A bluffer’s guide to quinoa

By Jane IQS Team |

We hope you’ve been enjoying our Keys2words bluffer’s guides. So far we’ve given you the breakdown on and and they’ve both had a brilliant response. Considering how many superfoods are out there we can’t imagine this series drying up anytime soon. Today, the mighty quinoa seed takes a turn.

If there are any foods you’re itching to get more info on, make sure you flag it with us in the comments below. The whole point of this series is to keep you guys in the superfood know.

Today it’s all about…quinoa

People often mistake quinoa for a grain but it is in fact a seed.
Pronounced “keen-wah”, this ancient gluten-free seed has taken the world by storm. It’s the only plant-based source of protein that contains all the essential amino acids needed for growth and development and was once referred to as the “gold of the Incas” because of its power to increase the stamina of the Inca warriors.

Did you know? Quinoa provides 1/4 of your daily iron intake!

Nutritional benefits of quinoa


  • Is very high in B vitamins, zinc, potassium, calcium, fibre and vitamin E.
  • Gives a slow release of energy making it a great alternative to rice and couscous.
  • Contains more protein than any grain – one serve provides 28% of your daily intake!

Different types of quinoa

Quinoa comes in white, back and red and many stores stock mixed varieties. The only difference is the colour, so get creative with your dishes. You will also find it rolled into flakes to make porridge, puffed to be eaten as a cereal and ground into quinoa flour.

Note: quinoa flour is very bitter. It’s okay to mix with other gluten free flours but can be very overpowering on its own.

Where to buy quinoa

Quinoa’s popularity means it is a common staple in health food stores and in the health food aisle of most supermarkets.

How to cook quinoa

Quinoa seeds contain a natural layer of bitter-tasting saponins, which should be washed away before cooking by rinsing under running water.

To cook the quinoa, always use twice the amount of cooking liquid to quinoa e.g. 2 cups  water to 1 cup quinoa. Bring liquid to the boil, add the rinsed quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer for about 12-15 minutes, until quinoa is soft yet slightly crunchy and the water has been absorbed. If there is still a little water left, remove from heat and pop on the lid for 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

  • For savoury dishes, cook quinoa in stock to give it extra flavour.
  • Make quinoa porridge by simmering it in milk and cinnamon. Serve hot or cold.
  • Not sure what you want to use it for? Cook in water and add flavour later.

How to store quinoa

  • Uncooked quinoa can be stored in a cool, dry place in an air-tight container for a few years.
  • Cooked quinoa should be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 6 days.
  • We also like to cook up a big batch of quinoa and freeze it in portions.

Yum ways to eat quinoa

  • Add quinoa to salads for an extra protein kick, like this .

  • Use quinoa instead of rice to make a filling mushroom, spinach and parmesan risotto.
  • For a warming winter porridge simmer raw quinoa in coconut milk with some ground cinnamon and vanilla powder until cooked. Top with some crunchy mixed nuts and seeds.
  • Want a super quick cheats version of quinoa porridge in minutes? Follow instructions above using cooked quinoa and a splash of coconut milk. Cook on stove until heated through.
  • Make a gluten free bircher muesli by soaking quinoa flakes, pepita seeds, coconut flakes, ground cinnamon and chopped almonds in water and a squeeze of lemon juice overnight. In the morning stir through yoghurt and serve with fresh berries.
  • Combine cooked quinoa with basil pesto and mix with eggs to jazz up your morning scrambled eggs.
  • Add puffed quinoa to your Coco-Nutty Granola.
  •  Serve quinoa alongside some roast veggies as a healthy accompaniment to fish, meat or chicken.
  • Make a wheat-free tabbouleh by combining cooked quinoa with fresh parsley, fresh mint, chopped cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, thinly sliced shallots with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Use as a replacement for meat in vegetarian burger patties.

Quinoa tricks

  • Add to soups and stews for a healthy protein and carbohydrate hit.
  • Use rolled quinoa flakes as an alternative to bread crumbs.
  • Serve instead of rice, couscous or pasta.
  • Use quinoa flour to create gluten-free breads, cakes and pancakes.

We love quinoa! How do you incorporate this superfood into your diet?

Please be respectful of other participants in the conversation. We'd love you to keep your comments respectful, friendly and relevant. Differences of opinion are welcome, but trolling and abuse of other commentators and the IQS editorial team is not and will result in blacklisting.

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