Quinoa is a gluten-free, grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudo cereal rather than a true cereal or grain, because it is not a member of the grass family. Quinoa is in the same botanical family as spinach, chard, beets and Russian thistle.
Quinoa is one of the best sources of protein in the vegetable arena. It makes a great substitute for meat in a vegetarian/vegan diet. Quinoa grains contain essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron making it a complete protein. According to The Complete Food Allergy Cookbook, it has ten times as much absorbable iron as corn or wheat and is high in B vitamins as well as zinc. Quinoa grains are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. From Wikipedia: Because of all these characteristics, Quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.
Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and a mild, slightly nutty flavor. Most Quinoa sold in the U.S. has already rinsed the saponin coating off. If you find that it is bitter, you can try rinsing it or buying a different brand. To rinse follow this Basic Quinoa Recipe. Vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of dishes. Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted for water during cooking, adding flavor. It is also suited to vegetable pilafs, complementing bitter greens. Quinoa can serve as a high-protein hot breakfast cereal.
Quinoa flour can be used in wheat-based and gluten-free baking. We’ve found that buying whole Quinoa in bulk is the most economical. For flour we grind our own with a coffee grinder. Storing in the fridge will extend the shelf-live by keeping the bitterness at bay a bit longer.
Update note: Due to potential for corntamination, it is best to buy quinoa that has NOT been pre-rinsed. To aid in digestibility it is also recommended to soak for at least 4 hours & thoroughly rinse before ingesting.
Here are some of our favorite quinoa recipes: