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Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Difference Between Raw and Toasted Buckwheat

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Buckwheat granola bars, made with toasted buckwheat groats instead of raw
Yesterday, I stayed by my friend, H, who runs a gluten free, dairy free, processed food free household, just as I do. She was proud of herself for making buckwheat granola bars (she didn't use my recipe for buckwheat granola bars, but another, similar one) and she loved the taste, but complained that they really were hard to eat, made her feel like she was breaking her teeth.
I tasted the bars, and immediately felt I knew why they were rock hard.

"Did you use toasted buckwheat, or raw buckwheat?"
"I used raw buckwheat groats."
"Are you sure? Can I see them?"

H showed me the package of buckwheat she used, and sure enough, what she had was toasted buckwheat, not the raw buckwheat that is called for in recipes like buckwheat granola bars. H was surprised- "But I didn't toast these- doesn't buckwheat groats mean they're raw?"

Absolutely not.

This is definitely not the first time I've had friends attempting to make a recipe that called for raw buckwheat, and they used toasted buckwheat, and were very disappointed by the results.

So, here is the difference.


Raw buckwheat is a very light tan, slightly greenish pseudo-grain that is sort of pyramid shaped. When you bite one straight out of the package, it'll crumble in your mouth very easily- it's sort of powdery and soft.
It has a very mild taste, pretty agreeable to most... and has a lot of starches in it, that mimic gluten, to the extent that, when ground and used as flour, it often doesn't need xanthan gum to hold it together like other gluten free flours do.
You can take these raw buckwheat groats and toast them in a skillet without oil for a few minutes, and then they'll harden up a bit, and they'll get to be the texture of ground nuts- with a slight crunch, but not too hard.
I use raw buckwheat groats for making porridge all the time instead of oatmeal- it tastes great and has a wonderful texture... I also use them in place of barley in soups and stews.
You can also sprout them for use in salads raw.
You can eat raw buckwheat without boiling, as they are definitely soft enough.
See here for a picture of raw buckwheat groats.

Toasted buckwheat groats, on the other hand, are much different. They are also known as kasha.
They are a definite brown- don't look greenish at all, but may be a lighter or darker brown, depending. They may even be closer to tan, but if they don't look somewhat greenish, they're toasted.
I rarely use kasha in recipes, as I find it much less versatile. First of all, in terms of flavor, they have a slight burnt taste to them, but even if they didn't taste burnt, they have a very strong flavor. When I am newly pregnant, I cannot stand the taste of kasha nor even the smell of it. The rest of the time, I don't mind it, but it isn't my favorite flavor. Lots of people hate the taste of kasha, and while I don't, I can certainly see why some would hate it.
They also make buckwheat flour from kasha- its generally just labeled "buckwheat flour", and like kasha, has a really strong flavor. I haven't seen raw buckwheat flour being sold in the store- I grind my own from green buckwheat, but regular buckwheat flour does not hold together like raw buckwheat flour does, as its starches are already cooked....
If you'd try to take a bite of raw toasted buckwheat aka kasha, you'd feel like you were breaking your teeth.
In order to use kasha, you need to boil it in water or broth until soft. Some people cook it, and eat it with milk and sugar for a breakfast cereal. I tried it- wasn't a big fan.
See here for a picture of toasted buckwheat groats.

In short... if you see a recipe on my blog that calls for untoasted buckwheat groats, or raw buckwheat, or raw buckwheat flour, you need it to be made with the green/light tan buckwheat.
If you want to make porridge or granola bars or chocolates with buckwheat, or anything of the sort- if your recipe doesn't call for boiling the buckwheat in water, you want the green buckwheat.

If you tried a buckwheat recipe and it simply didn't come out as you'd hoped for- either it tasted bad or the texture was problematic... there is a very good chance that you used the wrong type of buckwheat- most likely you used kasha/toasted buckwheat instead of the light green/tan untoasted buckwheat.
I don't find this type of buckwheat in the regular grocery store- I either buy it in bulk, or get it from the health food store.

