I love quinoa.

This is what properly-cooked quinoa should look like.

This is what properly-cooked quinoa should look like.

When quinoa goes on sale, it’s time to stock up. A cup of quinoa – roughly a tenth of a pound – yields three cups of quinoa cooked. That’s an amazing opportunity to save money. But why, on Earth, would you stock up if you have no idea how to cook it?

Let’s fix that.

What is quinoa, and how does it taste?

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Quinoa is actually a seed and, thus, a complete protein.(See: hemp seed, flax seed… you get the picture.)

It comes in a ton of varieties – red and purple, to be specific – and tastes more like chewy little balls of goodness.

(Am I allowed to say that on the Internet? No one can see me laugh, right?)

If anything, they taste the way you’d expect a seed to taste. It’s more like a faint cross between a peanut and a sunflower seed, though it is unrelated to both.

How do I store quinoa after buying it?

Keep your quinoa in a sealed container. You don’t want any little critters to find your good stuff. It doesn’t require refrigeration, and can be stored in the dark. It can keep for up to 6 months without cause for concern.

What goes well with quinoa?

Anything that you’d do with rice, you could do with quinoa. Though they don’t cook the same, they still serve the same purpose – a grain that can fill you up at a cost cheaper than strictly a heaping helping of veggies, especially considering the amount of protein that quinoa has.

How do I prepare quinoa?

You can soak quinoa overnight for a super-fibrous salad topping:
  • Cover your quinoa with water in a deep container, and store them in the fridge overnight. This will cause them to soften – not unravel, though – and can be tossed with herbs to be included in your salads as toppings. Quinoa is extremely fibrous in this state, however, and should be used sparingly… unless you’re at home and not going anywhere for a while. Just.. don’t say I didn’t warn you.
You can cook your quinoa in a pot on the stove:

You can, prior to boiling your quinoa, toast your seeds in a skillet without butter or oil; you just want to heat them up a bit before boiling, which brings out a bit more of a nuttier flavor in them. If you use a fat to toast, your quinoa will come out a bit bitter.

You should, however, run a little oil around the inside of your pot where your quinoa will be cooking. This helps prevent it from sticking to your pot after its finished.

Always pre-rinse your quinoa. Always. Even if it says it’s “pre-washed,” never give it a second thought. Wash it anyway. Pour your quinoa into a colander or sieve, and run water over it until the water looks clear.

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Improperly cooked quinoa

Quinoa is best cooked in a “set it and forget” kind of style in my house. Equal parts of quinoa and water go in a low-heated pot, with a pinch of salt for every cup of quinoa included. (Basically, if you add 1 cup of quinoa, add 1 cup of water.) Bring quinoa to a low boil, and cover your pot. After 8 minutes check to see if all the water has been absorbed. If not, give it a couple more minutes.

Once all the water has been absorbed, or at least your quinoa has tripled in size, take your pot off the heat and set aside with the top covered. It should look like this:

Fully cooked quinoa

Fully cooked quinoa

and it should be chewy, with a little bounce to it.

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Take your three cups of cooked quinoa, throw in a cup of pomegranate seeds (dried cranberries would work in its place, too), a cup of shredded parsnips (yes, shredded using a cheese grater), a handful of fresh chopped parsley, a squeezed lemon (the zest of it would also help), a teaspoon of coriander and a pinch of salt….

Bam. (No Emeril.)

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How do you like your quinoa?

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