Cook It Like a Boss: Quinoa 101 - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Cook It Like a Boss: Quinoa 101

This is what properly-cooked quinoa should look like.

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?

550-quinoa 026

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 expect the way you’d expect a seed to taste. It’s more like a faint cross between a peanut and a sunflower seed, tough 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 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.

550-pomegranate-quinoa 031

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, too), a teaspoon of coriander and a pinch of salt….

Bam. (No Emeril.)

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How do you like your quinoa?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

28 Comments

  1. Kitana

    February 20, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Mmm, quinoa. I like it a lot, especially as a rice replacement but I recently read an article on how the high demand of quinoa is now leaving people starving in Bolivia as they can’t afford the rising cost of quinoa. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/americas/20bolivia.html?_r=0) So… until I can find quinoa in my area that isn’t exported from Bolivia (someone mentioned that Canada also exports it), I probably won’t be eating it too often. :|

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      February 20, 2013 at 8:08 PM

      All along the Pacific NA coast, farmers are learning to grow quinoa. You may also want to check for those, as well. :)

  2. Annette

    February 20, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Thanks for this how to. I am not the best at cooking grains. Brown Rice is hit or miss with me. I usually do a lot of different squash’s with salad and greens.

    I will try it this weekend. Do you have a tutorial to make polenta or use corn meal?

  3. violet

    February 20, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    I’m going to try to say this with as much civility as possible. I find the name of your blog highly offensive…

    Editor’s note: Hi, Violet. Start here. You’re welcome. :)

    • Mesha

      February 22, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      I wonder how you feel about blackpeoplemeet, BET. There are other sites, magazines geared toward men non-blacks, have you contacted them ALL to state how offended you are?

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        February 22, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        Oh, I’m sure she feels some kind of way about those, too.

        I thoroughly edited her comment – it was just too ridiculous – but you should know she blamed me for animosity between the races… whatever that means. LOLOL

    • Lisa

      June 19, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      I am white Italian I don’t know why your finding this blog offensive ,You were probably around white people all your life.and feel uncomfortable with different cultures being proud of there heritage You should be happy to learn from other cultures and embrace it with Love
      Maybe one day you even get a hug from a black person lol..btw quinoa is excellent food and it does the body good.:).

  4. Tiffany

    February 20, 2013 at 10:00 PM

    I love my quinoa in a black bean salad – green onions, tomatoes, black beans, roasted corn, and some seasoning.

    • Kristen

      September 12, 2013 at 7:43 PM

      That sounds amazing! May make it this weekend

    • Carrie

      December 15, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      Hey Tiffany, I am totally “seasoning” uneducated. Growing up it was salt, pepper, garlic salt and onion salt. The ingredients in your quinoa salad sound awesome, will you elaborate on what type of seasoning you use?

  5. irene

    February 21, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    So before I saw this post I found a recipe for quinoa. It came out great flavor wise husband liked it BUT I could not eat more than a few bites because of how it looked. The unraveling of the grain was a bit too much for me. Lol! So now I am thinking coucous. Is that a good sub or should I just do brown rice?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      February 21, 2013 at 5:51 PM

      Couscous isn’t a grain, and it isn’t a complete protein like quinoa, so it wouldn’t work. Brown rice WOULD be your best bet, but I’d sooner encourage you to get used to the unraveling seeds, girl. Real food can be weird sometimes, but damn if it isn’t still awesome. :)

  6. Tiara

    February 22, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Quinoa!!!!! How I love thee! I found it a couple years ago at a trendy lunch spot and figured if the hipster kids are eating it, it must be healthy. I then drove straight to whole foods and found all the ingredients to duplicate that salad I had that day!!!! I haven’t cooked rice in 2 years because of quinoa!!!! LOL

  7. Safyer

    April 13, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Miss Erica! This is the bomb-diggity
    *snaps fingers*

  8. Gail

    April 16, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Yep. Good stuff. Thanks, Erika!

  9. Kerri

    July 9, 2013 at 6:32 AM

    Thanks so much for the easy to follow steps for cooking Quinoa. The pictures are unbelievably helpful to me. Many websites don’t include tips and the “basics” for people who have no clue how to cook this, I’m glad you did!

  10. Ericka

    September 13, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    The first time I cooked it I did the water, no salt way and it was good. So, the second time I cooked it, I did the low sodium chicken broth with a little bit of roasted onions – da bomb diggety. Right after cooking a pot-full, and almost running over, I found a recipe for quinoa with greek yogurt and berries for breakfast. Talk about lip-smackin! But what I had in my fridge was the savory sort and could not be used in that format. From now on, whatever I plan to cook, I will divide it and make half bland and half savory.

  11. Trish

    January 3, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    I too turned way from quinoa because I could not get past the look. I have a girlfriend who is constantly pushing me back to try it “again”. I will give it a try this week using some of the tips I learned here. Thanks! New Year, New Life, New Beginnings…again :)!

    • Trish

      April 1, 2014 at 12:16 AM

      I tried it!!! I love it!!!! Added it with raw kale, yellow bell pepper, cucumbers, feta cheese, and my own homemade Greek vingierette. OMG!!! It was amazing. I’m officially a believer. lol

      • Anika

        August 7, 2014 at 9:16 PM

        Trish would you be willing to share your recipe for greek dressing. I’m interested. Thanks.

  12. Eva Maria

    January 9, 2014 at 11:57 PM

    I have heard it is GREAT for losing the pounds off ones girlys/womens body (which I am all for). I want to thank all of yous for your recipes. I will let yous know in a month how much weight I have LOST. When your 60 it is harder to lose those extra pounds. Especially, when you have to cook for a husband that LOVES his beans, tortillas and chile. Wish me luck on my journey to a slimmer and healthier me!!

  13. HP

    February 25, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    I still haven’t tried quinoa yet but it’s on my “to-do” list. Do you like it better in heated dishes or cold in salads? I’ll be sure to try it both ways at some point. :)

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      February 28, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Honestly, for me, it’s all about what it’s paired with. I love a good, cold quinoa salad just as much as I love it hot with herbs and veggies. Tough question!

  14. Andrea

    March 27, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    THANK YOU for this! I’ve had bad quinoa and swore I hated it, but I keep seeing good things about it from everyone else. I really wanted to try and figure out what went wrong. I googled “make me like quinoa” and found this! Definitely going to try cooking it myself this time, the right way. Love your site too!

  15. John

    June 29, 2014 at 10:56 PM

    I’ve found that cottage cheese takes on the flavor of what you add to it. Add a fruit and it takes on that flavor, add salt and pepper etc, etc. Have you ever added fruit to quinoa? Does it do the same?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      June 30, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      It has a bit of a nutty taste, but it does take on flavors well PARTICULARLY if you season it properly. A pinch of salt really rings out the flavors.

  16. Kelly

    August 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Just wanted to say that I love your instructions for cooking quinoa. Even though I cook with it a couple of times a month, I sometimes find myself wondering whether I need to cook it a bit longer, so the pictures are super helpful.

    I hope you don’t mind but I included a link to this page in a Sumac Chicken & Quinoa recipe I posted on my blog, because I don’t think I could do a better job of explaining than you already did here!

  17. Anika

    August 7, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    I’ve been avoiding Quinoa for a while because it’s a seed and I could not for the life of me understand it replacing rice. That said, I also swore I would never eat brown rice…but I have found ways to eat it and enjoy it. I’m going to purchase quinoa tomorrow and map out how I want to start eating it. Thank you very much!!!

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