I hope this clarifies a few things!

Have you ever made recipes with buckwheat? Toasted or untoasted? Did you know about the difference? Do you think this post will help you in the future, so you don't flop recipes? Have you ever used the wrong buckwheat in a recipe, and wondered why it didn't come out right? What types of things do you generally make with buckwheat?

17 comments:

  1. I buy Bob's Red Mill organic buckwheat groats. Are they toasted?? I am "assuming" they are because they are not green at all. Where do you find untoasted buckwheat groats and what company makes them??

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    1. I think Bob's Red Mill are raw. They make a separate product labeled Kasha that they specifically call out as being roasted buckwheat.

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    2. How do you store it? I keep mine in the freezer.

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  2. I but raw buckwheat and grind it myself also - I mostly use it for pancakes and waffles, instead of regular wheat. My husband is mildly gluten-intolerant. I grind the buckwheat the night before and soak the flour in buttermilk. Makes it nice and mild for him and all my kids love it, too.

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  3. Hello, I am new to the healthy holistic non processed diet thing, and was wondering if you can eat the groats without soaking them, like sprinkling them directly on the salad or into chia pudding for extra crunch. Is soaking and drying absolutely essential?

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  4. its very easy to see if it is raw or toasted buckwheat - raw has whitish-greenish colour, while toasted has very distinctive brown colour: raw (white) buckwheat groats are soft, while brown (toasted) groats are hard. If you see on the shelf buckwheat, and it has brown colour, then it is toasted buckwheat.

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  5. I'd like to try using buckwheat instead of whole, rolled oats in my granola recipe. If I use raw buckwheat, then add oil & honey to all dry ingredients and roast for 45 minutes, will it render the buckwheat too hard to eat?
    Thanks,
    Eliza

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  6. I'd like to try substituting buckwheat for the whole, rolled oats in my granola recipe. If I use raw buckwheat, then add oil & honey to all the dry ingredients and roast that for 45 minutes, will it render the buckwheat too hard to eat?

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  7. I sprinkle raw buckwheat on my protein cookies before baking. They come out nice and soft/chewy.

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  8. I am new to buckwheat and did not know the difference x raw and kasha. I made a nice cereal, but ended up giving it to the chickens due to the out shell. Can I remove the outer hull by soaking, or are my chickens going to continue to enjoy this treat?

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  9. I like toasted better, green one is disgusting taste. saying that, everybody has own opinion, right?

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    1. THANK YOU! that's exactly what I thought! I originally come from a country where people eat buckwheat every day, sometimes even several times a day :)

      When I eat raw buckwheat I feel like I'm a barnyard animal. Toasted buckwheat tastes real nutty and flavorful whereas I find raw buckwheat to be absolutely tasteless.

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    2. I just discovered kasha, toasted buckwheat, and really like it! Not tried the raw yet...

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  10. Swanson stocks a very nice raw buckwheat. I was actually looking for kasha for a classic dish and bought the raw one instead. Soooo I just gently roasted/toasted in a skillet, very low for about 15 mintues.. voila! Kasha!

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  11. What machine do you have to grind your buckwheat - and do you also grind wheat, spelt, and things like that?

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. hello, roasted buckwheat isn't Kasha. Kasha or Kash is a Russian word for porridge and can be made from any type of grain. I am married to a Russian woman and we eat quite a bit of roasted buckwheat, usually as a replacement for rice or potatoes. It can be boiled the same way as rice and when incorporated into a stew takes on the flavour of the whole but gives the meal a unique texture.

    Roasted buckwheat does have distinct advantages over raw buckwheat in that it stores longer and can be stored in a sealed container in the cupboard. My wife stores it like any other bulk grain.

    The first time I had roasted buckwheat was in combination with liver cooked in a tomato base. Knowing what it was - it turned my stomach, but since it was cooked (by then my new wife) I smiled and ate it. Wow! It was fantastic and I have never turned down roasted buckwheat again!

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