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Keen on Quinoa

May 17, 2010

Never heard of it? I’m sorry. Really, I am. I grew up eating this tasty grain and I’ve always loved its natural earthy nuttiness. It’s such a great substitute for the plain old rice or noodles that so often sit sadly in the corner of your dinner plate.

Last quarter when we were discussing starches and grains in class, quinoa was brought up and I was shocked by how many people were just clueless about its existence. And these are culinarians! Shameful…

Quinoa’s delicious flavor aside, this tiny seed has many other benefits. It’s a good source of fiber without being a chore to eat. It’s also a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids a human needs. These properties were appreciated by the people of the South American Andes, who have been harvesting the grain for some 5,000 years.

My fondness for quinoa reinvigorated by a need to prove its worth, I bought a 5 lb bag of it from Costco and decided to experiment. Even I was surprised! See what you can do with this amazing grain!

First things first: the simple way to cook quinoa. It’s just like cooking rice! 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Combine in a saucepot, season with salt, and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes (time depends on the quantity). If I’m preparing quinoa to eat plain, I like to cook it in chicken stock for some extra flavor.

Now for the recipes. I started with the more obvious uses, then worked my way through some more unusual applications…

New World Quinoa Stew

I found this recipe in a 1996 copy of Vegetarian Times my mom had stashed away in her cookbook cupboard. With a few substitutions and additions, this was a very simple to prepare, deeply flavored dish. The chipotles were a little spicy for mom, but not overwhelming. If you’re not keen on spice, add less or try a dash of chili powder instead so you don’t lose the warmth of the peppers. When I had the leftovers the following day, I added some grated lemon zest on top and it really brightened the flavor. Definitely recommend it!


  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups yellow potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, seeds removed, minced
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Lemon zest, freshly grated


  1. In a large pot or high-sided sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. Sauté until the onions are tender, stirring, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and zucchini and sauté, stirring, until the potatoes are lightly browned.
  3. Add quinoa and toast, stirring, until golden brown in color, about 1 minute. Add stock, chipotle chilies, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add corn, season to taste, and simmer 5 more minutes.
  4. Serve hot with a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest.

Curried Quinoa Salad

I wanted to find a hearty cold salad I could bring on a hike with my friend Katie. She had provided something similar on an earlier hike made with spelt berries (which I’ll definitely have to experiment with in the future). This recipe was found on RecipeZaar. Again, I made a few adjustments and one scrumptious addition– pecans! (I’m mildly obsessed with them right now). This salad is slightly spicy, slightly sweet, crunchy and delicious! Katie brought some pita chips and they were excellent quinoa-scoopers. Great power fuel for a day hiking Little Si!


