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Everyone is trying to eat a little healthier these days and one great substitute for rice, bread, grains, and other less nutritious carbs is quinoa. It’s a popular health food that’s gluten-free and filled with amino acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can get calcium, potassium, B and E vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and numerous antioxidants from quinoa! But how do you make quinoa taste good?
Totally plant-based, quinoa is actually a seed but it’s prepared and eaten like a cereal or grain. The Incas and other South American natives have been growing and eating it for thousands of years, but recently, it’s become a trendy superfood. There are tons of varieties but you’ll typically find white, red, or black quinoa in most large supermarkets and health food stores.
You can use quinoa anywhere you’d use a traditional grain like rice or barley. Substitute quinoa for lentils, corn, or even pasta. It can be eaten as a side dish, mixed into salads for texture and color, used as a bed for thick stews, or incorporated into casseroles to make them a bit healthier. Make Buddha bowls with quinoa and fresh vegetables for lunch or even add it to your breakfast porridge. Quinoa, it turns out, is actually very versatile.
The problem? Lots of people complain that quinoa tastes like cardboard… And if you don’t cook it using a little creativity, quinoa can be bland and boring. So how can you incorporate more of this superfood into your diet without sacrificing flavour? Here are our ideas and tips.
To cook quinoa, all you really need to do is rinse your quinoa in a strainer (this will remove some of the bitterness) and then boil it with a dash of salt. That’s for your basic, plain quinoa. But we’d recommend some other tactics to make quinoa taste good:
First, toast your quinoa before boiling it.They do this in Bolivia for good reason. It helps the quinoa cook evenly and become nutty and fluffy when you boil it. Add the quinoa to a dry pan over medium heat and stir frequently. Once it starts popping and you smell a fragrance like toasted sesame seeds, you can go ahead and rinse it.
Try boiling quinoa in a broth. Use a vegetable or chicken stock instead of water for additional flavour. This will make a ton of difference in taste!
Add aromatics and vegetables. Like fresh garlic or rosemary. Try throwing in a bay leaf or fresh herbs into the pot with your quinoa - oregano, thyme, or basil. Mix in some chopped onions or other vegetables and quinoa will soak up their flavours too. A simple recipe to start with is thislemon herb quinoa.
You knew we were going to suggest this. Spices are one of the simplest ways to add flavour and fragrance to your quinoa. Powdered spices easily perfume the whole pot. Here’s where quinoa gets more interesting. Here are our tips for using spices in quinoa:
Make it spicy. Add chilies or peppers to your quinoa to give it a kick. The easiest way to spice up your quinoa is to add cayenne pepper. Try thisSpicy Quinoa Pilaf which uses cayenne and black pepper. Or try thisSpicy Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes for a meat-free meal. If you’re not into all that heat, you can stilladd roasted poblanos to get those smoky flavours.
Liven it up with some foreign flavours. Mexican and Indian flavours pair extremely well with quinoa, perhaps because it can be used like a rice, which is prevalent in both cultures, or perhaps because these potent and fragrant spices make quinoa delicious with very little effort. Try thisMexican Quinoa Stew with cumin and jalapeno or perhaps anEasy Coconut Curry.
Try spice blends you wouldn’t think of. The Ethiopian blend of berbere is trendy right now, so use it in quinoa like you would with lentils. It exudes a multitude of exotic flavour with chillies, cumin, cloves, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, green cardamom, black pepper, and garlic. We were inspired by theseBerbere Lentils with Rainbow Quinoa.
OurZest & Zing Berbere blend is perfect for spicing up quinoa!
Treat it like a dessert. Or breakfast. You can make quinoa like you’d makeovernight oats, except this is a healthyOvernight Quinoa. Or boil it slowly with milk and it’ll become a dessert, like thisVanilla Bean Coconut Quinoa Pudding! Or you can even mix up a batch ofHomemade Granola with Quinoa.
Use quinoa in your vegetarian mains.So you’re not stuck just eating quinoa as a side dish, try to get creative with your mains. Quinoa works especially well in vegan and vegetarian dishes because it adds bulk, heartiness, and protein to your meals. Here are some vegetarian quinoa dishes for inspiration: