Change up your whole-grain game by adding amaranth to the mix. Amaranth traces back thousands of years to Central America, with the largest crop cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico during the 1400s. Today, you can sometimes see flowering amaranth in gardens with purple, red, or green feathery blooms. While its leaves and seeds are eaten in India, Africa, Nepal, and Central America, many North Americans have yet to discover this nutrient-dense whole grain. Amaranth’s time has come!

Amaranth Health Benefits

Naturally gluten-free, amaranth fits into a paleo lifestyle since it’s technically a pseudograin (AKA a seed that cooks up like a grain). Great for vegetarians and vegans, amaranth is also a plant-based protein source. One cup of cooked amaranth packs in nine grams of protein.

How to Use Amaranth

You will love how toasty it tastes when popped (like popcorn) or boiled over the stovetop and cooked into porridge akin to polenta. Amaranth can also be ground into flour for baking. You can also sprout amaranth by soaking it in water with a splash of vinegar, whey, or lemon juice to sit out overnight. This starts the sprouting process (and helps decrease the gas-producing phytic acid) — just make sure to rinse it afterwards, before using.

where to purchase

Ready to try amaranth? Head to the bulk section or where whole grains are sold in your favorite store, or order it online, packaged and sold by Bob’s Red Mill, Arrowhead Mills, or NOW Living Foods.

Whether you swing sweet or savory, here are two easy recipes to get you started cooking with amaranth.

Have you ever popped amaranth? It's one of our favorite toppings on yogurt and a great protein boost.

Caramelized Apple Yogurt Bowls with Popped Amaranth

(Serves 2)

Note: If you can get a hold of piloncillo, an unrefined Mexican sugar, do so! It’s sold in cones that can be grated with a cheese grater and offers more of a molasses-like flavor. You can often find it in Latin American grocery stores or online.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1. Pop the amaranth. Set a small skillet over medium high heat. Dribble a drop of water in — if it sizzles, the pan is hot enough, but wait 1 minute more before popping. In 1/4 teaspoon increments, pop the amaranth by covering the lid or hovering the lid a few inches away from the lip of the skillet. Take care! Amaranth burns quickly. Listen for the successive pop-pop-pop sound to die down — once that happens and the popping slows, about 10 to 12 seconds, remove the skillet from the heat, pouring the popped amaranth into a small bowl. Pop the rest of the amaranth using the directions above. Set aside.

2. Make the caramelized apples. Melt the butter in a skillet. Stir in the cinnamon, brown sugar, and kosher salt. Add the apples and cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes or until the apples have softened and the liquid turns syrupy. Cool the apples for about 10 minutes. Separate the apple slices from the syrup.

3. Stir the syrup into the yogurt.

4. Assemble. Spoon a dollop of the yogurt into each bowl. Top each with half of the apple slices. Sprinkle on half of the popped amaranth onto each bowl.

Our new favorite way to eat superfood amaranth is in these Three Cheese Amaranth Porridge Bowls.

Three Cheese Amaranth Porridge

(Serves 4 to 5 side dishes or 2 one-bowl mains)

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Bring the stock to boil in a saucepan. Stir in the amaranth. Cover and lower the heat to simmer for 25 – 27 minutes. The amaranth cereal will look a little loose, and that’s okay. It will thicken up with the cheese and also once it rests.
  2. Stir in the cheese, parsley, and black pepper. Cool for about 5 minutes. Top with fried egg, roasted asparagus spears, and finely chopped chives.

Find more ideas for healthy eating on Pinterest.

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(Recipes and photos by Annelies Zijderveld, Brit + Co)