What are Wheat Berries?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels that have had their husks removed. Like other whole grains, they provide a great deal of valuable nutrition including vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they are often touted as a good inclusion in a healthy diet. Health food stores and some supermarkets carry them in a variety of packagings, and sometimes finished food products made with these whole wheat kernels, such as mixed grain salads, are also available at markets.

Wheat Berries include germ of the wheat kernel.
Wheat Berries include germ of the wheat kernel.

The wheat berry includes the bran, germ, and endosperm of the wheat kernel. Depending on the wheat cultivar, the kernels can be tannish to red in color, and they are available in soft or hard forms. People use them in salads, add them to breads for extra texture and fiber, or use them as a starch with meals. Many producers make organic options available for consumers who prefer to eat organic food products. Because the berries contain gluten, they are not safe for people with gluten intolerance.

Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).
Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).

This food should be stored in a cool, dry place out of the reach of light. When people want to prepare wheat berries, it can help to soak them ahead of time, so that they will cook more quickly. The classic method for cooking them is to cover them in water, bring the water to the boil, and then allow the water to simmer until it has all been absorbed. The cooked berries can be used in a variety of recipes, or kept in the fridge for use within the next few days.

Wheat berries, grains, and flour.
Wheat berries, grains, and flour.

These whole grains have a chewy texture that will be retained even if they are slightly overcooked, and a nutty flavor. The flavor of whole wheat goes well with a wide variety of other flavors, including various cheeses, citrus dressings, or simple butter, salt, and pepper. Some people find the taste a little bit strong or overwhelming, and they may opt to mix the kernels with other grains or to use them in moderation so that they do not overpower a dish.

Wheat berry salad, classically served chilled, is a very popular way to eat these kernels. Various fruits and vegetables can be added to the grain to make a hearty salad, along with herbs like basil, parsley, coriander, or dill for extra flavor. Mild vinaigrettes are a good dressing option for grain salads, and cooks can also invent their own dressings to play with the flavors and textures.

Wheat berries are whole kernels that incude the germ.
Wheat berries are whole kernels that incude the germ.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahGen-- Don't give up just yet. I had the same issues with wheat berries the first time. But if you take your time to soak them beforehand and let them cook for a while on low heat, it will come out perfect. This is not an ingredient you can rush with, it's not a last minute food you can make.

Also, if you add things like onions, vegetables, meat and spices to it, it will taste a lot better. I made a really good pilaf with wheat berries one time and I put onions, garlic, tomato paste and curry powder in it. I didn't put too much water in it, but I let it cook on very low heat for a very long time and it softened up nicely. It just takes some experience to get the handle on cooking it.

I hope you give wheat berries another chance because they really are very beneficial. Much more beneficial than the bread, pasta and rice we eat regularly.


I'm trying to eat healthier so I bought some whole grain wheat berries from the health food store. I found a pilaf recipe made with wheat berries and it sounded good so I wanted to give it a try.

I don't know what I was thinking. First of all, it took such a long time to cook! It must have been on the stove for a good three hours and I kept having to add more water to it because it was still too hard. Secondly, it tastes like grass!

I guess I can't get the best of two worlds. Food is either healthy or tasty.


Wheat berries look a lot like barley. Is the barley we see in stores just the berry of the barley plant instead of the wheat plant? They are not the same right?


you can freeze cooked wheat berries too. I just made a nice vegetarian chili with wheat berries!


@wesley91: Wheat berries are good in a salad too. Make a regular salad with whatever type of lettuce you prefer. Add wheat berries, lentils, green onion, cumin, and vinaigrette dressing. Very tasty.


@wesley91: Yes, you can cook with whole wheat berries. You can usually buy them at health food stores. Many of the larger chain grocery stores carry them as well. They would be with the organic foods.

This is one way to cook wheat berries:

Measure out 1 cup of the berries and put them in a strainer. Wash them very well with running water. Place them in a boiler and cover them with around 2 inches of water. Cover and then let them soak overnight.

The next morning you need to drain the water and rinse the berries one more time. Add 2 ½ cups of water and some salt to the berries and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let them simmer for about an hour.

You can eat them instead of oatmeal. It’s really good to add 1 tsp. of honey and 1 tsp. of peanut butter.


Can you cook with whole wheat berries?

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