ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Quinoa: the Andean Superfood

Updated on August 5, 2020
Nolimits Nana profile image

Nicolette Goff is a watercolourist, writer, and dedicated gardener. She is always on the lookout for new and unique plants.

Delicious quinoa
Delicious quinoa | Source

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has its origins in the high upper Andes, where it is still an important crop. Both the seeds and the young leaves can be used as food. It has been in continuous cultivation in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina for over 6000 years.

The Incas credited quinoa with medicinal and magical properties, and held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as "chisaya mama" or "mother of all grains". The Inca emperor would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using 'golden implements'.

During the European conquest of South America quinoa was scorned by the Spanish colonists as "food for Indians," and its cultivation and use was actively suppressed, due to its status within indigenous ceremonies. Today, it is returning to commercial favor as a grain in these countries, and it shares first place with corn as the primary indigenous grain.

Quinoa thrives in areas with poor or alkaline soil, and in areas up to 4000 metres above sea level. Because it is cold tolerant, it is now a valuable alternate crop in Western Canada, Colorado and Scandinavia.

Quinoa seeds are commercially grown in South America, the US and Canada.
Quinoa seeds are commercially grown in South America, the US and Canada. | Source

Why Quinoa is Considered a Superfood

Quinoa is close to being a perfect food source in the balance of nutrition it provides. It is related to the leafy vegetables, swiss chard and spinach.

Quinoa, which is a seed not a grain, is an excellent source of protein. It contains 12% to 18%, one of the best sources of complete protein in the vegetable kingdom. It is a source of all essential amino acids, including the amino acid lysine which helps the body produce protein. Lysine also helps the body process the protein in the quinoa and in other foods. The World Health Organization has rated the quality of protein in quinoa to be equivalent or superior to that found in milk products.

Quinoa is a great source of B vitamins, potassium and riboflavin. It's also a good source of zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin E and fiber.

In its natural state, the quinoa seed has a bitter coating of saponins that must be removed before it can be used as a food. This coating evolved to discourage birds from devouring the seeds.

Quinoa Seeds

How to Use Quinoa

Quinoa is very easy to prepare. The coating is easily removed by soaking or thoroughly rinsing the seeds in running water. Most quinoa available in North American markets has been pre-washed to remove the saponin coating.

Cook quinoa like rice - 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa, simmered for about 15 minutes. The cooked quinoa can be mixed with vegetables and herbs in a variety of ways. It can also be cooked in chicken or vegetable broth for extra flavor.

Mixed with a bit of cinnamon and sugar, honey, nuts or berries, it makes a delicious high-protein breakfast. Use it in salads in place of rice or pasta. Quinoa is also ground into flour, which can be used in wheat-based or gluten-free baking, and quinoa pasta is available.

Quinoa and fresh fruit make a healthy and nutritious breakfast.
Quinoa and fresh fruit make a healthy and nutritious breakfast. | Source

Mango Quinoa Salad

This is my all-time favourite quinoa recipe. It was the first quinoa salad I ever made, and it still gets rave reviews whenever I serve it.

Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main dish.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 mango
  • 1/2 cup cucumber
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds
  • 2 tablespoon roasted pumpkin seeds


  • 1 teaspoon Ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 lime or half a lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash quinoa and boil in water for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit until the quinoa absorbs all the water. Fluff with a fork and let it cool to room temperature.

Peel the mango and cut into cubes. Dice the cucumber, and add to mango along with the almonds and pumpkin seeds.

To make the dressing, heat ghee in a small pan and fry with turmeric for 30 seconds, then let it cool. Add the lemon or lime juice. Mix in olive oil, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Add the cooled quinoa to the mango mixture, pour the dressing over the salad, and toss.

Recommended Quinoa Cookbooks

Chilean Quinoa Tabouleh

  • 2 cups Quinoa
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels, cooked
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 4 plum tomatoes cut into (1/2-dice)
  • 1 cup diced (1/2 inch) cucumbers
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice

Place Quinoa in a medium-sized pan, add the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. The Quinoa should be translucent. Remove from heat and fluff it with a fork. Transfer the Quinoa to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.

Sprinkle the quinoa with the salt and pepper and stir, folding from underneath the grains. Fold in 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice and the oil. Gently fold in the cilantro and garlic. Toss the avocado with remaining tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Fold the corn, onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado into the Quinoa. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Serve at room temperature within 2 hours of preparation. Serves 8 to 10.

Quinoa Salad Pita Pockets

Crunchy Quinoa Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups Quinoa Flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cream Together:

  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp toasted Quinoa grain
  • 1 egg, beaten 

Stir in dry ingredients. Shape into small balls and place on a greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Press ½ inch thick with floured fork. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies. 

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Nicolette Goff


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)