What Is Quinoa? 15 Creative Recipes

This protein-packed grain looks a bit like couscous, is as versatile as rice, and tastes delicious on its own or in these quinoa recipes.

By Perri O. Blumberg
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    Basic Quinoa Recipe

    Pronounced “keen-wah,” this protein-packed grain contains every amino acid, and is particularly rich in lysine, which promotes healthy tissue growth throughout the body. Quinoa is also a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. It looks a bit like couscous and is as versatile as rice, but quinoa has a richer, nuttier flavor than either of them.

    Quinoa seeds have a naturally bitter coating to deter birds that must be soaked off before preparing. Packaged quinoa has likely been pre-soaked, but check before cooking. To cook it, soak 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water for 5-10 minutes (to dissolve any remaining bitter coating). Drain and rinse. Pour into a pot and add 1 1/2 cups of water and a half teaspoon of salt. Boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork and serve. Quinoa can be eaten on its own as a side dish, with a bit of butter or oil, salt and pepper, or other seasonings. It also makes a great breakfast dish mixed with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey. Paired with chili, stir-fries, beans or curries, quinoa is a healthy substitute for rice, and it also makes a tasty pilaf. As a main course, use it to make meat-free burgers, mix it into stews or toss it into salads. Quinoa works as a baking grain as well, and makes for delicious and nutritious breads and muffins. Click for more ideas.

    Courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

    Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad

    This Asian-inspired dish from Ambitious Kitchen incorporates peppers, carrots, onions, and cilantro into her version, but feel free to experiment.

    Courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

    Enchilada Chicken Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

    Roasted bell peppers from Ambitious Kitchen are stuffed with quinoa, chicken, red enchilada sauce, cheese, and spices in this satisfying Mexican-themed dish.

    Courtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

    Shrimp and Vegetable Quinoa Fried Rice

    This "healthified version of shrimp fried rice" on Queen of Quinoa suggests sautéing the veggies in water instead of oil. In general, quinoa is a healthy substitute for rice (and makes a tasty pilaf).

    Courtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

    Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cookies

    The secret to the rich flavor of these cookies on Queen of Quinoa is a half cup of cocoa powder with chocolate chunks folded into the batter.

    Courtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

    Rosemary Quinoa Turkey Meatballs

    Quinoa functions as the perfect binder in these protein-filled turkey meatballs from the blog Queen of Quinoa. The recipe's good-for-you factor is boosted by the use of spaghetti squash in place of pasta, but you could serve these with whatever you like.

    Courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

    Blueberry Chocolate Chip Quinoa Pancakes

    Quinoa and Greek yogurt amp up protein in these pancakes from the blog Ambitious Kitchen. On its own, quinoa also makes a great breakfast mixed with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey.

    Courtesy of Almonds and Avocados Blog

    Quinoa, Fruit, and Nut Protein Bars

    These healthy quinoa-based snacks from the blog Almonds & Avocados incorporate many nutrient-rich foods like bananas, Medjool dates, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almond butter. This recipe also forgoes processed sugar, unlike many store-bought protein bars.

    Courtesy of So Very Blessed

    Southwestern Quinoa Bites

    These quinoa bites from the blog So Very Blessed combine quinoa with black beans, frozen corn, and onion and bake up easily in a muffin tin.

    Courtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

    Healthy “Reese’s” Quinoa Crispy Treats

    These Reeses Pieces meets Rice Krispies Treats from the blog Queen of Quinoa are a double treat.

    Courtesy of Adventures in Cooking

    Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant

    These stuffed eggplants from the blog Adventures in Cooking make use of simple ingredients that draw out the best in eggplant's flavor, like mint and oregano.

    Courtesy of How Sweet It is

    No-Bake Brown Butter Quinoa Bars

    From the blog How Sweet It Is, satisfy a dessert craving with no-bake bars filled with quinoa, oats, almonds, flaxseed, and chocolate chips.

    Courtesy of Healthful Pursuit

    Quinoa Chocolate Chip Zucchini Breakfast Cookies

    From the blog Healthful Pursuit, these vegan and gluten free delights are made with flour, maple syrup, vanilla extract and dairy-free chocolate chips, with added nutrition from quinoa, zucchini, and flaxseed. Quinoa also works well for baking delicious and nutritious breads and muffins.

    Courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

    Sesame Ginger Sweet Teriyaki Salmon with Garlic Quinoa Stir Fry

    The blog Ambitious Kitchen perks up a simple quinoa stir fry with fresh ginger and garlic.

    Courtesy of Sally's Baking Addiction

    Apple Spice Quinoa Granola

    Granola from the blog Sally's Baking Addiction jazzes itself up with quinoa, apples, raisins, and more.

    Courtesy of Two Peas and their Pod

    Quinoa Cookie

    In these cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod, the quinoa adds a distinct crunchiness and protein boost.

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    Your Comments

    • Linda Hall

      I’m curious about whether or not this would be a good substitute for folks concerned about gluten in their diets or wheat belly?

      • esther4

        Linda, you’ll be pleased to know this wonderfood is gluten-free!

    • deba chatterjee

      I know this is very good but it comes from a very poor country where half the people are starving and import the one good thing it has to better developed countries!

    • Kathleen Hammond

      Who knew! Going to get some Quinoa next trip to Trader Joe’s.