Remember when I wrote about teff, the world’s tiniest grain? Well, it turns out teff has a close contender and although amaranth is a wee bit bigger, it is another tiny but very mighty grain, one well-worth getting to know. Amaranth is an incredibly nutritious, tasty, and gluten-free little grain that is under-appreciated yet relatively easy to find in health food stores. It’s very high in protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium. So move over quinoa, it’s time for amaranth to get a little bit of the love!
I first tasted amaranth when I lived in a small town near Puebla, Mexico. Puffed amaranth is used there to create a popular sweet called Alegria, an ancient recipe whose history can be traced back to the time of the Aztecs, when it was eaten in religious ceremonies and social gatherings. In Mexico, I used to love keeping Alegria in my bag for a quick nutritious pick-me-up snack. In fact, you can find a recipe for Alegria over here, at Native Seeds.
It took me a long time to figure out how to cook with amaranth. I find that most cooking instructions call for way too much water, yielding a gooey cereal which is delicious if you want to eat it as porridge, but leaves room for little else. When I finally figured out to use much less water – I find a 1 to 1 ratio works best – I was pleased to see the result was a fluffy grain with a delicately chewy texture.I was finally sold on amaranth, and began experimenting with it in various recipes.
These fritters have become a favorite and a stand-by for me. The earthy taste of amaranth couples nicely with the sweet crunch of corn kernels, yielding a tasty fritter with a lovely texture. I’ve introduced several friends to amaranth through these fritters, and they’ve been pleasantly surprised to find a new way to use this elusive grain, so I wanted to share it with you as well.
The fritters are delicious served with a dollop of salsa or tzatziki. They can easily be made ahead and reheated in the oven. Paired with a salad, they make a wonderful lunch or dinner. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do and get to befriend amaranth, if you haven’t already. I’d love to hear how you cook with amaranth in the comments below.
Amaranth Corn Fritters
- 1 cup uncooked (and unpuffed) amaranth
- 2 cups sweet corn kernels (if frozen, let them thaw before using)
- 1 medium-small shallot or onion, minced finely
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or another good frying oil)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp chopped chives or spring onion
- 1/2 cup flour of choice (can be gluten-free, I usually use light spelt)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3 beaten eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- Rinse the amaranth using a very fine mesh and strain off the water. If you don't have a mesh fine enough for the tiny grains, you can skip the rinsing part, it is not essential. (Alternately, you can also soak the grains overnight, which is a good way to maximize digestibility and nutrient intake (though be aware that they will cook more quickly). Cook the amaranth on medium heat in 1 cup of water, in a small covered saucepan for about 10 minutes or until most of the water has disappeared. Remove it from the heat, but leave it covered for another 10 to 15 minutes, so it can continue absorbing water and gently finish cooking. After about 10 to 15 minutes, it should be fluffy, with a nice chew (not overcooked or mushy). Remove the lid, allow the amaranth to cool and then place in a large bowl.
- In a medium skillet, sauté the minced onion or shallot in the olive oil until softened and fragrant. Add the corn kernels and salt, sauté for one more minute and remove from heat, allowing to cool for a few minutes. In a small bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together well. Add the flour mixture, corn and onion, beaten eggs, chopped chives, and milk to the amaranth. Mix everything together well, until you have a thick uniform batter. (When you cook the fritters, if you find the batter is too wet, feel free to add one or two tablespoons of flour).
- Heat about one teaspoon of the grapeseed oil in a large heavy skillet on medium heat, and drop the batter in small batches (about 1/4 cup each). You should be able to cook about 3 fritters at a time. Cook them for about about 3 minutes on each side (or until deep golden on each side). Add a bit of oil to the skillet for each new batch. Serve warm. They make a delicious meal served with a dollop of tzatziki and a large green salad.
Yield: 4 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series was nominated for a 2014 James Beard Award. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.