My Secret “Beauty Food” Ingredient: Disclosed! [My Simple Healthy Recipes #6]

With Quinoa leading the plant-based diet trends, don’t miss its smaller cousin Cañihua, or Chenopodium pallidicaule – chocolatey-delicious, rich in fibre, protein, minerals (Calcium!) and antioxidants. canihua-seeds

True story, you nutrient-savvy vegan or plant-curious friends:
when shopping groceries in Berlin, I often find myself staring into a gap on the grains shelf. Quinoa is more popular than ever, it seems. As is or popped/puffed for porridge, the super-grain has many followers and fans – but you can only harvest as much of it as it grows.
But don’t fret! Biodiversity rules! Rare and amazing crops, herbs, fruit and Co. grow everywhere where man was too comfy to go yet, and Canihua is a great proof for that. 😉


Canihua or Cañihua or Kañiwa is one of several Andean indigenous crops, and its domestication is not yet complete – which is good news: the less industrialised, the better!

Accustomed to its high mountain domicile, the plant has developed characteristics that prove highly beneficial for us humans. It’s high in protein (in your face, “where-do-you-get-your-protein”-gripers!), high in antioxidantsphenolic compounds and flavonoids, high in dietary fibre (10%), folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron.

Canihua seeds are tiny, almost like poppy seeds, and lack Quinoa’s bitter coating (aka the saponins).


I have found and used three Canihua variations – seeds, popped seeds, and flour.
The seeds have a beautiful red-brown colour and are shiny, tiny and somewhat cutesy. Who’s a tiny little power grain? Yes, you’re a tiny little power grain! Yes, you, yes, YOU! …Ahem. canihua-seeds-folate

The seeds are cooked and enjoyed like Quinoa (without soaking) – for savoury or sweet salads, stir-fry, stews, curry, and veggie burgers; the popped seeds can be simply munched with your porridge; and the flour can be used for cooking puddings that are very warming, silky and actually healthy.
The taste is nutty and reminds of cocoa nibs.


For seeds, it’s definitely the canihua veggie burger. I simply add 2-4 TSP of cooked seeds, left from a stew, to a store-bought, gluten-free chickpea flour (for falafel).

For popped seeds, it’s porridge. I have a lazy porridge recipe, where I only heat the liquid (which is half fruits/berries with juice, half soy yogurt), pour it over my grain mix (oat, popped amaranth, popped quinoa, popped canihua, chia, coconut sugar, and freshly ground linseed), stir and enjoy.

For canihua flour, it’d be chocolate pudding. I use approx. 50 g of Blyss raw & pure cocoa powder, 100 g canihua flour, 500 ml of rice-coconut milk (I like to add a TSP of coconut oil to recipes where unskimmed milk used to sit), one vanilla bean, and coconut sugar to taste. First you whisk the canihua flour with approx 200 ml cold rice-coconut milk, then you dilute the cocoa, the vanilla and the coconut sugar in remaining rice-coconut milk that you heat (whisking constantly). Incorporate the flour-milk mix into this boiling chocolatey soup 😉 and keep whisking at medium heat until it starts looking thick and heavy, well, like pudding. Servings: 4.
Great company: a strong, aromatic espresso with as little acidity as possible.

Nutritional values – sources:
Wikipedia (includes references to 3 studies) and nutritional info of bio canihua seeds by Schnitzer.

Now it’s up to you! What foods off the beaten track have you discovered lately? Do you know somebody who’s a rare foods sleuth? Do tell! 😀


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

20 Responses

  1. Your porridge sounds delicious. Have you tried using teff? I think I asked you that before. It is very high protein but I am not sure how it can be used outside of Ethiopian cooking.

      1. Yes, a recipe would be helpful. I mean how would you use it to bake a cake for example. I don’t have any here so I can’t help with experiments! Perhaps it would work as substitute in a buckwheat recipe???

              1. Or farmers are being encouraged to grow other crops for export. China ( I think) and India ( I am fairly sure) are taking up options to establish mega farms in Ethiopia; growing food for export markets. If people are not getting their teff the nutritional consequences will be diabolical.

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