Wheat berry salad. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Wheat berry salad. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I’ve decided to go vegan.

Yep. Vegan all the way. Not for ethical reasons, but for reasons of vanity. I’m getting fat. I’m getting old and the fat tends to stick around. And where diets are concerned, I know one thing for sure: it’s very hard to gain weight on a vegan diet. So vegan it is, at least until I drop twenty.

For my first night as a vegan, I went for a wheat berry salad, because it satisfies like meat. I first tried wheat berries after looking through Heidi Swanson‘s book, Super Natural Cooking. You have to work your jaws. The whole wheat kernel has lots of fiber and nutrition. And it can carry all kinds of different flavors, so there’s no end to what kind of dishes you can create with wheat berries. Also, the weather was very hot and this is delicious at room temperature. This wheat berry salad proved to be the perfect summer entree.

I made this recipe the first week of July, a Monday. I’d promised friends I’d grill Vienna beef hot dogs with natural casings, as always, on the Fourth (something of a moral obligation in this household). The day after the wheat berry salad I really wanted an egg on a pasta dish I was making.

At least I could say I did it, though. I went almost 24 hours as a vegan. It was easy. I think I’m going to be a vegan all the time now. I’m just never going to be skinny.

Wheat Berry Salad

For the salad

  • 1 cup wheat berries
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice
  • 2 ears corn (or 1 cup corn kernels)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame (or lima bean or peas), cooked
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 leaves romaine lettuce or head lettuce (optional)
  1. In medium saucepan over high heat, combine the wheat berries and water, and add half the diced onion and the bay leaf. When the water reaches a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. After 30 minutes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir to dissolve, and taste the cooking water. If it needs more seasoning, add another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and continue cooking until tender, another 30 minutes or so. Uncover and simmer until almost all of the water has cooked off. Set this aside and keep at room temperature or chill.
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat a film of olive oil, then saute the remaining diced onion. When the onion is tender, add the red pepper and sauté until the pepper is tender. Remove from the heat. While the onions and peppers are cooking, boil the corn ears for a few minutes. Hold them under cold water till they’re comfortable to handle, then slice the kernels off the cob into a large salad bowl. Add the cooked edamame, the onions and peppers, and the wheat berries.
  3. To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, shallot, garlic, and a three-finger pinch of salt and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the cayenne, and whisk in the oil. Taste. If it’s too sharp, add more oil.
  4. Toss the vegetables and wheat berries with the dressing, holding some back. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Taste and evaluate. Add more dressing or additional lemon juice to taste.
  5. Serve in lettuce leaves if you wish.

Serves 4

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.




58 Wonderful responses to “Wheat Berry Salad”

  • Carri

    Ha-Ha! I had to look at the calendar to see if it was April 1st, but wait your serious! Good luck with that, it’s good practice cooking vegan anyway, makes you rethink a lot of how you do things and in a good way. (Just keep up the protein) BTW, I cooked Farro for the first time this past weekend…fabulous!

    • Bricktop Polford

      Haha – I was going to post that the only time I am a vegan is Yom Kippur!

  • Mantonat

    Hey, I thought you were the original “fat doesn’t make you fat” guy!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      I am. but as I say eating (and drinking) TOO MUCH makes you fat. Guilty.

      • DJK

        So why not eat and drink less? Or just eat less if you’re unwilling to drink less? Jumping jacks while you watch things (animal things!) simmer, maybe?

        I guess going Vegan is more attractive than going on Fear Factor, but I can’t imagine by much.

        • Mantonat

          “So why not eat and drink less?” God forbid! I think I’m only behind Ruhlman by a couple of years, but the padding does start to appear and a little extra exercise doesn’t necessarily do the trick anymore. I’ve been doing the paleo/primal thing for about a year because I find it more appealing in terms of what it includes and precludes, but others may prefer a veggie/vegan route. For me, eating lots of healthy fats and meats with low-carb veggies and fruits helps me maintain an even energy level throughout the day, got me to drop a few pounds (and helps me easily maintain my current weight), and reduces cravings. And I’m not so strident about it that I won’t have an occasional pastry or side of good bread. Eating this way really makes me appreciate quality food in general so that I’m less likely to eat junk.

  • Liz M.

