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Kaniwa, Wilted Spinach & Edamame Salad

From Quinoa to Kaniwe

Oh, those quirky ancient grains, just when you finally figure out how to pronounce quinoa unselfconsciously, everyone starts insisting they prefer kaniwa instead.

This salad definitely works equally well with quinoa, but if you dislike the soapy taste that some people complain of with quinoa* you’ll prefer the more mellow, slightly sweeter taste of kaniwa.

A quick primer in case you’re unfamiliar with kaniwa: It’s pronounced kan-ee-wah (not to be confused with Kanye). It’s also a seed, not a grain and generally grown in South America. Kaniwa is high in protein, fiber, calcium and iron and has a slightly sweeter taste than quinoa, but you can use them interchangeably.

Kaniwa, Wilted Spinach & Edamame Salad

Print Recipe
Serves: 4


  • 3/4 cup of Kaniwa
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 small Persian cucumber (or any cuke you have handy)
  • 1 cup edamame shelled
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1/2 tomato seeded
  • 2 Tbsp. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. sunflower or pumpkin seeds



Bring the water to a rolling boil (or roiling boil, depending on your vocabulary of choice). Add in a pinch of salt.


While water is boiling, rinse kaniwa and pat dry. If desired, toast very gently in a frying pan using a small flame. No need to add any oil or butter. Keep shaking to avoid burning.


When water is boiled, add kaniwa and cook on a small to medium flame for about 15 minutes until it appears as though the seeds are gathering in clumps. Allow to cook thoroughly, the kaniwa should plump up and appear tender when cooked.


While kaniwa is cooking, finely chop the red onion, tomato and cucumber. Toss with olive oil, salt and rice vinegar to taste.


Drain kaniwa carefully, since each seed is really teeny and can slide through traditional colanders. Like quinoa, you may notice some separation of what appears to be the seed and a coil.


Here's a super easy way to wilt the spinach. Place spinach at the bottom of what you plan on using as your serving dish in as close to a single layer as possible. Place still warm kaniwa on top and allow the heat to steam/wilt the spinach. Toss every now and again for even distribution or until spinach looks suitably wilted.


Add edamame, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and toss.


I make a lot of different variations of this salad- feel free to substitute quinoa or add anything from celery to cashews, pumpkin seeds or dried cherries. Tiny cubes of feta cheese are great for a non-vegan variety. Season to taste- if you like things more intense, up the vinegar. More mellow- add more olive oil. Add black pepper or a squeeze of lime if desired.

Want to talk about soapy tasting ancient grains or anything else food related? Use the handy dandy contact form below to start a conversation:

*Quinoa contains saponins which can cause the bitter or soapy flavor some people complain about – similar to a bitter flavor some people experience with coriander or cilantro. Rinsing quinoa before cooking generally gets rid of the yucky taste.

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