Amaranth and teff

Amaranth and teff are two additional rising stars in the world of ancient grains. Both cook in a similar fashion to porridge. They are increasingly used in hot cereal and polenta-style dishes.

Teff is a gluten-free grain best known for being high in calcium and fiber. It has a sweet, nutty, molasses-like flavor.

“Teff has a beautiful aroma with hints of coconut and cocoa,” Ms. Speck said.

Amaranth, technically a seed, also has a nutty flavor but is earthier with spicy, peppery notes. The raw, toasted seeds of both may be sprinkled into breads, muffins and other baked goods.

Earnest Eats, Solana Beach, Calif., offers a Hot & Fit Superfood Cereal. The hot cereal blends amaranth and quinoa with oats, to provide more protein, fiber, flavor and texture than oats alone.

“Uncooked amaranth is added as an inclusion for visual appeal, texture and nutrition to bars, chips, tortillas, bread and multigrain side dishes,” Ms. Brovelli said. “Amaranth’s flavor profile is somewhat changed through sprouting. Sprouted amaranth is an option for product developers for less bitterness and a more balanced flavor profile.”

When amaranth cooks it has a sticky, gelatinous texture, which lends itself to function as a thickener in such viscous foods as soups and sauces. Its peppery profile adds flavor dimension.

“Soups are probably one of the easiest culinary applications for ancient grains,” said Nicholas Ahrens, product applications technologist and chef at Bay State Milling. “Sprouted amaranth and quinoa pair perfectly with a Latin posole. Ancient grains can be toasted prior to being added into the soup to bring out an extra nutty flavor.

“Rice side dishes are easily converted to flavorful and nutritious pilafs by the simple addition of an ancient grain blend.”

Flatbreads and pizza crusts make sense for ancient grains, too. Smart Flour Foods, Austin, Texas, a manufacturer of ancient-grain based frozen pizzas, is introducing frozen Snack Bites, which are made with the company’s proprietary flour blend of sorghum, amaranth and teff.

Chef George Pagonis of Kapnos in Washington, D.C., said many ancient grains complement Greek and Mediterranean dishes.

“My most pronounced use of grains is with a spit roasted lamb shoulder that is served with grain salad,” he said. “It consists of toasted quinoa, couscous, bulgur and wild rice. Every grain is cooked separately in flavorful bouillon, then mixed together. All the grains are mixed in with cucumbers, red onion, mint, dill, parsley and sumac. Puffed amaranth is used on top for texture.”

Plant-forward ingredients

Ancient grains are being explored as a source of plant protein for vegan foods and better-for-you snacks. Austin, Texas-based NurturMe, a company known for its quinoa baby food and toddler snacks, is rolling out the first and only organic ancient grain-based cookies with probiotics. Free from gluten, dairy, soy and egg, the cookies combine quinoa, amaranth, millet and sorghum to deliver a complete and balanced protein with all essential amino acids and immune-boosting antioxidants.

NurturMe ancient grain cookies
NurturMe is rolling out the first and only organic ancient grain-based cookies with probiotics.

“Increased consumer interest in food from mission-based restaurants, millennial values, animal welfare and a desire to be part of a ‘food tribe’ are also fueling growth for sustainable and plant-based ingredients like ancient grains,” said Jane Dummer, a registered dietitian based in Ontario, Canada, and author of “The need for seeds.”

“We know vegetarian and flexitarian dietary patterns are continuing to trend. This is driving the popularity of nutrient-dense ancient grains.”

“Culinary professionals will continue to be plant focused,” concluded Ms. Dummer. “The preference for whole, simple, alternative protein and transparent ingredients will drive continued growth for ancient grains on both restaurant menus and at home.”