    Congrats! I did this about a year ago. Thought I was going to have a hard time, but it was easy! I have fudged a few times with cheese, but only a handful of times. Otherwise I have really stuck to it, and feel the difference. Also, it is fun to try to be creative with some recipes. Vegan food does not have to be boring. Here is one of my absolute favorite blogs:



  • Annie

    I’ll never go full vegan, but I’ve started reading Mark Bittman’s VB6 (Vegan Before 6 PM) book, and I like the idea of a “flexitarian” diet that adds more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Having just spent a week plus on vacation eating pretty much nothing but meat (and completely eschewing the notion of anything vegetarian-esque), the idea of diving into a wheat berry salad is very appealing right now!

  • Elisa

    You have no idea how much I appreciate reading this right now! I’ve been “going vegan” for about a month now, a decision made for health reasons and for selfish reasons to help me pursue my other hobby (running) pain free. It was a slow process; I didn’t do it overnight. I started by cutting back on meat and mostly eliminating dairy, except ice cream (a weakness). It’s only been the past few weeks that I could say that I was mostly vegan, really. But I can already tell a difference in how I feel physically. Emotionally, though, I’ve struggled with it. It feels like I’m failing as a foodie, so your announcement is encouraging! I also abstained from calling my diet “vegan” because of all the negative connotations. I just ate my food quietly and if anyone asked, I’d say I was “cutting back on meat” or “trying to eat more plant-based.” I still think the term is negative in the food world, but this post and the work done by folks like Mark Bittman gives me a little hope that I won’t have to hide in shame forever.

    • ruhlman

      gosh, you don’t have to claim to be anything at all. When did people start turning their diets into their identity. You are on the I’m-going-to-eat-whatever-the-fuck-I-want diet cuz it makes me feel so GOOD!

      • ruhlman

        this comment was in response to Elisa remarks on negative attitudes toward veganism. She felt she’d misread my post and asked me to remove it so that she could think about it more and perhaps write about it on her blog, the lovely Blue Apron. blueapron.wordpress.com

  • Randy

    Oh I have seen it all…the king of charcuterie and salt is going vegan! I’m teasing….good luck with that and I want to see how long it lasts! My bookie offered five to one you won’t last a week! Seriously, good luck. You are a better man than I am. I need to lose about thirty…I will just lose it the old fashion way, exercise more, eat less and gain it back in about six months.

  • Darcy

    Good Luck to yu Micheal. Hope that Bourdain doesn’t heare about this.

  • Michael

    loving the fact that most of the folks who have commented haven’t picked up on the humor…24 hours, and then an egg with pasta. Hilarious!

    • Gina

      Ok, I was thinking the same thing! Is this a joke? Because, admittedly, I hope this is a big joke. 🙂 I have lots of love and respect for you Mr. Ruhlman!

  • Pat

    Vegan? If you want to lose weight, why don’t you simply eat low carb — meats, poultry, and green vegetables during the week, no starch, no sugar — and then eat whatever you want on weekends? And walk. You’re writing a cooking column, and we need to read about ALL kinds of foods and techniques, not just for vegans. Please don’t preach at us describing your daily diet, OK? No crusading. I used to love Bittman’s columns, but they seem very limited now. Remember Julia ate everything and she lived to be 92.

    • Laura

      So glad I’m not the only one who uses this routine! An acquaintance once accused me of having an eating disorder because I eat this way. Makes perfect sense to me: I feel great, weigh what I should, and get to eat pretty much whatever I want.

      Re: Ruhlman-as-vegan, happy to see that insanity didn’t last! 😉

  • Auntie Allyn

    Good luck to you! Going vegetarian is one thing (and easier to do at this time of year, when the veggies are so plentiful); vegan is a much tougher challenge. I just don’t think I could give up dairy and eggs! Wheat berries are really delightful, you should try farro if you haven’t already (very similar).

    • ruhlman

      yeah, the eggs are kind of a deal breaker for me, I’ve discovered. and no parmigianno? that’s one of my most used pantry staples

  • Dean

    If it’s healthy and you enjoy it, go for it. What I like most about the post is you explain why you’re doing it and not proselytizing as a diet others must follow. Hopefully, while decreasing your weight, you’ll increase your already considerable repertoire and share some interesting dishes with us. For what it’s worth, I became a vegetarian for about 2 years because i was bored with the few dished I’d been cooking and needed a change. Although I reverted to being an omnivore, it kicked off an over 40 year love of cuisine and cooking.

    Good luck in your new adventure. Can’t wait to read the culinary travelogue.

  • Dervin

    Well, I got the veagan joke, but I’m not sure if your desire to lose weight is a joke. Just for fun I entered this recipe in weight watchers and it comes out with a score of 12. To compare that’s the same as my daily breakfast – three strips of bacon, Two Eggs, Two pieces of whole wheat bread and coffee with half-and-half.

