The benefits of quinoa—a complete protein source that's high fiber, low glycemic and full of iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium—have been touted by nutritionists, vegetarian and vegan enthusiasts, and health-conscious cooks, but few discuss the chewy, almost crunchy texture the seed has even when cooked. That's why simply substituting quinoa for other less nutritious grains in recipes, such as risotto or fried rice, often yields disappointing results.
If you know you should eat more of this "miracle" seed but aren't fond of the texture, try this cooking method for fluffier quinoa. Also try the following suggestions, which don't require you to love the seed so much that you build recipes around bowlfuls of the stuff.
1. Enhance your favorite recipes with the cooked seeds—it's a good way to sneak the nutritious seeds into familiar standbys in case you have picky eaters in your household.
Turkey and Quinoa Meatballs Recipe
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 finely minced garlic cloves
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup almond, rice, soy or cow's milk
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 pounds ground turkey
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cover two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for meat, and mix well to combine. Add ground turkey and gently mix with fingers until thoroughly combined. Form the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls (about 22 to 24 meatballs) and place onto baking sheets with enough space between so the meatballs aren't touching. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Serve with your favorite tomato sauce.
2. Grind up the uncooked seeds to use in place of flour (or use half flour, half quinoa) in baked goods, pancakes or waffles.
Quinoa and Sweet Potato Pancakes Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups ground quinoa seeds
- 1/2 cup potato flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups almond, soy, rice or cow's milk, plus more if needed
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil, plus more for greasing pan
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 sweet potato, cooked, peeled and pureed
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until smooth. If mixture is too dry, add a bit more milk to thin (consistency should be a little thicker than a crepe batter). Cook batches in a large oiled nonstick skillet on medium-high heat until bubbles form on the surface; flip cakes and cook on other side until golden brown.
3. Add crunch to salads, hors d'oeuvres and pasta with crispy quinoa. Top tender protein sources such as fish or tofu with pan-fried quinoa; the crunchy pop of the seeds will provide a welcomed texture contrast.
Pan-Crisp Quinoa Recipe1/4 cup red or white quinoa
olive oil, for frying
In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook quinoa until just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain well and spread on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until dry, about 30 minutes.
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a heatproof bowl. In a medium skillet over moderate heat, warm about 1/4 inch of oil in the pan until it shimmers. Add cooled, dry quinoa and fry, stirring, until sizzling subsides and quinoa is crisp, about two minutes. Drain the quinoa in the sieve, then transfer to paper towels. Season with salt. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for three days.