Quinoa is a fast rising star in the health food world because of its impressive nutritional profile, versatility, delicious taste and because it’s naturally gluten free (read more on that below).
First fact first: Quinoa is pronounced keen-wah. Here I am going around pronouncing quin-oah, thinking I’m so clever for knowing what it is, when in fact I sound like an idiot. Now you don’t have to make the same mistake. You’re welcome.
Quinoa is a seed having an identity crisis as a pseudo-grain and pseudo-cereal, as it looks much like a whole grain and is used in the same way. It has been harvested in South America for over 5000 years, lovingly nicknamed “the gold of the Incas”. It has a soft texture, with a pleasant, slightly nutty flavor.
The most interesting fact about quinoa is just how nutrient dense it is. It is one of only a few plant-based complete proteins, providing all 9 essential amino acids, including high levels of both lysine and isoleucine. It is also a great source of healthy fats, including oleic acid and omega-3.
It is also rich in antioxidant phytonutrients, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, folate, phosphorus and calcium. Pretty impressive.
I’ve got a lot of quinoa recipes coming up so I wanted to do a post dedicated just to selecting, cooking, using quinoa, and to answer all your questions about this superfood. Yes, there is a wrong way to cook quinoa as it can turn out mushy, bitter or soapy. But once you have cooked it properly once you’ll discover its easy. It’s all about rinsing the quinoa, getting the water to quinoa ratio right and cooking it for the right amount of time.
Quinoa comes in white, red and black varieties, with the white quinoa being the most common and popular.
Make a big batch of this over the weekend to use in salads, with stir-frys and curries, and in place of rice and pasta throughout the week.
How to Cook
A 1:2 ration of quinoa to water. For every 1 cup of quinoa cook with 2 cups of water (or stock).
1 cup of dry quinoa yields approx. 3 cups cooked quinoa.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water (or broth)
- In a fine mesh colander, rinse quinoa under water thoroughly using your hands to rub and separate, until the water runs clear (about 1-2 minutes).
- Add rinsed quinoa and water to a small-medium pot over medium heat, put lid on and cook for 15 minutes (including boiling time) until all liquid is gone. One liquid is boiling you can turn down the heat to a simmer.
- Turn off heat and remove pot from heat, and leave undisturbed for 15 minutes.
- Remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.
Add any flavourings you want, try: salt or pepper, fresh or dried herbs, smashed garlic, chopped onion etc.
Is Quinoa Gluten Free?
Yes, quinoa is naturally gluten free. However, if you are celiac be sure to get in touch with the manufacturer to make sure it is processed in a gluten free facility. I have had a celiac reaction from some quinoa I bought at a local health food shop, so always check. I have read that some celiacs say they can’t eat quinoa, which may be true or it could have been the brand of quinoa they tried was contaminated.
Where do I Buy Quinoa?
Any health food store and even most supermarkets will have quinoa these days. If you care about where the quinoa was grown, who grew it and your food miles, try buying quinoa that was grown as locally as possible. If you know of somewhere selling quinoa grown locally to you, please send me the information and I will add it to this list.
Organic quinoa grown in Australia - I contacted Honest to Goodness to see if their quinoa was completely gluten free and here is their response:
I have confirmed with our supplier that they have separate machinery for the gluten free grains they process, even in separate buildings for some. Hence the product is totally gluten free yes.
Why do I Have to Rinse Quinoa?
Rinsing quinoa removes the bitter and soapy tasting natural coating called saponin.