Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

A wheat berry salad recipe inspired by a crostini I tasted in Denver, Colorado made by chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja. It features whiskey-soaked golden raisins, adobo-kissed goat cheese, herbs, and toasted pine nuts are tossed with a bit of lettuce.

Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad

This morning I opened my eyes and was greeted with a beautiful day. The chubby robins that live in the trees out front were chirping and the sky was big and blue and punctuated with cotton ball clouds. We got things started with a couple of coffees (Wayne is the barista around here), and then made our way to a friend's house a few doors up the block for an Easter egg hunt and brunch. Ann asked me to bring a salad, and instead of bringing one of my standbys I decided to wing it and try something new. The inspiration came from an appetizer I tasted last week at the IACP Conference in Denver. At the opening party, chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja served a brioche crostini topped with a subtly-smoked goat cheese. The edges of the goat cheese were rolled in a chopped herb salad, and the cheese was then finished with whiskey-soaked yellow raisins and toasted pine nuts. It was a fascinating explosion of sweet and smoke, booze and tang. I thought the components in her crostini would be great deconstructed and put into play in a wheat berry salad. So that was the plan this morning.

Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

I mashed a touch of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers into some goat cheese to give it that smoky back note, and soaked the yellow raisins overnight covered in whiskey with a bit of brown sugar. I tossed some little gem lettuce into the salad for color and crunch - the little leaves ended up being perfect for scooping up wheat berries. I made a simple dressing with olive oil, a bit of lemon zest/juice, and the whiskey leftover from soaking. The only thing that took anytime with this salad was boiling the wheat berries - something you could do a day or two ahead of time.

I hope you all had a nice weekend - I have to say, it's days like today that I really love where I live. I feel lucky to be flanked on all sides by friends and familiar faces. Today being the exception, on our block, the backyards don't seem to get much use. Everyone seems to like sitting out front, on their steps chatting, people watching, playing with the kids. On the nicest nights of the year, someone inevitably opens a bottle of wine, another neighbor might bring over a bit of cheese and bread, more and more glasses come out as people make their way home from work. It's pretty great.

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Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

1 pound wheat berries, cooked*
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup whiskey
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
5 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of one lemon
fine grain sea salt
1 cup pinenuts, toasted
3 big handfuls of lettuce, spinach, or arugula
scant 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or other chopped herbs)

Cook the wheat berries and set aside.

Place the raisins in a small bowl, add the whiskey and sugar, and let soak for a couple hours (or overnight). When the raisins are done soaking, drain off (and save) the leftover whiskey. You'll use it in the dressing.

Mash the goat cheese with the adobo sauce until it is well incorporated and set aside.

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 3 tablespoons of the whiskey (leftover from soaking the raisins), and a couple pinches of salt. Whisk well and set aside.

Just before serving, in a large bowl, gently toss the wheat berries, raisins, pine nuts, lettuce and a few more pinches of salt. Sprinkle with goat cheese and oregano, toss once or twice and serve.

Makes a party or potluck-sized salad.

*To cook wheat berries: Combine the pound of wheat berries with about 8 1/2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy (and a few of the berries split open), about an hour or so. The berries will stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they're done is to taste a few. Drain and set aside.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Sorry to hear about your car! 🙁
We planted asparagus in our garden and this will be the first year that we will be able to eat some. So I will definitely try this recipe. It looks delicious!


1 lb cooked wheat berries? About how much is that to start with dry? I have a TON of wheat berries from my CSA hanging out in my freezer and this looks fantastic – but I’m at a loss for what quantity of them dry turns into 1 lb cooked. I’m sure it varies, but a rough estimate would be a huge help.
Can’t wait to try this – thanks!
HS: Hi Jamie, start with 1 lb dried wheat berries.


This salad is amazing! I made it last night and it was delicious. Really wonderful flavors, and it combines so many things I love – wheatberries, whiskey, goat cheese. Thanks Heidi!


This is my first time on your site and I wanted to tell you how lovely it is! I happened upon your yogurt post as I just bought a salton yogurt maker, and your yogurt post describes yours. Thank you for such an informative post!

Joie de vivre

Delicious sounding salad – very unique and not the typical standby at all! I love the Easter photo, neat perspective from above and so cute!


These photos are beautiful!! I’m not a whisky fan, but this recipe has me intrigued!


Mmmm anything with goat cheese makes my mouth water. Really lovely recipe!

Feasting on Art

For us gluten freebies, this might be really good with buckwheat, no? Raw, not toasted. Have to give it a try!


This sounds very good!


Heidi, it was lovely to meet you at IACP — it makes me enjoy your posts even more. Cheers, Janine
HS: It was great meeting you as well Janine!


The recipe sounds exciting, but not quite as great as where you live! 🙂 I want neighbors like that in a beautiful setting! You’re so lucky! What city/town are you from?
HS: I’m from San Francisco.


I’m glad to hear that you had such a lovely Easter. You’re lucky to have an in-house barista! Thanks for the wheatberries inspiration…


wow, fantastic flavors. i can’t even imagine how yummy that salad is. and the goat cheese you described…!!!
cutest picture ever of the small children 🙂
HS: Thanks!


This sounds wonderful! Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to try this for lunch soon.


Fantastic! Got anything using rum? Because that’s what I have 3 full bottle of…
HS: You could do rum-soaked raisins instead of whiskey. I might not use it in the dressing though.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

your day sounded ideallic and the best part is that you are aware of it …it,s good to realize that life rocks..and to share it …thanks.I drove around cataluna this weekend …and it was slow motion vineyard and mountain rangingly gorgeous.


