From rice to oats, grains are tried-and-true pantry staples. The only problem? It can be easy to get stuck in a rut, especially if you tend to buy grains in bulk. If this sounds familiar, consider adding Amaranth to your shopping list. It’s earthy, nutty, and wonderfully versatile, making it perfect for shaking up your grain game. Here, learn all about Amaranth, including our favourite ways to use it in your own kitchen.
What is Amaranth and is it healthy?
Amaranth is the seed of the Amaranth plant, which is native to South America. It’s a type of pseudo-cereal (any non-grasses that are used in much the same way as cereals – true cereals are grasses) as it’s eaten and consumed like a grain. The seeds are cream to light brown and extremely tiny, about 1 to 1.5 millimetres wide, but don’t let the small size fool you—the minuscule seeds pack a nutritional punch.
Amaranth offers impressive amounts of fibre, protein and essential minerals, including calcium and iron. It also holds vitamin C, folic acid, and antioxidants, or beneficial compounds that protect cells from damage. Moreover, Amaranth contains no gluten, making it ideal for gluten-free diets.
How to buy Amaranth
At the grocery store of Health Shop, Amaranth is sold as whole seeds or flour. Whole seeds tend to have a longer shelf-life, so keep that in mind when shopping. Be sure to check the expiration date, as well as the actual seeds if you can. Avoid buying Amaranth with discolouration, which may be a sign of spoilage.
How to cook Amaranth
Amaranth is unique in that you can boil it in a liquid (like other grains) or pop it like popcorn. The best option depends on your preference and how you plan to serve the ingredient. To enjoy Amaranth as a breakfast porridge or side, you’ll want to boil it with liquid.
You’ll need two and a half cups of liquid for every one cup of dried Amaranth seeds. (You can also add a pinch of salt, if you’d like.) Water is a classic choice but, you can also use fruit juice or broth for sweet and savoury dishes, respectively.
Combine the ingredients in a pot, then simmer over low heat until the grains are fully cooked, about 20 minutes. The Amaranth is ready once it becomes creamy and the liquid is absorbed, but you’re welcome to adjust the process according to your needs. For example, if you want firmer grains, cook the Amaranth for a bit longer. You can also add additional liquid to loosen its consistency.
If you have the time, consider soaking the Amaranth overnight before cooking. Soaking the grains makes their nutrients easier to digest and shortens the cooking time. Simply combine Amaranth and water in a large bowl, completely submerging the grains. When you’re ready to cook, drain and rinse the grains with a fine mesh strainer.
You can also pop Amaranth on the stovetop, just like popcorn (see direction on how to, on Hemptons website). This option is ideal if you want to eat it as a snack or add it to granola or baked goods.
How to use Amaranth
Amaranth has an earthy flavour that’s similar to beets. It’s also described as chewy, nutty and slightly sweet, which means the grain works well with bright flavours like citrus, spices, fresh herbs, and salty cheeses like goat cheese.
Also, look at recipes and traditional uses from Mexico, where the grain has strong cultural and historical significance. Boiled Amaranth makes for an excellent breakfast porridge. Pair it with dates, sesame seeds, apricots, almonds, as well as cinnamon and maple syrup. It can also be used as a savoury porridge, like grits or polenta. Cooked Amaranth can also be chilled and sliced to make fries or cakes, just like polenta.