By Emily McKenna, Recipe Developer & Tester for EatingWell Magazine
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is one of nature's superfoods and a busy cook's dream: it's ready in 15 minutes! This nutty-tasting, gluten-free grain delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein, since it provides all 9 essential amino acids.
To cook quinoa, simply stir it into boiling water or broth, cover and simmer over low heat until done. The ratio is 1 cup of uncooked quinoa to 2 cups of liquid.
Basic Quinoa Recipe
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water or broth
Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Yield: 3 cups cooked quinoa Serving size: 1/2 cup Nutrition per serving: 111 calories, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein, 3 g fiber.
Here are a few more tips to help you make really delicious quinoa.
1. Check Whether You Need to Rinse Your Quinoa Quinoa grows with a bitter, protective coating called saponin that is, luckily, easily rinsed off. Most of the quinoa sold today in supermarkets is prerinsed, although a quick rinse under the faucet never hurts. To rinse: Place quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and run it under cold water for a few seconds. Shake off any excess water and you are ready to proceed with cooking.
2. Toast Quinoa for More Flavor Toasting quinoa in a skillet with a little bit of oil over low heat for a few minutes before adding it to boiling water gives quinoa an even more intense nutty flavor. To toast, heat some oil (you'll need 1 tablespoon of neutral oil like canola for every 1 1/2 cups quinoa) over medium-low heat and add your quinoa. Stir it constantly (so that it doesn't burn) until it begins to turn golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Cook Quinoa in Something Besides Water To cook quinoa, you simply stir it into your liquid of choice, cover and simmer over low heat until done. The ratio is 2 cups of water or other cooking liquid to 1 cup of quinoa. Water is the easiest, cheapest and healthiest choice as it's lowest in sodium. Other supermarket staples, like low-sodium chicken, mushroom or vegetable broth, are as easy to use as water and they can add a lot of flavor. You could even cut some of the stock with a splash of dry white wine, using 1/2 cup of wine plus 1 1/2 cups of broth for every 1 cup of quinoa.
4. Watch the Time Quinoa cooks quickly—in about 15 minutes or less. Some package directions tell you to turn off the heat once the liquid boils and you've stirred in the quinoa. We prefer to bring the cooking liquid to a boil, stir in the quinoa, then turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer gently, until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. You will know when the quinoa is done because it will look like it has popped open—revealing the germ of the kernel.
5. Fluff Quinoa Before Serving Quinoa loves a little pampering. After it has cooked, use a fork to fluff and separate the grains.
Pictured Recipe: Pear-Quinoa Salad
Here are some recipes you can make with cooked quinoa:
Quinoa Lasagna This healthy quinoa lasagna recipe has a layer of quinoa (rather than noodles) along with vegetables, cheese and herbs. Though it tastes like comfort food, don’t worry, this quinoa lasagna recipe is not too heavy—you’ll still have room for dessert. To save time, use your favorite jarred tomato sauce in this vegetarian lasagna.
Southwest Quinoa Cakes This healthy quinoa cake recipe is packed with protein from the black beans, eggs, cottage cheese and quinoa. We like to serve the quinoa cakes with a mouthwatering and incredibly easy blender salsa; if you don’t like the heat, leave out the chipotle pepper.
Corn & Black Bean Quinoa Salad Make this spicy poblano, corn, black bean and quinoa salad recipe to serve with whatever you’re grilling, or have a larger portion as a main dish.
Snap Pea & Quinoa Salad Snap peas and mushrooms are combined with the fresh flavor of lemon in this pretty, healthy quinoa salad recipe. If you can make it ahead of time, do—this quinoa salad is even better the next day, after the dressing has soaked into the mushrooms and quinoa.
Spiced Breakfast Quinoa Quinoa is often turned into a creamy hot breakfast cereal in Bolivia, where much of the world’s quinoa is grown. This healthy breakfast quinoa recipe is a hot cereal that is infused with an aromatic chai-inspired blend of spices—cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Quinoa Pilaf with Seared Scallops Make whole grains the center of your dinner plate with this citrus-studded quinoa pilaf recipe topped with sweet seared sea scallops.