Jul 14

Amaranth Squares

in Dessert, Honey, Mexican, Oyatsu/Snack

During my trip to Cancún last month, I fell in love with the Yucatán peninsula and some of the wonderful flavors and ingredients there.  Talented fellow blogger Patty of Baking is Hot and Pattycake.ca is currently living in a small town in the southeastern part of the Yucatán peninsula (lucky girl!), about 4 hours away from Cancún.  She kindly agreed to be a guest here on LFM and share a bit about her experience getting to explore and learn about those wonderful Yucatán ingredients.  She is sharing an absolutely delicious looking treat that is gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, AND free of refined sugar!  After you’ve read about her delicious treat, go check out her wonderful blogs, Baking is Hot and Pattycake.ca.


Thanks for having me as a guest Rachael!

In Mexico, there is a tradition of making confections called alegrías (happiness) from puffed amaranth. These treats are usually made with honey, molasses, or chocolate mixed with nuts, seeds, and raisins, and are easy to find in Mexico City, Merida, and most major Mexican cities. Amaranth is a very nutritious seed that the Aztecs and Mayans revered. The seeds are high in protein, minerals, fiber, and lysine—they are one of the few plants that are said to contain complete protein. The Aztecs used the seeds in rituals, where they mixed amaranth with honey and human blood (that they got from their sacrifices) to make cakes shaped as idols. The Spaniards found this practice barbaric so they forbade amaranth. Talk about a colorful history! Fortunately, amaranth is being enjoyed once again in confections, breakfast cereals, and ground up in nutritious drinks. The greens of the amaranth plant are also edible and highly nutritious.

amaranthPhoto source: Wikipedia

I’ve been having a great time playing with all the wonderful foods that are available down here, including amaranth. Since it’s very hot these days (around 34C and humid) I came up with these no-bake treats to satisfy my craving for something sweet, gluten-free and healthy. Besides the puffed amaranth (which you may be able to find in Latin American grocery stores) these contain peanuts, pepitas, and local Mayan honey—all abundant in these parts. The honey comes from special stingless bees that have their hives in hollowed logs. It’s usually a dark golden honey that’s very flavorful and has notes of orange blossom. I always enjoy raw local honey wherever I am, as besides being delicious, it aids in dealing with allergens (local pollens)—at least that’s what I’ve heard!

The following recipe is super easy to make, as well as nutritious and delicious. It’s gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, as well as free of refined sugar (though I wouldn’t recommend this for diabetics). If you’re not into peanuts, I think this would be delicious with roasted almonds instead.

I enjoy these with my sweetheart and a fresh cup of dark roast Chiapas coffee in the afternoon—I hope you enjoy them too!

Amaranth Squares

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Amaranth Squares

Recipe from Patty of Baking is Hot and Pattycake.ca

Makes 6 — 10 servings

*1 1/2 c roasted peanuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (only if your peanuts are unsalted)
5 Tbsp local liquid honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup puffed amaranth

*I like using Spanish peanuts as they have their antioxidant-rich skins still on. You can substitute 1/4 c of the peanuts for 1/4 c roasted pepitas if you like. Roasted almonds would be a great substitute for the peanuts too.

Pulse the peanuts in a food processor till broken up into little bits, then add the cinnamon and salt. Pulse until finely ground just and starting to clump together, then add the honey and vanilla. Pulse until everything is incorporated. (If you don’t have a food processor, grind the nuts in 1/2 c batches in a coffee grinder or blender or even using a hand-crank mill – then mix the ground nuts and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.)

You will have a gooey granular mixture. If there are a few larger peanut chunks that’s OK. Put mixture in a med-large bowl and add 1 c of puffed amaranth. Mix by hand with a strong spoon till well combined. It should be a clumpy sticky mass.

Press mixture into a regular sized loaf pan and smooth with the back of a spoon. (I use a glass loaf pan.) No need to grease the pan because the peanuts are oily. Cover and refrigerate – once chilled it will keep together and be easy to cut into little squares.


{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula - bell'alimento July 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

Oh these are so fantastic looking : ) And NO gluten, no sugar, I’ve been looking for some sweet treats for my newly gluten free little man! Perfect, can’t wait to try them!


Cajun Chef Ryan July 14, 2010 at 11:00 am

Wow, no sugar, no gluten! These are fantastic, and the background on amaranth is great to know info!
I have been buying honey in quarts at the local farmers market and have just about eliminated most sugar from our diet in the past few months.

Bon appetit!


Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron July 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm

No bake dessert? send in my way!
Great guest post btw!


Winnie July 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Yum! I’ve made a version of these before with pumpkin seeds and dried cherries…love them!


Dawn (KitchenTravels) July 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Did you know you can actually puff/pop amaranth grains at home in a very hot, dry skillet? True! The first time I tried it I almost died from the cuteness of watching the tiny, tan grains pop-pop-pop into not-quite-as-tiny, white orbs. The aroma as you heat them up, and the taste of the puffed grains, is similar to popcorn. Our local health food co-op sells amaranth grain by weight in bulk bins. Can’t wait to try this recipe!


Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks July 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Can’t wait to use my Mayan honey in this recipe. Alegrias are a great snack since they are high in protein – nuts, seeds and amaranth. I like to wrap a few and take on a hike or when I’m on the go.

I look forward to checking out your blog since I visit the Yucatan regularly.


Steve July 14, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Love to see truly authentic treats like this.


Patty July 15, 2010 at 6:58 am

Thanks for the great comments everyone! Dawn – I’d love to pop my own amaranth (and grow it too) but funnily enough I haven’t come across amaranth seeds here in Mexico yet – still looking.


Dawn (KitchenTravels) July 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm

@Patty, Hi Patty – I hope you find the grains someday soon. It really is a lot of fun to “pop” them at home. Seems to work best if you do it in batches, with just a few tablespoons at a time. I love the Yucatan! Isla Mujeres is one of my favorite places on earth. The next time we make it down that way, I’ll look you up. :) Have a great weekend! xo


Patty July 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm

@Dawn (KitchenTravels), Gracias Dawn – si si!


Carol Egbert July 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

Yours is the second post I’ve read today about amaranth. It is also the second post I’ve ever read about amaranth. this looks tasty, thank you for an interesting post.


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction July 15, 2010 at 11:14 am

These look absolutely lovely! I wouldn’t mind a few for a snack to get me through the afternoon!


David July 16, 2010 at 5:41 am

Oh, it sounds like a great recipe!
We’ve made muesli with puffed amaranth but never thought of using it in sweets. What a good idea!
I’ll definitely try this or something similar to this soon.


Jenny Flake July 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

Theses look awesome girl!! I need to try soon!!


Tracy July 16, 2010 at 9:08 am

What a fun dessert! I loved Cancun when we went on our honeymoon – beautiful place!


Jen @ How To: Simplify July 16, 2010 at 12:21 pm

This is such a fun dessert/snack! I’ll have to try this recipe!


Maria July 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I love bar desserts, adding this one to my must make list.


My Man's Belly July 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm

These look stunning. I still find it amusing when something that looks so good still tastes really good. I guess it’s all those restaurants serving up pretentious food.


Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker July 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm

What a delicious treat! I love the combination of peanuts and honey!


wendy July 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

This was so yummy!!!
I puffed my own amaranth, and used a combination of walnuts and pecans in place of the peanuts. We just gobbled it up!
Thanks for the deliciousness :)


Patty July 24, 2010 at 7:59 am

@wendy, Hi Wendy, that sounds so yummy! Thanks for sharing – I’ll have to try this with that nut combo sometime – as well as with freshly puffed amaranth of course. We do get pecans here in the winter, as well as almonds, but not walnuts (and I adore walnuts)… so maybe an almond-pecan combo when they’re in season again. Yum. :)


Cookin' Canuck July 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm

I have seen amaranth many times, but never baked with it. I’m looking forward to trying these healthy treat.


Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) July 20, 2010 at 5:40 am

The roasted peanuts with the puffed amaranth are a magical combination!


Chefs Resources July 24, 2010 at 9:18 am

These sound delicious! And a dessert with a Supergrain… we’ll have to make a double batch! Appreciate the links to research additional topics which you include in the article.


Susan August 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I made these today, or a variation of them, and they are delicious. I could not get puffed amaranth, so I used puffed millet, and a combination of almonds and pistachio nuts. But my husband and my toddler and I love them. When I can find puffed amaranth, I plan to try that variation as well!


Adriana from Baking Powders August 5, 2010 at 8:14 am

i love this! i just recently started playing around with grains that are new for me and i’m loving it so far! i didn’t have much of an idea what to do with amaranth and now i know!


Megan August 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

What a yummy-looking dessert! Can’t wait to try this. I am growing amaranth for the first time this year and looking for things to do with it. (Now if I can just figure out when the grain is ready to thresh!)


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