Kaniwa Introduction and Cooking Tips

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Seems like everything is being proclaimed as "the new quinoa" and yet, none of these "new quinoas" has yet to reach the popularity of actual quinoa. First, it was millet, then it was teff, and somewhere in there freekeh.

But while none of these ancient grains has swept the market in the same way as quinoa, what if the new quinoa is so similar as to come from the same genus? We might just have a new hit! I'm talking about kaniwa!

What Is Kaniwa? Is Kaniwa the Same as Quinoa?

Kaniwa (pronounced kah-nyee-wah), is a whole grain. Like quinoa, kaniwa is actually a seed and not a grain, so it's gluten-free. Dry kaniwa looks very much like a small, auburn brown quinoa. The grains are tiny, and look a little bit like teff. Cooked, it resembles, well, tiny grains of quinoa.

However, kaniwa is not the same as quinoa, though it is very similar. The confusion may be not only because of their similarity in name but also because many people actually call kaniwa "baby ​quinoa". In fact, when I purchase kaniwa at Whole Foods, it rings up as "baby quinoa" on my receipt. Let me be clear: Kaniwa and quinoa are related, but are not the same thing, even though kaniwa is colloquially called "baby quinoa". 

But don't let this fool you! Kaniwa is a delightful addition to your diet, no matter how you feel about quinoa! Like quinoa, kaniwa also comes from the Andes in Peru and has been a staple of local diets for generations, only to recently be discovered by Western palettes. Though they sound alike and look alike, kaniwa and quinoa are two very different plants. 

Cooking With Kaniwa: How to Cook Kaniwa

Kaniwa can be cooked much like any other whole grain which is simmered in water until soft. Cook kaniwa in a 1:2 ratio to water. That is, for every one cup of kaniwa, use two cups of water. Simmer kaniwa stovetop for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and the liquid has absorbed. Kaniwa can also be cooked in a crockpot on high for a minimum of two hours.

In my experience, kaniwa doesn't "fluff up" the same way quinoa does, but it also doesn't congeal like millet or teff will. If you want a more porridge-like breakfast kaniwa, cook the grains in milk or soy milk for 25 minutes and add a little sugar or sweetener along with fresh fruits or nuts and raisins. 

One cup of dry kaniwa yields about 2 cups cooked.

Some people recommend toasting the kaniwa in a dry skillet for a minute or two before simmering it, but I personally don't find that this extra step adds anything to the finished dish. 

Wondering what to do with kaniwa? Try it just like you would use any other whole grain: Add a handful to a simmering soup, keep some on hand to add protein and fiber to a green salad, add veggies and dressing to make a healthy kaniwa pilaf, or top it off with your favorite vegetable curry or saucy stir-fry, that is, just like you would do with steamed white rice. 

Kaniwa Recipes

Kaniwa can be used in just about any recipe calling for quinoa. Try it in salads, soups, or pilafs. Add a handful to a burrito, enchilada, chili or stew. Here are a few more recipes for kaniwa if you need some inspiration:

Kaniwa Nutritional Information

According to CalorieCount, 1/4 cup dry kaniwa (or about 1/2 cup cooked) contains 160 calories and around 1 gram of fat. As a plant food, it is naturally cholesterol-free and free of saturated fat. Kaniwa is low in calories, nearly fat-free, high in fiber and protein and is an excellent source of iron, particularly for vegetarians and vegans.

Here's a full nutritional breakdown of 1/4 cup dry kaniwa:

Calories: 160
Fat: 1 gram
Sodium: 110mg
Carbohydrates: 30g
Dietary Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 0g
Protein: 7g
Vitamin A 0%, Vitamin C 0%, Calcium 4% · Iron 60%

Alternative spellings: Kaniwa is sometimes called canawa, cañihua, qañiwa, baby quinoa, and is most properly spelled kañiwa (with the tilde over the n)

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