Amaranth is gluten free and has been a major food source in Mesoamerica for thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest crops in the world and has even been nicknamed ‘Incan wheat’ due to its importance in pre-hispanic cultures. Another name for amaranth is kiwicha. It’s Aztec name is huaútli. It can be grown as an ornamental plant, or for consumption as a leafy green and pseudocereal grain. Amaranth is now grown across the world, with an especially large production in India. The grain and leaves are nutritious, have large yields, and make a great addition to your gluten free grain arsenal.

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Multicolor amaranth grains from Pierre Bamin via Unsplash

Nutritional Properties of Amaranth

Amaranth belongs in the same botanical family as spinach and beets, and has a similar nutrional profile and taste. The flavor is slightly nutty, earthy, and a bit sweet. It has a stronger flavor profile than quinoa, and some consider it grassy-tasting. It’s worth noting that amaranth contains certain antinutrients that block absorption if it’s consumed uncooked, so don’t eat it raw.


Amaranth microgreens from Devi Puspita Amartha Yahya via Unsplash

1 cup of raw amaranth grain contains 28 grams protein and is high in lysine, which is often lacking in other grains. The type of protein found in amaranth is more digestible than wheat and is somewhat similar to the proteins found in milk. Besides amaranth’s excellent combination of essential amino acids, it’s high in calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and healthy polyunsaturated fats. It’s also lower in carbs and higher in fiber than most other gluten free grains.

The grains are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Because it’s so high in fiber and protein, amaranth may even help with weight management.

Considerations When Baking With Amaranth

Amaranth grains can be cooked whole like a porridge, ground into a flour for use in baked goods, popped, or even turned into flakes. Popped amaranth is often used in a similar way to puffed rice, and the flakes are used like rolled oats.

Amaranth flour absorbs a lot of water, which is helpful when emulsifying ingredients, but can lead to dense bakes if it’s the only flour used. Instead, it’s best to use amaranth as only 25-30% of the gluten free flour in a recipe. In general, it’s best to combine a few flours when making gluten free baked goods, to take advantage of each of their best properties. This also helps provide a more balanced nutrient and flavor profile.


Amaranth coffee and walnut cake from Cook Republic

Amaranth flour is especially well suited for flatbreads, and is used this way in many Indian and Mexican recipes. The flavor of amaranth pairs well with almond flour, but because both flours are quite heavy, be sure to add extra leavening and combine with lighter gluten free flours, like corn starch or arrowroot starch, to balance out the gluten free flour blend.

Gluten Free Amaranth Products

You can find amaranth under the names rajgira and ramdana in Indian grocery stores, but beware that they may have cross-contamination issues unless they clearly state that they’re certified gluten free.


Popped kiwicha, fried Amazonian paiche and yuzu aioli sauce from Rosaliné via Baltimore Sun

Gluten Free Amaranth Recipes


Popped amaranth dark chocolate bark from A Red Spatula


Amaranth breakfast tacos from Bojon Gourmet


Aztec amaranth cocoa porridge from Whole Grains Council

* Title image courtesy of Evergreen Seeds.

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