Cookbook | Recipes | Ingredients | Cereal Grain | Vegetable


Amaranth or pigweed are a variety of plants in the genus Amaranthus. Although several species are often considered weeds, people around the world use amaranth in cooking as a leaf vegetable or cereal grain. It is easily harvested, produces many seeds, and is tolerant of arid environments.


Some species of amaranth are cultivated for cereal production in Asia and the Americas (e.g. A. caudatus, A. cruentus, A. hypochondriacus). Although not a true cereal grain like wheat or rice, amaranth seeds are starchy and treated as a culinary grain.


Amaranth seeds were a staple food of the Incas, and they are today known as kiwicha in the Andes. Amaranth seed was also used by the ancient Aztecs, who called it huautli, and other Native American peoples in Mexico to prepare ritual drinks and foods.

To this day, amaranth grains are toasted like popcorn and mixed with honey or molasses to make a treat called alegría (literally "joy" in Spanish). It is a popular snack sold in Mexico City and other parts of Mexico, sometimes mixed with chocolate or puffed rice, and its use has spread to Europe and other parts of North America.


Amaranth seeds contain exceptionally complete protein when compared to other cereal grains. Amaranth grain is also a good source of dietary fiber and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.


Amaranth species are cultivated and consumed as a leaf vegetable in many parts of the world, where they may go by the names bayam (Indonesia/Malaysia), kulitis (Philippines), callaloo (Caribbean), mchicha (Swahili), efo tete (Yoruba), arowo jeja (lit. "we have money left over for fish"), African spinach, rau dền (Vietnam), or enga lenga/biteku teku (Congo).


In the Caribbean, Amaranth leaves are sometimes used in pepperpot soup. It is a common vegetable in West Africa, frequently eaten in soups or along with cooked starches. In Andhra Pradesh, India, the leaf is added to a popular dal called thotakura pappu. In China, the leaves and stems are used as a stir-fry vegetable and called yin choi (苋菜; pinyin: xiàncài). In Vietnam, it is used to make soup.