvest. It thrives on poor soil, needing little to no attention. That translates to no herbicides, no pesticides, and no toxic fertilizers. Moreover, buckwheat provides a fast-growing ground cover on farmers’ fields that can be used to block out unwanted weeds, enrich and stabilize the soil, and help inhibit harmful erosion. Is there anything this hearty plant can't do?
Let’s Eat Buckwheat!
I hope these facts about the wonderfully gluten-free buckwheat inspire you to begin using buckwheat in your pancakes, breads, cookies, blinis, noodles (Japanese soba noodles are made of buckwheat), and more. Believe me: buckwheat is a delicious addition to your cooking repertoire!
Try this Pumpernickel Beer Bread recipe by Jules Shepard. It makes a soft, pliable, flavorful loaf that’s a popular hit with our readers. Don’t miss Beth Hillson’s Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies either – they are amazing!
And if you’re looking for a wholesome, hearty bread that stands up well, check out our Buckwheat Yeast Bread.
Using Buckwheat Flour for Baking
We can’t address the question, "Is buckwheat gluten-free?" without talking about the wonders of buckwheat flour and sharing tips of how to best use it.
Don’t be afraid to bake with buckwheat flour! It offers so much more flavor and nutrient-density than the ubiquitous white rice flour-tapioca starch-cornstarch combo found in most gluten-free baking.
Yes, there’s a place for so-called white flours in your kitchen. But relying on white flours alone produces empty carbs that stress the body’s metabolism and contributes to obesity and diabetes. In contrast, buckwheat flour has been shown to help control diabetes and even reduce blood sugar levels. What’s more, it produces baked goods that help you feel fuller longer due to its high levels of fiber and protein.
Apart from buckwheat’s substantial nutritional advantages, the unique and robust flavor of buckwheat flour is sure to win you over. Available in light, medium and dark varieties, it combines well with other gluten-free flours. Light buckwheat flour is usually preferred for baking. Its high protein content delivers extra elasticity to gluten-free baked goods, an added bonus for gluten-free bakers. (Elasticity, a key to baking success, is often hard to come by in gluten-free baking.) The result is finished baked goods that are moister, with a finer crumb and a better texture.
Baking with buckwheat flour is not rocket science. In fact, it’s easy once you learn a few simple techniques and tips. For breads and rolls, use up to 1 cup of buckwheat flour per recipe to impart a taste and texture that comes close to whole wheat. Use less when baking delicate cookies or pies.
Note that gluten-free baking requires a combination of flours. No single flour will do the trick. To avoid a heavy, dense texture in your baked goods, use up to 30 percent of any one flour.
It’s not difficult to create your own flour blend using buckwheat flour, based on your individual tastes and recipe needs.
Here’s a formula for a healthy all-purpose flour blend that includes buckwheat:
1˝ cups buckwheat flour (or a combination of buckwheat with amaranth, chickpea, millet, quinoa and/or sorghum flour)
1 cup neutral flour (white rice, brown rice flour, corn flour)
1 cup starch (tapioca, cornstarch, potato starch)
˝ cup alternate starch (one not used above)
Combine all ingredients together. Store flour blend in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Let blend return to room temperature before using in your recipe unless your recipe states otherwise.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy buckwheat? Use the "Comments" section below to tell us!