  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped


  1. Rinse quinoa in plenty of water, drain. (Quinoa had a natural bitter coating called saponin that should be removed before cooking. Most quinoa you buy with come pre-rinsed, but it’s good to rinse it once more just to be sure).
  2. In saucepot, combine the chicken stock (or water) and quinoa and bring the to a boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  4. Remove from heat, cover, and steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and cool.
  5. In small bowl, mix soy sauce, vinegar, honey, curry powder and red pepper flakes, stirring to combine.
  6. In a large bowl, combine, the remaining ingredients. Gently stir in cooled quinoa, then soy sauce mixture, tossing to coat all the grains. Chill and serve cold or at room temperature.
Coconut Quinoa Pudding
Dessert! This concept had never occurred to me before taking on this little challenge. As soon as I saw a sweet quinoa recipe, I had to try it out. The first recipe I found for Quinoa Pudding sounded promising with tons of reviews praising the dish. I was less than enthused about the results. Dense, dry, and still too savory. I wasn’t going to give up on the idea though, so I hunted around for another option (RecipeZaar again). This pudding was made on the stove top rather than the oven, resulting in a much creamier texture. The original recipe had you making it over a double boiler. After about 10 minutes of that, I got impatient and poured the mixture straight into the pot and I don’t think it suffered for it. And it took about half as long to make! After letting it chill, I topped mine with some toasted coconut, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and fresh strawberries for a very scrumptious treat. I know you might still balk at trying this, but just think of it like rice pudding. Yum!
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (I used nonfat)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used lite)
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • toasted coconut (to garnish)
  1. Combine milk, coconut milk, quinoa, 1/4 cup of sugar,  salt and vanilla in a medium sauce pot.
  2. Simmer until the quinoa is tender and most of the milk has been absorbed, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the remaining sugar and set aside to cool.
  4. Just before serving, garnish with toasted coconut and fresh fruit.
Strawberry Quinoa Scones
A baker in the making, I knew I had to see how quinoa held up in baked goods. There are a fair number of recipes out there that use quinoa flour, but I wanted to use the grain itself for my purposes. I found this recipe and it piqued my interest, so I gave it a go. As with other scone recipes I’ve dealt with, this recipe called for way more liquid ingredients than was necessary. It’s always a good idea when making scones to add the liquid in increments. I should have known to add mine more slowly, but with about 1/4 of the liquids still left, I realized I’d added too much and ended up kneading in some extra flour. Luckily, it didn’t harm the scones and they turned out flaky and delicious! If you’re still wary about cooking with quinoa, I would definitely recommend starting here (or with the next recipe) since it’s so subtle. I’ve made the adjustments to the recipe below.
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and diced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a small bowl, beat together buttermilk, egg and vanilla.
  3. In a larger bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Thoroughly incorporate the quinoa, breaking apart any clumps.
  4. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers to create pea-sized pieces (although it’s tempting to rub it in further, it’s better to leave fairly big chunks of butter as this creates the flaky texture you want). Gently toss the strawberries into the flour mixture.
  5. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in batches until dough is slightly sticky.
  6. Gently knead on a lightly floured surface. Form into a circle, approximately 1 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges.
  7. Transfer wedges to a prepared baking sheet and bake 15 minutes, until the scones are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center has a few crumbs on it.
  8. Cool and drizzle with glaze if desired (combine powdered sugar with a couple drops of vanilla and just enough water to loosen it).

Quinoa Soda Bread

After all this experimenting, I felt comfortable enough to try my own recipe incorporating quinoa. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, you’ve no doubt sampled their brown bread. I’m absolutely enamored of the dense, hearty bread and perfected my recipe while living in Ireland. However, I’ve had trouble recreating it since coming home since we just don’t have the same “wholemeal” flour the Irish have with all its good bits and texture. I’ve tried to recreate this flour by adding wheat bran or wheat germ to normal whole wheat flour and the thought occurred to me that perhaps the addition of quinoa could return the texture to this bread. The outcome was delicious– it smelled just like it should and was incredible with a smear of blackcurrant jam. I think I’ll just have to put quinoa in my brown bread from now on!
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, blended (use a food processor to make a coarse powder)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil and flour a loaf pan.
  2. Combine the flours, quinoa, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients in batches until a sticky but firm dough forms (as with the scones, you may not need all the liquid, so don’t just dump it all in at once).
  4. Move batter into the loaf pan and spread it out evenly.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, tent with foil, and bake another 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly before slicing (if you can wait!).
I hope my efforts have inspired you to try this versatile grain! Let me know the outcome of your own experiments and feel free to give me comments or suggestions! What do you want to see me work with next? You name it!
7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2010 7:11 am

    Carly, these recipes look fantastic! Thanks for sharing, I also adore quinoa. 🙂 I am definitely going to try the sweet recipe, how interesting.

    xx jaci

  2. May 18, 2010 7:18 am

    Yeah Carly! We are on it. We are already big fans of your blog. We Gluten free converts will try your recipes and report back. Thank you. They look delicious.

  3. Kathy permalink
    May 18, 2010 8:52 am

    Hi Carly,
    I love your blog and wish I was around to try some of your cooking. I just bought some Quinoa 2 days ago and these recipes will come in handy. See you in August! Kathy Santa Barbara

    • monica linger permalink
      May 19, 2010 11:38 pm

      I have never even tried Quinoa. However, after reading your recipes I’am totally inspired………I’ll let you know the outcome.

  4. May 22, 2010 9:12 am

    Hi Carly, I am going to make your Quinoa stew for a potluck I am going to today. What are chilis in adobo?

    I’ll let you know how it the California folks like it.

    Love, Aunt Deb

    • Carly permalink
      May 22, 2010 10:23 am

      You find chipotle chilis in adobo in the ethnic food aisle with the Mexican cooking products. They come in cans. Let me know how you like it!


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