I’ve had a bag of amaranth in my pantry for some time now. I bought it to test how it pops in comparison to quinoa, and I’ve played with it from time to time in various recipes, both popped and un-popped. We use it at work in muffins and baked goods, soaking it for hours prior to use. Because it is such a hearty seed, there are textural and nutritional benefits of soaking, and if I don't pop it, I always soak it to soften and hydrate the seeds. Last week, I had an itch to make some breakfast cereal. I had thought about it the night before, but had fallen asleep without soaking my amaranth. I was initially disappointed that I had forgotten to soak it, but then I remembered why I had bought the seeds in the first place – to pop! I'd never actually cooked popped amaranth before, I'd just used it in recipes similar to my quinoa bon bons. I figured I'd give it a try, I toasted and popped the amaranth and simmered it in water and coconut milk. I was pleasantly surprised with the result — the cereal was light and creamy. Because amaranth is a hard seed it maintains a toothsome texture even after being cooked, but popping seemed to soften the seeds much more than soaking. Popping amaranth makes the seeds much lighter and softer and significantly decreases the cooking time. The process is similar to popping popcorn, just place it in a dry pan over medium heat and gently swirl the pan around as the little seeds pop away. The final consistency of the cereal was somewhere between chia pudding and oatmeal, with a bit more of a crunch. It's nearly impossible to pop every grain which results in a pleasant texture and bite.
Many refer to amaranth as a grain, and although it does have grain like properties and nutritional value, it is actually the seed of a plant that was cultivated by the Aztecs. As a seed, amaranth is naturally gluten free and nutritionally dense.
It is known for its high manganese content, a one cup serving boasts 105% of your recommended intake. Manganese is a trace mineral that plays important roles in bone and skin health, blood sugar regulation and protects against free radical damage. Amaranth also has higher amounts of minerals including calcium, iron, phosphorous, and carotenoids, than most vegetables. It is a complete protein, meaning it has all of the amino acids that body needs to function, with approximately 26 g of protein per cup. Amaranth is a great source of lysine, an important amino acid with protein content comparable to that of milk. Lysine plays a major role in the absorption of calcium and in muscle growth and recovery, and boosts the body's production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
Popped Amaranth Breakfast Pudding
- ½ c amaranth
- 2 cups water
- ½ c coconut milk
- 1 t honey
- pinch of salt
- berries/dried fruit
In a dry 6-8" skillet, without oil, toast amaranth until at least 50% of the seeds have popped. To do this, heat your pan on a medium-high flame, add amaranth, and gently swirl your pan to prevent burning. The cooking time will vary depending on how hot your pan is but it should happen within minutes. Be careful not to burn the seeds and quickly transfer them to a bowl to cool if they begin to burn. They should look similar to the photos above. If using a smaller pan, pop amaranth in batches for even popping.
Return all popped amaranth to your pot, and lower heat. Add 1.5 c water and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, or until soft, adding more water as needed. (Amaranth absorbs a lot of liquid so you will likely need all 2 cups). Stir in coconut milk, a small pinch of salt, and honey and top with berries or dried fruit.