Meet This Grain: Quinoa

by in Healthy Recipes, March 30, 2011
Scallops With Citrus Quinoa
Scallops With Citrus Quinoa/ Image Courtesy Food Network Magazine

You cook it up just like other whole grains, but this quick-cooking, nutrient-packed goodie has more protein than any other. Find out how to work some in to your weekly meals.

What is Quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) is no spring chicken in the culinary world — its use dates back 5,000 years. According to botanical experts, quinoa is actually categorized as a seed (not a grain), but it has similar characteristics and prep methods to most grains. The individual pieces look like tiny beads and are most commonly beige in color, but red and black varieties also exist. No matter what color you choose, quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor and pleasingly chewy (but firm) texture.

Plain quinoa makes a simple side dish, but is also a common ingredient in whole-grain breads and hot and cold cereals; it’s also ground into flour to make pasta. Quinoa expands to 4 times its size when cooked, so each cup of dry grains will yield 4 cups cooked.

Why Is Quinoa Healthy Eats?
Where to begin?! One cup of cooked quinoa has 220 calories, 5 grams of fiber and a whopping 8 grams of protein (almost 50 percent more than an equal portion of brown rice.) You’ll also find hefty doses of thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, zinc, potassium, magnesium and selenium, along with 15 percent of your daily iron needs.

Quinoa is especially unique because it contains all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) that your body needs. Soy is the only other plant-based food that achieves this.  It’s also gluten-free, so folks with gluten allergies can also enjoy this fluffy, grain-like seed.

What to Do With Quinoa
Give dry grains a quick rinse before cooking to remove a bitter residue called saponin from its surface.  To prepare quinoa,  add one part of the rinsed grain to a pot with 2 parts water or broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then season and serve. You can also cook it in milk with cinnamon and honey or brown sugar for an out-of-this-world hot breakfast cereal.

Flavor up cooked quinoa with herbs, dried fruit or chopped nuts. Make a grain salad with your favorite diced veggies, beans, and crumbled feta cheese (black beans, bell pepper and diced mango is a fabulous combo). Take leftovers and combine with a sprinkle of cheese as a vegetarian filling for baked stuffed peppers.

TELL US: How do you cook quinoa?

Recipes to Try:
Sweet Potato Quinoa
Quinoa Breakfast Cereal
Cucumber-Bell Pepper Quinoa
Curried Quinoa with Squash
Quinoa Pilaf with Pine Nuts
Scallops with Citrus and Quinoa

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (2,210)

  1. Carol says:

    I have only recently discovered Quinoa, I love it for the protein, I have been working out seriously for over a year and need the extra protein without the fat. It is easy to prepare and can be added to a lot of dishes.

  2. Toni says:

    I love Quinoa, I started tring this grain (seed) about 2 years ago after watching "you are what you eat" on BBC. At first it was hard to find recipies. Now they are everywhere. I like to keep it in the fridge for a cup at a time snack/meal. I am a gastric bypass patient and have lost 170 lbs and have kept it off 8 years. It keeps me full and packed with vitamins. I add black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, sometimes corn and diced tom. I have even tried bell pepper and onion yum. I like it all and recommend it highly!

  3. Ladybugmomma says:

    My husband and I are both gastric bypass folks and quinoa is a regular part of our food likes. We use a scant amount of olive oil to saute the seed in for a few minutes, usually with some diced onions and carrots, then add chicken broth and cook til tender. sometimes we add brummel and brown to it with a little salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, etc. when we are craving something and just don't know what it is, quinoa is always satisfying for us. We haven't tried it with sweetner or brown sugar, but that sounds really good, maybe some raisins, cinnamon, cranberries, etc.

  4. Damaris says:

    I have cooked Quinoa in 10 different ways now and there is not once that my family has not loved it.
    I have combined it with brown rice and veggies of all sorts cooked in chicken and vegetable stock and it si always delicious. I have also introduced Quinoa to my family up North and now they are hooked on it also. Delicious and healthy however you eat it.

  5. [...] this, but am so excited about it).   For recipes and ideas using quinoa, check out these sites: Healthy Eats, Cooking Quinoa, and [...]

  6. Margie says:

    I usually cook in reduced-sodium chicken broth with bell peppers and onion. Delish. Tasty with a little reduced-sodium soy sauce too.

  7. Linz says:

    I recently found a recipe for quinoa burgers! I made them last night and they are really good. Obviously, these "burgers" are not like your regular burger, but they are a great meat-free alternative!

  8. [...] are available today. Although amaranth is categorized as a grain, it’s really a seed (just like quinoa). The tiny seeds are about the size of sesame seeds and have a yellowish color. The seeds can be [...]

  9. Pam says:

    I make a mexican salad with colored peppers, purple onions, black neans, corn, olive oil, cumin. AWESOME!!

  10. [...] – Healthy Recipes, Healthy …Benefits of Exercise Bikes | Healthy Weight Loss BlogsMeet This Grain: Quinoa | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy … No related posts. /* placeholder inline styles */ body { font-family: arial, verdana; } a, a [...]

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