Lunch Prep: Instant Pot Wheat Berry Salad ~ as part of a new series I’ll be sharing easy, healthy, make ahead lunch recipes that keep well and pack well. This whole grain salad will energize you with good carbs, protein, fiber, and plenty of vitamins. And it costs just pennies to make!
The instant pot is key to this wheat berry salad, and makes meal prep easy.
Lunch isn’t my strong suit. I tend to skip it, or graze my way through the afternoon, at best. It’s easy to do because I’m often at home developing recipes and there’s always taste testing to do. But lunch is an important meal…without it our energy flags mid afternoon and make bad snacking choices. A good lunch can help us be more productive during the day, and help prevent over eating at dinner.
What are wheat berries?
- Wheat berries is just another name for whole grains of wheat. If you grind them up they’ll become wheat flour. If you cook them as is, they’re nutty and chewy and can be used in hot or cold recipes just like you would use rice, barley, quinoa, oats, rye, or other whole grain.
- You can make stuffings and even porridge with wheat berries, but my favorite way to use them is in hearty grain salads like my Wheat Berry Salad with Beets and Feta. These will be some of the most satisfying salads you’ll ever encounter.
Are wheat berries high in carbs?
- Wheat berries are high in carbohydrates, but the good kind. Because the kernel is intact, they are a true whole, unprocessed grain; they contain the bran, germ, and endosperm of the wheat which is where all the nutrition is.
- No empty calories here, wheat berries are packed with fiber, protein and vitamins.
- Whole grains burn slower, don’t cause sharp rises in blood sugar, and will keep you feeling fuller longer. This is why I tend to think in terms of slow carb, rather than low carb 🙂
- Wheat berries are surprisingly low in calories, too, that’s because much of their bulk is fiber that doesn’t get digested.
I compared cooking wheat berries on the stove and in the Instant Pot
The two batches came out almost identical in terms of quality and texture, but if you have an Instant Pot, it’s a quicker way to cook them, (almost half the time) and completely hands free. The stove top method is also very easy, just a bit longer. In both cases one cup dried berries will yield 3 1/2 to 4 cups cooked.
How to cook wheat berries in the Instant Pot
- Put one cup of raw berries into the pot. Add 3 cups water and a pinch of salt.
- Close and lock the lid and set the vent to seal.
- Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. When the machine finishes cooking and beeps, release the pressure valve.
- Drain excess liquid from the wheat berries.
How to cook wheat berries on the stove top
- Put a cup of what berries into a large saucepan with 6 cups of water and a pinch of salt.
- Bring to a boil and boil for about 60-65 minutes until the berries are tender but still chewy. Add more water if needed during cooking.
- Drain excess water.
This Instant Pot wheat berry salad is colorful, healthy, nutty, and CHEWY!
In fact if you’re not used to whole grains and raw crunchy veggies your mouth will get quite a workout. The kernels are chewy because the whole grain, casing and all, is intact, the way grains are supposed to be. This is one salad that won’t leave you hungry.
What’s in this wheat berry salad
- wheat berries
- red cabbage
- dried cranberries
- Granny Smith apple
- cherry tomatoes
- red onion
- toasted pecans
- cheddar cheese
And don’t worry, I wouldn’t leave you without a great dressing for this salad. I used walnut oil and cider vinegar for a delicious autumnal vibe. A touch of grainy mustard and honey encourages it to emulsify with a few pulses of my immersion blender.
This healthy and colorful wheat berry salad makes a great packed lunch!
Like other grain salads, this one keeps well for days in the fridge. The grains of wheat soak up the dressing and it gets more flavorful as it sits. I like to pre-pack it in glass jars to grab and go whether you head out to work every day, or just to your home office.
Eco-friendly glass jars from Weck are a good 8-ounce size for this salad.
My bamboo re-usuable forks are nicer to tote than silverware. They can be washed and used over and over again.
If you love the idea of grain salads like I do, be sure to check out my Rye and Carrot Salad, it’s made with rye berries and it’s one of my favorites! Tabbouleh is another classic whole grain salad that we love, and if you want something for the fall and holiday season, definitely try my Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries and Nuts. Wild rice isn’t technically a grain, it’s a seed, but it functions the same way as these wheat berries do, and makes a wonderful salad.
tvfgi recommends: 6 Quart Instant Pot
I can’t say enough great things about my Instant Pot. It has totally revolutionized dinnertime at our house. I’m giving fair warning to my readers: I’ll be doing quite a few IP recipes going forward, and if you don’t have one you won’t be able to keep up. If you know anybody with a busy life who loves to cook, this makes a fantastic gift, too.
I recommend the 6 Quart size, it’s the sweet spot, not too big or too small. It’s got all the bells and whistles, I love it!
Packable Lunch: Wheat Berry Salad
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups cooked wheat berries, (see notes below for cooking directions)
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/4 cup diced cucumber
- 1/4 cup diced carrot
- 1/3 cup chopped or shredded red cabbage
- 1/3 cup cheddar cheese, diced (you could also use feta)
- 1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- about 10 cherry tomatoes halved or quartered
- 1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced (don't peel)
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/3 cup walnut oil
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, or more to taste
- 1 heaping tsp grainy mustard
- 1 heaping tsp honey
- pinch of salt
- Put all the salad ingredients together in a bowl.
- Toss with enough dressing to thoroughly moisten, but don't over do, you may not want all of it.
- Cover and chill the salad for at least a couple of hours before serving, it will get better as it sits. You may want to add more dressing before serving.
- I don't add too much salt to my recipes but be sure to taste this and add it as you prefer.
Questions and Reviews
Sue your recipes are all so lovely. I just love scanning your recipes to decide what to prepare. This recipe will definitely be a keeper. It has endless possibilities. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful ideas. You are amazing. And thank you so much.
I just cooked up some wheat berries for my salad but can’t wait to try this recipe. Any thoughts of what I could substitute for the cabbage?
Luckily this is the type of recipe that you can play with, no one ingredient is an absolute necessity. The cabbage provides crunch, but you can get that from the other crunchy veggies like carrots, cukes, and apples.
What type of oil would you recommend substituting for the dressing for someone with a nut allergy?
So many great oils… of course olive oil, but avocado oil is wonderful too.
This salad is delicious!! I often struggle with the “what to eat for lunch” question, so I’m very happy to put this in the rotation! One question…I wasn’t sure if I would like walnut oil, so I used extra virgin olive oil. Is there another oil you would recommend instead?
I love to experiment with different oils, and there are more and more out there. I’ve used avocado oil, and a light sesame oil would work too (not the Asian version in the small bottles.) I don’t know if you’ve seen the brand La Tourangelle, they come in metal bottles, and they’re one of my favorites…they have all kinds of flavors. Also check out O Olive Oil for great ideas, I have a post all about them, here.
I haven’t seen that brand, but will look for it now…thanks!
I only have one other wheat berry salad; so will have to try this also
I’m with you, Sue – lunch is more often skipped than eaten for me! I absolutely LOVE this idea! For both Mr. Squash and I! Plus I recently purchased an Instant Pot and am eager to try it out on the berries! You’re always coming up with such great ideas! I’m headed back to the farmer’s market as we speak for a few more goodies to make this!
We’re in the middle of a batch now…we think it’s helping our weight loss goals, too 😉
I am a huge fan of make ahead lunches! These wheat berries would also be great with roasted vegetables. I’m going to try this in my instant pot and make that terrific dressing too. Great recipe – thank you!
I love the idea of roasted vegetables in a grain salad ~ yum!