The quinoa recipe we share further down on this page is one of our favorite ways to steam this alternative gluten-free variety. Our basic recipe deviates a bit from most standard grain to water ratios, but in our opinion produces a more fully cooked end result with a much better consistency.
While those new to quinoa might be put off by the undercooked quality that is typically advocated by most online recipes, we feel adding in a bit more water can make a big difference to the palate as well as digestive system.
When cooked quinoa has any "crunchiness", this means it has not been thoroughly steamed. For some people this can cause digestive upset and assimilation issues, as well as make its texture less appealing.
are many different taste preferences and body types, however, so it is good to
experiment with what works best for you as far as flavor and digestibility.
We actually give three alternate ways to make quinoa, so you can pick and choose from any of these options.
Of course, if you're a quinoa making newbie, we recommended our top favorite way we've been making it for over 25 years.
Our first experiences cooking with quinoa began in the early 90's and over time it has become one of the few cooked grains, along with millet and wild rice, that we actually eat on a pretty regular basis.
These days, it's not just found in health food stores anymore. Quinoa is widely available at many large chain supermarkets across the U.S., Europe and Canada.
Because of the higher its price tag in recent years, we usually purchase organically grown varieties in 25 pound bag sizes, which is much more cost effective than small pre-packaged quantities.
Quinoa comes from an annual flowering weed-like plant from the family Amaranthaceae, which includes other species like lamb's quarters, beetroot and amaranth.
It is indigenous to the high Andean mountain regions located near Lake Titicaca, bordering Bolivia and Peru. These two countries are still, as of 2017, the top two commercial producers.
Quinoa is often called an "ancient grain" as it was utilized as a staple food source as well as highly domesticated by pre-Incan and Incan civilizations existing thousands of years ago. (Source)
A good quinoa recipe, made the right way, has a light and soft texture similar to couscous with a distinct nutty quinoa flavor.
when quinoa is not pre-rinsed, a slightly bitter taste can be detected.
This is from saponins that may be present on the seed coating.
For some people, the texture might take a little getting used as it does not have a chewy starchy consistency like rice, but is rather more like couscous.
Along with white quinoa, different colored quinoa selections are available, mostly red and black varieties. We definitely prefer the texture and flavor, however, of the white grain as opposed red, black or tri-colored blends. If you are new to quinoa, it is probably best to start out with the plain white grain as it is the best tasting in our opinion.
(For more about quinoa nutrition visit our health benefits of quinoa page.)
1) Use the correct grain to water ratio.
2) Briefly rinse (or soak) your grain and thoroughly strain.
3) Simmer on lowest heat setting, undisturbed, until all the water is gone when you tilt the pot.
4) Always remove from heat and let it sit with the lid on for 5-10 minutes after the cooking time.
While the standard cooked quinoa recipe usually calls for one cup of dry quinoa to two cups water, we find that these portions don't adequately cook the grain completely. This can cause digestive upset and potential intestinal cramping as the grains have not fully opened.
In our opinion, adding about 1/2C more water to the traditional cooked quinoa recipe is much better on digestion and also provides a more palatable soft less-chewy texture with absolutely no crunchy uncooked grain present.
Quinoa is adequately cooked when the grain has an almost translucent appearance and the white curled germ is visible or detached from the seed.
Below, we list both our recipe and the standard recipe plus a pre-soaked option. It is best to experiment and see what works best for your particular taste preferences and body constitution.
Saponins are a soap-like substances present on the outside of the seed that acts as a natural pesticide to birds and other predators. These bitter tasting compounds in large amounts act as "antinutrients" that can cause mild gastrointestinal upset as well as inhibit nutrient absorption.
Saponins, however, dissolve in water and a large percentage can be removed by rinsing techniques. This is best achieved by placing the quinoa in a bowl, adding filtered water, stirring briefly and rinsing through a fine mesh strainer as the seeds are quite small.
While most quinoa suppliers these days usually pre-wash and dry the quinoa or mechanically remove the saponin coating, a small about may still be present.
This is why it is a good idea to rinse the seeds briefly before use to remove any residual saponins. This is also a good time to keep an eye out for any dirt clods or rocks that, we have noticed, sometimes find their way into the grains, especially when you purchase them large bulk quantities.
Below, we list a number of top organic suppliers and their saponin removal procedures.
Like other grains and legumes, quinoa does contain phytates, which can inhibit digestion. Chiefly, phytic acids do this by binding to certain minerals, especially iron and zinc, making them less bioavailable.
Soaking the seeds for at least two hours with an acid medium, like apple cider vinegar, is a good way to remove most of them. Longer soaking times seem to change the texture quite a bit when cooked and is really unnecessary as the seeds are relatively small.
It is additionally important to remember to thoroughly strain out all the liquid in a fine mesh strain before the cooking process. Usually when soaking the grain 1/2C less water is required.
Some quinoa suppliers now provide dry whole grains that have been pre-soaked or "pre-sprouted" to enhance nutritional assimilation.
This may sound obvious if your use to cooking any type of grain, but it is especially important for quinoa to allow the grains to steam on a low flame. Usually about 20 minutes is adequate or until all the water is gone when you tilt the pot.
During this process, it is also important not to lift the lid or stir the quinoa, another standard practice when making any cooked grain staple. After the quinoa is done, we also remove it from the heat source and allow it sit with lid on for 5-10 minutes.
This is the way we personally make quinoa, when we don't soak it first. Just adding a bit more water can make a big difference and makes it easier to digest as the grains are fully cooked.
The end result produces soft, rounded little balls with whiter pieces of the curled germ falling off of them. In comparison to the standard quinoa recipe, this one also makes one more cupful of cooked quinoa.
Soaking quinoa is a good idea, especially if you have digestive sensitivities to phytates. Remember that many brands now pre-wash the grains to remove saponin coating, which will also remove some degree of phytic acid.
Because quinoa grains are quite small they don't take long to soak up water and release residual phytate content. Usually about 2 hours is a good amount of time, especially when an acidic medium is added to the soak water.
This is the typical quinoa recipe you will find from most online sources and may be the best choice depending on your digestive capacity and taste preferences.
We believe most people like this one because the grains are slightly firmer and chewier, which more closely reproduces the starchier texture of other grain varieties.
These results are based on personal email communications with each company. This is the information that was offered as of early 2017 from the following suppliers.
You can use quinoa the same way you would use rice as a side dish to vegetables, tempeh, tofu or meat protein. It can likewise be incorporated into many recipes, like sushi or curried vegetable sautées.
Quinoa also makes a lovely cold salad ingredient with chopped raw veggies, marinated in a dressing. (See our Mediterranean quinoa salad for ideas.)
Some people are into sprouting quinoa and eating it raw, but we find that the taste is not so appetizing. Quinoa sprouts do, however, make a nice replacement for wheatberries when making the fermented drink rejuvelac.
Soaked and dehydrator-dried quinoa grains can be ground fresh in a high speed blending device to make fresh gluten-free flour.