Kasha Pilaf with Dates, Pistachios and Baharat – Recipe

Kasha Pilaf with Dates, Pistachios and Baharat

I originally made this pilaf to stuff in cabbage rolls, inspired by this lovely post from Give Recipe. My version of the stuffed cabbage was good, but the sauce I came up with didn’t knock it out of the park for me. The pilaf, on the other hand, I just loved. I made way too much of it and ended up eating it every day for three days and would have kept going if there was any left.

If you haven’t worked with kasha before, I think you will love it’s nutty, almost haunting flavor. It is simply whole grain buckwheat kernels, which are a staple food in Eastern Europe. It might seem a bit odd to use it in a pilaf with Middle Eastern or North African flavors, but there has certainly been a lot of historical migration between those areas so it isn’t such a stretch. Kasha can often be found in the Jewish foods section of a grocery store. Wolff’s is a common brand; choose medium or whole granulation if you have the option. Buckwheat kasha is gluten-free by the way. Although the name is confusing, it is unrelated to wheat.

If you want to go a different route, you could do this same recipe with couscous or freekeh instead. I haven’t tried, but I can’t see it failing to be delicious.

Baharat is one of those wonderful Middle Eastern spice blends with tremendous complexity. It is sweet, hot, floral and altogether moutwatering. I use one from World Spice Merchants. You could also make your own, or feel free to experiment with dukkah or ras el hanout as alternatives.

Kasha Pilaf with Dates, Pistachios and Baharat
Vegetarian and gluten free
Serves 4 as a side dish 

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats (kasha) (medium grain)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon baharat (or ras el hanout)
  • Several grinds black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/3 cup seeded and diced dates
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  1. Stir together the egg and kasha until the grains are coated. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the egg coated kasha and cook, stirring pretty constantly, until the grains dry out and separate, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the salt, butter, and water and stir. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low to maintain the simmer, cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, and fluff with a fork.
  3. Stir in the baharat, black pepper, cayenne and dates. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Just before serving, lightly toast the pistachios in dry skillet over medium heat and mix them in. (Don’t do this much in advance or they will absorb moisture and lose their crunch.)
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, January 23rd, 2012 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Side Dishes.

13 Responses to “Kasha Pilaf with Dates, Pistachios and Baharat – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    January 23, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    I’ve never used kasha in this combination. Those cabbage rolls are so good, I can only imagine how tasty it was!

  2. Reply
    January 23, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    I’m “date negative”, to cadge an expression of yours. Any suggestions on a substitution? I was thinking that finely sliced dried apricots might work, but I’m so anti-date that I don’t even have a good mental recollection of their flavor to use as a basis for the substitution.

    • Reply
      January 23, 2012 at 9:11 am #

      Hah, yeah, I’ve noticed that dates are one of those polarizing foods that some folks just viscerally detest. Dried apricots don’t taste anything like dates, but I think they would be a good replacement in this dish. What they would lack is some of the sweetness that the dates bring in, but they would add a tartness that would also be appealing.

  3. Reply
    January 23, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Michael, this sounds so inspiring! I’m not familiar with kasha, but I do love nutty flavors, so I must search for it at the market. I love the addition of dates and pistachio. I often use currants and pinenuts, so yours will be a great alternative to me. For the sauce, I would use some tomato sauce with a little dried mint. Yum! BTW thank you for sharing the link to my cabbage rolls here.

    • Reply
      January 23, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      Thanks! I agree, the tomato sauce would be good if you did this in cabbage rolls. I tried to get cute and make some sort of pomegranate molasses beurre blanc that just didn’t quite get where I wanted it to be. Something to come back to maybe.

  4. Reply
    ben freedman
    January 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm #


    I’ll be making this on friday night! can’t wait. l love kasha (usually with mushrooms, onions and
    bow tie pasta …) this will be a nice new taste treat.

    and of course i will be ordering your book soon … i tried to the day you announced it but got some kind of error.

    i mentioned to my wife about you opening your own restaurant ….. we are i NH but will plan to fly out when the time comes! yummy

    thanks for all you share,


    • Reply
      January 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      Thanks Ben! I really appreciate all your support during the writing process.

  5. Reply
    January 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Sounds amazing. I think I’ll give it a try with freekeh. There should be more freekeh recipes in the world1

  6. Reply
    January 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    This came out very well. I made a double batch, and it served five with lots of leftovers. I used dried apricots instead of dates, which were fine, and I forgot to toast the pistachios, because I was flustered with other things like making some omelettes as well, and helping my daughter with a pie-crust and cooking some chard with caramelized onions. (We were kinda cross-cultureal tonight!) Anyhow, it’s a winner. And it’s good “boat food”, too, in the sense that none of the ingredients except the butter need special handling like refrigeration. For a fluffy grain dish, it was surprisingly filling and warming. And it got high praise from my wife, for whom kasha is the ultimate comfort food for some reason. I skipped the cayenne, and held back on the baharat a bit, but everyone sprinkled some on their own plates, so it looks as if your amounts for that were right.

    • Reply
      January 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Sounds like a typically chaotic dinner scene at my house! I think the apricots are a smart choice if you don’t like (or don’t have) dates. Certainly keeps it in that same North African flavor group.

  7. Reply
    January 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    hi Michael,

    made the kasha tonight. nice change of pace for kasha. all 7 of us enjoyed it. i’ll make it again, maybe then i’ll try it with ras el hanout

    on a separate topic. i have been thinking of getting a pressure cooker. would you still go electric? didn’t i read an entry you made about the electric ones? i looked but could not find it. seems like your cuisinart works! would you buy it again? opinion at this point?

    looking forward to your book. maybe you’ll promote it out here in boston or even NH.

    take care,



    • Reply
      January 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      Glad you liked the kasha! I have the Cuisinart CPC-600 (link to amazon.com) which I mostly love. I like that it is electric and has a built in timer and several useful modes, so you can pretty much set it and forget it. And it gets to a good level of heat in the saute mode when you want to, e.g., fry some onions before pressure cooking. The only negative is that apparently according to Dave Arnold’s measurements, it doesn’t get to the full 15 psi level that the stovetop models get to, which can be a problem for recipes where you are trying to achieve Maillard reactions at unusually low temperatures. If you want a stovetop one, everyone seems to love the Fagor and Kuhn Rikon models.

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