Café de Olla Alegría

Amaranth is a powerhouse of nutrition and flavor: It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.This take on alegría, a traditional Mexican candy made from puffed amaranth seeds, features the flavors of café de olla, a Mexican style of coffee brewed with cinnamon and orange peel and sweetened with piloncillo, a raw brown sugar with rich molasses flavor. Here, maple syrup and granulated sugar stand in for piloncillo, adding a rich chewiness. The pan is hot enough to pop the amaranth when a few drops of water evaporate on contact.

Cafe de Olla Allegria
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
Active Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 40 mins


  • ½ cup uncooked amaranth (3 1/2 ounces)

  • 1 cup unsalted roasted pepitas

  • Cooking spray

  • .666 cup pure maple syrup

  • .666 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon hot water

  • 1 (3- x 1-inch) orange peel strip, plus orange zest for garnish

  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice


  1. Heat a long-handled, lidded medium saucepan over medium. Add about 1½ teaspoons amaranth to pan; immediately cover with lid. (Amaranth should start popping as soon as pan is covered.) Lift pan slightly off heat; shake until popping stops, 15 to 30 seconds. Quickly remove lid, and transfer popped amaranth to a large bowl. (Not all grains may be popped.) Reheat empty saucepan over medium for about 20 seconds, and repeat process until all amaranth is popped.

  2. Add pepitas to bowl with amaranth, and toss to combine; set aside. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray, and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Cut an additional piece of parchment paper to cover candy; set aside.

  3. Carefully wipe saucepan clean; add maple syrup, sugar, sesame oil, and salt. Heat over low, swirling pan often, until sugar dissolves, 8 to 10 minutes. (Do not let mixture boil.) Meanwhile, combine espresso powder and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon hot water.

  4. Once sugar has dissolved, turn off heat. Whisk in espresso mixture, and add orange peel. Return heat to medium; bring mixture to a boil. Boil, undisturbed, until an instant-read thermometer registers 245°F, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; discard orange peel. Whisk in orange juice. Working quickly, add syrup to bowl with amaranth mixture; stir to coat evenly. Transfer mixture to prepared pan, and spread in an even layer using a silicone spatula. Place reserved piece of parchment paper over candy. Using a large dry measuring cup, press firmly to compact the candy in a solid, even layer.

  5. Remove top piece of parchment paper; let candy stand at room temperature until mostly cooled, about 20 minutes. Using parchment paper as handles, lift candy from pan. Cut into 64 (1-inch) squares, and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Just before serving, garnish with orange zest.

Make ahead

Candy may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.


Look for Bob's Red Mill amaranth, available at health food and specialty stores and at

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