Amaranth Flour: An Andean Flour

Amaranth flour comes from the seeds of the amaranth plant and is native to Peru though it also has an extensive history in Mexico. It was one of the food crops popular with the Aztecs. Historians believe that it may have been domesticated as far back as 8,000 years ago.

Amaranth seeds were valuable enough to be used as tribute to the Aztec emperor and were viewed as being similar to corn in terms of buying power. The grain was a major part of the Aztec religion and was used in many ceremonies.

When the Spaniards invaded Mexico in the 16th century, they started converting the Aztecs to Roman Catholicism. The conversion was done by force and involved wiping out anything with a connection to the native religious practices. Since amaranth played such a major role in Aztec religious practices, it was forbidden as well. Anyone possessing it was punished, which sometimes meant death.

However, the plant proved very difficult to eradicate and soon spread all over the world. Amaranth would become a major food crop all over the Americas as well as Asia, Africa and even parts of Northern Europe like Russia. The fact that it needs little water to survive made it particularly valuable in dry regions.

Today amaranth is gaining recognition in Mexico and all over the world as a versatile garden crop that is easy to grow. Because of its drought tolerance, it is especially popular in parts of the world where access to water is limited, such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Amaranth flour flavor profile

The flavor of amaranth flour is mild and primarily earthy with a subtle nuttiness and a malt note in the background. It has some similarity to whole wheat and a tendency to take on the flavors of other ingredients in a dish.

Health benefits of amaranth flour

Amaranth flour is a valuable addition to your diet because of important health-enhancing compounds like:

  • Minerals: Amaranth flour is a great source of key minerals like magnesium, iron and potassium.
  • Protein: Amaranth flour is an excellent protein source with a significant portion of your daily protein requirement per serving. Like quinoa, it is also a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids.
  • Fiber: Amaranth flour contains considerably more fiber per serving than many more common grains including rice.
  • Unsaturated fats: Most of the fat content in amaranth flour is unsaturated fat, which includes omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

Amaranth flour is one of your best alternative flours if you want to treat or prevent health problems like:

  • High cholesterol: Studies have shown that amaranth has the potential to lower cholesterol due to the fats it contains.
  • Celiac disease: Amaranth grain contains no gluten, so the flour is a perfectly safe wheat flour alternative for people who cannot consume gluten.

Health concerns

Raw amaranth flour can act as an anti-nutrient, which means it prevents your body from absorbing the nutrients in food. It is important to cook it before eating.

Common uses

Amaranth flour works well for unleavened bread such as tortillas as well as for pasta. You can also use it to make cakes and cookies or combine it with wheat flour to make yeast bread. You will need to mix it with wheat flour because amaranth flour won’t rise on its own. You can use amaranth flour as a thickener in gravies and sauces.