Amaranth, in its most commonly consumed form, is a grain that is formed from the seed of the plant, Amaranthus. Harvested generally in Asia and America, the grain is an easily digested, gluten-free food that is inexpensive to grow and requires little energy to cook. When cooking amaranth, the most common technique is simmering in water. This gentle boiling of the seeds allows the grain pods to expand slowly, absorbing the water as they cook to form a light, fluffy texture. It is a highly nutritious grain and is used primarily to replace rice, couscous, and other grains in the diet.
The best technique for cooking amaranth is by boiling it in a saucepan using the ratio of one cup (246 grams) of seeds to two and a half cups (600 milliliters) of water. If the amaranth seeds are overcooked, they will develop a thick, glutinous consistency, which can be beneficial as a thickening agent in soups and stews. Generally, to prevent overcooking amaranth, the grain should be simmered for a maximum of 20 minutes.
This standard method for cooking amaranth can be adapted depending on the application of the food. For example, when cooking amaranth grains for a breakfast dish, additional water can be used to provide a consistency more in keeping with that of porridge. In addition, sweet liquids can be added in lieu of a quantity of water, such as fruit juices. Fruit and nuts can easily be added to the grains during the cooking process to create a healthy and nutritious breakfast.
It is not necessary to cook amaranth in this way for it to be used in the diet. The amaranth seeds can also be roasted in a dry pan and used as a topping in desserts or bakes and can be "popped" in a covered pan to form a popcorn equivalent. The grain can also be ground into flour for baking or simply sprouted using a seed sprouter or a similar device for salads and wraps.
Cooking amaranth is a simple procedure, and the grain is a highly nutritious, fiber-rich food. The seed contains a higher concentration of calcium than milk and considerably more fiber than wheat. It is easy to digest and gluten free and contains a high level of protein. The amaranth seeds need to be stored in a tightly sealed container as they contain healthy fatty acids, and these acids can spoil if not stored correctly.