Amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) is a gluten-free pseudograin and a great source of protein in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, whether eaten raw or cooked. Amaranth is rich in nutrients and is known in the Andes region as kiwicha.
Amaranth should be cooked similarly to rice at a ratio of two parts water to one part amaranth for about 25 minutes. The small seeds absorb water and cooked amaranth thus develops a porridge-like consistency. Cooked amaranth can be eaten as an accompanying dish for lunch or dinner, but it can also be used in vegetable stir fries, casseroles, patties, or as a filling. If you follow a raw food diet, amaranth can be sprouted. This should be done at a temperature of 25° C.
Amaranth’s nutty flavor makes it a great ingredient for sweet dishes. You can cook it in (plant-based) milk to create a delicious porridge for breakfast or dessert. Puffed amaranth is popular in mueslis, muesli bars, and with yogurt, being produced in a similar way to popcorn. In this recipe you can read how to puff amaranth in a large pot without using oil or margarine. Recently, amaranth flakes have also begun to become popular as a muesli ingredient.
Amaranth flour can be used to make bread, cakes, and pancakes, but it should be mixed with flour that contains gluten at a ratio of 1:3 or 1:2. This is because amaranth is gluten-free, and gluten is necessary for baking.1
If you are eating amaranth raw, it is recommended that you briefly grind the seeds in a flourmill or coffee grinder before eating. This allows for better absorption of the nutrients. However, grinding releases bitter substances and gives the grain an unpleasant aftertaste. Amaranth also contains tannins, phytates, and oxalates, which inhibit the intestinal absorption of nutrients. For this reason, amaranth should only be consumed raw in moderation and if possible should be soaked and drained beforehand.2
Pseudograins like amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa are less suitable as baby foods. The reason for this is that they contain substances such as tannins and saponins that can be harmful to the health of babies and limit the availability of minerals, vitamins, and proteins.3
All amaranth species contain edible plant parts, including protein-rich, spinach-like leaves, leaf shoots, shoot tips, and budding inflorescences. They can be eaten as spinach, enrich salads, can be used as a delicious filling for vegetable strudel, and are a great ingredient in roasts, sauces, and vegetable soups.4,5 Amaranth root has a sweet flavor and can be finely grated and used in cooking.4
Amaranth is an ingredient in the gluten-free, raw vegan Erb Muesli. This muesli mix contains citrus fruits rich in vitamin C and berries full of antioxidants, as well as other pseudograins, seeds, and golden millet. You can also try Erb Muesli with Rolled Oats!
To make two servings, bring 150 g amaranth to a boil in 0.5 liter of a nut-based milk and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir regularly, as amaranth burns easily. Turn off the heat and let stand for five minutes until the amaranth is fluffy and the water is absorbed. Sweeten to taste, season with 1 tsp. cinnamon, and cut the plums into pieces. Garnish with the plums and a handful of chopped walnuts. Alternatively, layer the plums and the porridge.
First, cook 150 g amaranth in vegetable stock. Fry diced smoked tofu (200 g) with a diced onion and a minced garlic clove. Fold in amaranth and a can of cooked black beans. Stuff 2–3 cored bell peppers with the mixture and garnish with almond butter, nutritional yeast flakes, and salt. Line a baking dish with tomato sauce or fresh tomato purée and then cook the stuffed peppers in a preheated oven (180 °C) for 20 minutes.
Brew 1 tablespoon of dried amaranth leaves with 250 mL of hot water and let the tea steep for 8 minutes before straining.6
Amaranth is not often available at major supermarkets. If you want to buy amaranth, it is best to look in organic shops, health food stores, and online. Apart from dry amaranth, you should be able to find organic dry amaranth, amaranth flakes, and amaranth flour from organic retailers.
However, amaranth and products such as puffed amaranth are gradually making their way into some major supermarkets such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Holland & Barret (Great Britain); Metro, Extra Foods, and Goodness Me (Canada); and Coles, Woolworths, and Harris Farm (Australia). You may also find amaranth in other products such as muesli mixes, breads, and rice cakes.
Amaranth is usually harvested from September to October and is available year-round.
When purchasing, we recommend that you look for organically grown amaranth in order to minimize pollution from chemical pesticides.
Amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus), also known as love-lies-bleeding and foxtail amaranth, probably developed from Amaranthus quitensis, which is common in tropical regions of South America along riverbanks. Wild amaranth can be found in temperate and warm zones.1
Love-lies-bleeding is an annual, herbaceous plant that reaches heights of one meter, and very rarely up to two meters. The inflorescences are up to 1.5 m long and consist of several clusters of dark purple flowers. The plant develops single-seeded capsules somewhat larger than the perianth, usually around 1.5–2.5 mm. Amaranth seeds are about 1–1.5 mm in diameter and ivory, reddish, or dark brown.1
Amaranth leaves and budding inflorescences are suitable for further processing in the kitchen from spring to summer. The shoot tips should be picked in early summer before flowering, while they are still young and elastic. All plant parts can be dried in an airy, shady place to make tea, infusions, and liquid extracts. Amaranth seeds are harvested when they are ripe.5,7
Amaranth seeds can be kept for several months. It is best to remove the plastic packaging after purchase. The seeds should be kept in a dry, dark place in a sealable container. Amaranth is a pseudograin that has a high content of unsaturated fatty acids and as such spoils much faster than grains, which can be kept for several years. The easiest way to tell whether amaranth and foods made from amaranth are still edible is by smell. Oxidized amaranth products smell unmistakably rancid.
Why is amaranth so healthy? At 4.4 g/100 g, amaranth is rich in essential amino acids. This is comparable to teff (4.4 g), kamut (4.38 g), wheat bran (4.35 g), hazelnuts (4.3 g), spelt (4.28 g), and soybeans (4.2 g) — and the individual amino acids are present in a good ratio. In terms of total protein, amaranth contains 14 g/100 g, which is considerably less than soy beans (43 g), hemp seeds (34 g), and peanuts (26 g), but is comparable to wild rice, wheat bran, and wheat.8
At 3.3 mg/100 g. the outer layers of amaranth are abundant in manganese. This quantity is very similar to wheat, cumin, and walnuts.8 In our article on manganese, you can read about why this trace element plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism, the urea cycle, and the endogenous antioxidant system, as well as for connective tissue. However, fresh herbs also contain a significant amount of manganese.
Amaranth’s iron content is 7.6 mg/100 g, which is comparable to beans, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and teff.8 Consuming fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C alongside plants containing iron increases the bioavailability of the iron in plants.
However, amaranth also contains varying amounts of unhealthy tanning agents, phytates, and oxalates.2
Although amaranth has a good density of nutrients, it would be an exaggeration to call amaranth a superfood. Nonetheless, combining cereals with a pseudograin like amaranth results in a diet of high-quality plant protein and a balanced ratio of essential amino acids.
Which gluten-free grain is healthier: quinoa or amaranth? If you compare the protein content of the two, the quantity and quality of the protein are comparable. Both pseudograins are also rich in minerals. Compared to amaranth, however, quinoa contains a varying amount of saponins, which can have a negative effect on the permeability of the intestinal mucosa barrier. You can find out how to reduce saponins in quinoa HERE.
You can find more information about amaranth’s nutrients in the detailed nutrient tables below.
Amaranth is a highly nutritious gluten-free pseudograin in the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). This means that people with a gluten intolerance can eat amaranth in place of grains.4
Amaranth is suitable as a dietary supplement for celiac disease (sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy). Look for the gluten-free symbol (crossed-out grain) when buying gluten-free products. This will help you avoid food contaminated with gluten.
Is amaranth poisonous? Amaranth has been known as a nutritious food for thousands of years. While it is not toxic, it does contain relatively high concentrations of tannins, oxalates, and phytates. These substances can bind dietary proteins, enzymes, minerals, and trace elements, thus reducing absorption of nutrients in the intestine.2
Studies show that technological methods can reduce the concentration of tanning agents in amaranth to close to zero. However, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment doesn’t have any data on the concentration of tanning agents in amaranth products sold in Europe.2 People who are at risk for calcium oxalate stones (kidney stones) should refrain from eating too much amaranth.4
Amaranth and quinoa are not recommended for infants because of their anti-nutritional properties. The Research Institute of Child Nutrition in Dortmund points out that infants are particularly at risk as their digestive system has not yet fully developed.9
Can amaranth be used medicinally? The entire amaranth plant can be used for medicinal purposes. It is rich in iron, meaning that it is used to treat anemia and all kinds of bleeding. It has anti-inflammatory and general strengthening effects, and is used for vitamin C deficiency. Crushed amaranth inflorescences can be applied externally for arthritis.5 In Central Europe, for example, Prince’s-feather (Amaranthus hypochondriacus syn. A. hybridus) is used as a medicinal plant.7
In traditional Indian medicine, shamans used amaranth for gastrointestinal bleeding and anemia.
