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Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a type of edible seed initially cultivated in South America. Dubbed the “mother grain” by the Inca, quinoa has been the staple in the diet of people in the Andes for thousands of years. Today, eating quinoa is viewed as a gluten-free and healthier alternative to white rice, brown rice, pasta, and other grains, and you can find quinoa in almost any grocery store.
With a nutty flavor and fluffy texture, this seed that acts like a whole grain can be prepared in multiple ways. Whether you simply drizzle it with some olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt and black pepper, or add a splash of lemon juice, quinoa is a versatile addition to almost any meal. Read on to discover what types of quinoa there are, the method for cooking it, and what you can eat quinoa with.
Quinoa grows in many different colors, but white, red, and black quinoa are the most commonly harvested for consumption.
White quinoa, the most common variety, takes the shortest amount of time to cook. Of the three types, it has the least crunchy texture and mildest flavor. Red quinoa is a bit stronger in both flavor and crunch while also taking a little longer to cook. Lastly, black quinoa is the most flavorful and crunchiest and requires the longest cooking time.
Though technically a seed, quinoa is classified as whole grain and is a good gluten-free source of fiber and complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own. One cup cooked provides about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
While most store-bought quinoa comes pre-rinsed, you should still rinse quinoa before cooking to remove any of the natural coating, called saponin, left which can leave a bitter taste. Use a fine mesh sieve or rice washer for this step so you don’t lose the quinoa seeds down the drain.
One cup of dry quinoa will yield 3 cups cooked. To prepare quinoa, cover it with water, stock, or vegetable broth in a pot and bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, then put a tight-fitting lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low, bringing the boil to a low simmer. Simmer the quinoa in the pot for about 15 minutes or until it softens. You may also look for the tiny spirals of the germ to appear which is another sign that it’s cooked.
Drain the quinoa with a fine mesh strainer, return it to the warm pot to rest for about 10 minutes, and then fluff it with a fork to separate the grains. Alternatively, you can use your rice cooker with the same ratio of rice to water (1:2 ratio) for the quinoa.
Quinoa can be used in any recipe that calls for rice or another whole grain such as rice meals, salads, pasta recipes, or pilafs. If you keep some cooked quinoa on hand in the fridge or freezer, you are always ready to toss it into any dish for added texture, body, and nutrition.
After cooking quinoa, you may be wondering what different ways you could prepare and serve it. Just like rice and pasta, there are so many unique ways this seed from South America can be eaten.
Like rice and other whole grains, quinoa absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce or dressing you choose to serve with it, so it can be a wonderful base for anything from risotto, pasta salads, and other such dishes that call for rice or grains as the main ingredient.
If you’ve cooked too much quinoa, don’t worry about having to waste any of these gluten-free grains. You can easily store extra quinoa in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
A gluten-free source of complete protein and a versatile alternative to rice and other whole grains, cooking quinoa is simple, hassle-free, and nutritious addition to anyone’s diet. We also love how quinoa recipes are so easy to make, and we’re sure you will too.