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.

March 2021


Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Recipe Summary

1 hr 40 mins
50 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • 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.  

  • 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. 

  • 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.  

  • 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.  

  • 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