Technically a pseudocereal, amaranth is an ancient grain that deserves a spot in your pantry. In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of what amaranth even is, why it’s good for us, how to select and store, and then, most importantly, how to start cooking with it.
Originally a staple of ancient civilizations (including the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans), amaranth is an incredibly versatile and nutritious pseudocereal that’s naturally gluten-free.
While native to South America and Mexico, amaranth seeds have since spread to Africa, Asia and the United States. As it thrives in low-water conditions, it’s especially valuable in more arid regions.
Amaranth seeds are a light tan and look like tiny beads. Taste-wise, amaranth has the characteristic nutty, earthy flavor of most whole grains, with the most similar comparison being brown rice or wheat berries.
Amaranth’s claim-to-fame is that it has the most protein of all the whole grains, and that, like quinoa, it’s a plant-based complete protein.
So how much protein does it actually contain? One cup of cooked amaranth has 9.3 grams of filling protein!
Other nutrition stats for 1 cup cooked include: 251 calories, 46 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fiber, 5.2 grams of fat, over 100% of the RDA for manganese (important for brain health), 40% of the RDA for magnesium, 36% of the RDA for phosphorus, and 29% of the RDA for iron. Not too shabby!
How to store
As with all whole grains, amaranth should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. It will last in the pantry for up to 6 months, but for longer storage keep it in the freezer for up to a year.
How to use in cooking/baking
When using in baking and cooking, think of it more as a couscous or farina than rice or barley.
Whether savory or sweet, to cook amaranth follow the 3:1 ratio (3 parts liquid to 1 part amaranth). Combine the amaranth with the liquid of choice, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until softened. Drain any leftover water and enjoy!
For easier digestion, you can soak amaranth in water for 1-3 days prior to cooking.
A note about amaranth is that while it does get softer on the outside, it retains a pop or crunch on the inside, which is why I especially love it for breakfast porridges or as a healthier pudding (recipe coming your way Friday!).
Looking to warm up with a bowl of soup? Throw 1/4 cup of amaranth into the batch while it cooks for a littel extra fiber and texture.
The most unique use, however, is to pop amaranth on the stove. Popped amaranth is a fun way to add a little crunch to granola, homemade granola bars, or salads.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy amaranth? Share in the comments below or tag @TheHealthyToast_RD on Instagram!