Cooking quinoa can mystify even the most seasoned of chefs. That is why I wrote this article about cooking healthy quinoa. This blog post aims to de-mystify the cooking experience so that everyone can enjoy delicious, fluffy quinoa and it's flavorful and nutritional benefits. Read on for some essential tips which will change your quinoa experience from inedible to incredible.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is an ancient grain that has become all the rage in recent years for it's high protein and fiber contents and versatility. It is a wonderful addition to salads, a great side dish and is even works well in soups. When quinoa is cooked correctly it feels light, airy, and fluffy and the texture is heavenly. But when cooked wrong, it is a horror show. Undesirable results span the extremes between crunchy when undercooked, to a sticky, starchy, mush when overcooked. Both results are equally unpalatable.
How to cook Quinoa STEP ONE: MEASURE YOUR QUINOA! The ratio of quinoa to liquid is 1 part quinoa to two parts liquid. However, when cooking grain add a tablespoon extra of water "for the pan" per cup of grain to make up for the evaporation. I was taught this cooking tip many moons ago from an amazing natural foods chef and it never fails me. So if I am cooking 1 cup of quinoa I will add 2 cups water plus 1 tablespoon.
How to cook quinoa STEP 2: RINSE YOUR QUINOA! Use a fine mesh strainer and rinse the heck out of it and then let it drain for a couple minutes before cooking.
How to cook Quinoa STEP3: Add your rinsed quinoa and your measured water to a pot. Then add a pinch of salt, a bloop of oil or a pat of vegan butter. I serve quinoa with things that have a lot of flavor so I keep my quinoa very basic. You may add veggie bullion or dry herbs as well at this point in the cooking process.
How to cook quinoa STEP 4: Bring to a boil and cover, then turn down to a simmer for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa looks as if it has popped. This is called "the germ" and if you do not see that little ring, the quinoa will be crunchy. Look closely for the little telltale circle in the middle and if it has broken. RESIST ALL URGES TO STIR WITH A SPOON. Never stir any cooked grains with a spoon as it will break them and make them mushy. If you see there is no water and you see the little funny broken ring your quinoa is ready to take off the heat and let sit for 5-10 mins with the cover on as you get the other items ready. Then uncover and fluff with a fork gently. GENTLY! Trust the process!
TROUBLESHOOTING If the water has absorbed too quickly because the heat was too high on the burner all is not lost! DO NOT STIR IT! Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and turn it as low as possible. Give it 5 more minutes of cooking with the cover on. At that point you should surely see that little germ pop!
How to use quinoa
To use quinoa for salads, after cooking gently tap it out onto a sheet pan to cool. This makes it ideal for use in meal prep containers. You will love a cold salad with quinoa as the base like a pasta salad but healthier. It pairs well with citrusy dressings and combos of both raw and roasted veggies for a heart healthy meal or side dish.
Soups made with quinoa are sensational. Like with any grain or pasta, keep cooked quinoa separate from the soup and add in when serving to retain it's integrity. It is wonderful in a white bean and kale soup, in a chickpea minestrone, or any soup that you would put rice or pasta. Sub in quinoa with success using my cooking tips. Never add quinoa into a big pot of warm soup. You will end up with an aberration much like that of swollen noodles.
Quinoa is awesome in burritos and burrito bowls. It pairs perfectly with beans and chilis and makes a hearty meal which feels lighter than it's starchier cousin rice. And it's high fiber and protein and lower fat content make it an ideal food for carb lovers who are watching their weight.
How long does cooked quinoa last?
Once you use my tips for cooking quinoa, quinoa will become a favorite. Since it is so easy to cook, you will be making big batches to use throughout the week in recipes. Once cooked, quinoa should be used within 3-5 days. If kept plain and properly refrigerated and covered it will be great for 5 days. If dressed or in anther preparation it will begin o degrade at about the 3 day mark. I have some great news! Quinoa freezes very well and will be fine for about 2 months if sealed properly. Frozen quinoa works very well in soups and skillet meals. For salads, I prefer freshly cooked quinoa.
Why should you eat quinoa?
People often make jokes about quinoa. It has a reputation to be trendy, hipster or tree hugger but there is a reason healthy foodies love it! Once you master the simple art of cooking quinoa you will be enjoying an ancient food that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Often revered as the "mother of all grains" quinoa is truly awesome and will surely become a staple in your kitchen. It is healthy, delicious and versatile. With my tips, you will be cooking quinoa like a pro!