  • Andrea

    If you want to lose weight and safe guard your health, eat “Paleo”, that is, “Paleolithic”, like our hunter -gatherer ancestors. It is how our bodies are designed to thrive. I have lost weight quickly and easily by eating meat, fish, animal fats, (mmmm bacon!) natural fats like avocados, nuts, olives, lots of fresh veggies and some fruit. NO grains or sugar. I beg you, Michael, if you are serious please research the Paleo diet.

    • a-ron

      More like “evolved to tolerate”. That’s a critical misunderstanding of evolution and adaptation.

  • Diane

    Oh, the horror…the horror.

    I choked a bit on my evening libation after reading the first sentence of today’s post. Was laughing my ass off by the end of it. My favorite part: “Not for ethical reasons, but for reasons of vanity.”

  • Allen

    I’m uh…pretty sure you’re just fucking with us.
    No bacon, no honey, no cocktails…no way. Fat is beautiful, tell em it’s all paid for & to leave you the fuck alone.

  • Carolyn Z

    I don’t have to give up fat, only cholesterol. I eat everything. I’ve said this before. In moderation. Small portions of meat. Big portions of veggies. Small portions of starch. I used to be a baker. I know what good baked goods taste like. The local bakery has wonderful cake slices. That’s where I go once in a while. That’s my Achilles heel.

    I also like a nice steak once in a while. Could you and Donna walk during the day sometimes? I’m in the same boat. Need to lose weight. In pain, so I can’t exercise. Working to stretch. Baby steps. Change comes gradually. I’m sorry for this long thing. Good luck and have fun when you can cooking new things. We crave certain things. That’s not a bad thing.

    For your consideration, there’s also the Alton Brown diet. He had to lose 50 pounds for his health.

    • ruhlman

      I swim most every day in the summer and work out at least three times a week with weights and elliptical. But that just maintains my current overage.

      Alton gave up drinking to lose what he did. I’m not prepared to give up The Hour.

      • Carolyn Z

        It helps to change up your exercise . . . at the same time as you change up what you eat. I would say to eat small servings of meat with your vegan diet. Then you won’t be hungry. Plan a healthy snack each day of almost as many calories as a meal = four meals a day. Also plain veggies are free calories and full of fiber. Thinking in front of the TV at night if you will. Account for the alcohol calories in your food plan. Good luck and let us know what the Ruhlman diet turns out being.

  • Edwin

    So vegan it is, at least until I drop twenty.

    So, your follow up cookbook is “Vegan – Ruhlman Drops Twenty”???

  • Erik

    I nearly had a heart attack thinking one of the authors of Charcuterie went vegan on us.

  • Mitch

    Where’s the sarcasm emoticon?
    That wheat berry salad would go great with grilled sausages tossed with queso fresco.

  • Andrea

    I wonder why the quick disclaimer “not for ethical reasons.” You wouldn’t want to be mistaken for someone who cares about animal suffering or the environment? OK. Still, the comments show you what we vegans are up against. People don’t want to know what they don’t want to know. The only problem with that is that the animals have no voice, so I’m guessing they appreciate the people who “preach” on their behalf. And vegan food rocks, I eat a far more varied and delicious diet than any omnivore I know.
    The health benefits are undeniable in any event. You will feel better and most likely lose weight (only junk-food vegans are fat). And you will live longer. Stastical fact. Doesn’t matter that you know a meat-eater who lived to be 92 or whatever. A) they grew up when omnivores ate very different food than omnis do now, B) how do you know they wouldn’t have lived to be 100 if they were vegan, because statistically that’s the likelihood.

    • Jonathan

      a. References are always helpful when making snotty claims.
      b. You know this guy has written entire books on the art of dissecting animals and stringing them up to dry, right?

    • ruhlman

      I made the comment because veganism almost always comes freighted with some kind of ethical righteousness, and I wanted to distance myself from that.

  • Bradley

    Check out the bulletproof executive. I’ve lost 85lbs this year switching to eating this way. No grains no sugar lots of healthy fats and veggies with some grass fed meats.

  • Doug

    Good luck to you. I went vegetarian for about 6 months last year for weight loss. (Kept eating good cheese and the occasional egg, sorry.) Then added in fish and finally reintroduced meat as I got near my goal weight. Explored a lot of cool vegetable recipes. Now when I eat meat, usually it’s a holiday (I’m having turkey on Thanksgiving, period) or a weekly family dinner, and probably only eat meat twice during a week max.

