Meatless Monday: Wheat Berry Salad

Have you tried wheat berries? Go ahead, don't be scared.

What’s a wheat berry, exactly? Before turning them into a salad, you should know what they are…

Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels — a true whole grain. They can be used to make wheat sprouts, can be ground into a flour for baking, and used to grow wheatgrass. Wheat berries can also be cooked like rice or quinoa as a side dish, made into a breakfast porridge or tossed into a salad — either mixed into a green salad or used on their own as a pasta-alternative. You can find them in health food stores and in the grain or healthy section of most grocery stores. Purchase them in packages, like these from Bob’s Red Mill, or from the bulk bins. 

Since they’re not processed at all, none of the grain’s nutrients get stripped away. Wheat berries are high in fiber, protein and iron. When cooked, the kernels have a firm, chewy texture and they taste slightly nutty. Since they are in their natural form, plan for about an hour of cook time. To reduce that by half, you can soak the kernels overnight. There’s no special method to cooking them — just boil in salted water, covering the grains by at least two inches. Add more water if it gets low. 

Ellie Krieger’s Wheat Berry Salad is a great introduction to this healthful whole grain; the simple ingredients (dried fruit, nuts and a lemony dressing) allow the nutty flavor of the grains to shine, plus it’s really easy to make. When I make this salad, I make a big batch and portion it out in containers to take to lunch during the week. I add the nuts on top before I eat it so they stay crunchy, but you can add the nuts at the same time as the other ingredients if you like.

Wheat Berry Salad
Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger
Yield: 6 3/4 cup servings 

1 1/2 cups hard wheat berries 
3/4 cup chopped walnuts 
2 stalks celery, finely chopped 
1/2 cup tart dried cherries, chopped 
1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped 
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

In a large pot combine the wheat berries and enough water to come 2 inches over the wheat berries. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 1 hour, or until tender. Drain and let cool. Toast the walnuts in a medium dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.In a large bowl, combine the wheat berries, walnuts, celery, dried cherries, scallions, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. 

Wheat berries are quite filling so this salad is adequate for a main dish for lunch or dinner, but is a good side dish to add to your repertoire, too. It can be served cold or at room temperature. 

More Meatless Monday Recipes: 

We’re not the only ones going meatless on Mondays; it’s a worldwide event. Numerous studies have shown that reducing meat consumption, even by a small amount, has a great impact on personal health and that of the environment. By giving up meat just once per week, you can make a big difference. Here’s someone else who agrees, Meatless Monday Mover and Shaker (and newlywed), Sir Paul McCartney

Paul an his daughters Stella and Mary launched Meat Free Monday in the UK, wanting to share their belief that cutting meat on Monday is something easy we can all do after a weekend of indulgence. Their site offers recipes, news, Meat Free Monday merchandise and a list of celebrity supporters, which is always fun to gawk at.