Amaranth, also known as "kiwicha," is a tiny, grain-like seed that packs a big nutritional punch. Higher in protein than many other grains, it is a great gluten-free option that boasts nutrient density, thickening abilities and a mild flavor.
Boil 2-1/2 cups water and 1 cup Amaranth. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Let simmer until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. To pop Amaranth, add about 1/4 cup of grain to a skillet set over high heat. Shake skillet to keep grains moving as Amaranth begins to pop.
Storage & handling
Store in a dry, cool place.
Amaranth, also known as "kiwicha," is a tiny, grain-like seed that dates back nearly 8,000 years. It was widely farmed in ancient Mexico, Guatemala and Peru, where it was a dietary staple in the ancient Aztec and Inca civilizations. It is still cultivated in these countries today, and is gaining traction in India, China, Nepal and parts of Africa.
Many species of Amaranth exist, some of which produce abundant, beautiful flowers, and others attractive foliage. The plants are valued for these ornamental properties as well as their edible leaves and seeds. The plant prefers high elevations, but is very adaptive and can thrive at almost any elevation and any temperate climate, as long as soil does not get too waterlogged. It even grows in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to being valued as a food in the Aztec civilization Amaranth was also believed to have supernatural powers. As such, it was often incorporated into religious ceremonies, including some involving the sculpting of a diety's image from a mixture of Amaranth and honey. People worshipped the images, and afterward they were broken into pieces and distributed for consumption. When Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez and his crew arrived in the New World in the 16th century, they set about converting the Aztecs to Christianity. One tactic was to outlaw foods such as Amaranth that were part of "heathen" religious ceremonies and to mete out severe punishments to anyone growing or possessing the seed. Luckily, however, they failed to completely eradicate the crop.
Amaranth packs more nutritional punch than most other grains. Boasting 13 to 14% protein, Amaranth is a great addition to vegan diets where protein sources are all plant-based. As it contains lysine, it is a complete protein source. It is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and contains more than three times the average amount of calcium usually found in grains. Amaranth is also the only grain known to contain vitamin C. Those following a gluten-free diet will find many uses for this naturally gluten-free grain. And to top it off, studies have shown that the healthy oils in amaranth could significantly reduce total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol
Amaranth has a fresh corn-like aroma and lends itself to step in for rice and potato based recipes. When boiled in water, it has a porridge-like consistency and makes a great hot breakfast cereal. It can also be baked into breads and other baked goods or popped and used to add a nutritional punch to snack bars, cookies and candies. Popped amaranth also makes a unique and delicious garnish for vegetable dishes. In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations often feature candies made from popped amaranth and honey, formed into the shape of skulls.