How and Why to Cook With Kaniwa

Kańiwa, also known as qańiwa, cańihua or various similar spellings, is a beautiful and tiny grain that looks as if teff and quinoa made a beautiful, healthy baby.

The Peruvian grain — that is technically a seed — 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.

how to cook kaniwa

Kańiwa 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 kańiwa 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.

Kańiwa 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!

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

How to Use Kańiwa

This stew features 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 kańiwa, 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 kańiwa 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 kańiwa recipes below for further inspiration.

kaniwa curry stew

The finished stew can be as grainy or brothy as you like.

Basic Kańiwa cooking directions

1 cup kańiwa
2 cups water or vegetable broth
Pinch salt

Kańiwa Coconut Stew

2 Tablespoons vegan margarine or olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
2 stalks celery, diced
1-2 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 kańiwa, add the grains to a saucepan with 2 cups water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. 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.
2. While kańiwa is cooking, warm the vegan margarine or olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes more to soften.
3. Reduce heat, and add 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.
4. Stir in as much kańiwa as you’d like: the full batch of cooked kańiwa will make a thicker stew, but if you use only about half the soup will be brothy and light.
5. Add in greens and stir to wilt, and serve immediately. Serve while still warm
6. Both cooked kańiwa and this soup should keep for about 5 days in the fridge.

Excellent kańiwa 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


What is Kamut? Recipes + Health Benefits
What is Teff and How Do You Use It?
What is Spelt? New Ways to Love this Old Grain

All images from author


Daniel N
Daniel Nabout a month ago

Thank you

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago


DJ M3 years ago

My family really likes quinoa, so I look forward to trying kaniwa. The pancake recipe at Green Kitchen Stories website looks good, too. Thanks.

DJ M3 years ago

thank you. i'm glad to know about this grain.

Angela K.
Angela K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Eden S.
Past Member 3 years ago

Good recipe, thank you so much for share

My best healthy recipe ebooks

Merry Lynn Macleod

Thanks, I'm looking forward to trying this and other recipes with kaniwa.

Donna T.
Donna T3 years ago

thank you

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.