Get Cooking with Kaniwa, a Protein-Packed Superfood



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This high-protein cousin of quinoa is native to Peru and Bolivia. It’s gluten-free, with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. Check out its superfood qualities and learn where you can get your hands on some.

Nutrition Info

Kaniwa (pronounced ka-nyi-wa) is actually a seed, though nutritionally it’s categorized as a whole grain. It’s a good source of protein, with one serving providing 15 to 19 percent of the daily recommended amount.

It is also loaded with dietary fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. According to Manuel Villacorta, M.S., R.D., author and founder of Whole Body Reboot, “Kaniwa is composed of flavonoids, which are antioxidants that have been proven to prevent cardiovascular disease, inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and viruses, reduces the risk of anti-inflammatory disease, and has anti-aging benefits.”

Shopping for Kaniwa

This seed isn’t as popular as quinoa, so it’s not as widely available in most local stores. However, you can find it in some specialty markets and at online retailers like Amazon and Roland Foods.

When shopping for kaniwa, you won’t find it in a refined form, so even if the package doesn’t say the word “whole” it’s most likely in its whole-grain form anyway. Further, there’s no need to rinse before cooking, as you have to do with quinoa.

Cooking with Kaniwa

Kaniwa can be used to replace quinoa in recipes. Use it in place of rice or as a hot cereal. You can also add it dry to smoothies, salads and even soups.

Villacorta states that “the seed can also be ground into flour and used to make breads, pastries, and hot chocolate. It can also be used in place of flour or breadcrumbs to coat fish and meats.” See his recipe for Kaniwa Crusted Cod below.

Kaniwa-Crusted Cod

Recipe courtesy of Manuel Villacorta

Makes 2 servings


For the kaniwa:

1/4 cup kaniwa

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the cod:

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 teaspoons lime juice

Salt and pepper

6 ounces cod fillets

Oil spray

Lime wedges


For the kaniwa:

Put the kaniwa, water and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

When done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

For the cod:

Put the olive oil, garlic, cilantro and lime juice in a shallow bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix to combine.

Place the fillets in the marinade and let them sit for 5 minutes. Flip them over and let them marinate for another 5 minutes.

Put the kaniwa on a large plate. Roll the marinated fillets in the kaniwa, pressing it into the flesh until both sides are coated.

Spray a large saute pan with cooking oil and heat over medium heat. When hot, add the fillets. Cook for about 5 minutes on one side; flip over and cook the other side. Place the fillets on a platter and serve with fresh lime wedges.

Per serving: Calories 216; Fat 7 g; Sodium 685 mg; Carbohydrate 17 g; Fiber 2 g; Protein 19 g

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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