Sometimes I want to eat something different for breakfast and this wholesome nutritious amaranth porridge recipe really hits the spot, particularly on cold winter mornings!
What is amaranth?
Technically, amaranth is a seed from the plant amaranth (the botanical name is amaranthus), however we call it a whole-grain. There are at least 60 varieties of the amaranth plant. Amaranth is an ancient “grain”, known to have been cultivated 8000 years ago by the Aztecs, in Peru and Mexico. Amaranth started to be actively cultivated again in the 1970s and popularity is expanding as the health food press have hailed it as a “superfood”. The grain itself is tiny (smaller than couscous and quinoa) and the leaves of the plant are also edible.
How do I cook amaranth?
You need to cook amaranth – we recommend not eating it raw. It has a nutty, slightly malty flavour when cooked. There are two main ways to cook amaranth:
- Toast it. Using a dry pan, cover the base with the amaranth and gently warm. This toasts the seeds and they start to open and pop – sort of like popcorn. You can add this onto leafy salads or other vegetable dishes.
- Boil it. Cover the amaranth with water (at least double water to grain) and bring to the boil. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes. It will look mushy. Amaranth is more difficult to make it into a salad (like couscous or rice), but perfect for porridge, or for adding to soups or sauces (to make them thicker).
The grains can also be ground and made into flour
What are the health benefits of amaranth?
Amaranth is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s a great source of lysine – lysine is an essential amino acid which is one of the building blocks of protein. “Essential” means that it is required by the body, but cannot be produced by the body, so we have to obtain lysine from the food that we eat. (Other grains do not contain so much or any lysine). One serving of amaranth contains approximately 15% to 20% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein, so it is a fabulous grain to include in your diet if you are vegan.
It is high in iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium and potassium and is also a great source of vitamins B6, folate and vitamin C. Potassium helps to relax the heart and helps to reduce blood pressure. Eating this grain can contribute to healthy hair (lysine), healthy bones and good bone density (calcium, and lysine helps the body to absorb calcium), optimal metabolism, healthy cell growth (including muscles) and healthy skin (manganese).
Amaranth is high in dietary fibre (one cup is almost half your RDA), which means it keeps your digestive system working well and in good health. Regular consumption of amaranth, particularly with a healthy diet, helps to prevent constipation. Amaranth also contains phytosterols. Studies show that phytosterols and fibre help to reduce cholesterol levels (total and LDL cholesterol), so they are maintained at a healthy level. Phytosterols inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol but are not easily absorbed by the body, which leads to a total lower cholesterol. Eating amaranth as part of a healthy diet can also help to control blood sugar levels.
It is naturally gluten free. It´s pretty good on the calorie count too: 100 grams of cooked amaranth contains around 103 calories. Most of the calories in amaranth come from carbohydrates (it is low in fat), so this grain gives you energy. The energy is slow release – keeping you feeling energetic for longer.
One way we love to serve amaranth here at the retreat is in our lovely amaranth porridge.
Amaranth porridge recipe
Calories: 535 total, 267 per serving
1 cup amaranth
2 cups water
2 cups rice milk (or other non-dairy alternative)
Optional: 1 tbsp rice syrup
Toast the amaranth in a dry frying pan (no oil), over a medium heat, until the grains start to pop.
Put the toasted amaranth into a pan and cover with the water and rice milk. Cover and leave to soak overnight.
Next morning, bring the contents of the pan to boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Add more water if needed. Taste. If you want your porridge to be sweeter, add the rice syrup just before serving.
With the addition of rice milk and/or rice syrup, this dish is quite sweet, so you do not need to add anything to it. If you want to vary the flavour or texture, try adding a few different combinations: chunky banana and chia seed, or stewed prunes and sultanas are great.
Learn about nutrition and plant-based food
Nutrition is an important part of the food that we serve at La Crisalida health and wellbeing retreats, Europe. Each week we offer a cooking demo so that you can learn first-hand from our talented chefs how to make some of the dishes that we serve here. If you want to try some of our plant-based recipes at home, you can find lots of recipes on our blog, together with different juice recipes and other articles about health and wellbeing. For more articles on nutrition, go to the blog page and click on the category “nutrition”. To your health and wellbeing.
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).