Nutritional Profile of Amaranth

Amaranth seed

Amaranth grain is an ancient superfood. Although botanically it is not considered a grain it, along with the pseudocereal quinoa, is botanically a seed. This is merely pedantic nit picking and in no way diminishes the high nutritional value of this plant. The plant has several culinary uses. The leaves are edible and the seeds can be eaten whole, ground, popped or can be made into a “milk” in the same vein as nut milks (1)

  1. See Post Amaranth and the Tzoalli Heresy

Amaranth seed is an excellent source of proteins and has more protein than corn. It is also quite high in the limiting amino acid (1) lysine. Lysine is a limiting amino acid in cereals like corn (maize), rice and wheat. Amaranth also contains the sulphur rich amino acids (2) which are normally absent in pulses (3). The seed is also quite high in oil content when compared to other grains. They consist of approximately 6-10% oil content of which about 77% are polyunsaturated fatty acids and is particularly high in linoleic acid.

  1. Limiting amino acids. The nutritional value of a protein depends upon which amino acid is present in the smallest amount relative to need. No matter how rich a protein is in amino acids its value is limited by its limiting amino acid. Limiting amino acids are: lysine, threonine, methionine, and tryptophan. They come from a group called Essential amino acids. The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. They must obtained from food. The best way to obtain a complete amino acid profile from plants is to combine a grain and a legume (i.e beans and rice) or a nut, a seed and a legume (or alternatively you could eat meat or eggs). Amaranth, quinoa, hemp seed, and chia are considered complete proteins.
  2. Methionine, cysteine
  3. Legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas)

Animal studies have shown that Amaranth’s oil can affect cholesterol metabolism by reducing total cholesterol and LDL while increasing HDL levels and that duodenal peptic ulcer and chronic gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori can be effectively treated with Amaranth oil.

Amaranth is high in several key nutrients two of which are calcium and manganese. Its high calcium content can play a part in supporting the mineralisation and maintenance of healthy bones and assist in the prevention of osteoporosis. Its manganese content may help with the regulation of sugar levels in those suffering from diabetes and can help boost general immune function, skin, bone and heart and renal health.
To top it off amaranth is also gluten–free so is a suitable foodstuff for coeliacs and those suffering from non-coeliac gluten insensitivity

Amaranth seed whole (left) and popped (right)

Amaranth Leaf

Amaranth greens (1) are edible and like the seeds they are highly nutritious. Young fresh leaf can be eaten as a salad green and the larger older leaves can be used in the same way as spinach or silverbeet. (See recipe below and Post on Quelites for other recipes)

  1. called quintoniles or bledo in Mexico and pigweed in the SW U.S.A

Quintoniles con Rajas Poblano (Amaranth Greens with Poblano Chile)

Serves 6 (as a side dish)


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled and torn into strips (rajas)
  • 1kg (or so) quintoniles (substitute with spinach)
  • ½ cup queso fresco (substitute dry ricotta cheese)
  • salt and pepper al gusto (to taste)
  • OPTIONAL : crema (or mix of sour cream and cream)


  1. Roast chiles over an open flame until skin is blackened. Place in a large bowl and cover with cling film (or wrap chiles loosely in a tea towel). Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Remove chiles and scrape skin off. Do not rinse under running water as this will remove flavour, a few black bits in your finished dish will not diminish it at all. Cut chiles open and remove seeds and veins. Slice into thin strips (5mm or so)
  2. Plunge quintoniles in boiling water for a few second until they wilt. Remove and immediately place into iced water until they cool (minute or so). This will ensure they keep their colour. Drain and squeeze dry.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter, add the onion and sauté until slightly softened. Do not brown them. Add the chile strips and continue cooking for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add the quintoniles (or spinach) and cook until heated through. Add the cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. OPTIONAL. Add the crema just before adding the cheese and allow it to thicken a little before you add the cheese. This will make it nice and unctuous.

Serve with rice or just fill your tortilla and eat it taco style

Mole de Novia – Mole Blanco/White Mole

(See Post Pulque as a Cooking Ingredient for an alternative recipe that includes pulque)


  • 600g chicken
  • 150g popped amaranth
  • 50g peanuts
  • 50g almonds
  • 50g sesame
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 50g golden raisins (optional)
  • 50g dehydrated shaved coconut
  • 50g apples
  • 50g plantains
  • 50g onion
  • 20g garlic
  • chiles de agua
  • 5g cumin
  • 5g cloves
  • 5g thyme
  • 5g oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Cook chicken, season well and set aside.

2.Roast chiles on the comal. Remove the skin and seeds and place in a large bowl

3.Fry each of the following ingredients separately: peanuts, almonds, sesame, pine nuts, golden raisins, shaved coconut, apples, plantains, garlic, and onion. Set each ingredient aside (in the same bowl as the chiles) and allow to cool a little.

4. Add popped amaranth to the still warm ingredients, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

5. Blend all ingredients into a smooth paste, adding a little water if necessary.

6. Fry paste in oil or butter, stirring constantly to avoid sticking, and gently fry for 15 minutes. Take care not to burn the mixture or colour it too much. You are looking to create a pale coloured mole.

7. Once paste is cooked, add chicken broth until mixture becomes semi-creamy.

8. Pour mole over chicken and serve with rice..


  1. Alvarez‐Jubete L, Arendt EK, Gallagher E. 2010a. Nutritive value of pseudocereals and their increasing use as functional gluten‐free ingredients. Trends Food Sci Technol 21:106–13.
  2. Caselato‐Sousa VM, Amaya‐Farfán J. 2012. State of knowledge on amaranth grain: a comprehensive review. J Food Sci 77:R93–104.
  3. Cherkas A, Zarkovic K, Cipak Gasparovic A, et al. Amaranth oil reduces accumulation of 4–hydroxynonenal–histidine adducts in gastric mucosa and improves heart rate variability in duodenal peptic ulcer patients undergoing Helicobacter pylori eradication. Free Radic Res. 2018;52(2):135–149.
  4. Ferreira, Tânia & Areas, Jose. (2010). Calcium bioavailability of raw and extruded amaranth grains. Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos. 30. 532-538. 10.1590/S0101-20612010000200037.
  5. Kalač, P. & Moudrý, J.. (2018). Composition and nutritional value of amaranth seeds. Czech Journal of Food Sciences. 18. 201-206. 10.17221/9651-CJFS.
  6. Manuel Soriano-García and Isabel Saraid Aguirre-Díaz (August 29th 2019). Nutritional Functional Value and Therapeutic Utilization of Amaranth [Online First], IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.86897. Available from:
  7. Schoenlechner R, Wendner M, Siebenhandl‐Ehn S, Berghofer E. 2010b. Pseudocereals as alternative sources for high folate content in staple foods. J Cereal Sci 52:475–9.
  8. Venskutonis, P.R. and Kraujalis, P. (2013), Nutritional Components of Amaranth Seeds and Vegetables: A Review on Composition, Properties, and Uses. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12: 381-412. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12021
  9. Zannini E, Jones JM, Renzetti S, Arendt EK. 2012. Functional replacements for gluten. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol 3:227–45


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