How to Use Quinoa

The (controversial) super-grain could have a place in your diet


Ancient super-grain, complete amino acid package, and the only grain with an adorable tail. Over the last several years, quinoa’s quietly made its way from the health food section to the (increasingly) well-stocked pantry of modern, health-conscious kitchens. And there’s good reason. Ancient Incans were eating quinoa centuries ago, riding high on its loads of protein and fiber.

Modern consumption still veers toward healthy, but cooks are finding all sorts of ways to take advantage of quinoa’s chewy texture and subtle nuttiness. Of course, quinoa requires some love before you get that textural or nutritional payload. Most recipes call for a repeated rinsing, and cooking methods can vary. Martha Rose Shulman recommends boiling it like pasta, while other recipes call for a minimal amount of liquid and some quick absorption time.

But before you completely stock your pantry, check out recent coverage of quinoa controversy. It seems quinoa’s popularity as a health staple has actually driven prices up, making it too expensive for the Peruvian populations that farm it. So for our purposes, let’s assume any of these 5 quinoa recipes are part of a well-diversified diet.

Quinoa image via Shutterstock

Okay, we’re actually going to recommend cheating here. Unless you can get your hands on fresh hearts of palm, we think it’s okay to go for canned (though some say jarred are better). It’s up to you. Epicurious, of course, errs on the side of fresh. Whatever you use, it’ll have the soft, delicately nutty backdrop of quinoa, so it will taste pretty good either way.

Bacon Quinoa with Almonds

Quinoa might be the super grain, but that doesn’t mean every quinoa recipe has to veer towards Puritanically healthy. This recipe grafts the smoke and fat of (quality) bacon onto tender, toothsome quinoa. Using stock and cooking the quinoa directly in the rendered bacon guarantees a flavorful dish (freshly toasted almonds and fresh herbs seal the deal).

Baked Quinoa and Potato Croquettes

Quinoa isn’t all salad and pilaf. Here it takes on the awesome power of the croquette. Mashed (microwaved) potatoes lend a hand, binding the quinoa into tender patties, ever-so-slightly enriched with cheese and coated in crunchy panko breadcrumbs before going for a light pan fry with the oil of your choice. Jalapeno and chives keep it lively, and quinoa keeps it interesting.


Little Quinoa Patties

This time quinoa takes center stage, bound with eggs around fresh chives, gruyere (or parmesan), minced onion and sea salt, coated in whole grain bread crumbs. A great option if you end up with a quantity of unused quinoa, and surprisingly versatile (the author adds various chopped veggies to the patties, though she prefers them plain). Experiment with different cheeses and add-ins of your own.


Minty Quinoa Tabbouleh

If you’re not a fan of the bulghur of traditional tabbouleh (or you just don’t have any on hand), we’ve found a few recipes that sub in quinoa. It makes sense—quinoa has some of that nuttiness and textural chew, and it can stand up to the loads of fresh parsley and mint, not to mention garlic and lemon, of a good tabbouleh. Ideal for warmer weather, this is one to look forward to summer with.


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