Is Buckwheat Gluten-Free? Everything Parents Should Know

buckwheat

If you’re like most parents of gluten-free kids, you’re looking for ways to add variety and boost the nutrition of their foods. Enter buckwheat, a versatile, readily available, and nutritious food often found in the grain aisle of grocery stores. Keep reading to find out the benefits of adding buckwheat to your pantry, plus tasty ways to incorporate it into foods your kids will love!

Buckwheat 101

Despite its name, buckwheat is not a type of wheat or even a grain at all. It’s a seed from a flowering plant and belongs to the pseudocereal family, along with quinoa and amaranth. The buckwheat plant is native to Southeast Asia and is produced mainly in China and Russia.

Buckwheat is often called a whole grain because of its cooking uses, but it’s superior to some grains in many ways thanks to its nutrition profile. You’ll find buckwheat whole in the form of groats (the hulled seed) or milled into buckwheat flour. 

Buckwheat has a nutty flavor similar to the taste of whole wheat, making it a great addition to baked goods. Also, buckwheat flour is naturally steely gray and denser than wheat flour, which works great in foods like blueberry pancakes, brownies, and breakfast bread. Its groats have a hearty, chewy texture, making them perfect as additions to salads and grain bowls, served as a side dish, folded into chili, and prepared warm as a substitute for cooked oatmeal.

Is buckwheat gluten-free?

Yes, buckwheat is naturally gluten-free, which makes it a great choice for kids and adults with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Unlike wheat and other grains, which are grasses, buckwheat groats, and flour come from the seeds of a flowering plant.

You’ll want to proceed cautiously, as cross-contamination can occur when buckwheat is processed in the same facility as gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, or rye. To avoid this, be sure to buy buckwheat that is labeled gluten-free.

buckwheat flour

Nutritional Benefits of Buckwheat

While buckwheat’s nutritional and culinary properties are similar to grains, this gluten-free powerhouse outshines wheat and other cereal grains in many ways. For starters, buckwheat is rich in minerals compared to grains that are commonly eaten in the US, like rice, corn, and wheat.

These minerals include manganese, phosphorus, copper, iron, and magnesium, which are essential for your child’s healthy growth and development. Buckwheat is also rich in vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B-6, and vitamin K. These vitamins support healthy brain and tissue development. Moreover, buckwheat is higher in antioxidants, especially the flavonoid rutin. According to a 2021 review in Food Chemistry, these antioxidants and other natural substances (bioactive compounds) are key to preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease.

Buckwheat is rich in fiber, with 8 grams per ½ cup serving. This can be a huge benefit as many packaged gluten-free products tend to be lower in fiber. Unlike wheat, corn, and rice, buckwheat is considered a high-quality source of protein containing many essential amino acids. According to the USDA, one-half cup of uncooked buckwheat provides 11 grams of protein, almost 40% more than oats and rice!

How to offer buckwheat to kids

Many gluten-free products lack fiber, protein, and important vitamins and minerals. Luckily, buckwheat is packed with nutrients, is naturally gluten-free, and can be used in many ways that most kids will enjoy. Below are several ideas to begin incorporating buckwheat into your meal routine.

For breakfast…

-Use buckwheat flour in pancakes, muffins, and breakfast breads. You can easily find plenty of tested recipes containing buckwheat. If you’re feeling creative, experiment by using your favorite recipe and replacing one-fourth to one-half of your normal gluten-free baking flour with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat can make muffins, pancakes, and breads a little more dense. Also, buckwheat has a naturally steel-gray color, so expect it to change the color of your baked goods.

-Use the groats to make homemade granola or prepare them like oatmeal and top with fresh berries, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar or honey.

-Blend soaked groats into smoothie bowls or add toasted groats on top.

-Look for puffed buckwheat cereal in the breakfast aisle and top with milk and fruit.

buckwheat pancakes

For lunches and dinners…

-Pizza night! Make your own buckwheat pizza dough.

-Use soba noodles in place of wheat noodles in your favorite dishes. Just be sure to look for soba noodles that are labeled 100% buckwheat, as some brands contain a small amount of wheat flour.

-Soak groats and use them as a side dish instead of potatoes or rice. 

-Prepared groats easily absorb the flavor of spices and sauces, making them great additions to salads, casseroles, soups, and stews. 

For snack time…

-Make energy bites or bars with buckwheat groats (hulled buckwheat seeds similar to steel-cut oats). Combine toasted buckwheat groats with nut or seed butter, a natural sweetener like dates or honey, and mini chocolate chips or shredded coconut. You can usually find buckwheat groats in the grocery store’s bulk foods section. Look for toasted groats or buy raw and toast them at home.

Shopping for buckwheat

Look for buckwheat in mainstream grocery stores, health food, and specialty stores, and online. You’ll often find buckwheat groats, buckwheat flour, and puffed buckwheat packaged in the baking and cereal aisles. Your local grocer may also stock groats in the bulk foods section. Check Asian grocery stores or the international aisle for Japanese soba noodles. Just make sure they’re made from 100% buckwheat with no added wheat flour.

The bottom line

Buckwheat is naturally gluten-free, so you can feel great about feeding it to your kids. Incorporating buckwheat into your family’s diet can be a great way to add fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and certain minerals important for growth and development.

Look for buckwheat in the form of groats or buckwheat flour. From baked goods and smoothie bowls to pizza crust and noodle dishes, there are plenty of ways to enjoy buckwheat that your kids will love! If you’re looking for more fiber-rich foods to add to your child’s eating routine, check out these 10 high-fiber, gluten-free foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is buckwheat flour gluten-free?

Yes! Despite its name, buckwheat flour is both wheat-free and gluten-free, making it safe to feed to kids who require a gluten-free diet. Remember to check labels to ensure you’re purchasing a certified gluten-free brand.

What grains do not contain gluten?

Luckily, many gluten-free grains and pseudocereals (like buckwheat) help add variety to your child’s diet. Along with corn, rice, and oats, experiment with recipes using quinoa, amaranth, and teff. 

Is buckwheat grain-free?

Buckwheat is used in cooking like a grain but is considered a “pseudograin” according to the Whole Grains Council. However, true grains come from grasses; buckwheat comes from the seed of a flowering plant, so it’s essentially grain-free.