Quinoa has quickly become one of the most popular health foods in the world, especially in the US, Canada, and many other countries.
The reasons it’s so popular are plenty: it tastes good, it’s nutritious, it helps you lose weight, you can cook lots of ways with it, and it’s gluten free!
Read on to find out why you should be eating more of this stuff.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is by definition the seed of a plant that is prepared and consumed like a whole grain.
The quinoa plant originated in the Andean region of South America and has been a staple food of the local people for thousands of years.
The ancient Incas referred to it as the “Mother of All Grains”.
It comes in lots of forms, including quinoa flakes, quinoa flour, quinoa grains, or puffed quinoa. There are three popular varieties: white quinoa, black quinoa, and red quinoa (see examples in the picture below).
They all taste about the same, except the red and black have a slightly crunchier texture and the white tends to puff up a little more when cooked.
Quinoa tastes delicious, but it’s the health benefits of quinoa that really makes it a true “superfood”. It is a nutrition powerhouse full of protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial elements.
It’s also full of protein and is one of the few plants that contains all 9 amino acids; so needless to say there is a lot of protein in quinoa. Generally, the quinoa protein amounts come in around 8 grams of protein per cup, which if you compare quinoa vs. brown rice, it contains over 62% more protein per 1 cup serving than brown rice, which is about 5 grams per cup.
The calories in quinoa come in around 222 calories per 1 cup serving. The carbs in quinoa are about 39 grams per serving, which is slightly below brown rice (at 45 grams per serving). The amount of quinoa calories are about the same as brown rice (at 218 calories per serving), but it packs a much more protein-packed punch, and that’s great news in my opinion!
Quinoa’s also high in fiber, manganese, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin E and antioxidants.
Here are the full Quinoa Nutrition Facts:
I’ve been asked before “Is quinoa gluten free?”, and the answer is YES! In addition to all the other quinoa benefits, it’s also a gluten free food, which should make those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity happy(er).
Cooking quinoa is pretty easy, it’s one of my favorite dishes to make because it’s so simple and easy to cook.
Important Tip: Always RINSE IT FIRST in a fine mesh strainer with cool water for about 2 minutes. Rinsing removes quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy. Boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, but it doesn’t hurt to give the seeds an additional rinse at home.
Quinoa Cooking Instructions
To cook quinoa, stir it into boiling water or broth, cover and simmer over low heat until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
For those with a rice cooker, here’s how to cook quinoa in a rice cooker:
- Measure 1 cup of quinoa and place into a fine mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly with cool water for about 2 minutes.
- Dump rinsed quinoa in rice cooker.
- Add 2 cups water.
- Turn on your rice cooker.
That’s it. In about fifteen minutes you’ll have hot fluffy cooked quinoa to play with.
The correct quinoa to water ratio is generally about 1 cup of uncooked quinoa to 2 cups of water or broth.
Quinoa all by itself can be a little bland, so I recommend adding some herbs, spices, or whatever you like to flavor it up a bit. I also like to add in fresh veggies sometimes for extra crunch and nutritional benefits.
There are a lot of healthy quinoa recipes you can make that are also easy to prepare. Because quinoa can be substituted for almost any recipe that calls for rice, the quinoa cooking possibilities are virtually endless.
Easy quinoa recipes tend to make the best quinoa recipes since it’s such a natural and basic ingredient. It pairs especially well with salads.
I’ve provided a few basic quinoa recipe examples to get you started:
This salad is so delicious and easy, you’ll probably find yourself eating it everyday! You can pre-cook the quinoa in large quantities and pre-make the vinaigrette so it’s easy to toss together in less than 5 minutes!
