Vegetarian Food Pyramid - Quinoa

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Posted by DK

A chock full wholegrain pantry is what I can boast of, complimented by Nuts and seeds. You probably have heard of antique collectors, but have you heard of one who visits food markets and collects grains? Well that’s me for you. Recently on a business trip to Vancouver, when a colleague during the time off suggested buying trinkets for souvenir, I went to the local Whole Foods market and bought myself Kamut! And I couldn't have been more happier. That’s the value I hold for Nature's best foods. For other whole grain, refer to my previous articles for Oats and Barley. This time I am going to talk about one of my most loved of all whole grains - Quinoa (also called as quinua, petty rice and pigweed).


They form part of my lunch on most of the days and its hard really to get bored with them - so versatile that they are. So let’s get to the reason why I adore them so much.

What exactly is Quinoa?

They have been commemorated as the "Super grain of the future". Pronounced as 'Keen-wa',(you don’t want to know how I used to say them before I knew the correct pronunciation!!) they were hailed by the Incas as "Mother Grain" - who cultivated it for hundreds of years, high in the Andes for self consumption. That's how ancient they are. Though not a common resident in many kitchens, if it gets a better PR for itself, it would soon become an inseparable part of every wo(man)'s pantry - thanks to it being immensely rich in nutrients. Though it is a politically correct statement to say that Quinoa is a grain, it in reality is a relative to, you wouldn’t guess it, the greens like Swiss Chard and Spinach!

Types of Quinoa and What to look for in your market

Although Quinoa leaves are also edible just like Amaranth, they are not commonly available. My research on the web and books tell me that there are 4 types of Quinoa though I have come across only two of them in my local market:

1. Whole Grain - This is what you possibly will come across in your grocery store ( or in health food markets). They are tiny, bead-shaped grains and are slightly bitter but have firm texture. They are an excellent substitute to rice and are cooked in the same way. Unlike rice, these quadruple in size and also become translucent with an unusual white outer ring.(pic as above)

2. Quinoa Flour - These make a nutritious addition to your day to day bakes, be it for cakes, cookies or bread. They can also be used to make your delicious pasta. But if not available, you can always find Pasta made using Quinoa in the market nowadays. They can also be substituted for whole wheat flour in order to increase the nutritional value. [ This picture is courtesy of ]

How to make Quinoa Flour at home?
For 1 cup of Quinoa flour, grind 3/4 cup of whole Quinoa until it gets a cornmeal texture.

3. Puffed Quinoa - It is similar to puffed corn. These make for crunchy toppings on your favorite desserts, even ice-cream. They are excellent for morning cereal.

[This picture is courtesy of ]

4. Pearly Quinoa- They have a larger grain and are usually opted for breakfast porridge along with milk or used in soups.

There are also supposed to be red and black varieties of Quinoa available. Look for them in your grocery store.

How to cook Quinoa Grain?

In its natural state, Quinoa consists of a waxy coating called Saponins which is what gives it the bitter taste. So, if that’s the case then follow this precautionary procedure:

Soak your quinoa in cold water for about 2 hours. Drain, rinse and soak again for another 2. Then rinse it vigorously to remove the outer layer and cook.

P.S But no cause for panic. Markets are a wonder these days. They do everything for you. I say this since I am yet to come across Quinoa with this coating. They are all done and kept ready, so mostly you wouldn’t need to do this step.

How to cook on Stove top

For 1 cup of quinoa, bring two cups of cold water to a boil. For a more al dente texture, use only 1.5 cups of water

Cover the quinoa and bring it to a simmer. It takes approx 10-15 minutes and you know its done, when the germ separates from the seed and you will see white colored rings sort’ a things floating around. (its not as bad as it sounds !)

Let it cool, fluff it up and serve.

How to cook Quinoa in a Pressure Cooker

For 1 cup of Quinoa, bring two cups of water. Pressure cook for 5-10 minutes. You can also add salt to the cooking water or replace water with Vegetable/Chicken broth.

How to cook Quinoa in a Microwave

For every one cup of the grain, use 2 cups of water. Place them in a microwave proof dish and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Leave it to stand, stir , and then cook further for another 2-3minutes..Let it stand in order to let it soak up any liquid. You can drain any extra liquid if any. But care should be taken to avoid letting the grain go completely dry while cooking in a microwave.

