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How to cook quinoa

This ancient grain is simple to prepare, highly nutritious and delicious!

Quinoa (pronounced ‘keenwa’) is a whole grain that is actually the seed of a leafy plant distantly related to spinach. It is versatile in its use and gluten-free. Quinoa is available as white grains, ‘Inca red’ grains, as well as a giant variety.

It has a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, not dissimilar to couscous, which combines well with all sorts of flavours.

Quinoa is ideal as the base for salads, hot or cold. It can be used as a replacement for rice or couscous to accompany curries and chilli-style dishes. Once cooked, it can be added to casseroles, soups and stews to add extra bulk or thickness in the same way lentils do.

In supermarkets, look in the specialist or international aisle or near couscous and rice. It is available from most health food shops and organic shops too.

A star among grains, quinoa has higher levels of protein, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium than most other grains such as rice or wheat. The protein in quinoa is more balanced than other grains, making it a great addition to a vegetarian diet. And recent research suggests including quinoa in a gluten-free diet helps improve the overall nutrient and phytonutrient content of the diet.

  1. To cook quinoa, rinse 1 cup of quinoa under cold running water. Place rinsed quinoa in a pan. Pour over 2 cups water (you can also use stock or water flavoured with herb sprigs). Stir the quinoa then cover with a lid.
  2. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer until all water is absorbed. This will take about 12-15 minutes. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before fluffing up with a fork.

Roasted vegetable quinoa salad

First published: May 2010



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