What Is Quinoa, and How Do I Eat It?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The dailySpark reader AHHGEE recently asked about quinoa.

Quinoa is turning up everywhere these days. This little grain, while still relatively unknown in North America, has been around since ancient Inca times, when warriors reportedly mixed quinoa with fat and rolled it into "war balls" that sustained them during lengthy battles. It comes from the Andean region of South America.

What is it?
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah or kee-no-uh) is called the mother of all grains and for good reason. It was second in nutritional importance to the Incas; only the potato was more highly revered and respected. It's small, slightly larger than couscous, and when it's cooked it looks like a small spiral. It can range in color from cream to beige or red.

Is it good for you?
Quinoa is 12-18% protein, which is quite high for a grain, gluten free and easy to digest. Unlike most other grains, it contains a full, balanced set of amino acids; it's also a good source of fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron.

How do you eat it?
Quinoa can be used in place of rice, couscous or any other grain. It gets fluffy when cooked, and holds up well in "fried rice," pilafs, and other recipes. It can be eaten plain or flavored just as you would any other grain.
It also makes a great breakfast cereal. Add it to oatmeal in the mornings or sweeten leftover plain quinoa with dried fruits, honey and nuts.

How do I cook it?
In nature, quinoa has a bitter outer coating that helps deter insects and animals from eating it; however, most quinoa has been processed to remove the coating, called saponins.

Quinoa is easy and quick to cook. Use a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa. Bring water and quinoa to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. It should have a tiny curl and have the texture of pasta when cooked.

It tastes nuttier than rice or couscous, but it isn't as strong as barley or wheatberries. It should be slightly chewy when you cook it.

Find more quinoa recipes here.

Where do I buy it?
In the health food section of your supermarket in boxes (try the red heirloom variety) or alongside other grains in the pasta aisle. You can also find it in bulk at many larger grocery stores (such as Whole Foods). Like most grains, it is fairly inexpensive, though prices vary.

Nutrition info for 1/2 cup, cooked
(Note: Quinoa is higher in calories and fat than other grains, but it also has more nutrition.)
292 calories
4.8 g fat
52.7 g carbs
5.1 g fiber
10.2 g protein
20% RDA iron
39% RDA phosphorus
85% RDA riboflavin

Have you tried quinoa? Will you? How do you cook it?

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I like to mix it with my brown rice for extra protein. Report
I make quinoa salads. Great for meal prep work lunches. I add the tomato as I go. Report
PATRICIAAK 2/23/2021
:) Report
OLDSKOOL556 11/12/2020
Thanks! For sharing 👍 Report
FISHGUT3 9/19/2020
thanks Report
A grain that isn't talked about much! Report
Salads made with quinoa were very trendy a couple of years back but it’s not a fave of mine. Report
Great article. Report
I have tried quinoa which is a seed not a grain, a number of ways. Maybe it's the type I bought, not bitter exactly just a little off. Some kinds do need rinsing first, supposedly this one did not.
Okay when prepared like Spanish rice, cooked in tomato sauce & water. Also had cooked w/ vanilla or chocolate nondairy milk in place of oatmeal or farina. Somehow it just wasn't as neutral a flavor as others have stated but then, I'm a super taster & therefore really particular. It is a healthy low carb option so long as you season it well. I personally don't recommend it made plain then adding to it. This seed definitely needs the flavor cooked into it.
Thanks for sharing Report
Thank U! Report
Thanks. Report
You lost me at 52 g carbs but it sounds yummy. Report
Thanks for the info. Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
love it!! Especially as a replacement for cheesy grits. (I am allergic to corn products) Report
Great article on Quinoa. Report
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him. ~ DAVID BRINKLEY~ 5/6/18 Report
I love quinoa. Anyway it's used, cold or hot. It has a wonderful flavor. It stores pretty well in the fridge after it's cooked. The body digests it different than say rice. So I don't worry to much about the carbs or calories. You can Google all the information about it. I like to make a cold salad with it. Turkey ham, tomatoes, black olives, red onions and light Asian dressing. Simple and yummy. My favorite is the tri- color quinoa. I've taken my salad to parties a few times and it's always a hit. People come up to me and ask about it, they loved it.. What are you waiting for? Try it!! Report
Makes a great sub in for couscous in tabbouleh. Report
I like it better at room temp in a salad. Report
My husband, a picky eater, that only eats traditional American food, likes quinoa better than rice. It works for me! Report
I am eating but in small quantities Report
Thanks for pointing out the article's date. It's now over nine years old. Is it up to date in factual information? Report
Can you grind it into flour and use it that way? Report
I really enjoy quinoa (but rarely because of the carb levels) and have shared it gluten free friends who never tried it. Important to rinse it well because it can be bitter. Report
Yes. It is good. I have a pintrest board with recipes I'm collecting. Report
Love it. Report
thanks for posting the great ways to use quinoa Report
I've never tried it, it seems to be something I'd want to try of course in moderation because its packed full of cabs/calories. Report
I had to take rice and beans out of my diet as I get severe diarrhea. Will quinoa do the same? Report
I've never tried it but I've seen it on some of the cooking shows and always wondered what it tastes like. Report
My husband likes it better than rice. He's likes meat and potatoes and good old American food. No "weird' food for him. For him to like quinoa is amazing! I'm the adventurous one that likes to try new foods. Report
Salad recipes are very helpful. It is high in calories, so using it with veg works well. Report
Great article on quinoa! Report
very interesting Report
Too many calories in this little seed for me. Report
My boyfriend cooks a lot of quinoa. We like to cook tilapia filets and eat them with a side of quinoa and steamed broccoli. It is good with a pat of butter (or just a little olive oil) and salt and pepper. I've never tried it as a breakfast, but that sounds like it could be good... Report
I love Quinoa as a side at dinner, mixed with my oatmeal or by its self for breakfast, or as a "planned' left over for lunch with veggies and a bit of EVO and wine vinegar for lunch. Report
I starting eating quinoa long before it because popular thanks to a recipe I found in one of Denise Austin's books. It is my absolute favorite. So glad it's much easier to find than when I started eating it. Recently started mixing it with oatmeal for breakfast and really love it! Report
I never knew what to do with it before so this article is helpful! Report
Quinoa is not a big hit in my house. Report
I personally prefer Quinoa compared to rice. I always enjoy couscous but when looking at the fiber and protein I will choose Quinoa.
Excellent article. Report
Quinoa is even easier to make in a rice cooker -- use the same ratios, press the button and when it beeps -- perfect fluffy quinoa every time! I cook all sorts of grains in my rice cooker -- best kitchen gadget ever! Report
I've used it as a rice substitute and as an addition to salads.....works just like rice in so many dishes..... Report