Yes, buckwheat is gluten-free. Buckwheat, also called beech wheat or kasha, does not contain any wheat or gluten.
Despite the name, buckwheat is not closely related to wheat—buckwheat isn’t even a grain. Instead, buckwheat is a flowering plant related to leafy vegetables like rhubarb and sorrel. The name buckwheat comes from the resemblance of its small, triangular seeds to larger beech tree seeds and the fact that buckwheat flour was historically used as a wheat substitute.
For centuries buckwheat was an important crop in places where the growing season was too short to grow wheat, like Tibet, northern China, Korea, Japan (where buckwheat noodles are called soba) and Eastern Europe. East Europeans call buckwheat called kasha and still use it today in blinis, blintzes, knishes, and as a filling for cabbage rolls. Buckwheat is also commonly used in France to make savory crepes, known as galettes. Buckwheat can also be used to create tea, beer, and whiskey. It’s a pretty versatile ingredient!
Buckwheat is a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins and several dietary minerals, including niacin, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Since buckwheat is also gluten-free, this flour can be an important part of the diet for anyone with a gluten-related disorder, such as celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, wheat allergies, and dermatitis herpetiformis.
Because buckwheat has wheat in the name, it is especially important to carefully read the ingredients list of any product with buckwheat. Although buckwheat is gluten-free, it is easily cross-contaminated when prepared or mixed with wheat, barley, rye, or any other gluten-containing grain. For example, many restaurants offer buckwheat pancakes, but often the pancake batter is half buckwheat flour and half wheat flour. Don’t be afraid to eat buckwheat, but ensure your product is not a diluted, mixed version of buckwheat.