How to Cook Fluffy, Tasty Quinoa
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa originates from the time of the Incas who considered it to be the ‘mother of all grains’ for its nutritional value, although it is not technically a grain but a grass belonging to the same family as spinach and chard. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein which makes it a brilliant food for vegetarians. It also contains good levels of calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, iron and some essential fats. Now widely available in the UK, quinoa is a great alternative to rice or potatoes and is delicious used in salads. Once you try it, you’re not likely to think of it as a “substitute” again! Quinoa is an easy grain to love.
Which Quinoa to Buy?
I’ve read that there is a huge amount of varieties of quinoa, but there are three main types found in markets here: white, red, and black.
- White quinoa has the most neutral, easy-to-love flavour — start with this one if you’ve never tried quinoa before.
- Red and black quinoa both have their own distinct personalities, and I find them to be a little bolder and earthier in flavour than white quinoa. They’re fun in salads or other dishes where their colour really pops!
Why Rinse Quinoa?
Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin, that can make the cooked grain taste bitter or soapy. Luckily, it’s easy to get rid of this coating just by rinsing the quinoa just before cooking.
What Can I Do with Quinoa?
Use quinoa just as you would any other grain, like rice or barley! It makes a fantastic side dish for almost any meal, especially if you cook it with broth instead of water, add a bay leaf to the pot and black pepper. Quinoa can also be used in casseroles, breakfast porridges, and salads. Basically, quinoa can be use as a substitute to rice, pasta or potatoes.
How to cook Quinoa?
I am a massive fan of quinoa and I like to consider myself a quinoa expert. I have cooked a lot of it for my posts on Instagram and facebook. Small amounts, or lots at once, with vegetables, or without—I’ve done it all. The standard quinoa cooking method started failing me early on. My quinoa was mushy and overdone, every time, and it was driving me nuts.
There it is! My super easy method!
- 1cup uncooked quinoa (any variety — white or golden, red, or black)
- 2cups water or broth
- 1/2teaspoon salt
- Rinse the quinoa:Measure 1 cup of quinoa and place into a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly with cool water for about 2 minutes. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing. Drain well. This step removes any bitterness on the outside of the quinoa (caused by naturally occurring saponins)
- Combine the rinsed quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat a bit to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 10 to 20 minutes (small amounts of quinoa will be ready closer to 10 minutes; larger amounts between 15 to 20). Reduce heat as time goes on to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. This step gives the quinoa time to pop open into little curlicues, so it’s nice and fluffy. Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Season with salt, to taste, unless you’re proceeding with another recipe as written.
- Stir a drizzle of olive oil and clove of garlic into warm quinoa for extra flavour.
- Chopped fresh spinach or arugula, or massaged kale.
- Fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, basil, chives, cilantro, mint, or dried spices.
- Grated or crumbled cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, pitted and sliced olives.
- Sauerkraut, pickles or olives.
- Fresh herbs with tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.
Leftover quinoa keeps well, refrigerated, for 3 days. Make sure it has cooled to room temperature before covering and chilling.