Some of the happiest memories from my childhood are surrounded by Mexican sweets. My all time favourites were Alegrias – Alegría means joy- and I love the crunchy and fluffy texture.
Alegrías are one of the most popular sweets in Mexico, and are traditionally made with popped amaranth seeds mixed with honey or molasses. Amaranth is one of the oldest crops to be cultivated in Mesoamerica, dating back to 10,000 years ago and was a staple food used by the Aztec, Mayan and Inca civilizations.
Nowadays, amaranth and Alegrías in Mexico are mainly produced by indigenous communities using traditional methods of preparation, selling their products in the streets or through local businesses.
Amaranth seeds have great nutritional properties, rich in aminoacids like lysine, vitamins and minerals and high in protein, with some studies finding amaranth among the most nutritious plant-based proteins.
These fully plant-based Alegrías are sweet, nutritious and are perfect as a pre-workout energy snack or simply as a treat. I normally use hazelnuts for my Alegrias because they are a local nut in Ireland, however, it is possible to use walnuts or even almonds instead.
- 2 1/2 cups popped Amaranth seeds
- 1 cup of hazelnuts
- 1/4 ground flaxseeds
- 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 1 cup pitted dates or dried figs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (or an extra 1/2 cup dates)
- Heat a small pan or casserole over medium-high heat.
- After 2 minutes add 1 tbsp of amaranth seeds to the casserole, and cover with a lid. The seeds should start popping within seconds. Shake the casserole occasionally. Leave seeds for 30 seconds or until most seeds have popped.
- Transfer to a large bowl and repeat the process with the remaining amaranth 1 or 2 tbsp at a time.
- In a food processor, add the hazelnuts, ground flax and sunflower seeds and pulse until obtaining fine chunks. Transfer to the amaranth bowl and mix.
- Next, place dates in the food processor and pulse until obtaining fine chunks. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and pulse again for a few seconds to obtain a sticky paste.
- Transfer the date paste to the amaranth bowl and mix with a fork. Using humid hands, take a small portion of the mixture (about two tbsp) and shape it into golf ball-sized balls.
- Put in the fridge for 15 minutes to allow them to firm up and then they are ready to enjoy !