When can babies eat amaranth?
Amaranth may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Amaranth is a hardy plant that thrives in tropical climates around the world. Like quinoa, amaranth is often referred to as an ancient grain because of its storied history behind the plant’s edible seeds, which loom large in Aztec lore. The seeds were believed to hold spiritual power, and the Aztecs mixed them with blood to create cakes that were shaped like gods and eaten during ceremonial rituals.1 Recipe below—kidding!
Just like quinoa, amaranth is technically a pseudocereal, meaning the seeds boast a comparable nutritional profile and function like actual grains in cooking. In fact, the entire amaranth plant is edible—from root to stem to leaf to flower. There are more than 70 known varieties of amaranth in the world, with even more culinary uses.2 While the information below pertains to the seed, the leaves and stems are a popular leafy green in recipes around the world: Brazilian darurú, Greek vleeta, Indian chaulai saag, Indonesia bayam, Jamaican callalloo, Vietnamese rau dền, just to name a few!
Is amaranth healthy for babies?
Yes! Amaranth seed is a protein powerhouse that’s packed with vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. One cup of cooked amaranth seed contains 9+ grams of protein and 5 milligrams of iron—that’s almost an entire day’s requirement of protein and half the daily needs of iron for a 6- to 12-month-old baby. As an added bonus: it’s also one of the only “grains” to offer vitamin C.
For gluten-free eaters, amaranth is a fantastic alternative to rice, which pales in comparison from a standpoint of nutrition. Try serving cooked amaranth seed in place of rice in a salad, a porridge, a soup, or on its own as a side dish with meat or fish.
Is amaranth a choking hazard for babies?
No, amaranth is not a common choking hazard, though in theory, an individual can choke on any food. Always stay near your baby and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions below.
Is amaranth a common allergen?
No. Amaranth allergy is rare.3 In fact, amaranth is often used as a replacement for allergenic foods, such as soy and wheat.
As you would do when introducing any new food, start by serving a small quantity of cooked amaranth seed on its own for the first couple of times. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare amaranth for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Amaranth seed makes a great base for casseroles, cereals, grain salads, and soups. It can also be toasted and sprinkled on top of foods for a lovely crunch. Be sure to start by rinsing amaranth seed to remove any dirt and debris, and if you have the time, soak the seeds for 4 to 8 hours. Time in the water helps make the seeds more digestible and increases nutrient absorption.
6 to 12 months old: Serve amaranth as a warm cereal. To encourage self-feeding, pre-load your baby’s spoon and hand it to your baby in the air or rest it on the edge of a bowl that suctions to the table for your baby to pick up independently.
12 to 18 months old: Try amaranth patties! The round shape is perfect for this age—easy and fun for your baby to eat. You can, of course, continue to serve amaranth as a warm cereal or as a side dish for your baby to practice with a spoon or fork.
18 to 24 months old: Use amaranth liberally in your cooking. It knows no bounds! Explore recipes for grain dishes, patties, porridges, and yogurt parfaits. At this age it’s best to avoid recipes with added sugar or sweeteners. Instead, cook amaranth in naturally sweet liquids like unsweetened almond and coconut milks and mix in fruits to sweeten your baby’s cereal. This will help your baby develop a taste for sweets from foods that are not artificially sweet, which is important at this age when eating preferences are taking root.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★ProTip: Lightly toast dried amaranth seeds on the stovetop until they pop, then sprinkle on top of yogurt. The little seeds will add fascinating crunch and texture for little ones!
Recipe: Amaranth Patties
Makes 12 large patties
- 1 cup amaranth
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- Olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small onion
- 1 small zucchini
- Ground coriander (optional)
- Ground cumin (optional)
- Curry powder (optional)
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup coconut oil
- Plain yogurt for dipping
- Cook the amaranth: In a medium sauce pan, bring 2 cups of vegetable broth to a boil, then add 1 cup of amaranth and immediately lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat with the cover off. If the amaranth hasn’t absorbed all the liquid, simmer for a few minutes longer uncovered.
- Mince 1 small zucchini and 1 small onion. Mince 2 cloves of garlic.
- Heat a small pour of avocado oil or olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the onion and zucchini, and cook until the vegetables have softened considerably. If you’d like to boost the flavor, add a pinch or two of the spices, then stir to coat and cook until the spices are fragrant. Once cooked, add the zucchini mixture to the cooked amaranth. Stir to coat.
- Beat 2 eggs in a small mixing bowl. Fold the beaten egg into the amaranth, then stir in 1 cup of the breadcrumbs. If the mixture is still wet, add more breadcrumbs. Form this mixture into patties.
- Heat up 1 cup coconut oil in a large nonstick frying pan on medium-high heat. Gently slide each patty into the oil and cook the patties, uncovered, until lightly browned on each side (this may take a while) flipping very gently with a spoonula or soft spatula. If any of the patties break apart, continue cooking and serve those as a mash. Let cool.
- Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt as a dip.
Amaranth seed has an earthy, nutty taste that pairs well with creaminess and sweetness. Try mixing cooked amaranth with hearty nuts like cashews or pecans and fruits like figs or pears, with bold herbs like basil or parsley mixed in for brightness. Amaranth seed has a similar texture to rice and other hearty grains, and as a result, it can absorb the flavor of the foods in which it is cooked. Try serving it in casseroles with flavorful sauces, soups with rich broths, or even sweet smoothies.
- Wang, J. (2012). Last Chance Foods: Amaranth’s Ancient History. WNYC. Retrieved May 9, 2020
- Amaranth: May Grain of the Month. Whole Grain Council. Retrieved May 9, 2020
- Cárdenas-Torres, F., Reyes-Moreno, C., Vergara-Jiménez, M., Cuevas-Rodríguez, E., Milán-Carrillo, J., et al. (2019). Assessing the Sensitizing and Allergenic Potential of the Albumin and Globulin Fractions from Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus) Grains before and after an Extruion Process. Medicina, 55(3): 72. doi:10.3390/medicina55030072. Retrieved May 9, 2020