This recipe for Wheat Berry Salad brings you whole-grain goodness with fresh vegetables, and the spicy flavors of a Caribbean vacation. If you’re not familiar with this grain, read on: it has protein, fiber, B vitamins and minerals, and its crunchy texture and nutty flavor will definitely win you over.
Several years ago now, The Blount County girls and I decided we needed a break from the winter weather of East Tennessee; so we booked a trip to the Yucatan and stayed in an all-inclusive resort there for a week.
Of course, it was beautiful. We stayed in the exclusive club section of the resort with rooms overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Every day we would lounge on enormous beach beds draped with white cotton curtains, while waiters delivered our favorite beverages to us poolside. It was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever taken.
Even considering all of that, the very best part of the trip was the food. At each meal, there were incredibly fresh fruits, vegetables and salads, all creatively presented in tempting arrays. One of my absolute favorite salads was one that was very similar to this recipe. As a matter of fact, I loved it so much when we were on this trip that one of the very first things I did when I returned home was to try to recreate it.
Wheat Berries are the whole grain of the wheat, containing the germ, endosperm and bran. The type I’ve used is a Winter Wheat Berry, which just signifies the growing season of the wheat. They are harder and require a bit of soak time prior to cooking, but they have a higher protein content; they also have a chewy, crunchy texture and a very nutty flavor. They can be readily found in most health food sections of larger grocery stores, or in health food stores and are perfect for salads, additions to soups, or even as a side dish served like a rice.
While you can soak wheat berries overnight, I used a quick-soak method for these. I placed the wheat berries into a saucepan and covered them with water, brought that to a full, rolling boil, covered them and removed them from the heat, then let them sit for an hour.
After that, I drained them, added more water back and simmered them for about another hour. Cooking time will be determined by how hard you want your wheat berries to be; the longer you cook them, the softer they will become (I like mine on the crunchy side for this salad). Then, you just drain and rinse them and they are ready for the salad.
For this salad, I added cucumbers, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, pickled jalapeno, fresh cilantro, lime juice and some cumin. It was so fresh and refreshing! It’s like Caribbean sunshine, in a bowl!
I hope you’ll try it!
p.s.: If you have issues with gluten, you could substitute oak groats (also readily available at most large grocery stores and health food stores), or your favorite whole grain for the wheat berries and have a very similar salad.
- 1 cup whole grain wheat berries, soaked and cooked
- 1 cup diced cucumber, seeded
- 1 cup quartered grape or cherry tomatoes
- ⅓ cup diced red bell pepper
- ⅓ cup minced red onion
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- ¼ cup diced pickled jalapeno
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Place the wheat berries into a saucepan and covered them with water.
- Bring to a full, rolling boil, cover and remove from the heat.
- Allow to soak for one hour.
- Remove pan lid, drain wheat berries into a colander.
- Add the wheat berries back to the pan, add 4 cups of water and simmer for about 1 hour.
- Drain in a colander and rinse.
- Place the wheat berries and all of the remaining ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine.
- Serve at room temperature, or chilled.
- This salad gets better the more it sits.