Fall In Love With A New Whole Grain

This is a guest post by Lisa Cain, PhD, a.k.a Snack-Girl

The comfort zone of American cuisine is meat, potatoes, and a wee bit of vegetables. When it comes to whole grains, we are sadly lacking. Several of my blog readers were interested in something called “Wheatberry Salad”.

From Denise:

I would love to see an incredible recipe for Wheatberry Salad which can be a snack. Our local Shop Rite sells it in their deli, but I would much rather make my own.

So, what is a Snack Girl to do but go hunt down some wheat berries? A whole grain I have never tried.

At my local Stop & Shop, the deli was like, “huh? wheat crappies salad?” – when I asked for wheat berry salad. The store manager was equally confused, but he found packaged wheat berries for me.

They were in the natural foods section and look like this:

I spent $3 for a pound and I was a bit FREAKED by having so many of them since I had never tried them before. But, I have good news!

Wheat berries rock! If there was a match-up between barley, quinoa, and wheat berries, wheat berries would take them DOWN. Why do I like them?

They lack the DIRT taste component that I don’t like about other grains. They are nutty and have a lovely consistency (not gummy or crunchy) and I fell deeply in love with them.

They are my new favorite whole grain – and I will pay you $1 to try them (not really).

What is a wheat berry? The term wheat berry refers to the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull), comprising the bran, germ, and endosperm. You are getting all the nutrition from the wheat grain.

This salad is a take on Ina Garten’s wheat berry salad recipe. She uses the equivalent of 12 tablespoons of olive oil, and I felt that it would work with less.

I did use one trick from her recipe and cook the onions. For some reason, I can’t eat raw onions anymore (age? personality?) and I liked the idea of a sweeter onion taste that you can get from cooking them. You can skip this step, but I wouldn’t.

This is a great replacement for a macaroni salad at a BBQ. I designed the salad for eight servings because this keeps well in the fridge and is a fantastic lunch, breakfast, or snack.

Have any of you made wheatberry salad?

Wheatberry Salad Recipe

(8 servings)

2 cups wheat berries (soft or hard)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium red onion, chopped
6 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 lemon
salt and pepper (to taste)

In a saucepan, place the wheat berries, salt, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and then simmer for one hour. Wheat berries are done when you like the consistency (chewy but not gummy).

While the wheat berries are cooking, do the necessary chopping (dice the pepper, carrots, and onion – slice the scallions). Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat and saute onions until translucent (about five minutes).

In a large bowl, mix pepper, carrots, cooked onion with olive oil, scallions and apple cider vinegar. Juice lemon and add to bowl.

When wheat berries are done, drain them in a fine meshed sieve and dump hot berries into bowl. Mix, taste, and adjust with salt and pepper. Let flavors meld for about an hour (or eat immediately).

Can be served warm, room temperature or cold and will keep in your fridge for four days.

134 calories, 7.2 g fat, 16.0 g carbohydrates, 2.7 g protein, 1.6 g fiber, 165 mg sodium, 4 PointsPlus

Lisa Cain, Ph.D. writes about healthy snacks on Snack-Girl.com. She is a published author, mother of two, and avid snacker.

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  • http://goaskmama.com Mama

    I adore wheatberry salad– it’s my favorite grain too!  Love the crunchy texture and nutty flavor.  You can also boil and leave in the fridge for a week and toss on anything — salads, cereals.  I used to cook for a local charity and I made this recipe on occassion– they loved it! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/672 

  • Dave

    Wheatberries are also a great addition to your soups and stews. They can be used as an unprocessed substitute for pasta or crackers. Here is a great example, a summer vegetable Minestrone Soup. This recipe is inexpensive, yields a lot and freezes well.

  • Catalina Echavarria

    I eat wheat berries too, one of my favorite salads combines them with wild rice, celery, yellow pepper, and creanberries. I add orange zest and dress it with orange juice/olive oil/salt/pepper. 

  • Danielle Omar

    I just recently started eating wheat berries, as well!  I tried them first on the salad bar at my local Whole Foods…it was a wheat berry salad with sliced almonds and squash, dressed in a vinaigrette.  I actually crave it now and have been looking online for the recipe ever since.  Still haven’t found it.  :(

  • http://twitter.com/IntegHealthRev IntegrativeHealthRev

    Wheat berries are an excellent source of fiber. The 33% of young Americans who are
    predicted to develop diabetes need parents who know how to bring high
    fiber to their diet. We really appreciate this recipe recommendation for those looking for unique and tasty ways to bring fiber into their daily lives. Thanks for sharing!

  • Davvik11

    Its good a tabouli salad too (lots of parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, onion and toasted pine nuts)

  • Lisa

    Love wheat berries! I sub beets or grapes for the bell peppers. Gives it a nice summery touch. :)

  • Sarah

    Hi, I’m wondering if anyone can tell me (vs. me having to, you know, LOOK), how wheat berries stand up in the carb world next to things like sweet potato and brown rice (Hubby is on a restricted carb diet and looking for variety); also can they be steamed in a rice cooker or MUST they be boiled? Thanks for any help :)

  • clc7

    Are wheat berries the same thing as the whole wheat grain I have for grinding into flour (mine is hard red winter wheat)?  If so, buying it by the bucket beats $3 lb. for a little bag.  I love grinding my own wheat – no bitter taste!

  • http://twitter.com/nella22 Marnely Rodriguez

    This salad looks so good and I have yet to try this grain! Will do ASAP!

  • http://bakerymanis.wordpress.com/ andrea devon

    Wheat berries are a great grain to add to your salads or soups, as already mentioned. One thing I would like to add is my recommendation for the ‘soft’ wheat berries instead of the hard red winter wheat berries; the soft berries have a really great texture that is significantly less toothsome than the hard berries. Also, pearled barley (which looks very similar and can be found in bags or bulk) is another grain that can be interchanged with wheat berries for simple salads, pilafs, and stews. I make a mean carrot wheat berry salad with a lemon vinaigrette, and also made a mango-black bean salad. Find the recipes at bakerymanis.wordpress.com

  • chefcarrie

    Wheat berries are a great whole grain! Here’s a way to lessen the cooking time. Soak the berries for a couple of hours or even overnight in the fridge. Rinse and then cook. The texture is improved as well. 
    By the way, this works for brown rices as well. If you’re trying to get your kids to eat brown rice instead of white try that, with rice you can hardly tell the difference!

  • http://theotherbigo.ca/ Lauren

    I also am in love with wheatberry salad!! I have a great recipe on my blog that is worth checking out as well! http://theotherbigo.ca/2011/06/14/choose-whole-grains/