Today, the star in my “Whole Grains” series is wheat berry! At first, I thought that this term simply referred to either the hard red or soft white wheat berries. Duh! Hence the name wheat berry. However, I was floored upon learning that it’s the largest category of whole grains and includes the not so obvious whole-grain farro, spelt berries, kamut, and bulgur.
You better believe every single one of them will receive fair treatment from me, as I’m fully committed to experimenting and sharing healthy, delicious recipes with you. Now, that doesn’t mean that my tastebuds will be unbiased. I definitely prefer certain whole grains over others (I heart you, quinoa!), but there are also tons that I haven’t tried myself. Take kamut and spelt berries, for instance. I’m committed to eating a wider variety of whole grains so this series sure gets me pumped! I hope you feel the same way and that you’ll be inspired to incorporate more of these nutritious and versatile delights into your everyday diet.
First up in the wheat berry category – hello, red wheat berries! Now this one is a pantry staple at my house. I really appreciate their chewy and hardy texture! They are sometimes called “hard winter wheat berries” or simply “winter wheat berries” because as the names imply, they are planted during the winter months.
It is recommended that you presoak them. This is to ensure more even cooking and better texture – chewy not mushy – which is a very important factor to me. I don’t do mushy grains! I usually presoak anywhere from 3-8 hours depending on whether or not I remember to do so. Hey, life is crazy ;).
As for the yield, 1 cup raw = 2 3/4 cups cooked. While it’s usually recommended that you cook them for about an hour, I actually do so for only about 30 minutes. Again, it’s bc I like them really chewy (and it saves time). You can experiment and see what you prefer.
For today, I have a really unique recipe to share! Do you like hummus? If so, how about adding some texture for a change? Want to bump up the nutrient profile? I’ve got the solution – add wheat berries…
Chicken Sandwich with Wheat Berry Hummus Spread
Inspired by Grain Mains
- 1/2 cup red wheat berries
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup cooked dry chickpeas *
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbs tahini
- 6-10 Tbs EVOO **
- 1 Tsp ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
- 1 tsp sriracha
* I always have them on hand. I think they taste better than the canned ones. I normally cook a huge batch every month and freeze them.
** Add according to your preference…whether you like it thicker or thinner.
- 2 grilled chicken breasts, seasoned with salt & pepper
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread (or whole wheat sandwich wrap, tortilla, pita…). More whole grains!
- Green(s) of choice (spinach, kale, lettuce)
- 1 Hass avocado, thinly sliced
- Slices of roasted red bell pepper
- Presoak wheat berries for 8 hours. Drain wheat berries and pour into a large saucepan. Add water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender but with a chew, anywhere from 30 min to an hour. * Drain thoroughly to get rid of excess moisture.
- In the meanwhile, grill the chicken.
- Roast red bell peppers: Set oven on broil. Wash peppers and pat dry. Cut in half lengthwise. Rub oil all over. Lay them flat, skin side up on a baking sheet. Place under broiler for 10-15 min, or until charred. Let them sit until cool. Peel the skin off.
- In a food processor, add the cooked wheat berries along with rest of the ingredients. Process until everything’s blended. ** The mixture will be thicker than your typical hummus.
- Spread the wheat berry blend onto the bread. Add chicken, green(s), avocado, and roasted red bell peppers.
* I normally cook them for about 30 min. I like them really chewy. Cook for longer if you prefer a softer texture.
** I tested two different consistencies: 1) I processed everything to a fine puree. 2) I didn’t process the mixture as long and while everything was well-blended, some of the wheat berries were left whole and retained their bite. Tim and I actually preferred the “chewy” second batch. You be the judge.
Slice the chicken in half so that it will cook faster and more evenly. When roasting peppers, I normally do a whole batch and save the leftovers. Great to throw into salads, pasta, rice dishes, etc..
I know the directions seem really long and time-consuming, but it was quite simple to make, and by the time the wheat berries were cooked, everything, except for the spread, was ready to be assembled. There’s also room for tons of variations and creativity. You can add whatever toppings you’d like. You can turn it into a quesadilla, wrap, or just simply use it as a dip. Personally, I just ate it by the spoonful. That’s how I roll. My “I like white rice and regular pasta” husband really enjoyed this recipe as well. Perhaps you can use this to “sneak” in some whole grains into a loved one’s diet ;).
If you are in need of further inspiration, check out my recipe for Bison Wheat Berry Stroganoff.
Have you had wheat berries before? If so, what are your favorite ways to enjoy them? How long do you cook them for?
If not, have I inspired you? I hope so. 😉