Amaranth: Peruvian Wonder #1


Peru is having quite a culinary moment. The United Nations declared last year, the “International Year of Quinoa”, quinoa being one of Peru’s most well known food exports. The following three posts will talk about the amazing ingredients of traditional Peruvian cuisine. You might even call them super!

Superfoods are touted as functional foods that exceed basic nutritional content. They don’t just offer macronutrients (carb, protein, fat) but contain amazing nutrients that go beyond basic nutrition. In addition to quinoa, some Peruvian superfoods (or “whole foods” as I prefer to call them) are papaya, cacao, yacón (similar to sweet potato), Ají peppers, purple potatoes and, my personal favorites: maca, pichuberries and  kiwicha, commonly known as amaranth.

Peruvian Wonder #1: KIWICHA or AMARANTH

Known in the United States as amaranth or colloquially “mini quinoa”, Kiwicha is a small grain noted for its dense nutritional content, slight nutty flavor, and chewy texture. In addition, it’s known for its healing properties; to this day it is still used during Day of the Dead festivities.

Nutrition Facts:

This ancient grain is packed with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. A ½ cup serving of cooked kiwicha provides 125 kcal, 4.7 grams protein, 2 grams of healthy fat, and 2.5 grams of fiber (mostly soluble fiber). 

Some other attributes worth mentioning:  

  • Anti-aging due to its anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant properties, specifically the high content of phenolic acids, carotenoids, flavonoids as well as an agent called squaline. 
  • Cardiopropertective! Studies have shown how kiwicha lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) as well as total cholesterol and triglycerides. The soluble fiber may something to do with that!  It also helps manage blood pressure. Two thumbs up for heart health!
  • Optimal plant protein meaning it contains all essential amino acids – specifically high in lysine, which is normally low in other grains.
  • Naturally gluten-free!

How To Use Amaranth 

Amaranth can be used in pilafs, added to salads and snack bars, or can be used to make granola or oatmeal (check out our very own #NYHRC RD oatmeal recipe!). You can also toast it quickly in a pan and “pop it” to a perfect consistency for breakfast cereals or energy bars. Another way of using kiwicha is by adding it to meat loaf or quick breads for a nutrition punch!

How to Store 

Like most grains, I like to keep them in a cool place, usually in a mason jar or a well-sealed container.

Pomegranate Amaranth Oatmeal (4 servings) 


  • 1 cup uncooked amaranth
  • 2½ cups unsweetened almond milk or skim milk 
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  • ¼ cup pomegranate arils
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping


  1. Bring milk/milk alternative to a gentle boil in a lidded pot
  2. Stir in the amaranth and sliced bananas and lower the heat
  3. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until grains have absorbed most of the liquid.
  4. Top with pomegranate arils and cinnamon. Voila!

Nutrition Facts per Serving: 267 calories, 5.5 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 123 g sodium, 48 g carbohydrates, 9.5 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 8.5 g protein.

Don’t forget to check out the following posts on Peruvian Food Wonders! 

Picture by John Lambert Pearson on Flickr.