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 staple for vegans, vegetarians or those eating a high raw diet because its lower carbohydrate ratio and higher protein content.
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.
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.
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.
A cooked quinoa recipe is of course best when using the proper grain to water ratios.
In the past, we have found that many Westerners commonly under-cooked the grain using only a 1:1 proportion. This is not, however, the type of quinoa we typically enjoy as it produces 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.
Another key to making quinoa, as with preparing other grains, is allow
it to steam on low heat without removing the lid or stirring the grain. Letting it sit with the lid on for about 5 minutes have you turn off the flame also helps.
1) Briefly rinse and/or soak your grain.
2) Use the correct grain to water ratio.
3) Simmer 20-25 minutes or until all the water is gone when you tilt the pot.
4) Always let it sit with the lid on for 5-10 minutes after the cooking time.
When we cook grains and legumes we like to use preparation techniques that help to remove antinutrients and improve their digestibility. This usually involves a soaking and rinsing process before we turn on the heat.
Soaking and straining the grains for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking them works the best from our experience. Longer soaking times seem to change the texture quite a bit when cooked and is really unnecessary as the seeds are relatively small.
Quinoa naturally has a saponin coating on the outside of the seed which has a tendency to cause gastrointestinal upset for certain individuals. It also has a soapy bitter quality.
Although most commercial quinoa suppliers commonly remove most of the saponin coating, it is sometimes beneficial to rinse any residual saponin content that may still be present.
This can be done by briefly rinsing the grain or is also achieved if you follow soaking procedures.
In addition, we have noticed that sometimes bulk quinoa grains tend to have clogs of dirt or tiny rocks mixed in it, so it is good to try to rinse and remove them before use.
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 1C water you will get "goopy."
If you use over 3C water to 1C dry quinoa you will get "mushy."
In our recipe below well show you how to get it "just right."
The best cooked quinoa recipe produces a light and fluffy texture.
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.
Although we highly recommend soaking your quinoa, we also understand that sometimes this is not always possible. We have successfully made a quinoa recipe many times without soaking or rinsing it first. It has a slightly bitter flavor and may be harder to digest for some people, but it can be done and still tastes pretty good.
This method requires a different water to quinoa ratio of:
1C quinoa to 2 1/2C water
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.
It is always best to combine enzyme-rich raw foods and ferments when eating vegan cooked foods to help digest them. In this case we use sprouts, raw veggies, sauerkraut as well as homemade miso paste.
This is a refreshing sushi quinoa recipe to enjoy as a main meal on a hot summer day.
1t toasted sesame seed oil
1t grated ginger
1 clove pressed garlic
1t dulse flakes
Add more water if necessary
Quinoa also makes a lovely cold salad ingredient with chopped raw veggies, marinated in a dressing. (See our Mediterranean quinoa salad for ideas.)
Because most quinoa is imported it tends to be a bit more expensive than other grains at a little over $3 a pound in the U.S. However, when you think about it, 1 pound of quinoa can yield about 16 cups of cooked grain. There are 4 cups of dry quinoa in a pound and one cup of quinoa produces about 4 cups cooked grain.
We personally always buy quinoa in bulk quantities to save money. A 25 pound bag usually costs about 10-15% less depending on your supplier. It is important to buy organic, non-GMO grains from reputable, fair-trade sources.