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Quinoa: Nutrition Info & Cooking Directions

Quinoa (pronounced: KEENwah) is a vegan favorite that’s rich in protein and other nutrients. Along with buckwheat and amaranth, quinoa is considered a pseudocereal (or pseudograin.) That means that, classified botanically, pseudocereals are seeds even though you can cook them exactly like grain products. In much the same way, peppers and squash are actually fruits but are more sensibly regarded as vegetables when cooking.

Thanks to its growing popularity, food companies and restaurants increasingly feature quinoa in their foods. Many natural food stores carry pasta, cereal, and chips made from quinoa.

Nutritional Qualities

Popular among natural foods enthusiasts, quinoa has an excellent nutritional profile, plenty of fiber, plus it’s gluten-free. It requires only half the cooking time as brown rice, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to stir-fries or Buddha bowls.

If you serve rice often, quinoa offers a delicious and more nutrient-rich change of pace. It takes a lot less water to grow, plus you don’t have rice’s arsenic risks to worry about. Serve quinoa alongside beans or a stir-fry, or try adding a small scoop to salads. It adds a nutty flavor, and its substantial protein content will keep you from feeling hungry an hour later.

Quinoa is one of the best vegan sources of protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids the human body requires. It’s also rich in minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, iron.

Purchasing Quinoa

Farmers grow most of the world’s quinoa in the mountains of South America. A high percentage of quinoa is organically grown. In addition to white or tan (the most common varieties) quinoa is available in red, tri-color, and black. All colors cook up and taste the same, and the flavor and nutrient profiles don’t meaningfully differ.

Most natural food stores carry at least one variety of quinoa in their bulk sections. Additionally, Amazon.com offers good prices on organically grown quinoa:

How to Cook Quinoa

Consider using a color of quinoa to contrast with the color of whatever meal it accompanies. For instance, red beans served over tan quinoa looks far more appealing than it does when served over red quinoa.

Quinoa is naturally coated with a bitter substance to protect against insects, so always use a fine strainer to rinse your quinoa prior to cooking.

Preparation couldn’t be simpler: measure out one part quinoa to two parts water. Rinse the quinoa and inspect for pebbles and foreign objects. Put the water in a pot and bring to a boil, then add the quinoa.

Add salt and seasonings (Italian-style dried herbs work well.) If you wish, you can simultaneously also add some finely-chopped potatoes or carrots. Reduce heat to low and cover. Fifteen minutes later you’ll have a pot of perfectly-cooked quinoa. Fluff with a fork before serving.

For further reading: please see our rice, protein, and beans pages.

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