An otherwise infrequently used ingredient commonly included in special diets, amaranth flour is a powder made from grinding a cereal grain that comes from the amaranth plant. It is a common ingredient in gluten-free foods, which are designed for those who have a reaction to wheat gluten. Compared to other types of cereal grains, amaranth is significantly more expensive, but has dietary and nutrition benefits that have made it a valuable cultivated grain for centuries. This protein-dense flour is used in many foods, including, breads, pizzas, and cakes.
Amaranth flour has health benefits that make it worth its cost to individuals who are concerned about their diets. It is gluten-free and has higher levels of protein than most other types of flour. Generally, these grains contain more oil and are higher in nutritive fatty acids than other types of grains. When making bread, amaranth flour is usually mixed with other types of flour, including wheat flour. The grain that produces amaranth flour comes from a broad-leafed plant. This shape is different from wheat flour grains, which grow on plants that are classified as grasses.
Aside from amaranth flour, other types of flours used for gluten-free baking are many, and include quinoa flour, rice flour, and garbanzo flour. Potato starch and sorghum flour are also common gluten-free flour options. Amaranth is often considered to be similar in texture to quinoa, but some people do not like the taste of quinoa flour, which can be described as dirt-like. Amaranth flour is sometimes mixed with quinoa flour in equal parts to improve the flavor of breads containing quinoa flour.
Often considered to be an ancient cereal grain, amaranth was the main grain eaten by the Aztecs. The crop conditions necessary for growing amaranth are similar to those for growing peas or beans and less like conditions required to grow other well-known types of grain crops. Amaranth flour crops are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, which makes them more difficult and expensive to produce than other cereal grains. The cost of producing amaranth makes it somewhat of a special product, and most amaranth flour producers must pre-order amaranth crops from farmers to ensure the availability of the grain.
Not only valuable as a source of grain, amaranth leaves are also used as a food source. They have a flavor much like a potent form of spinach, and are used in many of the same applications. Amaranth leaves can be used as salad greens, sauteed, or put in stews.