12 things you should know about quinoa

quinoa roast cauliflower & quinoa salad

I’m always a little suspicious of anything that gets touted as a ‘superfood’. Which is why it took me a while to get around to trying quinoa.

My first encounter was with puffed quinoa as part of an exploration of new breakfast cereals. Not very inspiring unless you come from the school of thought that cereal should resemble styrofoam and be useful as a packing material.

But with my Dad’s gluten intolerance I decided to give the whole grains another chance. And I’m glad I did.

12 things you should know about quinoa

1. it’s delicious
No matter how ‘good for you’ a food is, I don’t include it in my diet unless it passes the taste test. Puffed quinoa won’t be starring on stonesoup anytime soon but the whole grains definitely make it. Slightly nutty and grainy, they’re something I could keep eating and eating.

2. it has a funny pronunciation
I always feel a tiny bit pretentious when I correct people but apparently it likes to be referred to as ‘keen-wah’.

3. it’s high in protein
A big positive for vegetarians as I’ve learned recently. It’s also pretty good on iron and fibre, which gets the nutritionists excited.

4. it’s gluten free
With my Dad being gluten intolerant, I’m always appreciative of new options to cook for him. He’s pretty keen on the rolled quinoa flakes for breakfast as well.

5. it needs washing before use
I read somewhere that the surface of quinoa contains a chemical called saponin that has a bitter soapy taste. Most commercial quinoa will already be washed and have the saponin removed but it’s a good idea to rinse it just before you use it in case there are residues.

6. it comes in different colours
Just like grapes, quinoa comes in different varieties. The most common is white, but there are also red and black. I’ve only ever come across the white variety.

7. it comes in different forms
Just like corn, it can be puffed or rolled into flakes or you can buy it whole.

8. it looks like a grain but is actually a seed

9. it has an interesting texture
The thing I love about quinoa is it’s texture. Something a little like barley with its chewiness, it also has a light fluffiness akin to well prepared couscous.

10. it’s better if you cook it
One of my first experiment with quinoa I just rinsed it in boiling water, tossed it in dressing and used it in a salad. It was edible but a little weird.

11. you can also eat the leaves
I’m yet to find a souce of fresh quinoa or it’s leaves but if you do apparently the leaves are edible. Something like chard or silverbeet.

12. it’s becoming more readily available
In Australia it’s even available in the ‘health food’ section of our supermarkets. Am sure any health food store worth its lentils would either already stock quinoa or be able to source it for you.

roast cauliflower & quinoa salad

[5 ingredients]
warm salad of roast cauliflower & quinoa

serves 2

Inspired by Cath Claringbold in the Good Weekend.

You could use all sorts of soft cheese in this recipe. Ricotta or goats curd would be lovely but I had some bocconcini that needed eating up and I really enjoyed it’s slightly chewy texture to contrast the cauliflower & quinoa. If you were wanting to go cheese free some roasted almonds would be a great substitution.

Wonderfully satisfying as a main course salad on it’s own, it would also work well without the cheese as a side dish to fish or roast chook.

I used tomato paste to flavour and slightly colour the quinoa but you could ditch it and replace the water with vegetable or chicken stock if you liked.

If you can’t find quinoa, you could substitute in your favourite cooked grain such as couscous, barley or brown rice. You’ll need to adjust the amount of water and cooking times though.

1/2 large cauliflower (approx 350g / 12oz)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped
large handful bocconcini, torn into bight size pieces

Preheat oven to 200C. Cut cauliflower into bight size little trees. Place in a roasting dish, drizzle with some olive oil, season and roast, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is golden on the edges and cooked through.

Rinse quinoa well and place in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water and the tomato paste. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed. Season.

Divide cauliflower between two warm plates, scatter over quinoa, cheese and chives.

roast cauliflower

Print Friendly


rajan jolly September 25, 2012 at 12:21 am

Wonderful info on quinoa Jules. Never tried it but no that I know about it would like to try it. Also, can it be sprouted?

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Yes Rajan!
It looks really cute when sprouted

Tash September 26, 2012 at 11:28 am

In Tazzy I foung organic quinoa in health-food-shop $9.95 per kg.
Cooked it yesterday – first time ever. Interesting texture and taste… but sticky like a porrige. I was hoping for something like coucous. Will try again with different proportion of water.
Thank you , Jules for such interesting blog!

jacinta November 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

hey tash

I love cous cous and quinoa; however, they can both be cooked in so many ways and end up completely different.

I prefer my quinoa as whole seeds rather than flakes where each little granule is cooked but kind of fluffy.

I rinse the quinoa in a strainer and then put double the amount of water into a saucepan

1 cup – 2 cup water is good for three people

then boil it for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and then test it a little, anywhere between 2 – 5 more minutes from here, pretty much the majority of water will be boiled out. then dump it back in the strainer and rinse with warm water.


good luck

jules November 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Thanks for sharing your quinoa tips Jacinta!

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:56 pm

If it was sticky Tash, you’ve probably cooked it a little too much…

Terri February 12, 2013 at 3:45 am

I found the perfect recipe yesterday! 1 cup quinoa to 1 and 3/4 cup of liquid. My double ratio had also come out really porridge like when I was hoping for a texture like cous cous. The 1 3/4 cup liquid accomplished that for me. Cooked it on medium/low heat for 13 minutes and let it sit off heat for another 5.

Jenna October 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Quinoa patties are the BEST thing i’ve ever eaten; I discovered them recently and literally have not stopped eating them. I’m addicted. They are so yum and so so easy to make; you can make a whole batch of them and refridgerate as well. I found my recipe on Two Tarts, but there seem to be quite a few floating around google. All you need is quinoa, bread crumbs, some eggs, salt, and whatever new herbs have been growing (for example, spring onion, mint, parsley). Such an easy recipe that you can chop and change to suit your tastes; even the egg can be replaced with oatmeal for vegans.
Best superfood ever!

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Great idea – thanks Jenna!

Alex November 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I just made this recipe tonight for dinner, except I substituted the bocconcini for cream cheese. It was so yummy! Probably one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time. Thanks for the fantastic recipe!

jules November 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Yay Alex!
So glad you liked it

Sandra November 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Like the idea Of Quinoa. Must try it. How about using egg substitute in the patties. They sound so good.

jules November 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Quinoa is great Sandra!
I haven’t really used egg substitute before but it’s worth a try.

Rebecca November 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

As I am Gluten intollerant, here is my question. Beef barley soups is one of my favorites when it get cold here. Can I substitute the barley for quinoia? I’ve cooked it a few times, but I still do not know. I make my soup in the crock pot and let it cook all day. Any experiences here?

jules November 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Absolutely Rebecca!
The flavour and texture will be different with the quinoa but I imagine it will still be just as delicious.
I’d probably just substitute the quinoa for the barley and see how you go.
Good luck!

Stephen December 29, 2012 at 4:23 am

Hi Rebecca we share the same health concerns. I like your soup idea here thanks using quinoa

**I am not trying to be rude just want to point out that Coeliac Disease, is not an intolerant, I suppose it is always mis-interrupted as gluten intolerance, nor is it an allergy. It’s the only autoimmune disease that resides in the small intestine.**

Brook December 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Brilliant, thanks!!,

Cricket Champion December 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Cricket Champion – Cricket bowling machine can make such development in your batting that you dream.
The structure of the game is very simple – one team bats and tries to score as many runs as they possibly can.
This is a crucial goal for one’s batting and fielding.

Eggnog December 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I have just recently discovered quinoa, and am loving it. Tonight I made quinoa (cooked in chicken broth, with shallots) and pan fried ham steaks. Cut the ham up into small chunks and mixed with the quinoa, and it was delicious!

I find the ham needs to be pan fried briefly, cold and uncooked was not great.

CHARAN December 28, 2012 at 5:34 pm


jules January 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Sorry Charan
I’m based in Australia so can’t really help with information about India

Jen January 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

Hi, I just read an article saying that India has only recently become very interested in quinoa. 2013 is going to be the year for a big push in quinoa world wide.

Becs January 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Hi, I am looking for quinoa flake recipes at moment. Have mastered quinoa cooking (best and easiest is in a rice cooker) but always looking for different ways to serve it up. Love quinoa flour – my husband and his triathlete mates love being able to have sweet treats without resorting to white carbs. Quinoa flakes I’m still experimenting with but would love any recipes that don’t include the word “porridge”! Love the info

jules January 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I haven’t used quinoa flakes Becs… but try substituting them in any recipe that uses rolled oats or other rolled grains.. Good luck

Mimi January 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I have now made this several times as it is so easy and delicious and great as left overs! Last week I made it I using Thai Red Curry Paste in place of the tomato paste. I used one tablespoon, but next time I will use two!! Delicious!!
Thanks Jules for encouraging creativity and “alternatives”/template recipes. It is so much more fun to be in the kitchen!

jules January 9, 2013 at 5:08 pm

LOVE the idea of using curry paste Mimi… will have to try it myself!
And so glad you’re enjoying the alternatives :)

wanda January 6, 2013 at 4:57 am

I also was skeptical at first just going by the looks of it. Now I love it especially since I’m trying to eat a vegan life style, this provides me protein lost by not eating meats. I have found using store bought veggie broth or veggie water from steaming veggies brings flavor to the quiona. Guessing you could use almost any broth..my neighbor who is a meat lover lover when I need green peppers on peppers yellow peppers in a purple onions sauteed in chipolte a barbecue sauce and served with the quinoa in a spelt wrap.LOL he really liked it just as sides with his grilled chicken

Stacee January 9, 2013 at 11:46 am

I cook it in the rice cooker. 1 part quinoa 2 parts water. Then chuck in some grilled/roasted veggies and some lamb. Easy.

jules January 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm

sounds lovely Stacee!