How to sprout Quinoa?

[ Pic courtesy of]

Like its counterparts, Quinoa grain can also be sprouted. It takes 2-3 days to sprout and must be eaten right away, since they don’t keep very well. A rough gist of the process as below:

1. Rinse the seeds vigorously to remove the saponin coating.
2. Soak the Quinoa seed for about 2-4 hours. Drain.
3. Use your sprouter basket or in a bowl sprout for 12 hours.
4. It sprouts pretty fast. They can also be grown for their leaves.

For a more detailed instruction please refer to this article here

Health benefits of Quinoa

• Unlike its counterparts, Quinoa is a complete protein, since it contains all the eight essential amino acids.
• It has excellent source of potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and B vitamins
• Thanks to the magnesium content, they are Nature’s medicine for people suffering from Migraines. Add them to you diet often. They are also excellent for the heart.
• Since they are an insoluble fiber, it helps in gallstone prevention.
• They are go-to foods for diabetic patients, since it helps to decrease the blood sugar levels.
• If you suffer from celiac disease, then look no further for Quinoa is here. It is gluten free.

Although they can be enjoyed in various forms, say in pilaf's, stuffings,bakes and breakfast cereals, they being immensely versatile can be made in any way your creative mind takes you. I recently thought of making my leftover cooked quinoa into a baked goodie and used up my left over 15 bean soup mix to make these delicious Baked Quinoa and 15 bean Croquettes. For a pictorial and the recipe refer to this post

This post was written by Dhivya

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quinoa is absolutely a fantastic grain! i love the fact that you can have it savory or sweet - as a breakfast or as a salad. It plays a huge role in our house! Great article!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
March 16, 2009 at 8:42:00 AM GMT+1  

Excellent posting on quinoa! Thank you for covering some of th many ways that quinoa can be used.
-Sergio from

AndeanNatural said...
March 16, 2009 at 4:21:00 PM GMT+1  

Thanks Meeta and Sergio. I love Quinoa and it was inevitable that it showed in my post :)

Meeta, like you said, it is awesome that Quinoa can be used in so many ways - from sweet to savoury :)

DK said...
March 16, 2009 at 5:26:00 PM GMT+1  

great posting.

Gayathri said...
March 16, 2009 at 7:25:00 PM GMT+1  

Love quinoa--wonderful post full of great information. I am in possession of some red quinoa. Used half to make a straight-up pilaf-type deal. Very tasty; slightly nuttier than the white quinoa. Am looking forward to dessert options--maybe a rice-pudding style custardy quinoa pudding made w/sweetened condensed milk. Still working on that one...

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2009 at 12:33:00 AM GMT+1  

Love you post about quinoa...great pictures and very informative, thanks!

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2009 at 4:10:00 AM GMT+1  

@gayathri : Thanks

@onlinepastrychef : I have not been able to get my hands on the red ones. Quinoa makes great pudding - I recently had one with a blueberry topping and it was yum!

@Juliana : Thank you :)

DK said...
March 19, 2009 at 12:52:00 AM GMT+1  

Hi Divya, would you know if we get quinoa in India, & if yes, sold under which name? Sounds like a wonderful grain!!

Deeba PAB said...
March 19, 2009 at 6:03:00 AM GMT+1  

Superb! You should post these on my mum's and dad's forum. There are plenty of questions about good vegetarian cooking, but not many people have this sort of skill. Here's a nice recipe for a cottage pie:

Keep it up :)

Anonymous said...
March 26, 2009 at 4:03:00 PM GMT+1  

I have been eating quinoa for about 4.5 years and I absolutely love it. I wanted to let people know that in Atlanta they can buy the red variety at Return to Eden in their bulk section. Return to Eden is off Cheshire Br. Rd. in Atlanta. I hadn't ever seen it before either till the other day when I stopped by.

M. Elle said...
August 12, 2009 at 7:41:00 AM GMT+2  

Great Post! Thanks so much for sharing! I am a new Quinoa lover and am still scouring the internet for different recipes. I've made several quinoa salads that were yummy and am looking for more!
I'm sure I will link back to this post on my blog soon!

Gwen said...
August 31, 2010 at 1:45:00 AM GMT+2  

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