Nutty and often chewy after it’s cooked, The Almighty Quinoa has probably appeared on your radar in the last decade, and you even know how to pronounce it (KEEN-wah). The Incan superfood is a complete protein with nine essential amino acids after all, which is especially attractive to vegetarians who usually can’t get some types of protein found in meat. But how to prepare quinoa?

In the cold months, make a warm vegetable side with dried fruit and nuts. Try a savory soup or at breakfast, a filling porridge. When it’s warm out, whip up a cold salad with lettuce and fresh fruit. Use quinoa as a substitute for other grains (although it’s not really “other” as quinoa is a seed, hence all that protein). Use quinoa in place of rice under a stir-fry with peppers, onions, and a meat like spicy Italian sausage, or an Asian-inspired chicken or tofu.

Whatever you do to it, first you need the basics on how to cook quinoa. Treat it like a grain:

  1. To make 3 cups of cooked quinoa , scoop out 1 cup of raw quinoa. Rinse the quinoa in a strainer, preferably a fine wire mesh strainer, running your fingers through the seeds until the water runs clear, about a minute or two. You want to get rid of the bitter natural coating called saponin.
  2. Toast the quinoa in a pot with olive oil for about a minute (optional; it creates a more nutty, intense flavor). Then add 2 cups of water or broth, or a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to liquid. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and let it come to a boil.
  3. Then drop the temperature to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes. You know it’s done, or in the neighborhood, when you see the germ pop out of the seed, creating a spiral that wraps around it.
  4. Take the quinoa off the burner and let it sit, covered, for about five minutes.
  5. Open the lid, fluff with a fork, and taste-test it. If the quinoa has more liquid at the bottom of the pot or it’s too crunchy for your taste, then cook it a bit longer.
  6. Add your quinoa to your recipe.

Armed with these instructions, try a few of our ideas on spicing up and coloring your quinoa with all sorts of add-ins.

1. Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables and Ginger-Scallion Dressing

That recipe name is a mouthful, isn’t it? And so is the dish, with all those root vegetables — sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and turnips — plus Brussels sprouts. Go ahead: eat the rainbow, in your bowl. Get our Warm Quinoa Salad recipe.

2. Healthy Quinoa Breakfast Porridge with Figs

Tired of oatmeal every morning? Mix it up and add more complex protein to your breakfast time. With a touch of maple syrup, milk, dried figs, freshly grated nutmeg, a cinnamon stick, and walnuts, it’s quite the morning treat — in only 20 minutes (or make a large batch and reheat through the week). Get our Healthy Quinoa Breakfast Porridge with Figs recipe.

3. Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa

With coconut milk and brown sugar, you get some sweet creaminess. With the Sriracha hot sauce, you’ve got your heat. With the peanuts, toasted sesame oil, quinoa, and tofu, you’ve got your nutty protein. Lime gives an acidic tang. Lastly, the cilantro, carrots, broccoli, and scallions contribute fresh, colorful produce to the situation. And this is a flavorful situation. Get our Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa recipe.

4. Baked Quinoa Adobado

Quinoa is treated as a main, meaty dish in this casserole with spicy smoke coming from chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and jalapeños. The queso fresco makes it cheesy. We like that. Get our Baked Quinoa Adobado recipe.

5. Quinoa Chowder with Spinach, Feta, and Scallions

This gluten-free meal could be lunch or a light dinner. It’s given a bit more heft with some Yukon Gold potatoes and a hardboiled egg. Get our Quinoa Chowder with Spinach, Feta, and Scallions recipe.

6. Quinoa with Kale and Pecans

If you want an easy, healthy side dish and are tired of the usual rice or potatoes, go with this idea. Cook the quinoa separately while you sauté the onions, garlic, and kale before combining the two. Pecans add another dimension of flavor and texture. Get our Quinoa with Kale and Pecans recipe.

7. Vegan Quinoa-Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

When mixed with cashews, garlic, cayenne, and other spices and herbs, quinoa becomes the main attraction, stuffed within beautiful green zucchini boats. If it’s too cold to grill outside, use a Foreman grill or broil it. Get our Vegan Quinoa-Stuffed Grilled Zucchini recipe.

8. Basic Quinoa Salad

By itself, quinoa is bland. You gotta spice it up with a bunch of complementary flavors, such as salty cheese, tangy lemon juice, and some fresh vegetables. Here’s a start. Get our Basic Quinoa Salad recipe.

9. Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

White beans of your choice, tangy, salty feta cheese, scallions, and some optional hot sauce fill out the rest of the insides of these mild, slightly sweet peppers. They make great vehicles. Get our Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe.

 

Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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