Natalie January 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Hi Jules,

Thanks for the great recipe! I was a bit skeptical about quinoa to begin with as it seemed liked a bit too much of a fad for my liking… but now I cook with it all the time and as a Vegetarian it is a good source of protein and iron. My favourite recipes that I’ve come up with lately are quinoa stuffed mushrooms and capsicums. Would be happy to provide them :)

Thanks again.

MDB January 21, 2013 at 11:15 am

Dear J.C.,

I really enjoyed this information on quinoa. I’ve just recently decided to only purchase quinoa made in the United States, given the heavy burden now on Peru and Bolivia.

Hannah January 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I make a really yummy Quinoa salad with the red Quinoa seeds. I just bring them to the boil and then drain them, add curry powder, lime juice, chick peas, almonds, pine nuts, grated carrot and spring onions and a dash of light olive oil – its a yummy side for BBQs or just on its own!

Debbie March 29, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Hi Hannah, would it possible for you to give me the quantities of your ingredients you use, your recipe really sounds yummy. I live in South Africa.

MissKandipants February 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Substitute rice with quinoa when making homemade fried “rice”
I cooked it for my family and they loved it!! Even my brother who hates trying new things thought it was awesome, mum said she didn’t feel bloated like she sometimes does with rice

Dianne February 14, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I like to make a simple salad with the quinoa. I cook it with an organic vegetable stock cube. When cooked and cooled down I fluff it up and add chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, Spanish onions, capsicum, grated carrot and whatever else I have in the vege crisper. I just love it soooo much. I usually have it with grilled fish. I really pile my quinoa salad on my plate. Too much is never enough.

Rhonnie March 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I am new to all this and was given quinoa by my dietitan i brought the packet from my health food store i hve been reading all the comments i was just wondering if it is the packet stuff you are all cooking ??????/

Deborah March 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I’m introducing a lot lower carbs in my meal routine.
Would you know how many carbs per 100g?

Annie April 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

Start looking out for Australian grown quinoa. Now being trailed in the WA wheatbelt, and the Ord River Irrigation Area.

Phil April 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Quinoa has been grown for at least the last 3 years in Tasmania by Lauran and Henriette Daman at Kindred Farm. I think there was a story on ABC Rural Radio on 23/03/2011 and it can be heard on their web site at http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2011/s3171369.htm

I have recently purchased a book called “Quinoa 365″ by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming – Murdoch Press ISBN 97817442664538
Another book of interest is “Supergrains” (Eat Your Way to Great Health) – (though no technically a grain) by Chrissy Freer – Murdoch Press ISBN 9781743316269. It cover many other “Grains” including Quicoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Brown Rice, Chia Millet, Oats, Kamut, Spelt, Barley, Farro and Freekeh. Both books cost me $30 each.


Michelle Pinner April 11, 2013 at 10:29 pm

What a great idea! I am definitely going to try that. I often cook risotto and instead of arborio or other risotto rice I use quinoa instead. Delicious!!

Joe April 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I think you mean ‘bite-sized’ pieces. ‘Bight’ sized could cause some problems…although I guess it depends how many people you’re feeding.

Lisa April 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I’ve had quinoa sitting in my cupboard for an eternity, a little scared to delve in and try cooking it. Finally did it tonight. Dead easy. Super delicious. I roasted the cauliflower with some cumin and chilli, and served with yoghurt, parsley and coriander instead of bocconcini and chives. Total winner!

Matt April 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

A saponin is actually a whole class of molecules that were originally named this way because they foamed like soap when shaken in water. Somewhat ironically, the process of making soap from fat is called saponification, but the soap molecules share no structural resemblance to saponins!

(I’m in school for biochemistry/chemistry and) I didn’t even know some of this until I double-checked myself against Wikipedia. I would say go look it up if you’re interested, but both articles (on saponification and saponins) are written as if they have the sole purpose of excluding people who haven’t studied chemistry.

Lisa M May 12, 2013 at 12:15 am

Heat 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil and one minced garlic clove about 1 min. Add shredded kale until it is wilted, 2-3 min. Add cooked quinoa, salt and pepper. I could eat this every day.

{ 30 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: