This Wheat Berry Salad with Mixed Berry Vinaigrette has been created in partnership with California Giant Berry Farms. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
I’m not sure how this summer flew by as fast as it did (weren’t we just talking about Berry Grilled Flatbread Pizzas?!), but September has rolled around again! Back to school, back to work, back to schedules.
When the calendar switches from leisurely to busy, I like to have a few easy, prep-ahead recipes up my sleeve. That way, I can still eat well, even when there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.
When my friends at Cal Giant asked me to create a berry recipe for the busy back-to-school and work season, I immediately thought of a Wheat Berry Salad. Tossed with mixed berries, pecans, baby spinach, goat cheese, and a vibrant homemade berry vinaigrette, this salad is an easy and healthy lunch option.
What are Wheat Berries?
Wheat berries are unprocessed, whole grain wheat kernels. This is the grain used to make wheat flour, before it’s milled and refined. Since they’re a whole grain, wheat berries are rich in nutrients like B vitamins, fiber, and protein.
When cooked to “al dente,” wheat berries have a slightly chewy texture and a nutty flavor. They’re a great contrast to sweet, juicy strawberries and blueberries in a salad.
Where Can I Buy Wheat Berries?
You can find wheat berries in your market’s whole grain section, either pre-packaged or loose in bins for scooping. You might find several different varieties, like Hard or Soft Red Wheat and Hard and Soft White Wheat. They’re also often distinguished by their growing season, such as spring or winter.
These classifications are more important when using wheat berries to make baking flours than for a whole grain salad. While hard varieties of wheat berries might take a few minutes longer to cook than soft, you can use any variety in this recipe.
(For reference, the wheat berries pictured in this post are Hard Red Wheat.)
How to Cook Wheat Berries
Wheat berries are so simple to cook. You can either boil them in a pot of water on the stove or use an electric pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot.
Like other grains and some rices, I like to rinse the wheat berries before cooking to remove any debris. (An unlikely finding, but possible.) Wheat berries do not need to be soaked before cooking.
Once cooked, you can store the wheat berries in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or freeze them for up to a couple of months. They’re easy to make ahead and use as you need them!
Making Mixed Berry Vinaigrette
One of my favorite parts of this salad is the sweet-tangy berry vinaigrette. Cal Giant’s gorgeous non-GMO strawberries and blueberries are so especially sweet and juicy, I wanted to add their flavor to the salad in more than one way.
Plus, homemade berry vinaigrette is a great way to pack even more nutritional benefit into to this salad. Strawberries and blueberries are naturally rich in Vitamin C, folate, potassium, and fiber. They’re powerhouses!
Mixed Berry Vinaigrette only takes a few minutes in a blender or food processor. You can even make it a few days in advance of assembling the salad.
As the dressing sits in the refrigerator, the pectin in the fruit will naturally thicken it. When you’re ready to serve, just shake or whisk in a little water, and it will return to pouring consistency.
Meal Prepping Wheat Berry Salad For Work or School
One of the great things about this Wheat Berry Salad is that it’s so easy to prep for a healthy lunch on the go. For the freshest salad, I like to pack the ingredients in their own compartments and toss them together right before lunch.
For convenience, you can buy a sectioned, two-tiered salad container with a lidded dressing jar (as shown below). Or, simply portion the ingredients next to each other in a flat storage container, and pack the dressing separately.
If you’re short on space in your container, it’s fine for the berries, nuts, and wheat berries to mingle. The key to the best-textured salad is keeping the baby spinach and goat cheese separate from the fruit and dressing. The spinach will begin to wilt when the salad is tossed, and the goat cheese crumbles are naturally delicate.
Wheat Berry Salad with Mixed Berry Vinaigrette
Mixed Berry Vinaigrette
Wheat Berry Salad
- 1 cup dried wheat berries , rinsed and drained
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup baby spinach , roughly chopped
- 1 cup California Giant Berry Farms strawberries , cleaned and sliced or diced
- 1 cup California Giant Berry Farms blueberries
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans , roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves , roughly chopped
- 1 ounce goat cheese , crumbled
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the Vinaigrette
- Place strawberries, blueberries, honey, vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, mint, and basil in a blender or food processor. Blend until very smooth.
- Season dressing to taste with additional salt and pepper. Store vinaigrette, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Shake well or whisk before using.*
Cook the Wheat Berries
Using the Instant Pot:
- Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to the insert and heat over medium/normal heat on the sauté function. Stir in dried wheat berries and cook just until beginning to toast, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Cover, seal, and cook on HIGH pressure for 35 minutes. Quick release pressure, drain wheat berries, and let cool to room temperature.
On the Stove:
- Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in dried wheat berries and toast, just until beginning to turn golden, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30-60 minutes, until wheat berries are softened, but still chewy. (Time varies by type of wheat berries you’ve used.) Stir occasionally and start checking wheat berries for doneness around the 30-minute mark. Drain wheat berries and let cool to room temperature.
Assemble the Salad
- In a large bowl, toss together wheat berries, baby spinach, strawberries, blueberries, pecans, and basil. Add a few tablespoons of vinaigrette and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Top salad with crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with additional vinaigrette, to taste.