Popped Quinoa and Amaranth (Kiwicha)

Bowl of quinoa with wooden shovel on wood
Westend61 / Getty Images
Prep: 0 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 2 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
125 Calories
2g Fat
23g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 125
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Sodium 7mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Protein 5g
Calcium 58mg 4%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 166mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Two Andean grains, quinoa and amaranth (known as kiwicha in the Andes), have gained a worldwide following thanks to their great taste.

There are many ways to enjoy these grains. Quinoa grains are larger than amaranth, whose tiny grains are almost as small as poppy seeds. Quinoa and amaranth can be cooked like rice and enjoyed as a pilaf or in salads. Both have a slightly nutty flavor and a pleasingly chewy texture. Both quinoa and amaranth can be processed into gluten-free flours, which are then used to make bread and other baked goods.

In South America, one of the most common ways to prepare these grains is to toast or "pop" them, which is quite simple to do. Popped amaranth and quinoa are commonly eaten as breakfast cereals, and they are also used to prepare street food snacks akin to seed and nut bars. It's quite entertaining to pop these grains in a skillet, and it gives them a nice toasted flavor. Amaranth exhibits especially impressive popping ability considering its tiny size—it pops opens and turns white like miniature popcorn.

Served these popped grains as a snack, or add them to cookies or baked goods. Sprinkle them on top of breads or bagels, or shake them over a salad for a healthy crunch.


  • 1/2 to 1 cup rinsed quinoa, or amaranth

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Quinoa is often prewashed before packaging, which should be stated on the box. If not, rinse quinoa thoroughly and let dry.

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the vegetable oil if desired (this will help the salt adhere to the grains later if you are going to eat them like popcorn, but it's not necessary for popping them). Add about 1/4 cup of grain, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan with a single layer. Stir grains with a wooden spoon as they pop—you will hear a sound and the grains may jump out of the pan. Amaranth grains pop very dramatically and change from dark yellow to white, while quinoa grains have a more subtle pop and turn a toasted brown color.

  4. Once the grains have mostly popped, remove them from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool. Watch quinoa especially closely and remove it from the heat when it is golden brown and toasted before it starts to burn.

  5. Continue to pop the grains in batches. Toss popped grain with salt and serve.