Cooking with Quinoa – A Real Food Recipe Review

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

Quinoa (“KEEN-wah”) is a highly nutritious grain-like seed. Very similar to cereal grains, quinoa is thought to have originated in South America, and was a big part of the Incan diet. Today we know that quinoa is highly nutritious: it is a complete protein, a significant source of calcium, is gluten free, and is a good source of fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It can often be used as a rice or couscous replacement, or mixed into a wide variety of salads. But many folks have never heard of quinoa, and don’t understand how to prepare it. Is quinoa preparation easy? Is it any good?

The Good

  • Better for You – Quinoa is a complete protein, and high in calcium, fiber and important minerals
  • Special diet friendly – packs a nutritional punch for vegans, vegetarians, and glucose intolerant individuals
  • Easy to prepare – cooks just the same as rice
  • Versatile – can be used with a wide variety of other ingredients to suit any meal
  • Tasty – has a mild, slightly nutty flavor – much like other grains
  • Low priced – not a cheap as rice, but relatively low priced, especially if purchased in bulk

The Bad

  • The texture can be a little off-putting to some

My Experience

Cooked Quinoa

When I moved to California, I ran into all kinds of food I’d never seen before. Quinoa was one of them. I was dining at a friend’s house when she whipped up a quinoa salad that was amazing! When I asked her for the recipe, she told me that you don’t need a recipe for quinoa – you just toss in whatever sounds good at the time! I couldn’t wait to start experimenting at home.

My local Sprouts Farmer’s Market sells quinoa for the best price I’ve seen. You can get quinoa in bulk for $3.49 a pound. A pound of uncooked quinoa is so much food, I feel like they’re practically giving to me for free! Quinoa is prepared exactly the same as rice: combine 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Heat until boiling, then cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed (about 15 min). When it’s cooked the quinoa increases in size and becomes translucent in color.

While quinoa is tasty and fine to eat all by itself, the most common way to serve is with mix-ins, like diced veggies, fruits, nuts or cheese. It can be served hot or cold, depending on its place in the meal. Quinoa can be a main dish or a side, or can be mixed into other dishes like casserole, soup, or green salads. If you’re not sure – use it anyplace you would use a starch.

Mediterranean Style and Cinnamon Pecan Quinoa

Two of my favorite ways to prepare quinoa are as a cold lunch salad, or a warm breakfast. Here are my recipes – I don’t tend to measure, just add the goodies until the balance seems right to me.

Mediterranean Style Quinoa (Cold Salad)

  • Cooked Quinoa, chilled
  • Diced Cucumbers
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Diced Red Onions
  • Crumbled Feta Cheese
  • Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Warm Breakfast Quinoa (modified from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition)

  • Cooked Quinoa
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Maple Syrup
  • Chopped Pecans

Have you ever tried Quinoa? What’s your favorite way to prepare it?

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19 Responses to Cooking with Quinoa – A Real Food Recipe Review

  1. Amber says:

    I LOVE quinoa! I’ve done it with the mix-ins, like you suggested. And once by itself but with some Italian spices to flavor it up a bit. I recently made it and added fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil olive oil to eat as a cold side that was delicious!

  2. Paula says:

    I tried quinoa for the first time last year and love it. I just throw whatever fresh raw vegetables I have in the garden at the time and add a low fat or fat free salad dressing to it. I’ve added peppers, tomatoes, onions, fresh mozzarella cheese, tuna, diced ham, diced chicken, orange slices, fresh basil and cilantro. Like you I just add stuff until it looks and tastes good.

  3. Dea says:

    I made a cold salad after trying it at a pot-luck. I added olives, fresh diced tomatoes, minced onion, and chives. I topped it with crumbled goat cheese

  4. Marlo says:

    We love quinoa. Thanks for sharing the recipes.

  5. I am definitely going to have to try the quinoa! I have had it in snack bars but never cooked like this…it looks yummy! Hopping from Time-Warp Wife. :)

  6. JM says:

    I’m a fan of quinoa, especially done breakfast-style with coconut milk, berries, and toasted nuts. Your recipes are like my recipes – I cook by intuition and whatever’s left in the fridge :)

  7. I just recently heard of quinoa- we used it to replace rice in a Mexican-style chicken wrap. We used the quinoa, corn, veggies and chicken with a sauce and it came out very good! I was very pleased with the quinoa!

  8. Lindsay says:

    I have been trying quinoa more and more since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and can no longer eat “normal” whole grains. I have really liked it no matter how it is prepared!

  9. I absolutely love Quinoa! I like to toast it in the pan before I cook it for savory dishes, it takes on a whole new flavor.

  10. It’s very expensive here, so we don’t buy it often. I’ll have to look for it in bulk.

  11. I’ve had a bag of quinoa in my fridge for over a year now. You’ve spurred me to actually get it out and use it! Thanks.

  12. I always wanted to try quinoa. I’ll have to try those recipes. Hopefully my family will like them, too.

  13. Leora says:

    I’ve been making quinoa salad every few weeks. The adults like it, the kids … won’t even give it a try.

  14. Nancy says:

    I’ve heard of quinoa, but have never tried it. I like the recipe combinations.

    Thank you for sharing at Rural Thursdays this week. xoxo

  15. Mary says:

    I discovered Quinoa a few years ago. I love it. I put anything in it. Haahaahhah

  16. Terry says:

    Cooked in vegetable or chicken broth adds a lot of flavor before putting in your favorite veggies. Chill and then add chopped asparagus, red onion, chopped dates, cucumber and toasted chopped pecans, chopped fresh herbs such as basil and/or parsley, with a little lemon juice and vinaigrette is a great summer substitute for pasta salad.

  17. April Harris says:

    We are just beginning to enjoy quinoa in our house, so I really enjoyed your review and the recipe ideas.

  18. B says:

    I just mix mine with rice and use wherever I use rice, which is everywhere.

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