I’m sure by now most people have become acquainted with the healthy pseudo-grain (technically a seed) Quinoa. We are seeing it more and more in mainstream recipes and on restaurant menus. Well, I’m here to tell you about a less well-known ‘super seed’ called Amaranth. In appearance, Amaranth looks similar to quinoa but smaller. Bonus, it is also much cheaper, in my experience, than quinoa (for example: at my grocery store quinoa costs 5.99/lb while amaranth costs 2.99/lb). Amaranth was a thriving crop and staple of the Aztec diet hundreds of years ago and now it is time to bring it back.
So why am I so pumped about Amaranth?
For starters, 1 cup of amaranth contains 9 grams of protein and unlike a lot of plant-based proteins, amaranth contains all the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that we need, making it a complete protein. If that wasn’t enough to convince you to give it a try it also contains more than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of B6, folate, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. It also is a great source of magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese and is gluten-free.
If I haven’t convinced you to try these awesome little seeds yet, this next bit will…you pop the seeds like popcorn! The flavor is a bit different and they are much smaller but the little toasty morsels are absolutely delicious as a breakfast cereal (a homemade 1-ingredient cereal with no added anything!), you can top your yogurt with them or even add them to a salad for a little crunch. You can also cook amaranth like you would rice or quinoa by simply simmering in water or broth, but I just love popping these little suckers, it’s actually quite fun.
However you decide to prepare your amaranth I hope I have convinced you to give this wonderful seed a try, I have included cooking instructions and some recipe ideas below to get you started. Enjoy!
Ingredients & Kitchen Supplies:
- Large pot with high sides and lid(recommended to avoid a mess)
- Container for storage
- Get the pot or pan very hot, to the point where a drop of water immediately begins dancing around and quickly disappears.
- Once the pan is ready, add only enough amaranth to barely coat the bottom of the pan (I started with a tablespoon at a time), if the pan/pot is hot enough they will begin to pop within 3 seconds and will be done popping within 10 seconds*.
- Repeat this process until you’ve made enough to meet your needs, let them cool completely before storing
- Store in a sealed container for up to a month
*Note: I would recommend using a lid to cover the pot while the amaranth pop, they pop pretty high and you will have a good amount accumulating around your stove otherwise. Also if they do not pop within 3-5 seconds the pan/pot is not hot enough.
Lemon Amaranth Muffins
- ¼ Cup Olive Oil
- 1 spring fresh Rosemary (1 tsp dried can be substituted)
- 1 Cup Spelt Flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder, divided
- ½ Cup Applesauce
- 1 Cup Basic Amaranth (see recipe below)
- 2 Tbsp fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- ¾ Cup (or less to taste) coconut sugar (or other preferred sweetener)
- Preheat oven to 350
- Oil or place liners in muffin pan
- In saucepan over medium heat add Oil and Rosemary and heat for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove rosemary and let oil cool.
- Whisk together Flour, Salt, and 1 tsp baking powder and set aside
- In separate bowl, combine Applesauce with ½ tsp baking powder
- Add Olive Oil , Amaranth, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, and Coconut Sugar to Applesauce mixture.
- Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
- Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool and Enjoy!
- 3 Cups water
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- 1 Cup Amaranth
- Combine water, optional salt, and Amaranth in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
- Fluff with a fork before serving.
Glycemic Index Disclaimer: While there are many wonderful benefits of Amaranth, it should be noted that this seed does register quite high on the Glycemic Index and should be consumed at appropriate times, especially for diabetics, as it can cause a spike in insulin. It can, however, be used to greatly benefit a training regimen since consuming high GI foods following a workout can aid to quickly replenish the glycogen stored in the body. High GI foods are not ideal to consume first thing in the morning (it should be noted this also applies to most breakfast cereals), since a spike in blood sugar followed by the spike in insulin, to regulate the blood sugar levels, can leave you feeling tired and hungry a few hours later as opposed to a meal of protein and veggies which will digest more slowly and keep insulin levels lower. Studies in diabetics have shown that amaranth (best consumed along with low GI foods) may lower blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels.