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

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jules January 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm

oh yay beryl!
so glad I’ve convinced you.
and love that you’re already brainstroming solutions to the tiny seeds
enjoy! enjoy!

Donna January 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Love your site and the 12 things to know about Quinoa. Just a note and I am new to the grain and have been just reading up on it, it is better cooked I agree. But it is best germinated and eaten in cold foods like salads. The nutrition goes through the roof and it only takes about 2 to 4 hours to do so in a pure glass of water. I just thought I would share. Love your Stonesoup! Keep up the great work!!!

jules January 30, 2011 at 6:45 am

Hi Donna
Thanks for the idea to germinate the quinoa – hadn’t thought of that – will have to try it out!

Margaret Nixon February 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hi, I am gluten intolerant also, so am keen to try quinoa. Salicylates also cause me lots of problems, so does anyone know the salicylate content of quinoa. Regards Margaret

Todd March 10, 2011 at 4:00 am

Funny, I bought some here in Netherlands, but got stuck with Dutch cooking instructions….so it still sits there. Thanks for reminding me it is behind the various lentils, black beans, oats, et al in my cupboard. Will have to give this one a try. If you can recommend and others….much appreciated. Cheers!

kim Warner March 25, 2011 at 5:38 am

We love Quinoa. We boil it in organic chicken or beef broth. Gives it even more flavor for our curry dishes that we make instead of using rice. We literally eat it many times a week.

sue sanders April 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Hi there, I have just had my first experience trying to cook Quinoa. I bought the puffed variety and put it in my rice cooker. 1 cup Quinoa, 2 cups rice.
Oh dear, it looks like wallpaper paste and tastes about the same. Please help, i am a novice and in need of advice about the puffed variety.
thanks Sue Sanders.

jules April 7, 2011 at 5:50 am

hi sue!
My first tip is to give up on puffed quinoa – you can use the rest for packing like you would use styrofoam.

look for unpuffed quinoa and try cooking it as per the recipe above – it’s a whole different beast and nothing wallpapery at all.

MARIE April 28, 2011 at 6:31 am


jules April 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm

The nutritional profile is mostly carbohydrate and lots of protein so similar to lentils. So I think of it as starchy. Yes

Rosemary May 15, 2011 at 6:34 am

Red & Black quinoa can be bought in bulk at the Adelaide Central Market from the Goods and Grains Stall.

Don June 9, 2011 at 4:58 am

I recently brought a packet of puffed quinoa and put 2 desert spoons in a micowave dish together with equal amount of desicated rolled oats and add milk to soak overnight. Microwaved for 4/5 minutes, served with honey and skim milk. I enjoyed it very much and have this every other morning!

rita June 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I just want to know if quinoa flakes need to be rinsed,and how long to cook for.

jules June 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm

No I don’t think you need to rinse quinoa flakes because they would have been processed to turn them into flakes. In terms of cooking time I’m afraid I can’t help.. but imagine they would be quicker than whole quinoa.

Kathleen June 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I had quinoa for breakfast. One part grain to 3 parts water, simmer for 15 minutes, I throw in a bunch of frozen blueberries. It a nice change from oats.

Donna June 24, 2011 at 3:40 am

Hi Jules,

I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian and never had Quinoa before and after reading the comments, I would love to try this. Can I purchase it in Publix stores?

Sarah June 24, 2011 at 10:13 pm

If anyone is curious to try quinoa leaf as a salad vegetable, keep an eye out for quinoa’s close relative White Goosefoot which grows as a weed in high nitrogen soils. I spotted some in someone’s vege garden near my home in Melbourne the other day. Or maybe they were growing quinoa itself?

Info about white goosefoot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenopodium_album

Also for those who live near a Thomas Dux (Sydney and Melbourne), the stores stock the Macro brand Red, White, and Black quinoas in 500g packets. (I work at Thomas Dux). There is usually a good read-made quinoa salad in the deli too.

jules June 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I’m afraid I don’t knoe publix stores… I’m in Australia… but any decent health food store should be able to help you out

Grant June 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Be careful eating the leaves! I have read the wikipedia page on QUINOA which suggests the leaves and stem have a high oxalic acid content rendering them poisonous!

jules June 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm

thanks for the heads up on the leaves grant!

Carla July 14, 2011 at 4:33 am

Help! Goitrogenic foods like soy (no matter how it is fixed), cruciferous vegetables (the cabbage family — kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, etc.), peanuts, cherries, peaches, strawberries, etc., are not good, in fact bad, for people like me with hypothyroidism. We take medicine every day to get our thyroids working normally, and goitrogenic foods interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid. Quinoa is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, but is quinoa goitrogenic?

jules July 14, 2011 at 9:34 am


Sorry but I’m not aware of the goitrogenic status of quinoa.. although I thought it was classed as a grass not a vegetable.. but I could be wrong..

All the best with your search!

pia July 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

I discovered quinoa after a recent trip to South America, and I can’t get enough of it! Sharing with you a fantastic site for quinoa recipes http://www.comocomecami.com/ . You’ll find other healthy dishes too (and great photos)!

Charles Bushby July 25, 2011 at 1:16 am

Having just heard of Quinoa and read your web page am pretty excited to receive help and would love to receive books , recipes etc..have pretty big health issues and am sure quinoa ++++will probably help me. Jules Clancy can you help me? Thank you>>Charlie

clothespin August 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Hi. I’m a botanist so I thought I’d clarify a few mistakes in the post and comments…

Carla – While not sure about specifics of if quinoa will hurt your thyroid, your classification of some plants is not correct. Kale, brussell sprouts, cabbage, broccoli… are all in the Brasicaceae family and as such, are what you call cruciferous. Spinach, beets and quinoa are in the Chenopodiaceae family however and so are not closely related to spinach. As such, I doubt that they have the same issues for you that the broccoli’s might have. Also, I come from a very long line of thyroid sufferers, all on thyroid meds – and I’d never heard about avoiding certain foods for this reason. I’m sure that you’re right, but it is new to me…

Jules, your #8 fact that “it looks like a grain but is actually a seed” is almost right… Grains ARE seeds! But, grains are a specific seed type that are only found in the grass family (Poaceae) and have a specific structure that is unique to the grasses. As previously stated, quinoa is in the beet family, which is very far away genetically from grasses.

Quinoa originates in the Andes of South America but is now being grown in the US in the northern states like Montana. Other plants that you might know from the same family are amaranth, which has a long historical use as a pseudo-grain.

We LOVE quinoa and here in the US it is readily found at Costco for $2/pound organic! Even our local little grocery has it, but for a higher price. Whole Foods also has the 3 different colors of quinoa and they are tasty…

Even my 3 year old daughter loves the stuff and we rarely use rice anymore as we much prefer the quinoa. It’s got lots of fiber and cooks much faster than brown rice. Though, I should caution to NOT use this in a rice cooker. Quinoa has a spiral shaped part to the seed that separates upon cooking and will clog up your fancy rice cooker. Just saying…

jules August 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

Thanks for correcting things from a botanical perspective – appreciate you taking the time!

Matthew August 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm

When I went slow-carb I experimented with quinoa a little as a substitute for rice and found it delicious and especially filling too! I often combine it with my beef, broccoli and spinach stir-fry that has become a staple of the diet for me.


Suni Ferrer August 10, 2011 at 4:18 am

I made this yesterday. I used red quinoa, rinsed well, and prepared it with chicken broth instead of water. To tell you the truth, I’m about to give up on quinoa, it tasted awful, texture was good though. I may try one more time using plain water.

Michelle August 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

just starting to use quinoa a bit more… interesting facts – thank you everyone for your input!
Am interested to try red and black as well – I’m in Adelaide and shop online via bananablue.com.au and have noticed they have a few different types including the black and also cereals…. might try. Also, my lovely online greengrocer has 1kg quinoa for $10.95/kg, organic from Tassie! Not bad, esp buying Australian.
Also, I love that spiral part of the seed that seems to separate when cooked – looks cute!!
Finally, does anyone have instructions on how to cook in the microwave?

Pete August 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Hi Jules
Love your site!
Just thought I’d share something I learned recently regarding quinoa, which is that you can cook it in your rice cooker, exactly like rice!

Much easier than doing it on the stove or microwave I think – just use the same proportions of quinoa/water (or stock) as you would making rice, press the button and forget it! Perfect results every time.

Thanks for the great site and inspiring recipes!


Kathy September 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I just tried Quinoa for the first time and I love it! I put a 1/4 cup of puffed quinoa in 1 fat free plain yogurt – YUM! Delicious and VERY filling. Maybe next time I’ll add just a tablespoon or so to my yog. I’m pretty sure you would NOT want to cook the puffed, nor the rolled variety. I would use those like breakfast cereal. Can’t wait to try the plain quinoa cooked like rice. I need to thank my niece, who just got her degree in nutrition, for introducing me to this great food!

Charlynn Caudill September 9, 2011 at 6:22 pm

I recently moved to Kuwait and am looking to find Quinoa. Do you know if they would call it by any other name in this part of the world? Quinoa, when I ask for it, seems to be confusing to them. Any input would be fantastic.

Thank you

Lois September 18, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Hi Jules: I love your whole blog and all the wonderful recipes. I also loved finding out all about qinoa ( I hope I spelled it right!) I had read its ‘not a grain’ but could not figure out what it might possible be! Thanks for clarifying.

jules September 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Sorry, the only name I know it by is Quinoa.

Thanks for taking the time to say hello! Really glad you’re enjoying Stonesoup

Barb September 20, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Hi everyone :)

One of my daughters is gluten intolerant and I am always looking for different things for her to try. I found Quinoa at Costco. Thank you for all your tips and recipes :)

Shelley September 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm

I love Quinoa. First heard about it on the tv show and website Good Chef Bad Chef. You can get it in Coles, Woolworths and IGA. Macro whole foods has it in their range, I prefer the black variety as its nuttier, but I made up a mixed blend that also has millet which looks great for salads and dinner parties. I always cook it in the rice cooker. And love making a pink salad with cubed beetrooot, coleslaw dressing and finely diced chives. its nice on sandwiches as well. Love the site.

Seb@SlimmingSkinny October 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I love your post about quinoa (This has go to be one of the most informative and interesting post I have read.) The quinoa in your picture looks like chilli seeds! I am so tempted to try the recipe although I might skip out on the chives (can never get myself past the taste!) Besides being great for those with gluten intolerance, quinoa is also a great source of manganese and magnesium that can helps to relieve migraine! What’s there not to love about it!

Giulibel October 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Was briefly watching yet another cooking show which discussed the health benefits of Quinoa so decided to give it a go. Picked up a packet from woolworths but had no idea how to cook it so I just winged it. Hubby loved it (hubby usually turns up his nose at anything new!).
I basically cooked it like risotto. I sauted an onion, mushroom, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, bacon in some olive oil then tossed in some quinoa. Stirred it til coated fully in oil then added chicken stock a little at a time until cooked through.
I’m going to try it in soups.
Glad to hear it can be cooked in the rice cooker.

Robi October 21, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi there,
I have been mixing the Quinoa with berries, basil, honey, spinach and yoghurt as a breakfast food and it is delicious!
:) Robi

David October 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Gr8 intro to quinoa. I need to have a low GI diet. Can you use quinoa flour for making breadf.



jules October 24, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Thanks David
Quinoa, while high in protein doesn’t have the gluten needed for good bread making… so it’s not going to have the same texture as wheat based breads.

Trish October 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Love Quinoa,cook itand then use it for so many recipes. i love it mixed with Kefir Quark….mmm and a little fruit or maybe maple syrup & some not spinkle,such a guilt free desert!! I grind it in my coffee grinder and add 1/4 cup to my G.F Bread along with the other combination of flours.Adds to the flavour and the nutrition.
Thanks for your recipes etc

Greg November 4, 2011 at 7:24 am

Have been into Quinoa since a South American Trip a few years ago. One of my favourite ways of using it is in a Tabouli or a Fatoosh instead of some or all of the Bhulgar (cracked Wheat). Adds extra nuttiness and great texture to it.

Kelly November 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Deeks bakery in Canberra used Quinoa in their grain free breads (from memory) and I think they have some limited shipping.

Timmy November 15, 2011 at 8:50 am

I don’t think that anyone has mentioned it, but the best way to cook Quinoa that I’ve tried is to rinse it, boil it for ten minutes, then rinse it again, and finally to steam it for about 5 minutes, or until it has dried out a bit and is nice and fluffy, but still ‘al dente’.

Works a charm and it’s bloody easy. Every time I’ve tried the absorption method my quinoa has ended up as a gluggy mess, even in my rice cooker, but this worked perfectly.

Love the blog Jules, have been reading it for a while, first time commenting though.

Seraphina November 22, 2011 at 1:21 am

Another thing about quinoa that I love: It cooks really quickly! One of my favourite meals after a long day at school is just a bowl of warm cooked quinoa mixed with edamame beans and dressed with miso/mirin/dash of chilli sauce. Comfort food

Debbie December 6, 2011 at 6:19 am

I’ve been grain free for several months. Quinoa is a staple for me. I use it like oats for breakfast, rice for other meals, and as a flour in baked goods, and even for pasta. A google search will net you recipes for all of these things. Quinoa flour is often used in combination with other “flours” in baked good recipes.

Matt December 19, 2011 at 11:20 am


There is nothing in that article indicating that the leaves are poisonous as of 12/18/11. It is true that eating the leaves in excess can be toxic, but you would have to eat an awful lot to get to that point. Remember that anyone on earth can edit a Wikipedia article, and it is a good starting point, but if you are serious about researching a subject, you need to look further :)

Rach December 30, 2011 at 6:33 am

My partner bought me the book ‘You are what you eat ‘ by Dr Gillian Mc Keith and she talks about quinoa. She talks about it being a vegetable protein that is very easy to digest and is one of the best kidney/bladder foods. It contains all the essential amino acids and has a far lower content than most meat. I am excited about trying it.

Isabella Koldras January 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I love your Stone Soup. Here’s another healthy meal: Quinoa with Porcini.
Ingredients: A handful (20g) of sliced dried porcini, 1 stick of celery, small onion
and carrot, 2 cloves garlic, 2tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup well washed quinoa,
1 chopped ripe tomatoe, a handful of chopped parsley and grated parmesan.
Thoroughly rinse quinoa in strainer. Soak(5min) porcini in 1 cup of cold water ; before
using, drain and squeeze. Finely chop the celery, garlic, onion and carrot.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan and fry the vegetables for 2 min (or until soft).
Add washed quinoa and tomatoe and cover with water ( or mix water and chicken stock). Simmer for 15-20min, season, add parsley. Serve with grated parmesan.
A Happy New Year!

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