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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Comments

ALEPEQUIJADA 5/29/2018
Great! Report
AMBER461 5/14/2018
Great article on Quinoa. Report
JVANAM 5/6/2018
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
MISSMARTYRUTH 4/20/2018
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
JENNYANNE31 4/20/2018
Makes a great sub in for couscous in tabbouleh. Report
NELLJONES 4/20/2018
I like it better at room temp in a salad. Report
7STIGGYMT 4/20/2018
My husband, a picky eater, that only eats traditional American food, likes quinoa better than rice. It works for me! Report
ARTJAC 2/24/2018
THANK YOU Report
CHERIRIDDELL 2/24/2018
I am eating but in small quantities Report
CALLA47 2/23/2018
Thanks for pointing out the article's date. It's now over nine years old. Is it up to date in factual information? Report
PAMMYLBEAR 2/23/2018
Can you grind it into flour and use it that way? Report
HAWKTHREE 2/20/2018
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
EO4WELLNESS 11/12/2017
Yes. It is good. I have a pintrest board with recipes I'm collecting. Report
1SUNBUMM11
Love it. Report
NASFKAB
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
TCLADY
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
I have never cooked Quinoa but would love to try it. Report
I tried it twice but apparently I can't figure out how to clean and cook it. It tasted horrible to me. Report
I have used it in everything from baking to soups, salads, and my veggie mix Absolutely Great.. Report
Quinoa is so good! I have had it numerous times and my boyfriend makes an organic mac and cheese with it. It is great by itself too! :) Report
ALILDUCKLING
I have sometimes had quinoa in a salad someone makes, primarily - and enjoyed it. My husband has had it b/c recommended for low carbers and had a strong stomach/intestinal reaction to it - we were told that some people need to break in it slowly. He hasn't tried again, but maybe one day..... Report
Love quinoa! I cook in my rice cooker with veggie broth. I mix it with cooked beans (adzuki) and make bean burritos for breakfast, or as a grain for dinner. Yummo! Report
Unfortunately Quinoa is not ours; it comes from Bolivia and we're depleting the the seeds (their staple) to suit our needs. The farmers are selling the llamas to make more room to grow the crop, however the manure is what helps maintain the soil there and the land is starting to degrade. There is however a company in Colorado growing quinoa, but the demand is so great that they can't keep it in stock either. I love quinoa, but more importantly I believe in sustainability and eating quinoa is not being responsible Report
FRECKLEPUP
Quinoa is not a grain. It is a seed. Report
Family still isn't thrilled with this stuff. Report
AZURE-SKY
This article is 7 years old and contains incorrect nutritional information. Don't you think you owe it to Sparkpeople members to correct it?!?!?! Report
EXCELDREAM
I found a recipe on SparkPeople for quinoa dark chocolate brownies that I love. Glad this article reminded me of them, it's about time to make them again. Report
Thank you for this blog. Awesome. Report
I recently tried it and like it. To me it's comparable to couscous. Report
I usually have a container of Quinoa in my fridge to add to whatever I'm testing out that day. (I like to try new things!) My favorite recipe is a variation of "Sharky's" Harvest Quinoa salad with baby spinach, baby kale and arugula, dried blueberries and cranberries, raisins, chopped or slivered almonds, chopped apple, and feta cheese with a lemon vinaigrette-type of dressing Report
AISLING47
I like quinoa, but the other day I got a salad & it had toasted quinoa in it & that was awesome. I had never had it that way before. Now I need to find out how to toast it myself. Report
JEREMYMONTICELL
Thank you, going to try this instead of brown rice. (wrap in seaweed, and your favorite vegetable.) Really like the idea of the "war balls". A quick snack! 😆 For the fat, your favorite cheese. Report
JEREMYMONTICELL
Thank you, going to try this instead of brown rice. (wrap in seaweed, and your favorite vegetable.) Really like the idea of the "war balls". A quick snack! 😆 For the fat, your favorite cheese. Report
Quinoa tastes like pillbugs smell. Report
 
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