What is the difference between kaniwa and quinoa? Are they interchangeable? Can kaniwa and quinoa be cooked the same? Let’s find out!

A purple bowl with cooked kaniwa

If I’m near one of these stores I can’t resist going in, even if I don’t need anything:. a health food store, a kitchen supply store and bulk food. Browsing in a clothing stores? No thanks. Browsing in a health food store? Always!

I was browsing in my go-to bulk food store and came across kaniwa. Not something I had heard of before. It was right beside the quinoa, looked much the same and wasn’t super expensive so I bought a small bag to test it out. Verdict: I kind of love it!

What is Kaniwa?

  • Kaniwa, pronounced ka-nee-wah, is often referred to as a whole grain, but is actually a seed.
  • Kaniwa comes from the goosefoot plant (genus Chenopodium), Chenopodium Pallidicaule species.
  • It is grown in Bolivia and Peru at high elevations.
  • Kaniwa looks like a smaller version of quinoa, which is why it is sometimes called ‘baby quinoa’.
  • The kaniwa seeds are most often reddish brown or black in colour.
  • The flavour of kaniwa is slightly nutty and not as earthy as quinoa.

What is the difference between quinoa and kaniwa?

  • Kaniwa and quinoa both come from the goosefoot plant, but each is derived from a different species. Kaniwa is from the Chenopodium Pallidicaule species while quinoa is from Chenopodium Quinoa.
  • You can purchase white, red or black quinoa separately or in a mixed package. The colour of kaniwa varies slightly from reddish brown to black.
  • Quinoa needs to be rinsed before cooking to remove the outer coating of saponins. These saponins are the defence mechanism of the plant, and if not washed off can give it an unpleasant, soapy, bitter taste. Kaniwa does not have these saponins and therefore don’t need to be rinsed before cooking.
  • Unlike quinoa, which gets soft when cooked, kaniwa retains a slight crunch.

How to cook kaniwa

Kaniwa is fairly simple to cook using a 1:2 ratio kaniwa to liquid. Whether you choose to use water, stock or broth, milk or non-dairy substitute, all you need to do is bring the liquid to a boil, add the kaniwa and simmer for about 15 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Kaniwa doesn’t get light and fluffy like quinoa, it’s also much harder to overcook so you won’t end up with mush.

Nutritional benefits of kaniwa

  • Both quinoa and kaniwa are high in protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.
  • Kaniwa contains 7g of protein per half cup (cooked).
  • Rich in calcium, zinc, iron and fibre.

Have you tried cooking with kaniwa?

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