What is kañiwa? Simply put, this relative of quinoa, is similarly a South American superfood grain making a splash in the North American market. Like quinoa, Kañiwa grows in Peru and Bolivia. It’s an excellent source of protein and amino acids, is exceptionally high in iron, and is gluten-free. Dark reddish-brown in color and about half the size of a tiny quinoa seed, it cooks up quickly to resemble a smaller version of red quinoa. Find out lots more information in Kañiwa: A "New" Ancient Superfood.
One major difference between the two is that kañiwa doesn’t have saponins, the coating that gives quinoa a soapy, slightly bitter flavor if not rinsed properly. A good thing, as I can’t imagine a sieve fine enough for its tiny size.
Quinoa brought to market has already been rinsed of much of its saponins, as otherwise it would be quite unpalatable (this procedure is done with a strong alkaline solution). But it’s always recommended that quinoa be rinsed well again at home to remove any remaining bitterness. Kañiwa is actually easier to process due to the absence of saponins.
It’s recommended to toast the grain on a dry skillet or saucepan first, then cover with water in twice its volume. Like quinoa, the water absorbs in 15 to 20 minutes. Truth be told, both times I used it so far I forgot to toast it, and it was just fine (it has a mild, nutty flavor similar to quinoa’s).
A few simple ways to use kañiwa
- Add ½ to 1 cup cooked kañiwa to pancake or waffle batter (depending on the size of the batch)
- Serve it as a sweet breakfast bowl with a maple syrup to taste, chopped nuts, and dried or fresh fruit. Finish with a dusting of cinnamon.
- A savory breakfast bowl is good too, with a little vegan butter and a sprinkling of nondairy cheese shreds. Sweet or savory, a it keeps you full for hours.
- Like many a nutritious grain, kañiwa works well in warm pilafs and room-temperature salads.
- Come fall holiday meals, like its slightly larger cousin, a pilaf makes a nourishing and attractive stuffing for squashes and peppers.
Nutritionally, kañiwa's profile is remarkably similar to quinoa's. It's a good source of complete protein, and is a good source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals. One advantage it has over quinoa is that it's an even better source of iron.
How to cook kañiwa
Kañiwa and quinoa can be used interchangeably, and are cooked in the same proportion to liquid (2 parts liquid to 1 part kañiwa; it cooks in 15 minutes, like quinoa, or just a bit quicker). To that end, please explore our article, How to Cook Quinoa — and Some Great Ways to Use It. You might also enjoy We Love Quinoa, a volume in our Best of VegKitchen affordable e-book series featuring the 30 most popular quinoa recipes on this site, along with many color photographs.
Kañiwa is available from online retailers, you can ask your natural foods retailer if they can order some for you.
For a recipes, see Kañiwa Confetti Salad (shown at top).
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