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You Asked: 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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  • 129
    Yes. It is good. I have a pintrest board with recipes I'm collecting. - 11/12/2017   8:31:50 PM
  • 1SUNBUMM11
    Love it. - 5/26/2017   1:26:03 PM
    thanks for posting the great ways to use quinoa - 5/23/2017   12:31:29 PM
  • 126
    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. - 4/20/2017   7:19:39 PM
  • 125
    I had to take rice and beans out of my diet as I get severe diarrhea. Will quinoa do the same? - 4/20/2017   3:43:56 PM
  • 124
    I've never tried it but I've seen it on some of the cooking shows and always wondered what it tastes like. - 4/20/2017   12:30:15 PM
  • 123
    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. - 4/20/2017   10:57:48 AM
  • 122
    Salad recipes are very helpful. It is high in calories, so using it with veg works well. - 4/20/2017   10:36:25 AM
  • 121
    Great article on quinoa! - 4/13/2017   2:25:37 PM
  • 120
    very interesting - 4/13/2017   8:18:39 AM
  • 119
    Too many calories in this little seed for me. - 4/12/2017   9:24:57 PM
  • 118
    yummy - 4/12/2017   5:20:55 PM
  • 117
    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... - 4/12/2017   2:21:28 PM
    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. - 4/12/2017   12:50:33 PM
  • 115
    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! - 4/12/2017   12:06:10 PM
  • 114
    I never knew what to do with it before so this article is helpful! - 4/12/2017   9:12:44 AM
  • 113
    Quinoa is not a big hit in my house. - 4/12/2017   6:49:12 AM
  • 112
    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. - 7/23/2016   10:35:32 PM
  • 111
    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! - 6/13/2016   2:01:14 AM
  • 110
    I've used it as a rice substitute and as an addition to salads.....works just like rice in so many dishes..... - 5/2/2016   3:30:16 PM
  • 109
    I have never cooked Quinoa but would love to try it. - 5/2/2016   2:58:59 PM
  • 108
    I tried it twice but apparently I can't figure out how to clean and cook it. It tasted horrible to me. - 5/2/2016   11:58:20 AM
  • 107
    I have used it in everything from baking to soups, salads, and my veggie mix Absolutely Great.. - 5/2/2016   10:21:48 AM
  • 106
    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! :) - 1/14/2016   1:59:51 AM
    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..... - 10/25/2015   5:31:30 PM
  • 104
    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! - 6/30/2015   3:02:09 PM
  • 103
    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 - 6/30/2015   10:10:10 AM
    Quinoa is not a grain. It is a seed. - 6/30/2015   2:04:31 AM
  • 101
    Family still isn't thrilled with this stuff. - 5/10/2015   8:04:38 AM
    This article is 7 years old and contains incorrect nutritional information. Don't you think you owe it to Sparkpeople members to correct it?!?!?! - 5/9/2015   12:00:49 PM
    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. - 5/9/2015   10:56:23 AM
  • 98
    Thank you for this blog. Awesome. - 5/9/2015   8:55:43 AM
  • 97
    I recently tried it and like it. To me it's comparable to couscous. - 5/2/2015   2:46:57 PM
  • 96
    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 - 5/2/2015   11:58:01 AM
    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. - 5/2/2015   8:46:17 AM
    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. - 2/14/2015   10:23:20 AM
    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. - 2/14/2015   10:23:18 AM
  • 92
    Quinoa tastes like pillbugs smell. - 9/3/2014   1:15:16 PM
  • 91
    Yes I love it. Sweet or savory. The only thing I don't like is the calorie count, almost 300 cals in 1/2 cup...WOW. I'm going to try it in some oatmeal along with some ground flax, maybe 1/3 of each. That sounds healthy!! - 3/8/2012   5:56:15 PM
    Seeing the real nutritional numbers will have me trying quinoa as soon as I find it in a store. I really dislike brown rice and hope to find something else to replace it and maybe this will be it. - 7/24/2011   7:54:18 PM
  • 89
    I bought some, but have not cooked it yet. I see a lot of recipes that include legumes. Is anyone else sensitive to legumes? - 1/27/2011   4:03:51 PM
  • 88
    I have never heard of it but will try it - and may recommend it to a friend who is on a gluten free diet. It does seem a little hi in calories but I guess I would just plan my fruits and veggies around it since it is a good source of protein - 1/15/2011   8:18:39 PM
  • 87
    So high in calories!! But i do like it in soups!! - 9/22/2010   10:31:46 PM
  • 86
    Where would i purchase this? and what isle would it be on... i mean what kind of foods would it be near in the store? I would like to give it a try. - 9/16/2010   9:54:47 PM
  • 85
    I love the nutty flavor of some rices so I know I will love this too. Thanks! - 9/16/2010   6:14:23 PM
  • 84
    Thanks to THREEPETS3 for posting the link to the correct nutritional information. I would not try this grain if it had the calorie count listed above. With the new info, I might give it a try. - 9/16/2010   9:58:46 AM
  • 83
    I've just recently discovered quinoa, and I love it! It's easy to prepare and very versatile. I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes. Thanks. - 5/24/2010   7:54:42 AM
  • ROWAN813
    My DH and I love quinoa. I jsut cook it in chicken broth and use it like I would rice. It has been a niceaddition to the pantry!
    - 4/16/2010   4:54:07 PM
  • 81
    I just finished a week of wheat-free, rye-free, oat-free and rice-free eating. Quinoa was a lifesaver, although I wish I had looked at the recipes before starting the week. - 4/16/2010   1:42:01 AM
  • 80
    I have tried it and love it! - 4/15/2010   2:10:13 PM

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