Buckwheat, the magical gluten-free, vitamin -rich grain, is underutilized in the plant-based world; however, there are so many things you can do with this versatile seed. You just have to know what to do with it and how to use it best.  With a nutty flavor, high amounts of magnesium, B vitamins, and even some protein, buckwheat should be something everyone at least tries. We here at One Green Planet want you to feel confident in the kitchen, and we want you to include buckwheat in your dishes because it’s truly a remarkable food.

Here are 5 easy ways to make the most out of one of nature’s most versatile pseudo-grains:

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1. Pick a Quality Grain

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Of the various brands of buckwheat on the U.S. market, there are chiefly two standard varieties, Mancan and Manor. Both these varieties are Canadian and only differ in flower color (buckwheat is the seed from a flower), and as a result, they are often mixed and put on the market or sold by themselves. These are “raw” unless they boast the label “kasha” which means that the whole buckwheat groats have been roasted. Organic varieties are available as well as gluten-free varieties, and particular brands will have the USDA Certified Organic Label or the Certified Gluten-Free label if they are so. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether to go with the buckwheat groats in the bulk section or with some packaged brand name grain, but just know to look for uniformly light grains (the occasional green one is fine if buying raw buckwheat) and for a brand that’s gluten-free and organic, like Bob’s Red Mill for instance. If you’re searching for kasha, look for a dark brown hue free of green groats, indicating the groats have been properly roasted.

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2. Sprout It

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After you’ve selected a good quality buckwheat, it’s best to sprout the buckwheat before further preparing it. This will make the seed more voluminous and tender. To do this, simply take a cup of raw buckwheat groats, soak them for 15-20 minutes, rinse them, and suspend them in a strainer attached to a bowl and covered with a tea towel. Let them sit for 24 hours and rinse them twice a day if you’re not going to use them immediately. These sprouts can then be used to make these awesome sprouted buckwheat bars, cake donuts, caramel apple pie, or this pumpkin granola.

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3. Boil It

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Not into sprouting? Well then, you can always simply cook buckwheat like any other grain: boil some hot water, add the buckwheat grains, and let it simmer. To make this seemingly mundane way of cooking exciting, add the boiled grains to a big salad, soup, or veggie burger mix for an interesting texture combination. Plus, if you don’t boil your buckwheat in advance, you can most certainly make risotto or any grain-centric dish out it.

4. Grind It

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Once you’ve sprouted your buckwheat groats, take the sprouted seeds and grind them up with a high speed blender or grain grinder. Alternatively, you can use a high quality food processor and just pulse the seeds until they become a fine powder. If you don’t like to make your own flour, you can purchase organic or conventional buckwheat flour, but making your own always makes you feel closer to your food. You can do a million things with buckwheat flour, sprouted or not, from English muffins and waffles to crepes. Rule of thumb: you can use buckwheat flour wherever and whenever you use white flour as long as you mix said buckwheat flour with other gluten free flours like brown rice or quinoa flour, which will provide a more balanced flavor and will help provide a more desirable baked good.

5. Steam It

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This is a great, quick way to transform your raw buckwheat into a pile of fluffy ready-to-eat goodness. It only takes 15 minutes to steam buckwheat, so if you have a rice cooker or a food steamer, simply take 1 cup of buckwheat groats and add 2 cups of water and wait. After said 15 minutes, make sure all the water has evaporated and pile the cooked buckwheat into a bowl and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Add the buckwheat to wraps, your morning bowl of oatmeal, casseroles, stuffed peppers, whatever floats your boat.

Buckwheat is a great pseudo-grain to start keeping in your cupboard. Now that you know the best ways to cook it and how to pick it out, you’re set. We hope you’ve been inspired to get out there and to whip up buckwheat inspired dishes because there’s so many options of recipes from sweet breakfast foods to warm soups. Look out for buckwheat the next time you’re at the grocery store, and don’t be afraid to put some in your cart.

Lead Image Source: Sprouted Buckwheat Cake Donuts