Quinoa – what is it?

Quinoa is making a comeback as a popular alternative to other more widely recognized grains. Here is some of what Wikipedia has to say about this tasty… seed??

Quinoa (pronounced /ˈkiːnwɑː/ or /kɨˈnoʊ.ə/, Spanish: quinua, from Quechua: kinwa), a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited.

The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains’, and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using ‘golden implements’. During the European conquest of South America quinoa was scorned by the Spanish colonists as ‘food for Indians’, and even actively suppressed its cultivation, due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies. In fact, the conquistadors forbade quinoa cultivation for a time and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and was followed in importance by maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), and like oats, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source among plant foods. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.

Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to white rice or couscous.

A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). As an alternative, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, treating it just like white rice (for both cooking cycle and water amounts).

Vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of dishes. Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted for water during cooking, adding flavor. It is also suited to vegetable pilafs, complementing bitter greens like kale.

Quinoa can serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds, or berries; it is also sold as a dry product, much like corn flakes. Quinoa flour can be used in wheat-based and gluten-free baking.

Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content.[15] In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2–4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours with wheat.[citation needed] This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

I for one, love this interesting grain 🙂


Southwest Quinoa

Here’s another of my favorite salad recipes! This is a great way to get some healthy protein without eating meat. This salad tastes fresh and bright and happy. If you haven’t found a way to enjoy quinoa, try this. Trust me!

Southwest Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print


  • 1 heaping T grated lime zest
  • ¼ c. fresh lime juice
  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T maple syrup or 1 tsp granulated sweetener
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper


  • 2 c quinoa – rinsed well (soak for a few minutes, drain in a fine strainer)
  • 4 c water
  • 2 cans black beans – rinsed well (or about 3 c. cooked black beans, rinsed well)
  • 4 medium tomatoes – diced
  • 1 bunch green onions – finely chopped (including most of the green part)
  • 1 c fresh cilantro – coarsely chopped


  1. Simmer quinoa in water, uncovered, about 10 minutes.
  2. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Strain any excess water. (Quinoa seems to cook up about the same way rice does – so you should be safe using using your favorite “rice cooking” method.)
  3. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a bowl or blend together in a food processor to emulsify.
  4. Combine dressing and quinoa in a large bowl and stir to coat evenly.
  5. Add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
  6. Taste and add a little salt or lime juice if needed to bring out the flavor.

This can be served hot or as a cold salad – it’s delicious either way!