Oh Quinoa, Oh Quinoa, How Do I Cook Thee?

quinoatestWhen I went to make my first batch of quinoa, I will admit I was a bit apprehensive. All I remembered hearing before was how difficult it can be, how you need to use a 1:2 ratio, no, 1:3, no, that’s not the best way…it seemed like everyone had a different opinion on how to do this.

OK, I figured, so this first round will turn out like mush but at least I’ll have some practice. Nothing wrong with that.

I found out a few important things pretty quickly. These tips may help you out, whether you’re a quinoa cooking virgin yourself or not.

Know What You’re Cooking

Of course you should always know what you’re cooking before you try to cook it. With quinoa, it’s just a common misconception that it is a type of grain, when it actually is not. Rather, quinoa is a seed that is harvested from the goosefoot species of plant. It is in fact more closely related to the spinach and beet families, with a nutty, almost brown rice-like texture, creamy, crunchy and fluffy all rolled into one.

Get Your Equipment Game On

There aren’t any special gizmos or gadgets you need to prepare quinoa. You even have a couple of options. You can do it the basic way, with a pot of water on the stovetop, or, with most models, you can set a rice cooker to the “white rice” setting and cook for about 15 minutes to get quinoa perfection.

Get the Ratio Right

Although you’re likely to hear lots of different ideas on how much water to use for cooking quinoa, I used about 2 cups of water to each cup of quinoa, cooked it for almost 20 minutes exactly, and it was light, fluffy, and delicious. (Also remember that for each 1 cup dry quinoa you cook, you end up with about 3 cups cooked quinoa). This is how my quinoa turns out every time now, and I’d like to start calling myself the Queen of Quinoa (although I guess my trusty rice cooker deserves a little credit here). Another quick tip: I like to take the lid off the rice cooker about 15 minutes in, fluff the quinoa a couple times with a fork and let it cook for the remaining time uncovered. Quinoa doesn’t absorb as much water as rice, and this helps ensure you have enough water to cook it without ending up with a little puddle of water in with your quinoa at the end.

I love quinoa because it’s so versatile – it’s available in white, red and black, can be cooked with broth in place of water, and works well in an array of dishes, everything from chili to salad. Guess what? Quinoa is also gluten-free, and it’s loaded full of essential vitamins and nutrients. About 1 cup of this stuff offers 48% of your Daily Value of fiber and protein, not to mention 43% for iron and 40% for Vitamin B-6.

Quinoa is quite tasty and it’s easier than you probably think to make yourself at home. I stick to buying my quinoa from whole foods markets or the bulk section at the health food store, rather than purchasing the boxed version from the supermarket. Either way, it’s a great staple to keep in the cupboard. Once you know how to make it properly, you can easily incorporate it into your diet.


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