Rye and Carrot Salad ~ I’m all about grain salads in the cooler months, and this one made with healthy rye berries is wholesome, satisfying, and incredibly tasty! Serve it as a side dish or turn it into a week’s worth of working lunches!
Let me just say right away I LOVE this salad. And it’s the kind of recipe I love to share with you all. If there’s one thing that ties my eclectic collection of recipes together here, I hope it’s simplicity (with bonus points for new ingredients and flavors.) This one ticks all the boxes ~ the simple cast of characters is rye berries, carrots, red onion, celery, caraway seeds, and a simple vinaigrette, and they come together in a salad I could eat all day long!
What is a rye berry?
- rye berries are the grains, or seeds, of rye cereal grass. Rye is related to barley and wheat, which have similar seeds or ‘berries’.
- the berries can be dried and ground into flour (for rye bread!) or dried and boiled to eat whole.
- just like with oats, you can chop rye berries (think steel cut oats) or roll them. The flakes can be used in cereals like meusli, and either type can can be cooked into porridge.
- rye is considered an ancient grain with roots in Eastern, Central, and Northern Europe, and also Russia. Rye berries are not gluten free.
- as grains go, rye is super healthy, protein rich, and contains lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
There are so many specialty grains and flours available these days that stores generally don’t have the shelf space to stock them all. I was disappointed when my supermarket didn’t carry rye berries, but I got smart and ordered them from Amazon and they came the next day. Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite brand for whole grains, and I trust the quality, because even if you do find whole grains in grocery store bulk bins, they aren’t always super fresh.
TIP: Keep whole grains like rye berries in a zip lock bag in the freezer to keep them from spoiling before you can use them. That way you can buy a few bags at a time.
How to cook rye berries ~
- Rinse the berries and put them in a saucepan. Add cold water, about 4 times as much water as berries.
- Bring to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour, until the berries are tender but still have a firm bite.
- Drain off the excess water and they are ready to serve or use in a recipe. If they are going to be used cold, rinse in cold water.
I just barely cover the sliced carrots in water and boil for a few minutes, until they have just lost their raw crunch ~ that way they stay vibrant and firm. The celery and onion provide a nice raw crunch, with the parsley contributing the fresh green element.
I added caraway seeds on a whim because I associate them with rye bread, and I loved biting down on the occasional seed and getting that burst of flavor. If you don’t care for them, they’re not necessary.
Fall and winter are great times to experiment with whole grain salads. I make a WILD RICE SALAD WITH CRANBERRIES AND NUTS that’s a hit at Thanksgiving every year. Like this rye and carrot salad, it makes great lunches, too. The chewy crunchy texture really lasts!
My ANCIENT GRAIN SALAD uses wild rice, red quinoa, and farro (a type of wheat berry) as its base. I load it with colorful bits of dried fruit, and fresh pomegranate seeds to make it extra festive.
TABBOULEH and JEWELED TABBOULEH both make use of cracked wheat, which is simple wheat berries that have been parboiled, dried, and coarsely cracked or ground. It cooks quicker and is less chewy than the whole berries.
Make it your own ~
- Use wheat berries, wild rice, or farro instead of rye. Quinoa would also work, but doesn’t have that great chewy texture.
- If you don’t like caraway seeds, leave them out.
- I think fresh dill would work really well in this salad, too.
- If you love cheese, add some crumbled feta.
- If you’ve got leftover rye berries (uncooked) you can grind them into your own rye flour with a high speed blender or food processor.
- Experiment with rye in other recipes, for instance you can make a classic Homemade Rye Bread, or you can get more creative, this Normandy Cider Rye made with hard cider sounds pretty amazing. If you’re into sourdough, here’s a recipe for Rye Sourdough Starter.
Rye and Carrot Salad
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Tbsp red vinegar, I used O Olive Oil Pomegranate Vinegar
- Rinse the rye and put in a saucepan with 3 1/2 cups water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for about an hour, or until the grains have lost their crunch but are still firm and chewy. Drain and rinse in cold water. Let drain well, and then put in a large bowl.
- Meanwhile put the carrots in a saucepan and add enough water to barely cover. Bring to a boil and boil for several minutes, just until the carrots are tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Let them drain well and add them to the bowl with the rye, along with the celery, onion, and caraway seeds.
- Whisk the dressing together and taste to adjust the ratio of oil to vinegar. Add enough to thoroughly moisten the salad, you may not need all of it. Toss well and season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
- Refrigerate until ready to eat. The salad will keep for a week tightly covered in the refrigerator.