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a side dish
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, gently smashed
- ½ teaspoon honey (optional, you can skip honey by using ½ lemon and ½ orange juice in place of all lemon juice)
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley (optional)
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup chopped cucumber
- 1 tomato sliced into 8 wedges
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 1/3 cup feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped pepperoncinis (optional)
- 1 teaspoon juice from kalamata olive jar (or pepperoncinis if you like spicy)
Add all the vinaigrette ingredients to a mason jar, cover and shake up and set aside. If you don’t have a jar whisk the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Add the quinoa and ½ cup water to a small sauce pan. Add 1 teaspoon of the kalamata olive juice to the quinoa. Move to the stove top and cook on low heat, covered until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. While it cooks make the salad.
In a large bowl combine the cucumber, tomato, onion, pepperoncinis and olives. Once the quinoa has absorbed all the water add it to the salad. Remove the garlic clove from the vinaigrette with a fork, discard and add the vinaigrette to the salad, alternatively you can hold a strainer over the salad and add the dressing while straining out the garlic clove. Toss the dressing and salad until all is covered, move to 2-4 plates and top with feta cheese.
This makes for an amazing side dish, I love it at backyard BBQ’s and have brought it to many potlucks… people love it and gobble it up fast!!
If you can’t find fresh herbs, dried will work, but just use ½ tablespoon as they are much stronger.
Makes 8 servings.
- 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (parsley and cilantro are also good)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large Tupperware container combine all ingredients, cover and give a good shake (shake over your sink just in case) place in the fridge for an hour or overnight until you are ready to serve. You can serve cold or room temperature whatever you prefer. Just put it in a pretty bowl before serving.
Another great side dish, if you like add in some cooked chicken or Carne Asada for a meal! Watch out, once you eat this you will crave it often.
Makes 2 servings
For the Salad:
- 2 hearts of Romaine lettuce chopped
- 2 cups baby spinach chopped
- 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1/2 red onion or 1 shallot chopped
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup black beans (canned is fine) drained and rinsed
- 1 red r yellow bell pepper, chopped
- Handful of fresh cilantro (optional) roughly chopped
For the Dressing:
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- Juice of one orange (hold 1/2 teaspoon back)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
- One garlic clove smashed but still intact
- 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Powder
- 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
Start with the dressing, the longer it marinates the better the flavor. Add all the ingredients in a clean jar or medium bowl. Add the top to the jar and shake well, until everything is incorporated. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve, allow to marinate for one hour, to overnight.
In a large bowl combine the lettuce, spinach, corn, onion, quinoa, beans, bell pepper, and cilantro. Drizzle the salad dressing over the Mexican Caesar Salad and toss together. Divide onto two plates, top with tortilla strips and serve.
These are Blueberry Quinoa Muffins, but you can swap the dried blueberries for ½ cup chocolate chips for Chocolate Chip Quinoa Muffins. You can also swap the blueberries and the vanilla out for ½ cup chopped apples and ½ teaspoon cinnamon for Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Muffins.
Makes 24 muffins
- 1 ½ cup cooked quinoa (about ¾ cup uncooked)
- 2 cups whole wheat flour (or your favorite gluten free flour)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup sugar (raw sugar and coconut sugar are both good options)
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup unsweetened Almond milk
- ½ cup dried blueberries
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 24 muffin cups with olive oil, or coconut oil, and set aside. Should you choose to use muffin liners you will need to spray the insides of them so the muffins won’t stick.
In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, flour, baking soda and sugar. Mix together until the flour and sugar is evenly distributed over the quinoa.
Add in the eggs and whisk to break them up, then add in the Greek yogurt, almond milk, blueberries (hold a few back for the tops) and vanilla. Mix together until just combined, then use a ¼ cup measuring cup to scoop the dough and fill the muffin cups.
Bake for 23-28 minutes until firm to the touch, remove from the oven and let cool in the muffin cups for 10-20 minutes before using a butter knife to help slide them out.
Move extras to a storage bag, they will hold in the fridge for 5 days and in the freezer for a month.
Here are a few more yummy Quinoa Recipes:
- Spinach Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Dijon Dressing
- Blueberry Almond Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
- Quinoa Mac and Cheese
Whether you have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll always be doing your body good by eating more of this stuff. I would love yo hear your feedback and any quinoa recipe ideas in the comments below.