A hearty and texture rich salad, this Wheat Berry Salad with roasted beets, walnuts and goat cheese is dressed with a bright, citrusy dressing. Make ahead for ultimate ease, it’s versatile enough for week day lunches, holiday gatherings, picnics, and/or potlucks. This recipe is vegetarian with vegan and gluten free options.
It was mid March, and world events had me feeling, umm…. overwhelmed. I looked in the larder for an inspiring diversion and was reminded it had been far too long since I made a pot of wheat berries. And so it began.
The farm stand was loaded with beets and I’d just picked up a big tub of spinach and a bag of citrus at the store. Being on the tail end of the most abundant part of citrus season, I wanted to highlight those flavors.
Beets and citrus are like peas and carrots; perfect partners. Toss in chewy, and earthy wheat berries, spinach and/or beet greens, walnuts, buttery olives (not the briny variety) creamy goat cheese, and a sunny citrus vinaigrette, and I discovered a salad worth getting excited about! And to divert my attention.
How to Make Wheat Berry Salad
Beets and wheat berries take about the same amount of time to cook and can be made up to a day in advance for quick salad assembly the following day. Here’s how to make the salad:
- First, put the wheat berries on to cook and roast the beets.
- Second, toast the walnuts.
- Third, chop the greens, olives and cooled walnuts.
- Fourth, make the citrus dressing.
- Next, peel and dice the beets. Rinse and drain the wheat berries.
- Last, assemble the salad and toss.
PRO TIP: Be sure to toss the salad without the beets, otherwise everything in the salad will turn pink! Instead, layer the beets into the salad while transferring it to a serving platter.
A Few Recipe Notes
- Roasted Beets: give my easy method for Roasting Beets a try!
- Salad Greens: If your beets come with beet greens, use some in this salad. They’re lovely mixed with spinach.
- Goat Cheese or Feta? I’ve tried both in this salad (feta pictured) and while I like both, I prefer goat cheese. It’s creamy and has a nice tangy-sweet flavor that contrasts beautifully against the sweet of the beets and citrus. Use what you prefer or have on hand.
- Wheat berries are a slightly sweet, nutty and chewy whole grain. They add an earthy depth and heartiness to this salad. There are several varieties including hard red and hard white. I use hard white because that’s what I can find in the bulk bins, but either can be used in this recipe.
- Make it Gluten Free: This salad is lovely made with short grain brown rice. A delicious alternative to wheat berries and a gluten free option.
- Easily Vegan: Omit the cheese from the salad.
More Hearty Salads to Love
- Spring Orzo Salad with Feta
- Chickpea Summer Salad with Wheat Berries
- Hearty Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
- Lemon-Dijon Spring Macaroni Salad
- Brown Rice Salad with Spinach and Pecans
Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Beets
For the Salad:
- 3 1/2 C (830g) Water
- 1 C (210g) Wheat Berries hard red or white* (see note to make short grain brown rice for GF option)**
- 1 C (100g) Walnuts
- 2 C (365g) Roasted Beets peeled and diced - about 3 medium beets.
- 4 C (105g) Spinach chopped into bite size pieces. If you have beet greens, use a mix of beet greens and spinach.
- 4 oz (113g) Goat Cheese crumbled, I prefer goat cheese, but have also used feta (feta is pictured). Omit or try vegan feta to make this vegan/dairy free.
- 6 oz (170g) Green Ripe Olives pitted - the buttery variety (not briny), drained and quartered, about one can
- Fist Full of Flat Leaf Parsley chopped (optional)
- 1 Orange Supreme and sliced for garnish (optional)
For the Dressing:
- 1 tsp Orange Zest
- 1/2 C (115g) Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice from about one large orange
- 2 Tbs Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 3 tsp Maple Syrup or honey
- 1/4 tsp Fine Sea Salt
For the Salad:
- In a medium sauce-pot with a tight fitting lid, add the water, wheat berries and pinch of salt. Stir once, bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid, turn heat to med-low and simmer for about one hour. Start checking the berries at about 40 minutes to see if they are as soft as you prefer. If not, keep them cooking another 15-20 minutes. They should be chewy, but not tough or mushy when done. When the wheat berries are done, drain, rinse and drain again to cool them quickly, transfer into a large mixing bowl and refrigerate until ready to add the other other ingredients.
- In the mean time, roast and peel the beets (they take about the same amount of time as the wheat berries to cook) prep all the veggies and make the dressing (see below).
- Toast the walnuts in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes OR when roasting the beets, place the walnuts in the oven just as you start to preheat it for about 12-15 minutes - be sure to keep an eye on them as they go from toasty to burnt quick! Rough chop and set aside.
For the Dressing:
- There's a lot of dressing here, but wheat berries really soak up the orangey goodness! In a jar or small bowl add the orange zest and juice, olive oil, mustard, syrup and salt. Shake or whisk ingredients until emulsified. Set aside.
To Assemble the Salad:
- *Be sure to leave the beets out of the salad before tossing otherwise they turn everything pink! Lovely, yes, but for a more composed salad, layer them in. To the large mixing bowl with the cooled wheat berries, add the chopped greens, walnuts, olives and goat cheese (if the goat cheese is really soft as some are, hold it out and add it to the top of the salad after the salad is transferred to a serving dish - otherwise it tends to coat the veggies). If using Feta, it can be tossed right in. Hold out a few Tbs of dressing then pour the remaining dressing over the ingredients and toss.
- Transfer half the salad to a serving bowl or platter and top with half the beets and goat cheese if you held that out as well. Transfer the rest of the salad to the serving platter/bowl and top with remaining beets and goat cheese. Sprinkle the salad with chopped parsley.
- Just before serving, sprinkle the 2 Tbs of dressing you previously held out over the salad and garnish with sliced, supreme orange slices (optional).
- Store in a lidded container for up to 4 days in the fridge.