This is a guest blog post by Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, CSSD.
Kiwicha, also known as amaranth or “mini quinoa” is a small pseudo cereal noted for its dense nutritional content. Kiwicha has been farmed in Peru and other areas of South America for over 4,000 years and was widely used as a subsistence crop.
Kiwicha is now widely recognize and considered an anti-aging food due to its cumulative anti-carcinogenic, anti-hypertensive, anti-oxidant, and anti-lipidemic properties.
Kiwicha contain all 10 essential amino acids, making it an optimal plant protein for vegetarians. It is also high in the amino acid lysine, distinguishing it from other grains which typically contain very little lysine and need to be combined with other foods to make a complete protein. In addition to being gluten-free, it is high in fiber, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.
Kiwicha contains phenolic acids, carotenoids, and flavonoids which impart antioxidant properties. It also contains squaline, an organic compound found in some plants, which acts as an anti-cancer agent and may be cardio-protective as well due to its ability to lower LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. A half cup serving of cooked kiwicha provides 125 kcal, 4.7 grams protein, 2 grams of fat, 23 grams of carbohydrate, and 2.5 grams of fiber.
While tiny, Kiwicha can be popped into a fluffy kernel like a miniature version of popcorn. Once popped, it becomes a perfect base for all kinds of tasty snacks and dishes. It is common for street vendors in Peru to sell popped Kiwicha balls sweetened with honey. This is a favorite among children across the Andes.
While not identical, those candies serve as the inspiration to make the following popped Kiwicha candies. They are not only fun and easy to make with children but also a more wholesome choice of candy.
Popped Kiwicha Candies
1 cup popped kiwicha
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. brown rice syrup
4 Tbsp. coconut oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
Medium sauté pan with glass lid
-For the popped kiwicha:
1. Heat a medium frying pan over high heat until the entire surface is extremely hot. Add 1 tablespoon of kiwicha and evenly distribute it in the pan. No oil is needed. Cover the pan with a glass lid and allow the kiwicha to “pop” until white, roughly 30 seconds, making sure to move the pan over the heat to ensure even heat distribution. When popped, remove the kiwicha from the heat and immediately transfer to a bowl.
2. Repeat step 1 until the desired amount of kiwicha is popped. It may take a round or two of trial and error to get the heat, movement of the pan, and the timing just right, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time, and then popping kiwicha will be fun as well as practical.
-For the candies:
1. Combine honey, brown rice syrup, Coconut oil, salt and vanilla in a 4-quart saucepot and warm over medium-high heat while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Let mixture lightly bubble for 3-5 minutes before removing it from the heat. Add popped kiwicha and stir until combined.
2. Divide mixture between two sheets of parchment. Form each into a 12-inch log tightly rolled in parchment. Let cool.
3. Once cool, cut each log into 10 pieces using a paring knife. Wrap each candy in a 4”x4” piece of cellophane, tightly twisting ends in opposite directions. If tightly wrapped, candies will last at room temperature for 1 month.
Nutrition fact for Kiwicha Candies
Per candy: Kcals 43, Protein 0.3g, Carb 4.6g, Fat 2.8g, Sodium 16.4mg, Dietary Fiber 0.2g. Daily value per candy: Iron 1%.
Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian in private practice, MV Nutrition, award winning nutrition center in San Francisco. He is the founder of Eating Free, an international weight management and wellness program and author of Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good and his new book Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes