Easy vegan, gluten-free popped amaranth energy bars are Central American treats that are ideal for snacking, dessert, or athlete fueling! The tiny amaranth seeds are popped like popcorn for crispy, protein-packed bars.
Happy Thursday, everybody! I hope this post finds you happy and well, wherever you are planted. It is absolutely gorgeous weather here –more like my native SF Bay Area weather than East Texas. I try to avoid the air conditioner as late in the spring as possible here, but sometimes that has meant mid-March, so the fact that the windows in the house are still open, with sunshine and cool breezes in abundance, is thrilling.
It is also ideal running weather, which is sweet indeed, since I am training for another race: the San FranciscoMarathon on July 23rd. I fly back with Nick & Kevin every summer, to visit family, escape the heat (I heart fog), and soak up some California, so I thought, why not add a marathon? Because I am crazy that way 🙂
And speaking of crazy, I am nutty about these Popped Amaranth Energy Bars.
Amaranth is fantastic athlete training food! It is (a) delicious, (b) versatile, (c) affordable, d) high in protein, and (e) great fuel for runners, including anyone and everyone who spends their days running around doing the millions of things that need to be done. That is definitely each and every one of you.
What is Amaranth?
Amaranth is a crop that was staple in ancient Mesoamerica. The plant produces two edible portions: leaves and tiny grains. Technically, though, amaranth is not a grain. Like its cousin, quinoa, it is classified as a pseudo-cereal. The fact that it is not a grain also means that it is free of gluten.
Amaranth is a super grain, plain and simple. The ancient Aztecs revered it, attributing their stamina and endurance to the tiny seeds, and the praise was justified: amaranth is
- high in protein (almost a complete protein)
- a good source of iron, high in fiber (i.e., it will keep you feeling full)
- naturally gluten-free
- an excellent way to get the carbohydrates your body craves (make that screams for!) while also acquiring multiple micronutrients.
The flavor of amaranth is mild, but when popped, it has a warm, nutty taste.
My popped bars make snacking on amaranth easy and convenient.
Ingredients for Popped Amaranth Energy Bars
The exact amounts of each ingredient are indicated in the recipe card at the end of the post.
I have limited the ingredients to five:
- amaranth grain
- dried fruit (I used cranberries)
- nuts or seeds (pistachios for me)
- the creamy nut or seed butter of your choice (e.g., almond butter, sunflower seed butter, or pepita butter)
- brown rice syrup (honey also works, if you are not vegan; maple syrup is not sticky enough to hold the bars together)
How to Make Vegan Gluten-Free Popped Amaranth Bars
Note that the complete directions are also in the recipe card below.
Step One: Pop the Amaranth
Heat a deep, dry saucepan over high heat until very hot (a drop of water added to pan should bounce across the surface).
Add 1 tablespoon of amaranth to the hot pot. Vigorously shake or stir pan until the seeds pop, about 10-12 seconds (watch closely, the seeds can burn in an instant). Immediately transfer popped amaranth to a large bowl. Repeat. You can make a large amount of popped amaranth and store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Step Two: Prepare a Baking Pan
Step Three: Combine the Dry Ingredients
Ina large mixing bowl, combine the popped amaranth, dried fruit, and nuts or seeds.
Step Four: Make the Binding Syrup
To bind the bars, heat the nut or seed butter of your choice along with the brown rice syrup. Heat it until it is bubbling, then remove it from the heat (it can seize up and dry out if left on the heat for too long). Immediately scrape this mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix away, coating everything.
Stir in the salt and any other optional flavorings.
Step Five: Scrape into Prepared Pan
Next, scrape everything into the prepared pan, distributing the mixture as best you can with a spoon or spatula.
Step Six: Compact the Bars
Use a piece of nonstick parchment paper and place, nonstick side down, onto the mixture. Use your hands to firmly press and compact the mixture into the pan. Press hard! If you have another pan (square, or a small loaf pan), press it into the bars to further compact. This will help the bars stay together.
Step Six: Chill the Bars
After a brief stay in the refrigerator, they are ready to be cut into bars.
Subtly sweet and nutty, these are everything I–and you– want for a quick breakfast or snack on the go.
I made quick work of two of them after my early morning long run this past Saturday (a long drive to Houston for a 2-day little league baseball tournament followed; I needed some spectator endurance). I was happily sated and energized until 1 pm (although I should mention that a large thermos full of coffee was also involved/essential).
Happy fueling, everyone!
How Should I Store the Bars?
Store the bars in an airtight container for 1 week at room temperature, 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.