What is buckwheat?
It is not wheat despite its name. Buckwheat is technically a fruit that produces grain-like seeds (also called groats) that are free of gluten—unlike wheat berries which are full of the stuff. In fact, buckwheat can be eaten by people with Celiac Disease, wheat allergies, and wheat sensitivities. The groats are a favorite food and ingredient in many parts of the world, including China, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Russia, Ukraine, and beyond. Their nutty, earthy flavor is the star of many popular dishes, from kasha and crepes, to soba noodles and vegetarian burgers. They are even used to make gluten-free bread!
When can babies eat buckwheat?
As soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. If your baby is just starting to eat solid food, you may find it easiest to serve buckwheat in a porridge or risotto-style dish. Read on for age-appropriate serving ideas!
Is buckwheat healthy for my baby?
Yes! Buckwheat offers plenty of zinc, copper, magnesium, and manganese; as well as some iron and selenium – all essential minerals to help your baby’s growth and development. It also has a low glycemic index, which means buckwheat can help regulate blood sugar levels. Buckwheat is also rich in flavonoids, which are plant compounds that boost the body’s immune system by acting as antioxidants and extending the impact of vitamin C. To top it off, buckwheat contains protein (including all amino acids!) and lots of fiber and lignans to support a healthy and happy gut.
Is buckwheat a common choking hazard for my baby?
No. Buckwheat is not a common choking hazard, but, in theory, one could choke on any food. As always, stay near your little one during mealtime… and read on for suggestions for introducing buckwheat to your baby!
Is buckwheat a common allergen?
No. While evidence indicates that buckwheat allergies may be on the rise in Asia, particularly in Japan, it is not currently considered a common food allergen in the Western hemisphere.1 Though uncommon, buckwheat is a potent allergen for those few children who do develop allergy to it, and can cause severe allergic reactions from ingestion or inhalation of the flour.
Contrary to its name, buckwheat actually has no relation to wheat and can be eaten in its pure form by people with Celiac disease, wheat allergies, and wheat sensitivities. However, buckwheat flour is commonly blended with wheat flour (a common food allergen) and can also sometimes be contaminated with gluten as it is processed. If wheat or gluten need to be avoided in your little one’s diet, be sure to read the labels and double check the ingredient list just in case.
How do you prepare buckwheat for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Cooked buckwheat groats are tough to pick up at this stage, so try preparing buckwheat groats as a porridge or risotto for easy hand-scooping, which will be possible around 7 to 8 months of age when baby’s raking grasp develops. (A raking grasp is a hand motion where baby uses all of their fingers, but not the thumb, like a rake to bring objects toward themselves.) You can also consider mixing cooked buckwheat groats into meatballs or veggie burgers for added nutrition and explore recipes utilizing soba noodles.
12 to 24 months old: Time for utensil practice! Hand scooping is just fine, but as your toddler’s dexterity develops, start offering buckwheat porridge, buckwheat risotto, buckwheat salad, and soba noodles along with utensils or training chopsticks, pre-loading as needed. Buckwheat flour is also a great gluten-free flour alternative for baking. Just be sure to read the labels as buckwheat flours are sometimes a blend of wheat flours.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
While it’s not necessary, soaking helps. Place the buckwheat groats in water for an hour (or overnight) to reduce cooking time and help make the nutrients easier to absorb. Soaking also makes the groats stickier—a boon for little ones who are learning to feed themselves!
Recipe: Berry Buckwheat Porridge
- 1 cup buckwheat groats
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (about equal to one 15-ounce can)
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, cherries, or fruit of choice
- Rinse the buckwheat groats in a colander. Place in a medium pot set on moderate heat.
- If you’d like to enhance the flavor, toast the buckwheat groats for a minute or two until they are fragrant. Otherwise, add the coconut milk and bring the mixture to a boil.
- As soon as the liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
- Wash the blueberries (and defrost if using frozen fruit) then add to the pot after 10 minutes of cooking time. Stir to combine.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the buckwheat groats have softened and the blueberries have burst, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Measure 1 cup of porridge into a bowl that suctions to the table. Store the rest in an air-tight container in the fridge for future meals.
- Serve with a spoon placed on the side to encourage utensil practice, but know that hand-scooping is just fine, too!
Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS
Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD
Kimberly Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
Sakina Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Sammut, D., Dennison, P., Venter, C., Kurukulaaratchy, R. (2011). Buckwheat Allergy: A Potential Problem in 21st Century Britain. BMJ Case Reports. Retrieved September 10, 2020