    Over about 10 months, I lost 50 pounds, took my BMI from 30 to 22, and feel much better. I’ve been stable for a year. I’ve had friends lose massive amounts of weight by going no carb, going vegan or just conscious calorie control. Whatever works for you is the right thing.

  • BethC

    I have a bag of bulger I bought for making tabouli. Would that work instead of the wheat berries?

    My husband has lost 40 pounds, and I’ve lost 20, since mid-March. It has been a combination of portion control and increased physical activity from rebuilding our deck and swimming several times a week.

  • Rich

    I’ve spent about a third of my life as a vegan and its had definite health benefits. Its the third that I spend getting a good night’s sleep!

  • Tom

    For a guy who’s into both meat and precision in cooking, I’m a little surprised you’re not busting out the kitchen scales and going with a more ‘Ruhlmanesque’ approach to weight loss. 🙂 I.e.,

    1. estimating your maintenance calories (15 cal/lb of bodyweight is a reasonable starting point for most)

    2. tracking your caloric consumption and making sure it’s below maintenance (10-12 calories per pound is generally considered a moderate deficit)

    3. weighing yourself regularly to confirm that there’s a downward trend over time, adjusting if necessary, and

    4. otherwise eating more or less whatever the heck you want.

    Being on top of your caloric consumption not only allows you to be more flexible with the types of food you’re eating but also the timing of your meals (e.g., you might find it more satisfying to have two big meals a day or perhaps you’ll prefer eating multiple small snacks throughout the day) You’ll probably also be less stressed out about high calorie weekend if you know you can make up for it during the week. Also helps avoid the burden of viewing certain foods as being forbidden or dirty or immoral (not that I could imagine you being burdened by such things. :))

    It’s good that you’re lifting, though if you’re in a caloric deficit AND slashing protein intake (as vegan diets tend to do), you’ll lose weight, but a good percentage of it will likely be muscle (an indication of which would be flagging strength in the weight room). Protein is also the most satiating of the macronutrients, so you might consider supplementing with protein powders if only to curb your appetite a bit. There are even some vegan powders out there. Most are far from delicious, but they can be useful.

    Anyway, sorry to go on and on. Although this is one of the many “Here’s-what-worked-for-me-and-so-I-recommend-it-for-you” comments you’re getting, I’d say that anyone who’s ever dieted successfully, no matter what diet approach or rules they used, succeeded because they ate less calories than they burned. I just like having the numbers laid bare. Good luck!

  • del

    I cut out dairy ( for health reasons) and have lost a pound a week,and can still eat mayonaisse!

  • Mitch

    I tend to over react to the proselytizing about what one may or may not eat in order to achieve a maximized life longevity. Please desist. Personally, I depend on daily aerobic exercise and twice a week elementary yoga. No HFCS, no refined carbs, mucho fruits, nuts, raw veggies, meat, and dairy. I lost 30 pounds three years ago and I’m 70% of the way to losing another 10. And I never never go hungry. Life is good. For me. Wishing you all health and happiness no matter your eating style.

  • Mary

    My husband and I went vegan for health reasons. He lasted 6 months and me 2. He is off all medication, but I hate to cook vegan all the time. Now we are both following Bittman’s VB6. I don’t want to have a label, but just be healthy and enjoy my time in the kitchen. Looking forward to more vegan posts (as well as the Friday cocktails).

  • YOD

    hard to gain weight on a vegan diet? someone needs to tell Prince Fielder that!

    • Kevin

      Prince Fielder was a vegetarian for about 3 months. He tried it and didn’t like it.

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    Vegan diet or no vegan diet here is an outline (ala Bittman’s variations) for great summer food:

    1. Keep on hand in the freezer many kinds of cooked dried legumes.
    2. Keep a big supply of sweet onions on hand.
    3. Always buy lots of good veggies that work well in a salad whether raw or slightly cooked.
    4. Keep a bunch of whole grains on hand, even cooked and in the freezer is OK.
    5. Combine 1-4 with some vinaigrette plus a touch of sour, salty, nutty and sweet things (dried fruit works well for sweet).

    Just plain good but also on the healthy side.

  • Allen

    Today’s cocktail looks alot like the pod from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

  • Ttrockwood

    As a vegan currently (3 years, 20years vegetarian) i can and will pnly support all of your vegetarian/vegan meals. No matter if the motivation is pure vanity….. Your body will feel so much better that you may never look back.

  • Tim F

    Wait wait wait. Michael Ruhlman Vegan? Michael ‘Charcuterie’ Ruhlman? Mind = blown.
    Kidding, good luck 😉


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