It may be a petite-sized grain, but its uses and benefits are endless. It can be popped, drizzled, cooked, and baked. Whether you’ve never heard of it or want to know a bit more, we have the answers to your amaranth FAQs.April 27, 2022 4:44 pm March 29, 2021 2:30 pm
What does amaranth taste like?
Amaranth is a grain that you can use similarly to cereal grains such as oats, wheat, and rice. It’s actually not a cereal grain but a pseudo-cereal. Other common pseudo-cereals are buckwheat, chia, and quinoa.
Amaranth is smaller than other pseudo-cereals and looks very seed-like. It’s got an earthy flavour comparable to brown rice and a neutral, nutty taste which makes it versatile for both savoury and sweet dishes.
Amaranth flour is a perfect gluten-free and nut-free ingredient for cookie and cake recipes. Try our vegan and gluten-free cookie recipe with amaranth flour. With cardamom, cinnamon, and orange, these cookies are a staple recipe for the Christmas holidays.
If you like snacking on popcorn, then you’ll love popped amaranth. Similar in texture and taste, popped amaranth is a great snack option and goes well sprinkled on top of porridge, granola or even salad.
Can you eat amaranth raw?
This is a debatable question. Ideally, you should not eat amaranth raw but there’s nothing necessarily dangerous in doing so.
Raw amaranth grain contains anti-nutrients and, as the name suggests, they can block the absorption of nutrients. These compounds protect plants from bacterial infections and insects nibbling away at it.(1)
You can remove the anti-nutrients in most foods by soaking or boiling them.
There are a handful of anti-nutrients in amaranth, including phytic acid, tannins (think coffee and wine), protease inhibitors, and saponins.
Phytic acid is found in many plant-based foods. It is the stored form of the mineral phosphorus. Unfortunately, you cannot remove it simply by peeling off the grain’s hull or rinsing the grain.
It passes through the body and binds to minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron. This blocks the absorption of those minerals in the intestine. Humans lack the phytase enzyme needed to break phytic acid down.
Though, the phytic acid only binds to minerals when you eat them together in the same meal. Therefore it’s not as common or dangerous as you’d think.
Those at risk are people with malnutrition, who don’t have access to a variety of foods, and people who have an iron or zinc deficiency.
As long as you have a well-balanced diet with calcium, zinc and iron, your body has enough nutrients to protect from a mineral deficiency caused by phytic acid.
On the other hand, there are actually some benefits to consuming phytic acid. It has antioxidant properties and can protect against DNA damage. It can also prevent kidney stones from forming.(1)
Tannins in amaranth can form chemical complexes and digestive enzymes to inhibit protein digestion and, potentially, starch digestion. Peeling the grain from its hull can remove most of the tannins.(2)
Amaranth contains a small amount of protease inhibitors — specifically for trypsin and chymotrypsin.(2) These are enzymes that help us digest protein.
Luckily, you can decrease or even completely remove these inhibitors by cooking, popping, or sprouting.(7)
Saponins are extremely bitter in taste. Similarly to phytic acid, they can form complexes with proteins or minerals, such as zinc and iron, to inhibit absorption into the body.
Since they are only present in small quantities in amaranth, they are characterised as low toxicity and don’t pose any danger. Therefore, you can eat amaranth raw without worrying about the saponins effect.
Plus, they have some anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits.(7)
"Cold-pressed amaranth seed oil is the leading natural plant-based source for squalene, containing 2.4 to 8 grams per 100 grams."
Should you rinse amaranth?
It’s always best to clean grains with a quick rinse before cooking them to remove dust or plant debris, as you would with rice. However, rinsing amaranth alone will not strip the grain of anti-nutrients.
Can amaranth be sprouted or activated?
Yes! You can sprout amaranth as you would with any other pseudo-cereal, like buckwheat.
Sprouting is the natural process of seeds or grains germinating (putting out shoots). This process also increases nutrient levels.
In a study comparing the cereals wheat, brown rice and triticale, the results showed that protein levels increased in all grains after germination.(8) Another scientific review concludes that germination reduces the level of anti-nutrients in the grain, increases digestibility and lowers glycemic index.(9)
Sprouting amaranth is easy to do and fun to watch as you grow your very own garden in a jar.
To sprout amaranth, rinse your amaranth grain with cool water and drain well (best to do a couple of times). Transfer the clean amaranth to a glass jar or a container with a lid (or ideally, with cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band). Pour cool water over the seeds, and soak them for about 2 hours. Drain the amaranth again, and repeat the process of soaking them in a container.
Store in a cool place, out of sunlight for up to 6 hours. You’ll know your grain is sprouted when they become lighter in colour and start growing root hairs — they look like tails!
Sprouted amaranth is perfect on salad with a drizzle of Amaranth Oil or on top of avocado toast.
Yes, you can activate amaranth grains as well.
In fact, you can activate pretty much all seeds, nuts and grains by soaking in water, sometimes mixed with an acidic medium like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. This starts the germination process which will unlock more nutrients and increase digestibility, just like sprouting.
Activation is essentially the same soaking method as sprouting without the added steps. To activate amaranth grain, soak your amaranth grain in water for at least 8 hours (and up to 24).