Cooking Quinoa: A Step By Step Guide

Preparing and cooking quinoa grains

The best thing about cooking quinoa is that it’s ready in about 15 minutes. And it’s really simple.

Before you cook your quinoa make sure you rinse it thoroughly. Quinoa has a bitter tasting coating called saponin that acts as a natural pest repellant. It can easily be removed by rinsing the raw quinoa in cold water. Because quinoa grains are so small, use a cheesecloth or fine strainer (or even a pair of nylons if you don’t have either of those). Rinse until there are no more soapy looking suds being produced.

Most brands of packaged quinoa come pre-rinsed. They don't always state this on the label. I wash it anyway just in case there is any residual saponin.

Once rinsed, cooking quinoa is as simple as boiling 2 cups of water with 1 cup quinoa. Simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed. About 15 - 20 minutes. The grains are cooked when they appear translucent and you see the little germ ring curl out from each grain.

Cooked quinoa also freezes well. Thaw and re-heat or use cold in a salad.

How to serve it up? 5 healthy and tasty suggestions:

1. Try adding a stock cube to the saucepan or cooking your quinoa in fresh stock for some extra flavor.

2. Sautee some brown onion, spring onion or leek in a little oil and add to your cooked quinoa. I even fry the onion first and then add the water and uncooked quinoa and boil it from there – just to save on time and washing up. Works a treat.

3. Add some cooked pumpkin or avocado and mix into quinoa that has been cooked in stock or with a stock cube. Your baby will dig this combo.

4. Add any combination of julienned carrot, peas, roasted tomatoes, pesto, asparagus, chopped spinach, roasted pine nuts or roasted pumpkin seeds. You’ll very quickly realize that the possibilities are endless.

5. And if you love the nutty taste, stir the raw grains in a heated, ungreased skillet for a few minutes before cooking. This will bring out the flavor.

Cooking quinoa flakes

Stovetop method

Add quinoa flakes to rapidly boiling water. Return to boil and cook for 1 ½ minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken as the flakes absorb water. Remove from heat and allow to cool. You will need water and quinoa flakes in approximately equal quantities.

Microwave method

Combine flakes and water in a microwave proof bowl, twice the volume of the serving size. Microwave on high for 2 – 2 ½ minutes for ¼ cup quinoa flakes, 4 – 4 ½ minutes for ½ cup quinoa flakes or 6 – 6 ½ minutes for ¾ cup quinoa flakes, or until mixture begins to thicken. Stir well before serving.

Add milk or cream. Sweeten with your choice of sweetener. Even add raisins, nuts or cinnamon for a quick grain and gluten free breakfast or snack.

Want to know how to puff quinoa?

If you’ve ever popped popcorn (before your grain free days, right?), you’ll recognize these steps.

The one difference seems to be that success is not nearly as guaranteed as it is with popcorn. While the following works for me every time, my brother, for example, has tried and tried again and ended up with not a single puff.

I’m on the case to find out why. But in the meantime, see how you go:

1. Rinse quinoa as per the instructions in “preparing and cooking quinoa grains” above.

2. Dry. You can do this by laying the grains out in a thin layer and leaving them to dry; heating lightly in a skillet or; spreading the grains on a baking tray and putting them in the oven on very low heat (100F or 45C). The drying process is important, because water and hot oil together are pretty volatile.)

3. Heat a layer of oil in the bottom of a saucepan until boiling hot. Really, really hot.

4. Add approximately half a cup of quinoa. Replace the lid and give the saucepan a light shake.

5. Continue to heat until the popping stops. Shake every minute or so.

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