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Quinoa for Beginners

Posted on May 18th, 2007 by Alison Read 8 Comments - Add Your Own »

Don’t be afraid of quinoa just because you don’t know how to pronounce it! Let’s all say it together: “KEEN-wa”. By george, I think you’ve got it!

Whenever I serve quinoa to guests, people rave about it (which is fun, especially because it is so easy). Most people have never eaten quinoa and certainly would never attempt to make it, which is too bad because quinoa is yummy, healthy and easy to make! It has a light and fluffy texture that makes it a wonderful complement to any main course – try it with dinner instead of rice. My daughter loves it (and it’s funny to hear a 2.5 year old ask “can I have more quinoa please?”)

What is it? Quinoa has been called a “super-grain” because it has more protein than any other grain, and is a complete protein (similar to milk). It is high in iron, magnesium and is a good source of dietary fiber. It is also high in lysine, methionine and cystine and is easy to digest. There is no downside to eating quinoa!

How to cook it? Quinoa cooks like any other grain – you simmer it in liquid until the grain absorbs it. If you buy boxed quinoa you can follow the directions on the box. Some boxes say to rinse it first and some don’t. Quinoa naturally has a bitter coating that needs to be removed before it is edible, but most companies that sell quinoa have already done this so you don’t have to. I recommend mixing the white quinoa with the red quinoa. When cooked, the white quinoa pops and becomes fluffy, while the red maintains a little crunch – it makes for a great texture.

Here is the mix of raw quinoa grains in the pan:quinoaraw.jpg

And here are the grains after cooking (notice how the white grains have “popped”): quinoadone.jpg

And now for the recipe that garners the raves:

  1. Put some olive oil (1 tbs) in a soup pan .
  2. Crush some garlic (1-2 cloves) and cook it in the olive oil for a few minutes.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup white quinoa and 1/2 cup red quinoa in the pan and coat with oil. You can cook the grains in the oil for a few minutes to give it a little toasted flavor, or you don’t have to.
  4. Add 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. This salt ratio (1/2 tsp per cup raw quinoa) is very important, so don’t eyeball it!
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. Use a fork or spoon to fluff the grains. Serves 4 people as a side dish.

Isn’t that easy? Now go make some quinoa and let me know how much you love it!

Read about other great gluten-free grains.

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  1. SO glad you posted this! It’s ironic, because just the other day my husband asked me if I had ever heard of quinoa. “Heard of it? Yes, ” I said. “Pronounce it? No.” Thank you for clearing that up!
    It seems so easy to make, and I’m so excited to try it (that’s a big step for me, since I couldn’t cook one year and three weeks ago!). I couldn’t have asked for a better intro-to-quinoa lesson.
    I do have one question which brought me to a screeching halt–must I use garlic? Can you recommend something else? The California Buzz Lightyear (he picked the name, I didn’t…) is severely allergic to garlic, and that keeps us from trying a lot of new stuff, I’m afraid. This Mama, however, is ready to branch out with a crazy new grain, and would love to keep it safe for the little star commander.

  2. Since I was diagnosed with celiac disease early this year, I have been trying all sorts of different grains. Quinoa is by far my favorite. It is so yummy by itself or in recipes where you would use rice or cous cous. I like to cook it with gluten free broth instead of water for a richer flavor.

  3. Kristin,
    Leave out the garlic. I think the olive oil and salt give it plenty of flavor, or try Jayne’s suggestion of using a broth (although watch out for some broths that may contain garlic).
    Sometimes I make a “quinoa bowl” for my daughter which serves as a whole meal. I mix the cooked quinoa with canned beans (pinto or black), chunks of chicken and cooked carrots. She devours it with a spoon.

  4. Lots of people seem to have trouble finding quinoa so I have put together a list of stores that sell it online, see:

    If anyone knows of other places then please let me know.

  5. I just made some pasta..icall it un-mac n un-cheese for my d.d.
    I used pasta which was made only from corn and quinoa. Boiled til ready.
    In saucepan added earth balance soy free spread, hemp milk, daiya moz cheese. Melted down.then added some cooked chop spinach.
    Tossed with pasta!
    Picky 13 month old finally gets mac n cheese!

  6. Aysha,
    Sounds like an easy recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi Alison,
    I’ve eaten box Quinoa as a cereal and it’s brown in colour and sweet. My spouse cooks me hot cereal every morning or every second morning so he’d could probably take the white guinoa, combine it with the red and we’d eat it as rice.
    The only thing I don’t understand about gluten-free foods (cereals, breads and snack bars) is the natural sugar content which tends to be high.
    Jayne mentioned (2007) gluten-free broth. I didn’t know there was such a product.
    I’ve been celia most of my life, well…since my early 30’s and just got officially diagnosed Dec. of 2009. As soon as I began a gluten-free diet, I started gaining weight. And that’s a good thing!
    Some gluten-free products are made in Canada, the rest…in the U.S. Depends on the store where these products are sold and…the suppliers. I eat bread from Food for Life (Raisin Almond/Rice/Almond.
    Thanks for having this site. :^)

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Alison. I too was diagnosed with alopecia. In October 2011 my head was itching terribly and my hair started to fall out. The doctor told me it was stress, the dermatologist said it was alopecia, but there is no known cure. It was only sites like yours that lead me to a gluten intolerance self-diagnosis. I have been gluten free for 1 month, have changed my shampoo and conditioner to a gluten-free brand and my head has finally stopped itching! YAY!! The minute gluten sneaks into my diet, my head start itching again. I am hoping for a full head of hair by Summer :-) Thanks again for sharing!!

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