Wheat Foods Around the World

September 25, 2014

Image: Wheat Foods Around the World.
No matter where you live in the world, wheat will probably be close by since it is the most consumed grain in the world. This isn’t surprising since it can be grown in many climates and used in a variety of highly palatable and nutritious ways. Here are some examples of how different regions around the world use wheat in their cuisines:

  • Asia: noodles and breads 
  • Europe: bread, cereals, pastries, pasta 
  • India: bread (naan) 
  • Middle East & North Africa: flat bread, couscous, matzah 
  • Russia: bread 
  • Australia: bread, cereals, pasta 
  • Mexico & Central America: flour tortillas, breads and empanadas
  • United States & Canada: bread, cereals, pasta, crackers, cookies, pretzels and pies

Culinary Uses of Wheat

There are six different classes of wheat: Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, Hard White, Soft White and Durum. Each of these classes varies in its protein and gluten content. Hard wheats are higher in protein and used in breads and quickbreads. Soft, lower protein wheats are used in cakes, pastries, cookies, crackers, flatbreads and Asian-style noodles. Hard white wheat is also used for Asian-style noodles as well as breads. Durum wheat is used in pasta and egg noodles.

Most wheat is typically milled into flour and is then used to make a wide range of foods including breads,muffins, noodles, pasta, biscuits, cakes, cookies, pastries, cereal bars, sweet and savory snack foods, and crackers. Depending on the region of the world, wheat may be eaten as bread that is flat or loaved, leavened or unleavened, or processed into pasta or couscous.

A World of Wheat Products

Wheat can also be used in other forms to make products like those described below: 

  • Flaked, puffed and extruded wheat – All three forms are commonly used to manufacture breakfast cereals and cereal snack bars. 
  • Wheat bran - Added to biscuits, cakes, muffins and breads to increase the dietary fiber content. Wheat bran is also used as an ingredient in some breakfast cereals. 
  • Wheat germ - Can be added to breads, pastries, pancakes and biscuits or sprinkled onto yogurt, breakfast cereal or fruit dishes to increase the B-Vitamin, mineral, protein and fiber content.
  • Semolina – The coarsely ground endosperm of the wheat kernel, mainly used for making pasta. The preferred class of wheat for pasta is durum. It can also be cooked in milk to make semolina pudding or fried golden brown and then mixed with sugar to make halva, as eaten in the Middle East. In Greece, semolina is used in baked cakes. 
  • Couscous – Used widely in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt), couscous is made from semolina grains which are sprinkled with slightly salted water and rubbed to make tiny pellets which are steamed and then dried. It can be a salad base, added to soups, or served as a side dish for meats and vegetables.It can also be sweetened, spiced and mixed with dried fruits for dessert. 
  • Bulgur – Is made by parboiling wheat, drying it and then coarsely grinding it. It can be steamed or boiled and used in a wide range of dishes, such as tabouli, kofta or kibbeh.

On your next grocery shopping trip, spice up your meals by checking out the international sections for new ingredients and flavors to pair with your favorite wheat foods. Some quick and easy ideas:

  • Create an easy, Asian-inspired dish using your favorite pasta (enriched or whole wheat), paired with lean strips of grilled beef, water chestnuts, and bok choy 
  • Try Middle Eastern couscous for a hot tasty breakfast paired with raisins and dried cranberries or cherries
  • Cut pita bread into triangles, toast in the oven, and serve with hummus as a healthy snack
Enjoy the many types of wheat foods and let it take you on a delicious around the world “stay-cation” in your own kitchen. It truly is the staff of life for many people and cultures.

International Recipes

For a selection of international recipes from the Wheat Foods Council, visit www.wheatfoods.com/resources.

  • Beef Fajitas
  • Bruschetta
  • Greek Wrap
  • Mediterranean Bulgur Salad
  • Mediterranean Pizza
  • Mexican Bulgur
  • Sesame Chicken & Pasta
  • Torta Rustica with Roasted Peppers and Smoked Mozzarella

by Wheat Foods Council