Do you enjoy quinoa, but are looking for some new ideas on how to flavor it, or what to do with it? I have answers! Below is a comprehensive article all about quinoa, from what it is and its health benefits, to how to select, store and prepare it, as well as serving ideas and tips, along with what goes well with quinoa. I even have some suggested recipe links to help you in your quest to find that perfect quinoa dish!
Quinoa 101 – The Basics
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is typically used as a grain, but it is actually a seed in the same family as beets, chard, and spinach. It is not a member of the grass family of plants, as are grains. Quinoa has been enjoyed as a staple food for thousands of years beginning in South America, where it was called “the gold of the Incas.” Still today, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador remain the world’s top producers of this healthful seed.
There are different varieties of quinoa, usually denoted by their color. We see white or ivory quinoa most often in American grocery stores. But it can also be found in various shades of yellow, red and black. The white or ivory variety has the mildest flavor and cooks the fastest. The flavor of red and black quinoa is described as stronger and more earthy. Nevertheless, all varieties of quinoa have a nut-like flavor. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free is rated as being low in allergenic properties.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Quinoa
For its size, this tiny seed offers a lot of nutrients. It supplies a lot of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, folate, fiber (both soluble and insoluble), and zinc. It also has small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and more monounsaturated fats than cereal grains. A three-fourth cup serving has 222 calories and 8 grams of high-quality protein (16% Daily Value). Its high fiber and protein content work together to qualify quinoa as a low-glycemic index food.
Furthermore, quinoa is also high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, giving this seed even more healthful benefits in the prevention and treatment of disease.
How to Select Quinoa
When buying quinoa, be sure there are no rips in the bag or box. Also look for signs of moisture or insects and avoid any such packages.
How to Store Quinoa
Quinoa will last for several months when kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If kept in the refrigerator or freezer, uncooked quinoa will keep for 2 to 3 years. Cooked quinoa will keep well in the freezer for up to a year.
Once quinoa is cooked, store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use leftovers within a few days. If you won’t be able to eat it that quickly, place your container in the freezer.
How to Prepare Quinoa
Quinoa seed is covered with saponin, a type of phytonutrient that is actually a protective coating developed by the plant. Although it may have some positive health properties, saponin has a soap-like flavor. Most quinoa on the market has already been rinsed at the processing plant to remove some of this coating. However, because of this objectionable taste, most people opt to further rinse their quinoa well before cooking. To remove any remaining saponin, place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it very well with fresh water as you gently rub the seeds. Drain well.
To cook quinoa, place 1 part seeds to 1-1/2 to 2 parts water in a saucepan. (Use the lesser amount of water if you want your quinoa to be less mushy.) Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and cover the pan. It usually takes about 15 minutes to cook. When done, the seeds will become somewhat translucent and the germ will partially release, forming a little white spiraled tail around the seed. Fluff the cooked seed with a fork before serving.
For a nuttier flavor, dry roast your quinoa first. Place the seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Stir constantly for 5 minutes, then cook as directed. Some people will add oil to the frying pan to add extra flavor and texture to their quinoa before cooking it.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Quinoa
* Serve cooked quinoa as a breakfast porridge by adding nuts, fruits, and milk of choice. Sweeten as desired.
* Use quinoa in place of pasta with your favorite pasta or noodle recipe.
* Add quinoa to vegetable soup.
* Add a little ground quinoa flour to cookie or muffin recipes for a protein boost.
* If you enjoy tabbouleh, but must eat gluten-free, substitute cooked quinoa for the bulgur wheat in your favorite recipe.
* To flavor your quinoa, add some herbs or spices to the pot when cooking it. Try a bay leaf, garlic, salt and pepper, or other seasonings of your choice. Some people add thyme to quinoa while it is cooking.
* Try cooking quinoa in broth of your choice rather than plain water. This will add flavor to your cooked quinoa and may add a lot of flavor to the dish you’ll be using it in.
* Add a little flavored oil to your quinoa as it starts to cook. Sesame oil, walnut oil, or coconut oil would all add distinct flavors to your cooked quinoa.
* Top quinoa with your favorite sauce. Alfredo, marinara, pesto, or cheese sauce are some options. Use your imagination!
* Try adding tomato, avocado and lime for a Southwest flavored quinoa.
* Make an interesting succotash by combining quinoa with summer squash, bell peppers, and corn.
* Quinoa soaks up and retains a lot of water. Drain off any extra water after it has cooked to prevent it from becoming soggy.
* Add quinoa to burger patties, whether they are meat or meatless.
* Add quinoa to chili while it’s cooking.
* “Warm up” your cooked quinoa by adding some cilantro and roasted poblano peppers for some heat. Add this to veggies for a quinoa bowl.
* Make quinoa into a pudding by cooking it slowly in the milk of your choice. Add sweetener and fruit, as desired.
Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Quinoa
Basil, cilantro, cumin, garlic, mint, oregano, parsley, salt
Foods That Go Well with Quinoa
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (in general), beef, chicken, eggs, nuts (in general), shrimp, turkey
Vegetables: Arugula, beets, bell peppers, carrots, celery, chard, chiles, chives, cucumbers, endive, greens (i.e. beet, collard), kale, mushrooms, onions, scallions, spinach, squash (winter), tomatoes, zucchini
Fruits: Avocados, citrus fruits, dried fruit, pineapple, pomegranate seeds
Grains and Grain Products: Corn, grains (in general, esp. those with mild flavors)
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Almond milk, cheese (esp. feta), yogurt
Other Foods: Oil (esp. olive), stock (i.e. mushroom, vegetable), vinegar
Quinoa has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e. breads, muffins), cereals (hot breakfast), Mexican cuisine, pilafs, salads (grain, green), soups, South American cuisines, stews, stuffed vegetables, stuffings, sushi, tabbouleh, veggie burgers
Suggested Flavor Combos Using Quinoa
Add quinoa to any of the following combinations…
Almond milk + cinnamon + nuts
Bell peppers + carrots + parsley + rice vinegar + sesame oil/seeds
Black beans + cumin
Black beans + mango
Cashews + pineapple
Cucumbers + feta cheese + parsley + tomatoes
Cucumbers + lemon + mint + parsley
Dill + lemon juice + zucchini
Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette https://damndelicious.net/2013/03/25/kale-salad-with-meyer-lemon-vinaigrette/
Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers https://damndelicious.net/2013/06/03/quinoa-stuffed-bell-peppers/
Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa https://damndelicious.net/2013/09/13/blueberry-breakfast-quinoa/
Roasted Shrimp Quinoa Spring Rolls https://damndelicious.net/2012/11/14/roasted-shrimp-quinoa-spring-rolls/
Garlic Mushroom Quinoa https://damndelicious.net/2014/05/02/garlic-mushroom-quinoa/
Strawberry Quinoa Salad https://damndelicious.net/2014/01/28/strawberry-quinoa-salad/
50 Creative Ways to Eat Quinoa: Healthy Quinoa Recipes https://greatist.com/eat/creative-ways-to-eat-quinoa#1
Healthy Quinoa Recipes https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/photos/healthy-quinoa-recipes
10 Easy Quinoa Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/easy-quinoa-recipes/
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.