A couple of years ago, quinoa wasn’t even on my radar as a food that I would want to eat. Once I went gluten-free though, it became necessary to really explore foods that I hadn’t considered before and the absence of so many of my go-to carbs made this option seem rather appealing.
In all honesty, since changing my diet to gluten-free, it has become my favorite pantry staple that I have used to create delicious, protein-packed dishes that my whole family loves. However, please keep in mind that quinoa has “gluten-like” storage proteins that can mimic proteins found in wheat, barley and rye so it might now be the right choice for everyone.
Wild Oats thankfully offers a variety of delicious quinoa options that you can find on your local Walmart shelves. Today I want to share a little bit about what quinoa is and some tips for preparing it!
What is quinoa?
- Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a gluten-free seed that originates from the Andean region of South America.
- It’s a fantastic source of protein, fiber, vitamin B and iron and contains all eight amino acids.
- Though smaller than rice, barley, farro and bulgur, quinoa looks like a grain thanks to its neutral coloring and hard exterior. In reality, it is a seed related to the spinach plant.
- When cooked, it expands rapidly and significantly, becomes tender but chewy, and expels spirals that boast a slight crunch.
What does quinoa taste like?
After cooking quinoa in a liquid of your choice (water, chicken or vegetable broth), it becomes light, fluffy and nutty. I find the flavor similar to couscous and brown rice. It’s a taste difficult to describe, but worth trying simply for the nutritional benefits it offers.
How should I prepare quinoa?
Since I rely heavily upon prepping quinoa for weekly meals, I use a rice cooker because it’s reliable and hassle free. If you don’t have a rice cooker, it is a very inexpensive appliance that allows you to simply pour in ingredients and turn it on, freeing up time to create other dishes. I prefer using it because it allows me to easily double batch quinoa for the week and cooks it perfectly every time. (See how to use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa in the recipe below.)
Can I cook quinoa on the stovetop?
Yes! To cook it on the stove, measure two cups of liquid per cup of quinoa, and combine them in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil, and then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is tender, but still chewy, and white spiral-like threads appear around each grain. This should take approximately 15 minutes.
Check out my recipe for Pizza Quinoa Mushrooms.
Does plain quinoa taste good?
I don’t really love quinoa plain because it lacks a lot of flavor on its own, but I think it is a great building block for creating a variety of healthy, enjoyable dishes. I use it in my summer salads, as a protein-packed addition to a yogurt parfait, as a stuffing in my peppers, and I love to create patties with quinoa as a delicious meat-free substitute for a burger. Consider this fun ingredient your building block, especially if you are eating a gluten-free diet.
How do I make it my rice cooker?
- 1 cup Wild Oats Quinoa
- 2 cups liquid (low-sodium chicken broth, low-sodium vegetable broth, or water)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Using a fine mesh sieve rinse 1 cup of organic quinoa in cold water (Note: the brand pictured here does not require a rinse, but I wanted to show you how to do it if it does. Read the back of the box/bag to find out if rinsing is necessary).
- Pour rinsed quinoa into your rice cooker.
- Add your liquid and salt.
- Turn on your rice cooker. When the rice cooker beeps, you will have perfectly cooked quinoa (approximately fifteen minutes)
- Unplug the cooker. Allow quinoa to set for three to five minutes and then fluff with a fork.