It’s no surprise that quinoa – a seed originating in the Andes – has found its way onto many menus and inside of many home chefs’ pantries. When I want to serve up some spontaneous brilliance, I know that meal possibilities are endless when it comes to quinoa. It is commonly used in place of a grain such as rice or couscous as it has a similar cooking process. With a soft yet slightly chewy texture, quinoa soaks up the flavors of both sweet and savory dishes, making it a versatile ingredient for any recipe.
Why do I love cooking with this pseudo grain? Let me tell you all about how versatile it is and all of the delicious ways you can use it! After all, in order to really understand how to make each and every quinoa dish outstanding, it’s best to learn the ins and outs of this seed.
Quinoa has a subtle nutty flavor, with an earthy aftertaste similar to brown rice – red being the earthiest of the three varieties. Because of the mild taste, quinoa absorbs tons of flavor from cooking liquids, dressings, and other ingredients it’s tossed with.
Many people think of quinoa as strictly a white-ish or beige color, but in reality, it's a diverse ingredient that comes in three bold colors: red, white, and black. Each offers up something special that can make your meal unique. When it comes to cooking and flavor, I love to have RiceSelect® White Quinoa as it offers my meals a neutral yet slightly nutty flavor and I find that works well in nearly everything. However, if I’m looking for a hint of earthy flavor to pair with seared meat and fish or in cold salads or bowls, I opt for Red Quinoa. When I want to make a plate that is particularly vibrant, I reach for some Tri-Color Quinoa, as it boasts three types of quinoa: red, white, and black.
This wholesome whole grain is actually a seed, containing all nine essential amino acids, making it ideal for Gluten Free, vegan and vegetarian diets. Every serving contains 6g of protein, 5g of fiber, 2mg of iron, and – depending on the variety – 300 or more mg of potassium. In other words, this plant-based protein is fiber dense and packed with plenty of nutritional benefits. Plus, RiceSelect® Quinoa is low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, Non-GMO Project Verified with no preservatives or additives.
While quinoa is a seed, rice is a grain. Quinoa shares a similar profile with only brown rice (this is the only grain that still has the bran and germ layer intact), including that both are considered a complete protein. However, brown rice only contains a few – rather than all nine – of the essential amino acids.
Similarly shaped, couscous and quinoa are both small grain-like foods used in similar recipes and as rice substitutes. However, as couscous is technically a pasta made from semolina wheat, quinoa is the better option when preparing Gluten Free plates. To learn more about Couscous, make sure to read through our couscous guide.
I use a simple ratio of 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa.
I bring the water – or, for added flavor, broth – to a boil. At this point, I add a pinch of salt and 1 tsp olive oil or extra flavor. I stir in quinoa, cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Then, I remove the pan from heat and let it stand (covered) for 5 minutes. I give it a fluff with a fork before serving.
Now that your quinoa is ready, what’s next? Well, it’s great on its own for a filling side dish – simply drizzle on some olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and enjoy! I’ve found that nutty quinoa pairs well with cumin, bay leaves, and turmeric as well as fresh garlic, parsley, dill, and cilantro.
Of course, when it comes to this pseudo grain, there are plenty of possibilities!
Why do I rave about how versatile this seed is? There are so many different ways in which you can use quinoa; in fact, let’s look at a couple of my go-to uses!
Quinoa is an ideal base for a bowl because it absorbs all the flavors from the recipe! Its neutral yet subtly nutty flavor is easy to pair with whatever is on the menu. From dawn until dusk, quinoa has quickly become my go-to (pseudo)grain when I’m looking for a filling foundation. Start with this Pulled Jackfruit Quinoa Bowl and continue with more delicious options below.
When I’m looking for a satisfying stuffing, I often opt for quinoa. It’s filling without being too heavy and the texture is somewhat unexpected, so I love mixing things up with a stuffed dish as a dinner party. For instance, a cross between cabbage rolls and a vegetarian cannelloni, these Quinoa Swiss Chard Rolls are always a hit. They are hearty enough to be served as a main course, but I’ve also made bite-sized rolls as a tasty starter.
Of course, quinoa doesn’t always have to be hidden! Let it take center stage: mix it with other ingredients of choice for a delicious medley of flavors. One of my favorite dishes is an Indonesian-style chicken fried quinoa that’s loaded with loads of veggies; this Quinoa & Chicken Nasi Goreng offers sweet and spicy flavors in every bite.
When it comes to burgers, quinoa can be your base or your binder! Because it’s packed with protein, it can serve as a meat substitute. Or, if you want burgers that are brimming with protein, use this grain as a binder. These Quinoa Meatball Sliders are packed with both ground beef and quinoa!
Remember how quinoa is Gluten Free? This makes quinoa an ideal pizza dough option when it comes to preparing an all-inclusive menu! Trust me, everyone is satisfied with the crispy quinoa crusts in these Mushroom Pancetta Quinoa Pizza Recipe.
Now you’ve got an idea of how versatile this whole grain seed can truly be. Use this quinoa guide to help you serve up spontaneous brilliance when creativity strikes! With a little help from these cooking tips for home chefs and a pantry stocked with RiceSelect®, you are well on your way to culinary excellence!