Quinoa is a nutritious food that makes an excellent side dish or base for bowls. This fluffy, slightly nutty seed is packed with protein and fiber, making it a great, healthy addition to your meals!
Quinoa originated in South America thousands of years ago, and has become wildly popular worldwide within the last decade. Frequently used as a substitute for rice, it's great in a variety of recipes.
What is quinoa?
Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is not a grain! It's the seed of a flowering plant in the same family as spinach, chard, and amaranth. However, since it is prepared like a grain it is often categorized as such.
It is used in many recipes like soups, salads, pasta, and casseroles. Also, it's available as a flour, which is great to use for gluten free baking.
What does it taste like?
Cooked quinoa is soft, fluffy and slightly crunchy at the same time. It has a pretty mild, almost nutty flavor. Some people say it reminds them of a mix of rice and oatmeal.
How to cook quinoa
You can prepare it in a variety of ways, it's very similar to cooking rice. For a detailed outline on how to prepare it on the stove, in a pressure cooker, or in a rice cooker, make sure to check out my guide How To Cook Quinoa Three Ways.
Once you've cooked it, here are several ways to enjoy it:
- Eat as a side dish like rice, or make Curry Fried Quinoa.
- Mix it into soups to add texture and nutrition.
- Make a salad with it, like this Greek Quinoa Salad, or simply add it to you favorite salads.
- Use it instead of breadcrumbs, like in this Gluten Free Quinoa Crusted Mexican Chicken.
- Add it to veggie burgers for a healthy filler, like in these Zucchini Burgers.
- Substitute it for rice in your favorite casseroles for a boost of fiber and protein.
Quinoa vs rice
Rice and quinoa are very similar in many ways, but there are a few differences that set them apart.
Both are gluten free and easily digestible. Brown rice and quinoa are both high in fiber and are a good source of minerals.
While rice is lower in calories, quinoa packs in more nutrition. First and foremost, it is a complete protein, giving us all 9 essential amino acids. It's also high in fiber and minerals including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc.
Is it good for you?
Yes! It is high in protein, fiber, and is packed full of healthy nutrients. In one cup of cooked quinoa, there are 222 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber.
Additionally it boasts many minerals such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. It also contains vitamins B1, B2, B6.
Because it has all 9 amino acids, it is a complete protein, which is excellent for vegans and vegetarians!
Is it gluten free?
Yes, quinoa is naturally gluten free! However, some packaged products may contain gluten, so if you're sensitive to gluten make sure to read the label to make sure.
Because it is gluten free, it's often used as a substitute for grains with gluten like wheat, rye, or barley. Look for gluten free quinoa alternatives like pasta, breads, and even flours to use in baking.
Is quinoa keto?
While it is a nutritional powerhouse, one cup of cooked quinoa contains 36 grams of carbs, therefore it is not considered a low-carbohydrate food. If you are following a low carb diet, it is not recommended except in small amounts.
Is it good for diabetics?
Because it is high in protein and fiber, it is good for diabetics. People with diabetes need to keep blood sugar levels under control. Foods with high fiber, protein and a low glycemic index are best for this, as they do not cause as much of a spike in blood sugar.
Quinoa checks all of these boxes. However, it is relatively high in carbohydrates, which can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, so make sure you eat it in moderation.
Easy recipes to make with quinoa
- Shrimp Taco Bowl (pictured above)
- Chicken Shawarma Bowl
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Quinoa Bowl with Grilled Vegetables
- Za'atar Roasted Vegetable Bowl
- 10 Minute Breakfast Bowl