Unless you grew up with hippie parents who were regulars at a hole-in-the-wall health-food store, you probably didn’t have a clue about quinoa until recently. Now the superfood’s stocked at big-box retailers, and its amped-up nutrition profile is leaving your go-to grains, like brown rice, in the dust.
So, what exactly makes the obscure-sounding protein source so worthy of our attention?
- Quinoa is the only grain that’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, says Jackie Newgent, R.D., author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes. It’s an ideal protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
- Quinoa packs a filling combo of 8g of protein and 6g of fiber per cooked cup.
- The grain’s also a good source of iron. One cooked cup takes care of about 15% of your daily requirement.
- Quinoa is a super-versatile cooking ingredient. Served hot or cold, the grain comes in three varieties: white, red, and black. White’s the most popular and has a very mild flavor, while red and black quinoa taste nuttier and earthier.
To cook quinoa, the general rule is to add 1 cup of dried quinoa to 2 cups liquid inside a pot. Boil, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for about 5 minutes.
Now that the basics are out of the way, you’re ready to work the supergrain into your meals and snacks, and we’ve got seven ways to help you do it.
For a filling salad that’s healthier than mayo-based sides, try this. Mix 3 diced apples, ½ cup finely chopped celery, and 1 cup cooled quinoa in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together ⅔ cup Greek yogurt, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp lime juice, 1 tsp horseradish, and ½ tsp each salt and pepper. Combine all ingredients and enjoy.
Use quinoa in place of rice to bring new life (and an extra punch of protein) to the dinners you return to again and again. Toss quinoa into a stir-fry, add it to chili, or use it to bulk up a bowl of soup.
There’s nothing like a warm and hearty breakfast to start your day off on the right foot. Try Spiced Berry Breakfast Quinoa: Add 1 tbsp grapeseed oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup dry quinoa, 1 tsp fennel seeds, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp cardamom, and a pinch of nutmeg. Cook, stirring frequently, until quinoa is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, stir in 2¼ cups milk, and return pan to heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the milk has been absorbed. Spoon into a bowl and top with fresh berries.
Chips and dips don’t supply you with much protein, so don’t be shocked when you hit the bottom of a bag or bowl and still don’t feel satisfied. The next time you’ve got the game on, try this trick. Add cooked quinoa to your favorite salsa or guacamole and stir. See? You can’t even taste it.
Sketched out by ingredients you can’t pronounce? Skip supplements and add ground quinoa to your next post-workout shake or smoothie for a boost of all-natural, real-food protein.
For a flavorful alternative to the paper-thin patties stacked in the freezer section, make your own. Mash 1 can black beans in a bowl until chunky. Add in ½ cup cooked red quinoa, ½ cup each finely chopped mushrooms and onions, ¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and form the mixture into 4 patties. Add a small amount of oil to a nonstick pan and cook for about 3 minutes per side until lightly browned and heated through. Top with sliced avocado or cheese and serve on a whole-grain bun.
Stumped over how to round out a plate of grilled chicken and vegetables? This easy side complements any meal. Drizzle cooked quinoa with olive oil, combine with your favorite herbs, and serve. Boost flavor even more by cooking quinoa in low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, or by adding a splash of your favorite fruit juice.