Cooking foods - Quinoa

About quinoa

Quinoa [pr. KEEN-wah] is the seed of a leafy plant that's distantly related to spinach. It is native to the Andes, where it has been cultivated continuously for more than 5,000 years, earning its nickname of “rice of the Incas”. To this day, it's an important food in South American cuisine.

It has excellent reserves of protein with better quality than any other grain (it contains all eight essential amino acids). It is also a good source of fibre, potassium and riboflavin, as well as other B vitamins; additionally, it contains magnesium, iron and folic acid. It does not contain any gluten. It may be easily substituted for any other grain, as a side dish, in soups, in salads and even in puddings. It has a slightly crunchy texture, mild flavour which has been compared to that of couscous. In South America it is used to make an alcoholic beverage called chicha.


Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivory-coloured quinoa must be rinsed thoroughly before cooking to remove any residue of a resinous, bitter natural coating called saponin. Place the grains in a fine strainer and hold it under cold running water until the water runs clear, then drain well.

To cook, use two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Combine the liquid and quinoa in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook the quinoa until the grains are translucent and the germ has spiralled out from each grain, about 15 minutes.

As a side dish, calculate 40-50 g, i.e. 1/4 to 1/3 cup per serving. After cooking, quinoa expands to four times its original volume.


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