Amaranth is not a ‘true’ grain, but classified as a ‘pseudo-cereal’, as it’s not part of the Poaceae botanical family. However it is listed with other grains as its nutritional profile and uses are similar to ‘true’ cereal grains. Thanks to the lively, peppery taste of amaranth and the higher level of protein it contains compared to most other grains, amaranth is today rising in popularity.
Amaranth is not grown in large quantities in Australia so most amaranth is imported.
Nutrition credentials of amaranth:
- High protein content (13-14%) and a carrier of lysine, an amino acid that’s missing or negligible in many other grains.
- Consists of 6 to 9% of oil which is higher than most other cereals. Amaranth oil contains approximately 77% unsaturated fatty acids and is high in linoleic acid.
- High in dietary fibre.
- Gluten free.
- High in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and appreciable amounts of calcium.
- A rich dietary source of phytosterols, with cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Contains a lunasin-like peptide and other bioactive peptides which are thought to have cancer-preventive and antihypertensive properties.
Main culinary uses of amaranth:
- Amaranth flour – 100% amaranth flour may be used in any recipe that doesn’t require gluten to rise like pancakes, biscuits, flat breads, and pastas. Non-gluten flours like amaranth will not rise in yeast breads, so amaranth flour can only be substituted for about 30% of the gluten containing flour you choose (i.e. wheat, rye etc).
- Puffed amaranth seed – Amaranth is more commonly found as a puffed seed within health shops and some supermarkets in Australia. It can be added to breakfast cereals, salads and baked goods.
- Whole raw amaranth seed – can be boiled for 20 minutes to create a gluten free version of porridge.
- Amaranth flakes – can be mixed with other cereal grains or added to baked goods, cereal bars and desserts.
- Sprouted amaranth – goes well in salads or cereals.
- Gluten free specialty foods – amaranth is increasingly being used in Australia to manufacture gluten free foods like breakfast cereals and pasta, as sold in health food stores and major supermarkets.