How to Cook with Kañiwa

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Kañiwa, also known as qañiwa, cañihua or other similar spellings, is a beautiful and tiny grain that looks as if teff and quinoa made a beautiful, healthy grain baby. In this article we’ll learn more about this cool grain, and how to cook with kañiwa.

This grain — one that is technically a seed, like quinoa — is becoming more popular in the US. It has the dark brown and mottled hues of teff but the flavor (and the genes) of quinoa, and when cooked it releases its little tail just like quinoa. Also like quinoa, it has roots in South America (Peru and Bolivian highlands, specifically), whereas teff originates in Africa.

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Kañiwa is a traditional grain the the high Andes mountains, where is is adapted to survive the harsh conditions of altitude and cold temperatures. It is grown mostly by indigenous communities in rural areas, although its popularity in health food movements in the West might encourage further cultivation of this beautiful plant. As a staple crop, it’s pretty invaluable, as both the leaves and seeds are edible, and can be fed to humans and to livestock. It also lacks the saponins, the soapy substance that needs to be washed off quinoa, so it’s easier to use and less intensive to process.

But most important to note is that kañiwa is delicious, and can be used anywhere you would use quinoa. It cooks in the same amount of time, and fluffs up nicely for use in salads or as a base for a vegetable pilaf. You can even use it in baked goods, as you can see in the pancake recipe below.

Kañiwa is pretty dang healthy for us, too. Just one-quarter cup of dry grain (which equates to about a half cup cooked) has a whopping 60% of the DV for iron, making it one of the best plant sources for this important nutrient. It also has a good amount of fiber (about 3 grams, or 12% of your DV), and about 6 grams of protein. It is low in calories and fat, and naturally low in sodium. Pairing kaniwa with a fresh veggie stirfry or tossing into a whole grain salad means you’re getting a great superfood meal. And it cooks quickly, which means dinner can be ready very soon!

how to cook with kaniwa
You can find kaniwa in packages at your local natural food store or online in many marketplaces.

How to Use Kañiwa

This kaniwa stew is a global mashup in the best way: it features a mirepoix, the traditional French vegetable mix or onion, carrot, and celery to start the soup, but is blended with coconut milk and turmeric for an Indian flavor profile, and swirled with kañiwa, a South American grain. You could add in some white beans or chickpeas here to round out the meal. Here’s to a world of flavor!

This recipe includes basic cooking directions for kañiwa too, so if you don’t fancy a soup, simply cook the kaniwa and add it to salads, breakfast porridge, or just eat it topped with a little salad dressing. Find five more great kañiwa recipes below for further inspiration.

how to cook with kaniwa
The finished stew can be as grainy or brothy as you like. This is quite thick.

How to Cook with Kañiwa: Basic Kañiwa cooking directions

1 cup kañiwa
2 cups water or vegetable broth
Pinch salt

Kañiwa Coconut Stew Recipe

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, finely diced
1 cup carrot, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 (14-ounce) can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 (14-15 ounce) can coconut milk
1 Tablespoon dried turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups minced greens (kale, spinach, chard, etc.)

  1. To cook the kañiwa, add the grains to a saucepan with 2 cups water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes, or until all water has been absorbed. Just like quinoa, when kaniwa is done cooking, the little tails will appear. Remove cover, fluff, and set aside.
  3. While kañiwa is cooking, warm the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  4. Add onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes more to soften.
  5. Reduce heat, and add water/broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, turmeric, pepper, and salt. Stir to combine, and let simmer on low for 10 minutes. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
  6. Stir in as much kañiwa as you’d like: the full batch of cooked kañiwa will make a thicker stew, but if you use only about half the soup will be brothy and light.
  7. Add in greens and stir to wilt, and serve immediately. Serve while still warm
  8. Both cooked kañiwa and this soup should keep for about 5 days in the fridge.

Excellent kañiwa recipes from some of my favorite bloggers:

Kaniwa and Coconut Pancakes from Green Kitchen Stories
Kaniwa Winter Salad from Earthsprout
Farewell to Summer Salad from My New Roots
Kaniwa Confetti Salad from Veg Kitchen
Spring Kaniwa Salad from Vanille Verte

This post may contain some affiliate links. Currently I am affiliated with Avocado and Mountain Rose Herbs, and Amazon Affilaites to support my favorite supplements and superfoods. If you purchase something from these links I make a small commission that supports my work and keeps the site running. Thanks for supporting Vibrant Wellness Journal! 


About Andrea Bertoli 597 Articles
A vegan chef, cookbook author, wellness educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in Honolulu. Follow my delicious adventures on Instagram

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