I have never heard of wheat berries before until I watched the Martha Stewart show last Friday, where they made some sort of pie containing a wheat berry porridge. I woke up this morning thinking how versatile wheat berries can be. This is a perfect example of its versatility. Thank you!


Very creative and unique salad recipe! I’m a fan of Wild Turkey’s American Honey Whiskey and think it may pair well with the golden raisins…yum.


mmm… very interesting looking salad! i have a few different whiskeys in the cupboard to try, but i think i’ll try it with one of the lesser ones.
now, off to find out if wheat berries are available in europe…


This sounds great but I’ll have to wait until after Passover to try it!


I recently made a wheat berry Tabuloueh as on their own, I did not find them that enjoyable. Then again, if I had some whiskey, it would have helped. haha


I just bought some southwestern style orzo–that cheese flavored with the adobo would be delicious!


Looks like a tasty, filling salad. I’ve never worked with wheatberry before. This seems like a great recipe to start out with.


Is there something non-alcoholic I could soak the raisins in, that would give off a similar taste?


the whiskey is such a creative touch! I’ve been experimenting with wheatberries and pearled barley recently and will definitely have to try this out.


Anything that hints of goat makes me gag. Is there a specific brand of chevre that has no goat overtones? Or could one substitute feta?
HS: I think I’d maybe drain some yogurt into a yogurt “cheese” and try that.


As good as this recipe sounds, the description of your neighborhood sounds truly like a dream. I am most definately living on the wrong coast!


Your recipes are refreshing ,creative and healthy .Apart from your creative genius , I like the way you present it .Like a story teller and that is the best part ! I have become a big fan of yours Thanks
Ashish Naithani(I forgot to ad my name so posting it again

Ashish Naithani

Your recipes are refreshing ,creative and healthy .Apart from your creative genius , I like the way you present it .Like a story teller and that is the best part ! I have become a big fan of yours Thanks


uh huh…a little whiskey? That should add some zip to good old wheat berries? best, s

s. stockwell

Oh lovely! I actually have been kind of into wheat berries lately…I cook them, then let them sit overnight in ale. You could layer your alcohols!

Laura [What I Like]

Goat cheese mixed into adobo with an oregano accent-
what a great idea!
I love how this recipe brings out the textural
elements and harmonizes with the sweet/smokey/woody flavors of the whiskey- nice!
I wonder… have you ever paired goat cheese with
a fruit paste and Spanish dry sherry?
Hey Kathy! I have! I bet you could remix this salad with fruit paste and sherry vinaigrette and it would be a totally different direction to go in.

Kathy Fitz

I made the carrot soup today and embellished it with leeks and some half and half to give it a creamier texture. I think it made an already great recipe better. Thanks J.G.

John Govoni

Interesting touch with the whiskey! I love wheatberries. Last week I cooked wheatberries and green lentils together, spontaneously spicing it up with some cumin, turmeric, and coriander. It was simple and great topped off with a dollop of yogurt.
We had our annual Easter Egg hunt in the backyard. I love to garden and am out there all the time, but watching kids poke through the little corners and undiscovered spots gives me a new and very enjoyable perspective on my own garden.

Deana Gunn

What a lush and lovely garden for an Easter egg hunt!
I love wheatberries but hardly ever remember to actually make them. When I was in chef school a million years ago, I used to boil up a pot of them and eat them for breakfast with honey and cinnamon – the perfect ballast and shot of fiber to get my stomach through a day of cooking and eating French classics.
When you ate at Rioja, I hope you also got a chance to sample one of Jennifer’s dishes that contained black garlic aioli. It was fantastic!
HS: I didn’t! Unfortunately I didn’t make it to Rioja for a proper meal – next time though.

Dana McCauley

This is very interesting- a great combination of flavors. I can’t wait to give it a try!


What kind of wheat berries did you use?
I recently saw this recipe and asked my mom for some wheat berries (she grinds her own flour)
She gave me white spring berries and red winter berries to try in it. Just looking at the berries make me think the white spring will be more tender because they look larger and softer then the red. The flavor might be better with the red though. I ran out of seseame oil so experiementing is on hold until I get to the store.
HS: I play around with different types. Some are plumper and chewier than others. I started buying Massa wheat berries on occasion at my local market (they also grow amazing brown rice. But I’d just say experiment, and make note of the differences.


Isn’t it an awesome feeling to look out the window and see the sun shining?
It was a great feeling here as well. Especially since we’ve had crappy weather the last couple of weeks. Happy Easter!


Very creative! I think that the lettuce gives a beautiful contrast in texture and color to the wheat berries. Sounds yummy!

Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

Great idea for wheat berries – I’ve had some sitting in my pantry for a while with no plans for them. What interests me most about this recipe, though, is the combination of goat cheese and adobo sauce. I’m sure mixing the two together softens the adobo so it doesn’t overpower the many other flavorful ingredients of the salad (like the pine nuts, mmm). Nice recipe!


I thought you had to soak wheat berries overnight. Does the boiling suffice?
HS: I rarely remember to soak wheat berries.


Well this looks fantastic, and now I have something exciting to do with all of the wheat berries I just cooked up!


Heidi, somehow I can’t imagine you as a whiskey drinker! Anyway, my roommate and I have a bunch of Jack Daniels in the pantry, so I’ll be sure to give this a try sometime soon–maybe with some barley instead of wheat berries!
HS: You’re right! I’m totally not. I bought two little airline-sized bottles to make this.


This sounds absolutely fantastic! I’m not a lover of whiskey, but I’m sure it will be wonderful melding with all those other fabulous flavors in this salad. I’ve dreamed of going to the IACP–it’s always so far away from where I live, though!


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