Amaranth is a pseudo-grain native to Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia, and was once a staple food of the Aztecs. It can be used as a gluten-free substitute for true grains, and is popular in India as a grain substitute that is permissible during the Hindu fasts of Navratri and Shravan.
These tiny seeds are highly nutritious, providing a rich source of protein, dietary fibre, pantothenic acid, B-vitamins, iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and manganese. They can be boiled, like rice, ground into a gluten-free flour for baking, popped like popcorn or made into a nutritious porridge. Amaranth has a relatively strong, complex flavour, with nutty, sweet and earthy notes.
Savoury recipes with amaranth grain
As a grain, amaranth can be used to add interest to salads, curries and more. It can be cooked like rice, or puffed like popcorn.
Amaranth salad: the nutty flavour of amaranth works perfectly with tender roast cauliflower in this healthy grain bowl salad from Naturally Ella.
Vegetable coconut amaranth pilaf: a flavourful alternative to the classic rice dish, this simple dish from Kiipfit is made with sweet coconut milk, aromatic vegetables and spices for a healthy and satisfying meal.
Amaranth crackers: these healthy baked crackers from Everyday Nourishing Foods are made with amaranth and chickpea flour and seasoned with rosemary for a savoury, herby flavour that tastes great with cheese.
Banana bread: this delicious loaf cake from Saffron Streaks is another egg-free treat, and tastes great with your mid-morning cup of coffee.
How to cook amaranth
Amaranth is quick and easy to cook. Follow our simple, step-by-step instructions for perfect amaranth every time.
Step 1. Add 3 cups of water to a large pan and bring to the boil.
Step 2. Reduce the heat to low and add 1 cup of amaranth, then stir and cover.
Step 3. Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the water has been absorbed.
Step 4. Serve and enjoy.
How to use amaranth leaves
Amaranth is known mainly for its seeds, but many varieties also have edible leaves, and in some East Asian countries the plant is cultivated for its leaves rather than its seeds. Amaranth leaves have a slightly sweet, spinachy flavour, and are sometimes referred to as Chinese spinach. They are used in similar ways to spinach and other leafy greens, and can be added raw to salads, or used in stir-fries, soups, and curries.
Amaranth vs quinoa
Amaranth is the less well-known relative of quinoa, another pseudo-grain with many similar qualities. Both seeds are highly nutritious, and can be used in grain bowls or made into a gluten-free flour. Both too are native to Latin America, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years, and while amaranth was an important crop to the Aztecs of modern-day Mexico, quinoa held a similarly high status for the Incan people of modern-day Peru.
There are several differences between the two, however, with the most immediately obvious being their size. Both are relatively small seeds, but quinoa is larger than its tiny cousin, and provides a denser, more textural addition to salads and grain bowls. However, in terms of flavour, amaranth packs a bigger punch, with a bolder and more complex flavour profile than the famously mild quinoa.
The nutritional profiles of these two pseudo-grains are largely similar, with both providing a rich source of many important vitamins and minerals. Quinoa is higher in protein and certain B-vitamins, and slightly higher in fibre, while amaranth is lower in calories and carbohydrates, but higher in iron and potassium.
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