Categorized | Diet & Nutrition

What is the Difference Between Quinoa and Amaranth?

Quinoa grains and amaranth grains look so similar that you wonder if they are in fact the same product.

They do come from the same family of plants and nutritionally they are quite similar but there are differences.

Both of south American origins the Aztecs grew amaranth as a staple food while the incas grew quinoa. The growing conditions needed for both are exactly the same. In fact they both grow well in difficult conditions and poor soil. Their indigenous growing location was at high altitude in the mountains. In modern times they are grown in the USA and South America and with improved growing conditions both plants are easy to produce. They crop 3 – 6 months from sowing.

The 2 main differences from a culinary perspective are:-

Size of the grains

Amaranth seeds are quite a bit smaller than quinoa grains. They come in the same colours of white, cream, red or black although I have to say I have only ever seen the white and cream available in the shops. You would probably have to grow your own to get the others. They are better for thickening soups and casseroles as they almost disappear in long cooking times. The appearance of both grains is similar and they both have the familiar “tail” after cooking. (try it and see)

Saponins

Quinoa has a coating of saponins which have a bitter taste. these have to be rinsed off before cooking. Amaranth does not have these saponins and so does not need the same level of preparations. The coating of these saponins has been a problem in getting quinoa onto the dinner plate of the western world. In the last 3 or 4 years manufacturers have been prewashing the quinoa so that now you usually do not need to pre-wash the quinoa.

To summarise, Both these grains have almost identical nutritional profiles. The smaller size of the amaranth grain will lend itself to the soups, curries and casseroles type of dishes. The quinoa grain will always be better for salads and stir fry dishes where the quinoa can still be seen as well as eaten.

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