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  • Writer's pictureMarne Platt

Celiac Bakers: Is Buckwheat Gluten-Free?

Buckwheat groats are gluten free and safe for celiacs

You might have heard about buckwheat, and like many celiacs, you may be wondering if it is gluten-free. With wheat in the name, it’s easy to get confused – but buckwheat is safe for us to eat.

Is buckwheat gluten free?

In a word, yes, buckwheat is gluten free. Buckwheat, or Fagopyrum esculentum to scientists, is not a cereal grain – it’s related to rhubarb! The flour is made from grinding up buckwheat seeds, or groats. Although it apparently originated in China about 6000 years ago, today’s largest producers are both China and Russia. Eastern Europeans call buckwheat groats kasha and use it in porridges; other cultures include the flour in waffles or pancakes, and in Japan it is used (often with wheat flour) to make soba noodles.

Buckwheat’s nutritional qualities

Buckwheat is actually quite nutritious. It has plenty of protein (especially lysine, an important amino acid), minerals and B-vitamins, along with a range of other useful dietary compounds. It also holds water, which makes gluten-free baked goods moister, and it adds fiber.

Baking with buckwheat

In addition to adding a nutritional kick, buckwheat adds moisture to baked goods, and a nutty taste, although using too much can make the baked goods taste bitter. A recent study found that a combination of 80% buckwheat and 20% almond flour was the ideal proportion for using in gluten-free baking: it had the best color, texture, and flavor when used in a standard recipe.

Recipes with buckwheat

I have to admit, I have not baked with buckwheat. My grandmother made kasha with noodles from time to time but as a child I thought it looked funny and wouldn’t eat it (this was before my diagnosis, so the noodles would not have been a reason to pass). I was never interested in trying it alone, and it just didn’t occur to me to try baking with it.

As a result of reading the study, I set out to find some buckwheat flour and try it out. My go-to test recipes for heavier flours are my traveling breakfast cornbread and my apple-almond muffins, both of which are designed to handle the stronger taste and heavier texture. And both are easy and reliable, so I know that if something goes wrong, it’s not the recipe, it’s the substitution: buckwheat for corn or for almond flour, respectively.

The first step was to buy some buckwheat flour, and good news, my regular grocery store had some (note, I do not get anything from Dove's Farm for posting this photo. It really was the only brand in my local shop):

Picture of bag of buckwheat flour

Of course, as an experienced celiac I read the label…and that’s why I don’t have an example to show you. Look at what I found on the back of the package:

Buckwheat flour label with gluten contamination warning
Always read the label!

I don’t know if this is a warning of potential mixing in the mill or on the packaging line, or if buckwheat can be grown on a rotated basis with wheat. But regardless, I could not buy it.

So…while I keep looking for safe buckwheat flour, it’s your turn! If you have safe buckwheat flour, try substituting it into either of my recipes and let me know how it goes. I would probably try the almond-apple muffins first: just replace the 3/4 cups of almond flour with a little more than half a cup of buckwheat flour and a little less than 1/4 cup almond flour, and see what happens!


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