The quinoa recipe we share further down on this page is, in our opinion, one of the best ways to cook this alkaline, protein-rich food. There are a few tricks to preparing it that considerably increase its flavor, texture as well as its digestibility.
It is a gluten-free grain, or actually a seed, and nutrient-rich fuel source offering greater health components over other varieties of grain. Quinoa is one of the few cooked grains, along with millet and wild rice, that we actually eat on a pretty regular basis.
It works really well as a cooked whole food adjunct for vegans, vegetarians or those eating a high raw diet because it is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein compared to rice, wheat or barley.
It also has become fairly well known in recent years, gaining popularity among a more mainstream audience for its numerous health benefits. Its not just found in health food stores anymore. Quinoa is widely available at many large chain supermarkets across the U.S. and Canada.
In fact, the demand for quinoa actually produced a short-term shortage of the supergrain not too long ago.
If you are going to eat cooked grains this is one of our top recommended choices for a number of reasons.
What does quinoa taste like?
A good quinoa recipe, made the right way, has a pleasantly nutty buttery flavor with a delicate, light and fluffy, yet firm, pasta-like texture.
We have been eating quinoa for over 20 years as a staple food, enjoying
it as a replacement for cooked rice and pasta. Being a gluten-free
grain, it is lighter, less mucous forming than other grain varieties and
usually well tolerated and digested for those with allergic
Gluten allergies, both mild to extreme cases (celiac disease), can cause abnormal immune response and damage the lining of the small intestine causing mal-absorption and a host of related problems including diarrhea, skin eruptions, anemia and general fatigue. You don't have to worry about all this with quinoa as it contains no gluten.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) became especially popular in the mid nineties after the "The Body Ecology Diet" was published. In the book, Donna Gates advocates the use of it, as well as other alkaline-forming grains, to combat the effects of candida overgrowth. Alkaline based foods tend to create a more balanced body pH which is helpful for a healthy intestinal environment. Quinoa is also a prebiotic that supports the health and continued growth of the good bacteria in your colon.
Quinoa has a high quantity of protein for a grain with exceptional amounts of lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids, which are typically low in other grains, according to a PubMed study. It is also a complete protein source offering all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks for muscle tissue.
As far as its carbohydrates to protein ratio, quinoa is the best choice among other varieties. Wheat grains are high in carbs and high in protein, but not usually digested optimally and even less so when used as a flour in bread and baked goods.
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is an ancient grain from South America and was a major food source of the Incan civilization. Native to the Andean locations of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, it was successfully domesticated close to 4,000 years ago for human consumption.
Quinoa is still a popular cooked grain in these regions and is also used in a well known sweet and spiced fermented drink, called Chicha.
The plant is related to spinach and wild lambs quarter. It is similar to the amaranth seed, but larger in size and actually looks like the red flowering amaranth plants that are a common landscape flower.
Different colored quinoa's are available, mostly red, white and black varieties. We prefer the texture of white grain as opposed to red, but sometimes it is nice to switch it up in a quinoa recipe. The pic to the left is a red quinoa and is a little different in taste and texture compared to the white variety.
Because it grows best in cooler climates at higher elevations, most quinoa is imported from South America, but it has also been cultivated on a small scale in the U.S. Colorado mountains since the early 80's.
Quinoa is a cool weather crop that can also be planted in Northern hemispheres that don't exceed temperatures of 90 degrees F (32C). You can grow your own quinoa by sowing the grain seeds directly into soil that is about 60 degrees F (15C).
It can reach a height of 6 feet or more with each plant head producing an average of over 6 ounces of grain. The young green leaves, that look like the wild lambs quarter green, are edible and can be used in salads or steamed. When the leaves fall off the stalk, you can hand harvest the seeds.
Most basic quinoa recipes produce an end result that is very different than the quinoa we love and enjoy. Most standard recipes taste "under cooked" and yield a goopy texture with crunchy seeds that are not completely cooked nor appetizing to the palette.
Many people find it hard to digest quinoa prepared in this way, which often involves stomach upset and possible intestinal cramping.
The quinoa we make has a perfectly fluffy texture that is easily digested and is not bitter or mushy tasting.
When we cook our food we like to use preparation techniques that help to improve the nutritional quality of our cooked ingredients. This usually involves soaking and rinsing our grains and legumes before we use them.
It is necessary to soak and rinse quinoa to remove the bitter astringent saponins (on the outside of the seed) and phytic acid that has a tendency to cause gastrointestinal upset. This can be done by soaking the grains for at least 3 hours before use.
Some say that it is best to soak quinoa overnight to achieve greater removal of these digestive inhibitors, but we don't find that this is completely necessary. Three hours of soaking at a room temperature of 68 degrees F seems to do the trick. Plus, longer soaking times seem to change the texture quite a bit when cooked.
It is important not to under-cook or over-cook your quinoa recipe. Its a bit like "Goldiocks and the Three Bears"... under-cooked is goopy and over-cooked is mushy and neither one are very appealing.
If you use 1C dry quinoa to 2 cups water you will get "goopy."
If you use over 2 cups water to 1C soaked quinoa you will get "mushy."
In our recipe below well show you how to get it "just right."
The best kind of quinoa recipe, as we mentioned, is one that is light and fluffy as opposed to goopy with bits of uncooked crunchiness.
In this recipe you will be steaming the quinoa to the point where the seeds pop open completely into firm, off-white, rounded little balls with whiter pieces of the curled germ falling off of them.
Most people traditionally use 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water without soaking it first. This, in our opinion, produces a bad tasting end result because it doesn't have enough water to completely cook and open the seeds.
This is one of our favorite ways to use quinoa in a recipe, beside just eating it straight with a little olive oil and sea salt.
For this recipe you will need to make a pot of cooked quinoa and let it cool before you make your sushi.
This is a refreshing sushi quinoa recipe to enjoy as a main meal on a hot summer day.
Quinoa also makes a lovely cold salad ingredient with chopped raw veggies, marinated in a dressing.