Kani-what? - Kaniwa: The New Supergrain

The first time I heard someone mention Kaniwa, I thought they were mispronouncing Quinoa. This was about 5 or 6 years ago, when fewer people had heard of Quinoa, never mind Kaniwa! Also referred to as “Baby Quinoa”, Kaniwa is grown in the same region as quinoa, has very similar nutritional values, but is half the size of quinoa and is not from the same species of plant. But how can we use this new Supergrain? How does it compare to quinoa? And will it slowly replace quinoa in recipes?

What is Kaniwa?

Kaniwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule), also known as qañiwa, qañawa or qañawi, is the seed of the goosefoot plant. It is grown in the Highlands of Bolivia and Peru and, like quinoa, is a pseudo-cereal crop of seeds. The seeds and the leaves of the plant are edible and like quinoa, millet, and amaranth, they are gluten free. It grows best at very high altitudes (above 3800 meters) and is resistant to cold-climates, strong winds and extreme weather changes. In fact, it can grow at altitudes where neither quinoa nor millet can grow.

Comparing Kaniwa and Quinoa

Quinoa is around the size of millet (0.1 inches in diameter) and comes in a few colors: white, red, black and even purple. Kaniwa seeds, on the other hand, are black or brown, and about half the size. Nutritionally, these two grains are very similar. For example, they both have all nine essential amino acids which allows them to substitute animal proteins. Other beneficial health benefits that place them above common commercialized cereals (wheat, barley, rice, corn) include their high levels of calcium, zinc, iron, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. Surprisingly, however, is that kaniwa has slightly more protein (3% higher) and iron (5% higher) than quinoa! The most notable difference between the two is that quinoa seeds are protected with a bitter soapy tasting coating called saponin that must be washed off before consuming, making kaniwa more convenient to consume. While kaniwa only needs a quick rinse before consuming, bulk quinoa must be washed multiple times to get rid of the bitter taste. Be sure to use an extra fine-mesh sieve or strainer, kaniwa seeds are extra small!

Cooking with Kaniwa

Kaniwa is as versatile as quinoa, and can be used in salads, soups, as a side, or be ground up as a flour for baking. Kaniwa seeds can also be toasted and ground up with a coffee grinder and added to flour mixes to add a nutty flavor and a beautiful golden brown color to your muffins, cookies, and pancakes. Here are just a few great ways to use Kaniwa in recipes:

The Rise of a New Superfood

Kaniwa, is a great addition to any healthy cooker’s pantry, but will never replace its cousin, quinoa. Although it has some extra uses and benefits, it is rarer, and harder to find in grocery stores than quinoa. You can usually find it, though, in natural food shops or easily online. Nevertheless, it’s also another gluten free supergrain that can be added to your ingredient list, making your recipes even more creative and interesting!