Here’s everything you need to know about quinoa, like what is it? What does it taste like? Does quinoa have gluten? How to rinse quinoa. And what are the different types you can choose from?

Four bowls of different types of uncooked quinoa.

Quinoa is a popular gluten-free seed that is easy to make and it’s a great meal prep ingredient that can be added to soups, salads, sides and more.

A white pot of quinoa in boiling water.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (quinoa pronunciation – KEEN-wah) is a gluten-free seed that comes from a flowering plant related to the amaranth family, and it’s considered an “ancient grain”.  Ancient grains include a variety of wheat (spelt, Kamut, freekeh, bulgur, farro, and grains such as millet, barley, oats, teff  and soghum, as well as pseudocereals (which are seeds that are consumed like grains) such as quinoa, armaranth, buckwheat and chia.  

Types of Quinoa

Here are the different types you can choose from, and they’re each each gluten-free.

  • White. This type is light and fluffy with a mild flavor and is commonly used to replace rice and other grains.
  • Red. A little more crunchy with a nuttier flavor. This variety is good to use in nourishment bowls and tossed into salads.
  • Black. Similar to the red variety, so it’s more crunchy with a nuttier flavor. Also good to use in nourishment bowls and to toss into salads.
  • Tri-Color.  This is a blend of white, red and black quinoa. It also has a nuttier flavor and it’s a little more crunchy because of the red and black variety. 

What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

Quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor and is eaten like a grain, so it makes a great alternative to rice, couscous. orzo and other grains.

Where Can You Buy It?

You can find it at your local health food stores and most grocery stores now carry it near the rice, grains and legumes.

Does Quinoa Have Gluten? 

Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free seed and it makes a great alternative to gluten containing grains for people who have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

How To Rinse Quinoa

Quinoa has a natural coating that contains saponins, tannins and phytic acid which can makes it taste bitter and causes it to foam when boiling in liquid, so it’s best to rinse it before cooking it. There are brands that come already rinsed and it states so on the package. To rinse it, just measure out the amount that you’ll be cooking, then pour it into a fine mesh sieve or colander. Rinse under cold water for about 30 seconds and drain well before cooking.

How Do You Cook It?

Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice. One cup dry quinoa cooked with two cups water or broth will yield about 3 cups cooked quinoa. It takes about 15-20 minutes to cook, and it’s best if you set it aside after cooking for 8-10 minutes or longer before fluffing with a fork. 

  1. Rinse. Pour measured amount in a fine mesh colander and rinse under cold running water for about 30 seconds.
  2. Cook. Add it to saucepan and pour water or broth over it and stir.Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover with lid and simmer 15-20 minutes.  Don’t remove the lid while it cooks.
  3. Fluff. Remove from heat and set aside for 8-10 minutes or longer before fluffing with a fork.

Four bowls of cooked quinoa

What Is Quinoa Flour?

Quinoa flour is a gluten-free flour made from dried quinoa seeds or flakes. It has a bold nutty flavor that is slightly bitter, and can be used as a substitute for all-purpose flour or used as part of a flour blend.

What Are Quinoa Flakes?

Quinoa flakes are made by pressing dried quinoa seeds similarly how oat groats are flattened to make rolled oats.

How Can You Add More Quinoa To Your Diet? 

  1. Salads. Keep a bowl or jar of cooked quinoa in your refrigerator so you can easily toss it by the spoonfuls into green salads.
  2. Breakfast Cereal. You can cook it with oatmeal for a warm breakfast cereal.
  3. Vegan Burgers. It’s great mixed with legumes (black beans, lentils or chickpeas) to make vegan burgers.
  4. Soups. Add it to soup instead of using rice or noodles for a low-carb and gluten-free add-in.
  5. Bowls. Use it instead of rice or other grains when building your favorite power bowls.
  6. Healthy Snacks and Baking. Use quinoa flakes and flour for baking and to make healthy power bites and other snacks.

Looking for Quinoa Recipes to Make?

If you’re looking for some new healthy recipes for inspiration, the recipes below are some of my favorites to make. 

  • Best Quinoa Salad – This salad is loaded with cruciferous veggies, kalamata olives, pistachios and golden raisins all tossed in a delicious lemon mustard vinaigrette.
  • Mediterranean Quinoa Salad – This salad is a crowd-pleaser!  It’s loaded with cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, red peppers, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and plenty of fresh basil.  It makes a delicious salad main or side to serve at barbecues and potlucks.  
  • Kale Quinoa Salad – This is my “house salad”.  I love everything about this salad.  It’s fresh and flavorful and can be served as a starter, but honestly, it’s substantial and filling enough that it makes a great salad main.  
  • Spinach Quinoa Salad – This is another personal favorite that I make all the time.  I love the mix of spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and almonds all tossed in a light basil pesto dressing. So good!
  • Spanish Quinoa  – This has all the delicious flavors of  Spanish rice.  It’s perfect to serve as a side with any Mexican themed meal you serve.  I make this recipe all the time. I even love it served for breakfast with fried eggs!   

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