Where does amaranth come from? Amaranth originated in southern Mexico and Guatemala, being one of the oldest useful plants of humankind. Foxtail amaranth has been cultivated in the Andes and Central America for several thousand years, for example, during the Coxcatlán phase in Tehuacán, Mexico. Amaranth has even been found in graves that are almost nine thousand years old. The Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans used amaranth as a source of protein and for religious ceremonies. After colonization, amaranth cultivation declined sharply, but has been enjoying increasing popularity for some years now and is gaining importance in organic farming.1,4
Today, foxtail amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) is cultivated in Peru, Bolivia, Northern Argentina, and throughout the Himalayas from Kashmir to Bhutan. In Europe, Amaranthus caudatus has been cultivated since at least 1568. In Europe, foxtail amaranth is used as an ornamental plant, cut flowers, and dried flowers.1
Amaranth is currently being grown in Austria. The reason for this is the precocious breeding strain “Neuer Typ” (A. hypochondriacus), which has a heavier thousand-grain weight and is well suited to the production of puffed amaranth. In Lower Austria, amaranth yields are around 2 t/ha. According to Austrian statistics, 65 hectares of amaranth was cultivated in 2008. Most of it is raised organically.10,11
Amaranth plants require a warm environment, preferring sunny locations and nutrient-rich soils. The soil should be thoroughly cleared of weeds and should be well loosened. From March onwards (in the Northern Hemisphere), seedlings can be grown. These seedlings should later be planted with an area of 30 x 40 cm separating each seedling. Alternatively, you can sow the seeds directly after the last frosts in around late-April to mid-May. A humid environment and plenty of water are important factors for the color of the leaves, while stagnant moisture and frost must be avoided. When the seeds are ripe, cut off the whole plant and hang over a large surface to dry. One amaranth plant produces between thirty to sixty thousand seeds.6,7,12
Amaranth grows up to altitudes of 3'200 m and can be cultivated on sandy, loamy, well-drained, and slightly acidic to alkaline soils.1
Amaranth is planted in weed-free fields with the help of a precision seeder. While sprouting, seeds are particularly sensitive to frost, silting, and drought. Weed control is either carried out by hand or using a machine hoe. Ideally, weeding requires 10 to 20 hours per hectare; however, extremely weedy fields may take more than 100 hours to deweed. Amaranth is particularly suitable for organic cultivation as it is not susceptible to any significant diseases or pests. Amaranth’s flowering period is from July to September.10,11
Amaranth is harvested with combine harvesters from mid-September until November. During this period, early frost can have a positive influence on ripening and harvesting. After harvesting, amaranth has a relatively high moisture content and has to be dried immediately before it can be stored Amaranth’s yield is about 500–4'000 kg/ha, with one thousand seeds weighing about one gram.10,11,12
There is a risk of confusing amaranth with ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) as they have similar inflorescences. However, you should be able to tell which plant you are dealing with by looking at the leaves. The leaves of amaranth are undivided, while those of the ragweed are usually double-pinnate.13
Amaranth’s numerous flowers benefit bees and insects greatly.14,15
The foxtail amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) is a plant species native to South America from the genus Amarant (Amaranthus). The genus belongs to the foxtail family (Amaranthaceae), and according to Wikipedia comprises 60 to 98 species that are distributed throughout the world. In the Andes region, the garden foxtail is known as kiwicha, which comes from the indigenous Quechua language.1
Is amaranth a grain? Amaranth is a dicotyledonous plant and is therefore a pseudograin; this is in contrast to true cereal grains, which are monocotyledonous sweet grasses.4
In addition to amaranth (Amaranthus), buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) are nutritious pseudograins. Other nutritious species of amaranth are red amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) and Prince’s-feather (Amaranthus hypochondriacus).4 Another related pseudograin that is used in a similar way is kañiwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule). Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) are a pseudograin from the labiate family.
Amaranth is also known as foxtail amaranth, garden amaranth, Inca wheat, pendant amaranth, purple amaranth, love-lies-bleeding, lovely bleeding, pilewort amaranth, Prince’s-feather, red cockscomb, and velvet flower.