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Salads, porridge, cakes, muffins, soups, bread preparation or any recipe substituting Quinoa with Kaniwa makes it extra nutritious and delicious. Touted to be the next super food, learn more about the nutritional content of kaniwa grains.

Super nutritious, delicious, versatile, fast to cook and easy to prepare – these are oft repeated remarks by consumers who have relished Kaniwa grain. Comparatively a new product to the United States, Kaniwa is a seed that is used as a grain. Touted to be the next super food, Kaniwa is similar to Quinoa but differs in size. For all those who are looking to include a variety in the list of whole grain, it has to be Kaniwa.

Food for thought – Kaniwa

Kaniwa is pronounced as ka-nyi-wa. Here are salient features that explain why Kaniwa as a grain is unique.

  • Kaniwa belongs to the goosefoot family or chenopod family.

  • Other members of the goosefoot family are beets, Swiss chard and Spinach.

  • Regarded as 'royal food' during the Inca Empire (3000 B.C), forbidden for the general population.

  • Staple in the diet of many people in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

  • Kaniwa seed can sprout.

  • Is cold-resistant and is largely grown in Central Andes, the highlands of Peru.

  • More resistant that any other grain to a combination of frost, drought, salt and pests.

  • At particular stage, the plant can tolerate temperature as low as -10 degree Celsius.

  • The leaves protect the plant parts at nightfall from freezing.

  • Kaniwa plant needs 500 to 800 mm of rain but can also tolerate prolonged periods of drought.

  • During the first stages of development, the plant exhibits extreme susceptibility to excessive humidity.

  • Kaniwa grows even in places where quinoa, a close relative is difficult to be grown.

  • Kaniwa contains 16% protein, the highest of any grain.

Kaniwa vs. Quinoa

There is so much of comparison between Kaniwa and Quinoa. This is mainly due to the similarity in appearance. Rightly, Kaniwa is considered as mini-quinoa or baby quinoa as Kaniwa is 1/3 rd the size of Quinoa. However, there are differences that make Kaniwa stand-out as compared to Quinoa.


  • Both are Andrean crops.

  • Both belong to the same family.

  • Though a seed, Kaniwa and Quinoa are cooked like a grain.

  • Roasting does not significantly affect mineral dialyzability.

  • Both have a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.


  • Kaniwa grows even in regions where Quinoa cannot be grown.

  • Compared to Quinoa, Kaniwa is smaller in size.

  • Properties of Quinoa and Kaniwa differ.

  • Quinoa has a higher level of nutty aroma than Kaniwa.

  • Unlike Quinoa, Kaniwa does not have saponins (natural protective coating), a component that requires rinsing before using for cooking.

  • Absence of saponins in Kaniwa makes processing easier.

  • Kaniwa is higher in protein, iron, magnesium and calcium than Quinoa.

  • Kaniwa has more antioxidants than quinoa.

Kaniwa grain

The seeds are roughly 1 mm in diameter and are dark brown to black in color. Though a seed, kaniwa is treated like a grain. The specialty of Kaniwa grain is that it becomes rich in color as it gets cooked. Gluten-free Kaniwa is extensively sought after as it is delicious as well as nutritious. Savory or sweet dishes, the grain blends well and each bite tastes delightful.

  • Kaniwa grain is packed with vital minerals and vitamins.

  • Kaniwa contains nine essential amino acids in correct proportion.

  • Kaniwa has significant levels of calcium, zinc and iron.

  • Kaniwa is gluten-free, low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

  • The protein content, 16% is higher than any other grain.

  • Kaniwa grain has a nutty delicious flavor.

  • ½ cup of cooked Kaniwa has 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber with 160 calories.

  • High calcium and protein content favors mental clarity.

How to cook Kaniwa

Kaniwa is available in health food stores, whole food store or can be ordered online. All recipes with quinoa can be substituted with Kaniwa. Be it in salads, pilaf or porridge, the absence of saponins allows you to skip the process of rinsing before actually using kaniwa. Being versatile, kaniwa blends well. The crunchy texture and delicious taste makes it one of the healthiest vegan foods.

Making a simple side dish with kaniwa hardly requires any special preparation. Add to a handful of kaniwa some chickpeas, sautéed red pepper, chives, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and ground pepper.

Kaniwa cooks quickly. But cooking Kaniwa requires special attention with regard to ratio of water and the cooking time as well. A cup of dry Kaniwa after cooking yields 2 cups.

  • Kaniwa to water ratio is 1: 2

  • 1 cup Kaniwa requires 2 cups of water to cook.

  • Boil the water.

  • Add Kaniwa.

  • Lower the heat and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes.

  • The grain will pop and the germ will separate into a curly tail.

  • The water would be totally absorbed by now.

  • Fluff with a fork.

Cooked kaniwa works as a great substitute to rice and boiled potatoes. Cooked kaniwa can be added to soups, stews, salads and stir fries. Cooked kaniwa served with a plate-full of boiled vegetables seasoned with herbs or spicy powder or even a grilled fish makes for a nutritious meal.

To prepare easy breakfast kaniwa porridge, the grain can be boiled in milk and mixed with sugar. Alternatively, use almond milk, ground cinnamon, chopped almonds and raisins. Porridge prepared with toasted kaniwa seeds prior to boiling in milk tastes delicious.

Make pancakes with kaniwa for breakfast and kick-start a day with vital nutrients. Replace half the flour in any of multigrain pancake recipes with Kaniwa flour. Alternatively, substitute Kaniwa flour with a scoop of cooked Kaniwa and mix with the pancake batter. The result is a pancake with a deep nutty texture.

Kaniwa flour is best for gluten free baking, the breads, muffins, pancakes and waffles. To make kaniwa flour, slightly toast Kaniwa. Let it cool and then ground to make brown flour called kanihuaco. The flour is used to prepare breads, cakes, puddings, muffins, noodles or snacks. The flour can be boiled in milk to prepare instant porridge. For an instant beverage, while making hot chocolate, add a scoop of kaniwa flour, the result is an extra delicious chocolate bubbling with vital nutrients.

Puffed kaniwa is a delicious snack. When kaniwa is popped or puffed it produces a slightly crunchy light brown product comparable to nutty popcorn. Add taste by adding powdered pepper, salt and butter.

A delicious and nutritious salad with kaniwa is easy to make. Sprinkle kaniwa to raw vegetable salad. Combine onions, tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, a teaspoon of lemon juice and just before serving add two spoons of Kaniwa and basil leaves. Cooked Kaniwa can also be used to prepare salads. Just cool the cooked Kaniwa and combine with veggies, a spoon of extra virgin oil, salt and pepper. Recipes with Kaniwa are unlimited and guided only by personal taste, preference and culinary expertise.

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