Although the widespread use of quinoa started just recently, history shows that this alternative to grains had been utilized for a long time. The first instance of cultivation was recorded over 5,000 years ago, and the Incas even dubbed quinoa “the mother of all grains.”1
While most people consider quinoa a grain because of its appearance, it’s actually a seed. As the Oldways Whole Grain Council highlights:2
“Quinoa … is in fact not technically a cereal grain at all, but is instead what we call a ‘pseudo-cereal’ — our name for foods that are cooked and eaten like grains and have a similar nutrient profile. Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains.”
Despite this slight bit of confusion, there’s something you can be certain about: Quinoa is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that can greatly improve your health. Here are useful tips you should remember when adding this wonder food to your diet.
How to Cook Quinoa Correctly
Quinoa possesses a mild, nutty flavor and a chewy texture that works well with a variety of flavors, and can be served either hot or cold. It’s often added to salads, soups, stews or breakfast porridges, but it can also be served as a healthy side dish.
You can also use quinoa or quinoa flour to substitute grains and grain flours in recipes. You only need 15 minutes to prepare it, either on the stovetop or using a rice cooker3 or slow cooker.4 Learn the basics of cooking quinoa with this recipe:5
How to Cook Quinoa: Simple Recipes You Can Try
Serving Size: 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
- 2 cups water or broth
- Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (15-20 minutes).
- Remove from heat and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, then uncover and fluff quinoa using a fork.
You can also try oven-roasting or toasting it, since this enhances the natural nutty flavor of the quinoa, providing your dishes with that extra “oomph:”6,7
How to Oven-Roast Quinoa
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly using a fine-mesh sieve.
- Place the quinoa in a shallow baking dish in a single layer.
- Roast the quinoa in the oven for around five to eight minutes, shaking the pan a bit halfway through for even cooking.
- Remove from the oven once the quinoa has a strong nutty fragrance and a golden color.
- Then proceed with how to cook basic quinoa procedure listed above.
How to Toast Quinoa
- Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat. Generally, you will need 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for every 1½ cups of quinoa.
- Add the quinoa to the skillet.
- Stir it constantly for around six to eight minutes to prevent the quinoa from burning. You’ll know it’s ready once it turns golden.
- Then proceed with how to cook basic quinoa procedure listed above.
Tips in Buying and Storing Quinoa
Prepackaged white, red or black quinoa varieties are widely available in most grocery stores and websites nowadays.8 You can also buy quinoa in health stores, where it’s cheaper and available in bulk. Just make sure to thoroughly inspect the quinoa first, since sometimes the suppliers fail to sort it properly and tiny rocks might be mixed with the seeds.9
If you know a local farmer or a trusted seller who grows his or her own quinoa, consider buying from them. Ideally your quinoa should be organic to ensure that it wasn’t sprayed with pesticides in the growing process. Here are additional tips you should keep in mind:
- When buying prepacked quinoa, ensure that there is no moisture in the package. Avoid purchasing unwashed varieties — pre-washed quinoa is easier and safer to cook.10
- Store quinoa in an airtight container, or in the refrigerator, where it can last for around three to six months.11
- Before cooking, wash the quinoa with cold water and gently rub the seeds together.12 This helps remove the saponin, a bitter and protective coating.13
- If you’re looking to expand on this dish by dressing it up with additional ingredients, you’ll want to drain the seeds after cooking by using a fine-mesh strainer. The seeds tend to hold a lot of water, and not draining them after cooking could turn your dish a watery mess.14
- Here’s a secret that’ll help quinoa retain its ideal texture: After draining the water, return the quinoa into the pot you cooked it in, cover and let it sit for 15 minutes. This dries the quinoa out and prevents it from becoming clumpy or wet.15
Quinoa Recipes You Can Try at Home
If you’re unsure of how to prepare quinoa, look no further than this easy and flavorful Quinoa Salad With Mixed Veggies Recipe from my book “Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type.” This salad combines the full flavors of the fresh crisp vegetables and tangy and slightly creamy dressing.
Meanwhile, here’s a unique quinoa recipe that will please you and your family’s taste buds — the Healthy Quinoa Pie Recipe by Elisha McFarland. While some might think that using quinoa in a pie is unheard of, this might make you take a second look.
Quinoa’s Health Benefits Are Quite Outstanding
Quinoa’s benefits contribute so much to its popularity. For starters, quinoa is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids that the body requires. It also contains 12 grams of protein per cup — that’s 25 percent more protein compared to other refined grains.16
Meanwhile, these seeds are abundant in two amino acids, isoleucine and lysine. The latter is vital for boosting immune system health and muscle repair, and has the potential to lessen anxiety.14
You can also get high amounts of fatty acids from quinoa. Around 30 percent of its fatty acids is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid also found in olive oil, while 5 percent is alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a beneficial plant-based omega-3.18
Quinoa is an excellent storehouse of phytonutrients, especially ferulic, coumaric, hydroxybenzoic and vanilic acid, as well as antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin helps inhibit histamine release, while kaempferol helps combat cancer and reduce your risk for chronic diseases.
These seeds also have antioxidant flavonoids that aid in lowering the risk of death from heart disease19 and phenolic acids that deliver anti-inflammatory capabilities.
Quinoa is also gluten-free, so people following a gluten-free diet or have celiac disease will benefit from it. These seeds are nutritionally dense and help your body combat the potential side effects of gluten sensitivity. Lastly, quinoa contains important nutrients like:20
Sources and References
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