Although many people prepare quinoa the same way they might rice (by boiling it), this method prevents its super nutrition from shining at its best and can also affect its texture and the way it tastes.
In today’s guest post, Jaime from Slightly Steady is going to share how to properly prepare quinoa to take advantage of its full nutritional potential.
How to Make Quinoa that Does Not Taste Like Birdfood
The first few times I made quinoa were a flop. I wanted to like it—heck, I’d settle for even being able to tolerate it. But what came out, despite how carefully I’d followed the package’s cooking instructions, was something I can only describe as chewy, bitter birdfood.
Blech. Honestly, had it been anything else, that first nasty batch would have been my only attempt. But this was quinoa we were talking about! Fabulously healthful quinoa! If I could just make it edible, I could increase the nutrient density and protein content of our meals so much—but that seemed like a really big if. I kept trying, and I kept failing—until I discovered that the instructions on the package pretty much needed to be ignored.
They tell you it cooks like rice. This is false.
Properly prepared quinoa is totally different than that wretched debacle I forced myself to swallow. Properly prepared quinoa is not bitter; it has a very mild flavor (which is why I usually add cumin and curry—mmmm!); and most importantly, it has a soft texture, not unlike hot breakfast cereals. It disappears into any recipe that normally calls for rice—and once, I even sneaked it into some chili without my health-food-hating hubby noticing. The word for real quinoa isn’t blech: it’s yum.
The secret is in the prep work. Good quinoa takes patience more than anything else. You have to plan ahead a bit—or, if you’re like me, and planning just isn’t going to work for you, you can just sort of keep it rolling; make up a large batch every week or so, and simply add the pre-cooked quinoa to whatever recipe you decide at the last minute to make.
- Measure out the amount you need, then rinse it thoroughly. The bitter flavor I mentioned earlier comes from lingering saponins on the surface—a good rinse will remove them.
- Put your rinsed quinoa in a bowl (I usually just put it in whatever I intend to cook it in, but that’s just because I hate dishes and I have plenty of cookware), and add the amount of cooking liquid called for. Quinoa does cook similarly to rice in that it’s a 2 to 1 ratio—2 cups of water, stock, or broth per 1 cup of quinoa.
- Let the quinoa sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. This is the most important step! I put so many spices into my quinoa that I’ve never noticed even a little bitterness—but if you try to skip the long soak, you’ll be chomping hard seeds. Think of preparing quinoa the way you’d think of preparing dried beans—they need to soak up some water to be soft.
- In a covered saucepan, bring the quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. After it’s starting to look thickened (20-25 minutes) give it a stir. If it’s still too wet, let it continue to cook. It will be done when it sticks (like rice).
You are now ready to season it however you’d like. My personal favorite is tons of curry, a squirt of honey, and sauteed onions and bell peppers, but there are literally thousands of recipes out there for the making. Enjoy!
About the Author: Jaime is the stay-at-home wife and mom to a little girl and a little boy. She is also the writer behind Slightly Steady, a blog about self-sufficiency.