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How to Cook with Quinoa

Updated on April 17, 2013
Cooked quinoa
Cooked quinoa | Source

In these days of gluten-free cooking, quinoa has been getting a lot of buzz. It's a grain that is naturally gluten-free but is also packed with protein and fiber as well. As a wheat or rice substitute, it has a lot going for it besides just being gluten-free. Vegetarians and vegans are loving it as a protein source as well. So if you're thinking about cooking with quinoa (which is pronounced keen-wah, by the way), here is what you need to get started.

Quinoa isn't technically a grain, because it's not part of the grass family. But I'm sure that isn't going to bother you very much. It's a lot like the little seeds of millet or barley and it has a texture like rice or coucous when cooked. You can use it in many different recipes, both hot and cold. The flavor is very slightly nutty but not strong at all. Like rice, it will take on the flavor of your recipe nicely.

How to Cook Quinoa

How to cook quinoa is simple and doesn't really take much longer than rice. Measure 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water. A mix of 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water is a typical measure around here for a meal. It expands, just like rice. Simmer for about 20 minutes. The grain will get soft but still firm and it will absorb almost all of the water. If it seems to go dry before it's cooked, add a little extra liquid. You can also cook it in broth for some extra flavor. Drain and fluff with a fork, and you're done. That's how to cook quinoa.


Quinoa is easy to buy and store too. It's typically sold as a loose dry grain, in most supermarkets (check the grains, legumes or gluten-free sections) and many health food or bulk food stores have it now too. Just store it in a tight container until you're ready to do some cooking. You can also buy flour made from quinoa. We haven't tried that yet so I don't have any tips or comments (yet!).

So if you're ready to jump into some quinoa cooking, here is a simple side-dish recipe to get you started. It's gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and high in protein. Just cook up the quinoa like I just described.

Curried Chickpeas and Quinoa

If this is your first time cooking quinoa, this recipe is easy and tasty to start with.

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 can of chickpeas (about 15 oz)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (omit for a less hot dish)
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa

Saute the onion and garlic in oil until it starts to soften, then add the ginger. Let them simmer together for a few minutes to mix the flavors then add in everything else. Stir to combine and let it cook in the pan for another 15 minutes. Stir often so it doesn't stick. Serve hot as a side or even as a wrap filling.


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