Why Quinoa Is My New Favorite Grain

My very smart veteran vegetarian sister tried to get me into Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) a couple of years ago but I guess I just wasn’t ready …because I ignored her.

But the recent shortage of organic brown rice in Australia and a huge promotion of Quinoa in the Body Ecology Diet has pushed me into experimenting with this grain over the last couple of weeks. And wow have I been missing out! I should have listened to my sister in the first place.

Why Quinoa is so great

  • First of all it tastes great which is a big plus. I’ve prepared Quinoa with both sweet and savory dishes and both have been fantastic. I actually prefer it to oats and rice.
  • Quinoa is one of the most easily digestible grains (and gluten free!) so it’s good for all of us. Keep in mind that even though this grain is more easily digestible, it’s still best to soak and ferment all grains before you eat them.
  • It’s a complete protein so great for vegetarians and vegans or anyone that needs more protein in their diet.
  • Very high in manganese and a good source of magnesium, iron, tryptophan, copper and phosphorous.

You can buy Quinoa as a whole grain or flakes. The whole grain is better because it’s not processed so better for your body, but I’ve still been using both. They’re both cooked in much the same way, the flakes just cook a lot quicker. Kind of like the difference between cooking whole oats and quick oats.

Quinoa grains
Quinoa whole grains

Quinoa flakes
Quinoa flakes

How to cook Quinoa whole grains

Because it’s recommended that you soak and ferment your grains before you eat them, I cooked up a big lot of Quinoa yesterday which I’m keeping in the fridge and using when I need it. I will last 3-5 days like this refrigerated.

It’s very easy to prepare. Just put 1 cup of Quinoa grains into a bowl then cover it with enough filtered water to completely soak the grains. Then add about a tablespoon of Grainfields B.E Wholegrain Liquid (you can also use kefir, yoghurt or lemon) to ferment the grains, then leave it to soak overnight.

You don’t have to soak the grains before you cook them but it’s recommended for better digestion. And I hear that Quinoa can have a bitter aftertaste if not soaked for at least two hours. I’ve never noticed this aftertaste so I guess the soaking really does work.

If you do soak the Quinoa, before you start cooking the grains pour the excess water out and give them a rinse.

After soaking and fermenting you cook it like rice. Use 2 cups of water to every 1 cup of Quinoa (or 1.5 cups of water if you like it al dente). Note that the Quinoa will have expanded overnight with the soaking but you don’t want to use this new measurement for the water. If you started with 1 cup of dry Quinoa, then just use 2 cups of filtered water.

Boil the water in a saucepan then add the Quinoa (you want the water to be really bubbling before you add the grains). Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer covered for 15 minutes, or as long as it takes for most of the water to absorb. The grains should “pop” open (you’ll know what I mean when you see it).

To make your Quinoa fluffy, turn the heat down to medium and stir until all the water has been absorbed.

Vegetable and Quinoa curry

Serves: 1

This is my new favorite dish. I’ve made this for breakfast and a modified version for dinner. It’s also great accompanied with scrambled eggs.

Ingredients

  • Roughly 1/2 cup of cooked Quinoa
  • Coconut oil
  • 1/4 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of herbamore
  • Cooked and chopped vegetables of your choice (I love carrot, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, cabbage, etc)

Loving preparation

Heat the coconut oil on medium in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook until soft. Then add the curry powder and herbamore and coat the onion for a couple of minutes. Stir in the cooked vegetables and let the flavors mix together for a minute or two.

Serve with the cooked Quinoa and add more herbamore to taste.

Quinoa porridge

Serves: 1

This recipe is very easy to make and a great filler for breakfast (it feels me up a lot more than oats). It’s also good for those of us with a sweet tooth!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of Quinoa flakes
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • nutmeg to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • your sweetener of choice (eg stevia, honey, agave, maple syrup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (the real stuff, not the fake vanilla essence)

Soak the flakes overnight using the same method as the wholegrains above. Make sure you strain and rinse the flakes before you cook them.

Boil the water in a small saucepan. Add the Quinoa flakes, coconut oil, cinnamon and nutmeg and reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in your sweetener to taste and the vanilla.

34 comments… add one

  • lisa

    I get sever stomach aches eating Quinoa. I have no problems with ANY other food. I can pretty much eat anything except quinoa! searching on the internet it seems MANY PEOPLE suffer stomach aches eating quinoa. After todays bout, i will not eat it again. And no, it doesnt make any difference if its rinsed or not. Quinoa has something in it that the body (and apparently not just mine) does not like.

  • Tracy

    Sorry everyone, I was to quick to point out that it wasn’t a grain. Therefore I didn’t read the response of Stephen which was very informative. Sorry Stephen!

    Thanks,

    Tracy

  • Tracy

    Hi, I wanted to add that Quinoa isn’t actually a grain. It is a seed. For all intents and purposes it can be perceived to be a grain but it isn’t. This is important to clear up because there are many people like me who can’t digest grain, this is a great alternative to grains.

    Enjoy

  • Stephen Zimmer

    Quinoa (like Buckwheat & Chia) isn’t even a grain. It is a seed, that happens to cook up like rice (which is a grain). It doesn’t require the same sort of preparation as most grains do, nor does it have the known anti-nutritional properties of grain foods (particularly those of the wheat/rye/barley families – and I am not just referring to Gluten). Enjoy!

  • Alex Brown

    I have tried quinoa 3 times, and each time I have been violently ill. Even pre cooked in soup has the same effect. I guess I must be allergic to it. Its a shame because the nutritional value of it appears great. Its about the only thing I can’t eat. Has anyone else had a similar reaction? Or is there anything else I can try, soaking overnight, rinsing and then cooking still makes me sick.

    • Sounds like it’s something you shouldn’t eat Alex!

  • I have sprouted quinoa in the past. However the last two purchases of “organic” quinoa would not sprout; one purchase was of a national brand and the other was from the bulk bin of a reliable,usually,health food store. I was really surprised. What could be the reason?

  • Lauren

    Yay! I’m so happy! My mom and I had to go to the store today for cat food and litter, plus food for us! It was a local fresh food store called Fresh and Easy, which is AWESOME! I looked around and viola! They had quinoa! So, I’m going to go and soak and ferment it in a bit so I can have some in the morning for breakfast! Yay! Thank you so much for introducing me to this grain!

  • Nalini

    Nice website!

    In my experience, you don’t have to soak quinoa to get rid of the bitter taste. You simply need to rinse it well in water to get rid of the saponins. In order not to waste too much water, I put the grains in a pan, fill it with water, then rub the grains vigorously for a couple of minutes. Drain/rinse/drain, and voila! No waiting. White quinoa cooks in 10 to 14 minutes (depends how toothy you like it) and red quinoa takes a bit longer, in my experience. But it’s very forgiving in its cooking times! I cook up a bunch and stir in a few tablespoons of pesto. Then mix that into various salads.

  • Israel Saldaña

    Hey Leslie! = ) u cand find cheap kinoa in “La central de Abastos” (The biggest massive market in the Americas and the 3rd in the world) and “El Cenro” naighburhood, also in some “tiendas de abarrotes” or “molinos” they sell chia seeds, quinoa and MANY other grains at a very afordable proce BUT they are nor organic, that’s why the one u found in The Green Corner is expensive (Organic food is expensive) but try the normal one, is good as well, quinoa grows with almost no pesticides or any chemical, it grown naturally (Google it) so it really doesn’t make a big diference if its organic or not GOOD LUCK!

    BIENVENIDA A MÉXICO ; ) SALUDOS

  • Isreal, I just moved to Mexico City and the only place I found that sells quinoa is Green Corner and its really expensive. Can you tell me where to find quinoa in Mexico City at a good price?

    Thanks!

  • Israel Saldaña

    Hey Donna sorry I never replied =S I just came back from Canada I was just too busy all the time =S but yes! tanks, I will never remember how sick I got by eating raw Quinoa, it was soooo bad, I never felt worst in my life =( BUT I eat it all the time now (Of course cooked) and it’s delicious ; ) Since I’m back to Mexico City, it’s WAY cheaper here, just as cheap as buying white rice ; ) cause Peru is close to here. So nice of u for trying to help me = ) ALL THE BEST HERE XXX

  • Much better if you eat cooked quinoa

  • Hi Israel
    To eat quinoa raw you need to sprout it. So soak it overnight, then rinse, and let it sit for a couple days until it grows little tails. Rinse twice a day or even 3 times a day if you are in a hot climate. It’s very quick to sprout, and it’s light and delicious.

    If you just soaked and ate a bunch of it raw it was probably too heavy for your digestion. I think the same would happen with any grain. In general all grains should be soaked and sprouted before eating raw. Nuts and most seeds should be soaked before eating to to improve their digestibility.

  • Israel Saldaña

    TANKS FRAN, I’ll just let you know that today I ate RAW QUINOA and OMG WAS THAT THE WORST IDEA EVER =( I’ve had nausea all day and I feel sick =’( I never ever felt this way before, I’m sure it’s the raw quinoa because the only new thing in my diet today was the raw quinoa =S I don’t know why, but I fell sooooo bad and it won’t go away =( I’m even having a headache and I fell weak (no energy) BUT I’VE HAD QUINOA BEFORE and I was fine (it was pre-toasted), so I’m not allergic to Quinoa or anything, I THINK I’LL STOP WITH THE RAW DIET IDEA, It’s not for me I think, or maybe I just don’t know what can be eaten raw or what can’t (Like with Chia) well, hope that helps in case anyone wants to try eat raw quinoa (DON’T DO IT, IT’S HORRIBLE) =’( and yes, the Quinoa was soaked and fermented with Yogurt, so maybe Quinoa has something we can’t digest or it’s too heavy when IT’S RAW and it NEDS to be cocked, toasted or baked.

    Well HERE’S MY EXPERIENCE with raw Quinoa and why I’LL NEVER EVER EVER DO IT AGAIN

    GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

  • Hi Israel,

    I have no idea if you can eat raw quinoa ..but it may be similar to buckwheat. I soak then dehydrate buckwheat which tastes great. It’s probably best to do a google search on that one.

    Yep, that jelly like formation from the Chia seeds is normal, eat it all up!

    I’m pretty sure eating lots of chia is fine. But again, best to do a google search and/or consult a nutritionist.

  • Israel Saldaña

    HEY FRAN nice article AS ALWAYS =) I have a few questions, hope you can help me

    1) Do I need to cook Quinoa after soaked? I WOULD LOVE TO EAT IT RAW but I’m not sure if it’s ok I’M A NEW RAW EATER (tanks to you ;D)

    2) I tried to soak Chia today and it makes a PASTE OMG it’s like white EGG WHITE how long should I soak chia? (if it’s need to be soaked) and is that paste meant to be eaten? or should I rinse the Chia seeds and eat ONLY THE CLEAN SEED (I have the feeling that the jelly that Chia seeds form is good for me)

    3) can I eat Chia raw? and can I have TOO MUCH CHIA? or can I have a lot (Since I’m also a new Vegetarian and I need lots of protein because I’m working out in the GYM)

    I’ll wait for your answers TANK YOU FOR ALL THE INFO U GIVE US , YOU ROCK ;D

  • Yep, I’ll definitely send you the link once I post. I always tweet them too.

    Isn’t that funny that the beans taste different even if from the same country. I do know that plants when they are grown organically and get nibbled by pests they respond by developing more phytochemicals – which are good for us, but they tend to have a bitter taste to repel the pests. So many things can affect the taste of vegies, such as the cultivar, the soil etc. Not sure about cacao, but I imagine it would be similar.

    I would love to grow my own cacao here in New Zealand.

  • Yeah they really do have a bitter taste unsoaked. You know, the cacao beans I’ve bought in Australia aren’t bitter at all ..it’s weird. They’re all from Mexico but I’m assuming the suppliers are buying different varieties. Suits me though because they’re actually kind of nice here.

    Send me the link to your article once it’s done, I look forward to reading it.

  • Hey Fran, so that sounds like there is some difference, I’ll have to look into it a bit more and when I come up with something I’ll post an article on my blog about it. I’m so envious of the farmer’s markets you have there! They sound wonderful, we are growing our own vegies (fruit and nut trees will be planted later this year) but it sounds like I could get everything else I need from a farmer’s market like yours.

    About sprouted quinoa… I rinse mine really well to get rid of a bit of the saponins (I think they impart a bitter taste), but no the sprouts aren’t bitter at all. Kinda nutty tasting.

    LOL, just remembered from watching your cacao bean video that you don’t like bitter tastes! Neither do I. I love sour/tart, but can’t stand bitter. And I can’t understand how some people seem to confuse the two.

    Definitely try some quinoa sprouted. They sprout really quickly. I must write an article about it to my blog, with some recipes. But if you are familiar with sprouting alfalfa you’ll figure it out. But quinoa sprouts much faster. Let me know what you think of them if you try some.

  • Hi Donna, I actually asked the stallholder that very same question at my local farmers market. He gave me a long and complicated answer that unfortunately I’ve forgotten! But they’re all very nutritious, with some colors being slightly better than the others.

    Haven’t tried them sprouted, that’s a great idea. They’re not bitter that way?

  • I love quinoa! I’ve not tried the flakes yet, but I have tried, white quinoa, black quinoa, and red quinoa. I’d be interested to know if the red and especially the black have more antioxidants or phytonutrients because of their color.

    Have you tried it sprouted? It’s really nice as a light sprouted salad, but I can just eat it by the handful too.

  • Oops, sorry agnei, yes I did mean herbamare!!

  • agnei

    what is herbamore, Fran? I don’t find it in google… did you mean herbamAre?

  • Fiorella

    look, this page seems pretty easy to manage:

    http://www.gastronomiaperu.com/recetas.de.cocina/tipos.de.recetas.php?tipo=9

    the link goes straight to Recipes-> Grains (granos)
    I notice beans are the most used, but there is a par of quinoa plates. I hope you find more pages! I really have to go now, it’s getting late! Bye and good luck! :)

  • Fiorella

    I’m so sorry! Haven’t got a clue of where those recipes I mentioned are :S but I’ve done a quick google search now in “cocina peruana quinua” (spanish food quinoa, in spanish) and there are many ideas! As I mentioned, it is a very important grain in my country, nutricious and delicious! If I search it in english, there isn’t too much recipes, mostly information. So I think you might need a spanish dictionary n.n I think quinoa is used in Bolivia too, but as I am peruvian I can only mention the dishes I’ve tried. The “chili” isn’t a chili really, it kind of looks like it, but we have a huge diversity of spices, the one I talked about is called “aji amarillo del peru”, it is used in most of the dishes as part of the seasoning. Here is a link to the image : http://www.infojardin.com/galeria/data/500/aji_amarillo_del_peru.jpg

    Maybe you can get it, and ask for the preparation of the cream, it is very simple. I’ve seen my mother do it, I think she just cooks them for a bit, then she peels them and takes out the inner content (like a cucumber!), then just the blend the fleshy part, and that’s all! The cream can be freezed for about a week, just take it out 5 minutes before you need it so it can return to its creamy contexture. I haven’t got a rich english vocabulary so it’s a bit complicated for me to give you more details. Maybe you can purchase a peruvian cook book too, I’m sure you will find more native grains used in the recipes, such as kiwicha, mote (so much better than accused potato), and native potatos too! I think the big diversity of natural ingredients is what is making our gastronomy so popular now a days, believe me.. we are very surprised of how much this part of our culture is expanding and we’re so proud of it, as we have never been a very noticed country. You might have heard of Gaston Acurio, he is one of the many peruvian chefs who has been working in Europe restaurants, showing out our very best dishes. As I am vegetarian, I replace everything that is meat (because again, we have too many meat sources here) with toffu, which is a very versatil protein source as I find I can prepare it in various ways, and mushrooms. I used to use soja meat, but that is rare now, I might just eat it when I go to a vegetarian restaurant. Well, I gotta go, see you and take care!
    Oh and I wondered if you considered a suggestion for that cheese that melts so good? hehe, I use goat cheese sometimes too.

  • Maria, yep! I spoke to the organic grain seller at the markets last week and he said they’re all full of nutrients and protein.

    Oh wow Fiorella, you should write a cookbook! I would love to try all of those recipes. The chili especially. Do you know where I can find the recipe online?

  • Fiorella

    Quinoa is a grain very used in my country (Peru :)!), mostly in the andean part of it. My mother has given it to me, since I can remember, in many dishes. Try it out in juices! It’s great with cooked apples (in water with fresh cinnamon), you just blend that with your cooked quinoa grains and sweeten to taste with honey! You can prepare it like beans too. Cook the grains, and then stir that in a seasoning of chopped onion,garlic, sea salt, sesame oil, cumin and paprika (there is a kind of peruvian chili that is very delicious, but it’s only sold here I think ): ) Oh!! And I was almost forgetting.. there is a delicious dessert that my grandmother does and I just can’t resist to it even if I’m already full… Add to the cooked grains milk (I add home-made sesame, soja, or nut milk), a bit of salt, and squares of fresh CHEESE!! it melts so good! I’m trying to go vegan, but like I said.. this is irresistable =(= !! I wonder if you can suggest something like cheese that has that property of melting like it? It would be great! Another recipe is Quiona Omelets! also with cheese,eggs, a bit of salt and vegetables, I prefer to use chopped.. hum.. chinese-onion? (it’s called “cebollita china” here.. it’s like a garlic with a very large green leaf), but just the leaves, and red onion. You mix all of it, pick up around 4 spoons of it and in a pan with hot oil just arrange it to a flat circular form, fry it both sides and that’s all! I hope I have explained well this ideas, please give them a try! ^^ Thank you for promoting the use of this native andean grain! Bye :)

  • Maria

    I actually have a bag of the grains at home that I found although it’s a mixture of red and white quinoa. Is this okay to use? Does it still contain the same benefits listed?

  • Maria

    Mmm.. this sounds bloody fantastic! SOLD!

  • Kyle

    I may very well give quinoa a try now, thanks!

  • Aimee

    Thanks for sharing the recipes. It is so helpful! I have never tried quinoa before but I will for sure. I am really into barley (hulled/dehulled) righ now. Since I have barley I am going to try the curry recipe today with my barley for lunch! (My barley was soaking overnight already) Thanks for sharing your knowledge and new discoveries!

  • Kitty

    I really like quinoa also, but I rarely make it because I just don’t have time to eat EVERYTHING I should… :) I saw a new naturopath yesterday and she said she was so impressed with my diet and the range of healthy everything I eat, but she said I’m only eating about half the food I need to! Go figure!

    Don’t worry, I’m not rake thin, I used to be, but I would be considered slim/normal. But I couldn’t possibly think of trying to fit anymore food into my diet – I think that because the foods I do eat are naturally high in fibre, the fibre bulk just keeps me feeling full all the time…

    But I think with that yummy quinoa curry recipe I’ll have to somehow make room for some more food in my belly… :D

  • Jasmine

    LOVE quinoa! Been eating it for about a year now.

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