My dad and I work just 10 minutes from each other in Chicago, meaning that we get to have lunch together pretty often. One of our favorite spots is a little salad bar in the Sears Tower (I’m never going to call it the Willis Tower!), which reminds me of the Whole Foods salad bar – it’s loaded with so many healthy and delicious options that I end up trying a little bit of everything. It was there that I tried wheat berries for the first time, and I promptly made a mental note to begin experimenting with them at home. What I love about wheat berries the most is their sturdy texture and nutty quality, which means they hold up quite well to other ingredients and flavors.
This wheat berry recipe is one of my new fall favorites. It’s got sweet, juicy pears and cherries, crunchy toasted walnuts, refreshing spinach, and a balsamic syrup to top it off. The balsamic, which I normally think can be a bit too overpowering, really mellows out when you create a syrup from it – and it ties together the entire dish. The end result is a wonderful combination of sweet and savory flavors and a variety of textures. And I have to say that my favorite way to have fruits and vegetables is in a dish like this, where the whole is more interesting than the individual parts. In addition to a great lunch or dinner at home, I think it would also be perfect for a potluck, a Thanksgiving side, or a packed lunch.
If you’re new to cooking wheat berries, I highly recommend checking out this article from the Kitchn about how to cook them. You really don’t need to soak them overnight (it only saves 10 minutes of cooking time, anyways). And if you can’t find wheat berries, farro or barley would be good substitutes.
- 1 cup dried wheat berries
- 1 pear (I used a red d'Anjou), cut into small pieces
- ⅔ cup dried cherries
- ⅔ cup toasted walnuts
- About 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- For the syrup:
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Cook the wheat berries in 3 cups of water, with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover with a lid. After about 30 minutes, check on the wheat berries. If they have a chewy, tender texture, they are done. If not, continue checking on them about every 5 minutes (mine took 40 minutes to cook, but it all depends on the type you use).
- In the meantime, bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Continue stirring occasionally until the vinegar has thickened into a syrup, about 15-20 minutes.
- Once the wheat berries are done, strain them and let them cool for about 10 minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients, including the balsamic syrup, to the wheat berries. Toss well.
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen says
I first tried wheat berries at the Whole Foods salad bar and love them. They have a great texture and I love the nutty taste. Looking forward to making this, Julia!
Isn’t the Whole Foods salad bar the best? I get so many great recipe ideas after a trip there! Glad to hear you like wheat berries too – I hope you like the recipe, Geraldine!
Katie @ Whole Nourishment says
I love wheat berries too and grain salads like this with the sweet and savory combo are my favorite. This is the perfect warm and nutty one-bowl meal for fall. Love the pears and walnuts especially!
Thanks Katie! I love the pears and walnuts too – I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that combination. I’m seeing a lot of lovely pears at the store lately, so I’m trying to cook with them as much as possible!
Traci | Vanilla And Bean says
You’ve got so many delicious, flavors going on in this wheat berry bowl! Love it! There’s texture, crunch, color… Wheat berries are a nutritious addition for sure. Have you ever tried maple syrup in balsamic vinegar? I think I need to go make this, right now!! Craving!
Maple syrup in balsamic vinegar sounds absolutely amazing, Traci! I’ll have to try that out soon! Thanks for the idea – I hope you like the dish 🙂
Toasted walnuts, dried cherries, spinach, balsalmic glaze? Oh and wheat berries? Where have you been all my life?? Must. Try. Immediately. Too bad grading is going to keep me away from the store until tomorrow. This looks scrumptious!!
Yes, you really can’t go wrong when walnuts and dried cherries are involved! And I know you like the nutty flavor of brown rice, so I think you’re going to be a fan of wheat berries too. You’ll have to let me know how you like the dish!
Wheat berries sound like my kind of thing. I gravitate to anything described as nutty. The sweetness from the fruit and complementary flavor burst from the balsamic syrup put this one high on the list to try.
I heard you’re having this tonight, so I’m excited to hear what you think! I have a feeling you’ll be a big fan of the wheat berries and balsamic syrup.
This was absolutely fabulous. Every ingredient was perfect. The only improvisation we did was to saute the pear for a little bit because it wasn’t quite ripe. I loved the sweetness and the chewy texture.
Kate @ Babaganosh.org says
I just recently tried wheat berries too and also decided they are one of my new favorites! They are so satisfyingly crunchy and I love that you can do anything with them – anything from savory to sweet ingredients can be added.
I made a wheat berry bowl with diced red peppers, dried cranberries, sliced walnuts, and cubed cheese, and it was so good!
Lisa @ Healthy Nibbles & Bits says
I definitely cook wheatberries enough! I simply love the chewy texture of the grain. I also like all the sweet and savory flavors in this bowl!
Thanks, Lisa! I love the texture of wheat berries too – they hold up to other flavors so nicely. I hope you enjoy the dish!
does this taste good the next day,,,,i love to bring leftovers to work 🙂
Hi Diane! I think this would be great as leftovers, but I would slice up a new pear on the day you want to bring it into work (the first pear would probably be brown after a day or so). Hope you enjoy it!