It’s exciting when a new cereal or grain shows up on the radar of American consumers. One rising star is kaniwa, a relative of quinoa. Technically, kaniwa is a seed, but you eat it like any other hot cereal. The taste is nutty, light and slightly sweet.
While the grain is new to our shores, it’s well known in Peru and Bolivia, where it is cultivated. The seeds are quite small and have a dark reddish-brown color. You can cook it as a porridge or as a pilaf. To maximize the flavor, toast the seeds before cooking. You’ll need two cups of water for each cup of dry kaniwa, which will yield about two cups of cooked grain. It cooks in 15 to 20 minutes in simmering water. You can order kaniwa from online sources or purchase it in natural food shops. As its reputation spreads, look for it to appear in your local supermarket, next to the quinoa and other super grains. Kaniwa can also be ground into flour for bread making.
Although closely related to quinoa, kaniwa lacks the unpleasant saponins that can give unwashed quinoa a soapy, bitter flavor. Kaniwa is quicker to prepare because you don’t have to wash away saponins.
Kaniwa is a Healthful Food
Kaniwa offers a lot more than a delicious taste. It has more protein than quinoa or brown rice, more iron than bulgur or buckwheat and more fiber than wild rice or millet. Here are some reasons for kaniwa’s rising popularity:
- Gluten-free, so it’s safe for those with celiac disease or anyone sensitive to gluten
- High in protein — each 160-calorie serving provides 7 grams of complete protein
- High in iron — a serving provides 60 percent of your recommended dietary amount, about four times the iron available from quinoa
- High in other nutrients, including calcium, zinc and fiber
- Provides anti-oxidants and phenols than can help protect your cells
- Each serving has only one gram of fat, no sugars and three grams of dietary fiber. Of course, as a vegetable grain, it contains no cholesterol. It also lacks saturated fat.
- Kaniwa and other whole grains can help reduce the risks of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gum disease, colorectal cancer, asthma, inflammatory disease and obesity
You can enjoy kaniwa as a substitute for oatmeal. You can top it with berries and other fruit for a light, filling anytime snack. It’s also a great replacement for potatoes, white rice and other starchy foods.